speed of the motor. They also offer their highest torque at
low speeds, which makes them a good choice in many of
In order to operate a stepper motor, a stepper
controller must be used. These can further complicate a
design, so if you just need simple rotation you should select
a DC motor instead.
The Shiatsu kneading massagers may seem like an
unlikely appliance for our needs, but it just shows what a
little “out of the box thinking” can come up with (Figure
9). Options are all around us. We need to have an open
mind to see them! I have included a video link in the
Resources section of one of my early props that utilized
both of the shafts of the Shiatsu to illustrate its usefulness.
I have also included a link to a forum thread that shows
many of the ways they can be used.
The devices contain two counter-rotating shafts that
can be utilized in many ways.
The biggest drawback to using them is figuring out
how to attach your mechanism to the existing rods.
Manufacturers each have their own models with each one
having its own unique design. This complicates our job as
we will need to be creative in our thinking and come up
with solutions to fit each different design.
I was hesitant to include these in this discussion as they
can pose many challenges and much frustration before an
acceptable motion can be achieved. I would not
recommend them for a first time builder as I would not
want you to become discouraged and give up on animating
your characters. My intention is for you to look at an odd
possibility and give you a bit of warning before you try one.
Is There More?
There are countless opportunities to salvage useful
motors for our projects while on a budget. Take a look at
some of those listed below and see if you can come up
with other choices that might prove useful.
I am a firm believer in DIY and salvaging items to save
some money. However, sometimes the extra time required
to salvage used parts and then adapt them to fit your
project is not worth it. You must consider the value of your
time and remember that the part you end up with is not
new and as a result has a reduced remaining lifespan.
Some examples of less conventional motor options
include the following:
• Garbage disposals can be gutted for the motor
• Washing machines or dryers can provide motors
• Furnace or air conditioner blower motors
18 SERVO 04.2017
Figure 9. Have plenty of patience when using the
Figure 8. Stepper motors for the more experienced
Figure 10. Salvaged printer motors come in handy.