Growing up, Tomotaka Takahashi loved classic animated tv shows like Astro Boy and Tetsujin 28, which eventually inspired him to study robotics and engineering after completing a sociology degree at Osaka University. He feels that robots should have a unique personality, so he creates them from the outside-in, starting with a rough sketch of what the final robot should look like before working out the brains and guts.
Then it’s time to actually build it. This particular robot, dubbed Neon, was created in celebration of Astro Boy’s birth year and was displayed at Robodex 2003 (a new anime series and video games were also developed). Neon could walk, but relied on electromagnets in the soles of its feet.
The design was subsequently licensed by doll manufacturer Volks and sold as a kit where you could paint him whatever colors you liked. It looks like Volks no longer offers the kit, which is too bad, because I’d love to have one, even if the doll wasn’t technically a robot capable of moving.
Neon has Astro Boy’s trademark spiky hair shaped directly into his head. To create this outer shell, Takahashi-san sculpts the exterior, then makes a mold. Using vacuforming, he can suck the material to the mold to create a hollow shell. Then he paints the shell and assembles it on top of the robotic skeleton.
The process isn’t quite as straightforward as it may sound, as the challenge is not only capturing the unique character he is after, but also making sure that none of the parts obstruct the robot’s movement. Every body part has to be skillfully married to the robot’s servos so that it can bend just the right way. The end result is a heroic robot that seems to jump to life right off the pages of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy comic book!
- ROBO-GARAGE (official website JP/EN)
- Volks’ NEON product page (JP)
- Tomotaka Takahashi @ Impress Robot Watch (JP) (2) (3)
Impress Robot Watch