I was seriously having problems finding a specific ball joint for my mannequin armature. At first I explored stop-motion animation armature joints. Everyone seemed to be using these double ball joints that were sandwiched between brass and tightened with a screw. I almost went with that type, but I decided I wanted something better. So I explored single ball joints. I was able to find one place that sold a decent one, but with the amount I needed, the price seemed a bit high. Then I contemplated using their design and having the parts machined myself. But then that seemed pricey as well. And I realized the amount of movement in the standard mechanical ball joints was limited.

So I started analyzing how our actual skeleton joints work, and that led me down a completely different path. So I started looking for a new type of ball joint that had a wider range of mobility. And I found it in the 3D printer industry. I was so excited until I tried locating a supplier. The only ones I could find were in China. Hmmm.

I contacted a supplier in China and attempted to get a price quote. The time difference meant our back-and-forth exchange was spanning across several days. In my impatience I eventually developed a method that I thought might work using parts I could obtain in the USA. I did find some Australian suppliers for the same part that China had, but their prices were quite high.

I ordered the parts I needed to attempt building the joints on my own, and the price was low. I needed to keep this armature as light as possible so I changed my design from using metal rods for the bones to carbon fiber. I was making progress. Tonight I got a price quote for the China supplier’s joints and it was an amazingly low price. Same parts the Australians were selling, but I was getting 24 of them for the same price I would get 5 from Australia. I decided to order them as well so that I could compare and decide if my method works better or if using the Chinese joints works better.

Meanwhile since I had measurements from all the new parts I had ordered, I was able to draw up a scale design of the mannequin armature. The finished mannequin is going to be roughly 24 inches tall, and I think that is a great size.

By Cody Deegan

Cody Deegan is a life-long artist versed in drawing, painting, sculpting, and design. He studied filmmaking and character animation at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles as well as figurative oil painting at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.

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