She Hungers

A 3D printed project about a cat

She Hungers

Earlier this month I moved across the country to attend NYU ITP, the 2-year Interactive Telecommunications Program. This has meant leaving a darling, snuggly cat behind in San Francisco.

To make missing this fuzzy friend a little easier, I made a little timer to simulate her constant need for food.

It all started here: Picture of a paper cutout in the silhouette of a cat head and jaw, over sketches of a cat head that opens/closes its jaw

I wanted this piece to:

  1. Be physically interactive
  2. Run mechanically, not digitally
  3. Have a sense of whimsy (which is … uh … hard to quantify)

A couple of desired interactions:

  • The audience gets to “push down” the nose to reset the timer
  • The timer “yells” when it’s “hungry”

I tore the core out of a 60 minute focus timer to see how it works. Turns out, it’s almost exactly the same as an egg timer: a series of springs and pendulums, attached to a dial (and a hammer to ring the alarm).

Image of the internal system in a mechanical timer dial

Lucky for me, the dial was a press-fit onto the mechanism, so I could easily replace it with something custom.

I spent some time learning about 3d printing, using OnShape to create the CAD elements, and a Prusa3d to print. These are some pretty basic shapes, but they had to be modeled to fit the pre-existing parts on the timer itself.

CAD of piece to interface with timer dial

It took a few tries to make sure the two pieces mated well; between the tolerances on the print and the errors in my measuring, things needed some adjusting along the way.

3D Printed piece mounted to timer internals

Now that the fit seemed snug, I could move on to translating the shape I imagined onto the part itself. I freehanded the shape of the head and placed the mount onto the back.

CAD of cat's head silhouette facing left, with mount facing the viewer

A few iterations later …

3D print of cat's head dial and jaw, with mount and cutout for movement

A few tweaks, some final touches, and we got …

The Final Product

Image of a timer, the dial is a cat head in profile. The cat faces to the right, its mouth is closed.

In order to “feed” the cat, you push the nose down, effectively closing the cat’s mouth. 30 minutes later, the cat “yells” for more food.

Image of a timer where the dial is a cat head. The mouth is open to 180 degrees, showing a red panel reading "FEED ME NOW!".

And the whole family together: Timer and previously printed prototypes together


August 27, 2021