On the road with the mechanical herd

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The German artist group, foolpool, made mechanical animals from used bicycles and are traveling throughout Europe with a herd of them. maxon supported the art project with various drives.

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Stefan Roschi Editorial team

The slow-moving creatures make an eerie impression, with their long thin limbs, they look like a cross between a giraffe and a gazelle. Their heads turn from side to side, and it seems as if they are scouting their surroundings.

The herd has grown to eight animals; the human members of the group serve as the shepherds. The group travels from town to town throughout Europe visiting various festivals. Wherever they go, people stare in disbelief and fascination.

The “animals” are up to 2.5 m tall.

The mechanical beings consist only of recycled bicycle parts, bolted and welded together to create something new. Maximilian Auerbach of foolpool explains that every animal in the herd is different, some are female and some male, varying in sizebetween 1.5 and 2.5 m tall and up to 2.5 m long. These animals move autonomously, going forward and backward, at different speeds. “To the audience, it looks as if the creatures are reacting to the calls and guidance of the shepherds.“

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The drives are almost unnoticeable

Without robust and compact drives, the mechanical creatures would not be able to move at all. To solve this problem, maxon motor provided several motor-gearhead combinations. DC motors and planetary gearheads of various types and sizes have been integrated into the animals, including RE 40 and A-max motors. Both are equipped with the special ironless winding that makes them very energy-efficient. The micromotors provide the necessary force to get the herd animals moving - and yet are hardly visible. “A typical question from the audience is: So where's the motor? This shows how well the drives have been integrated into the animals,” says Maximilian Auerbach. He also praises the support from maxon motor: “Although we lack expertise in motor technology, maxon motor always provided the consulting that we needed to make the right decisions.”

 

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The mechanical creatures on their way.

Criticism of blind trust in technology

The herd of mechanical creatures is complete, for the time being. However, the artists plan to build two more creatures resembling dogs. For a bit of variety. “We want to surprise the visitors again and again, touch them emotionally and make them think,” says Auerbach. He has been performing with foolpool at events for 30 years. Never before has the artist group counted so heavily on mechatronic elements in their performance. But the audience seems to like the artwork, maybe in part because the herd of mechanical animals addresses several hot issues, such as: throw-away mentality and the handling of resources. On the other hand the figures also reflect a world that is heavily influenced by robots. And last but not least, the artworks subtly criticizes a blind trust in technology.

DC motors and planetary gearheads of various types and sizes have been integrated into the animals, including RE 40 and A-max (image) motors. 

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