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Discussion Starter #1
I'm new to making custom props and am wondering just how much I should expect to spend for simple pop-up props, like trash can trauma or some other pop-up props complete with sound and lights. Is $100 per prop about right? Is arduino the way to go?

Also, for air cylinders, do diy pvc cylinders hold up over time or are they a hazard waiting to blow up? (Specifically, for the trash can trauma.)

Also, about how much time do you spend making each prop?
 

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Homemade DIY air cylinders are real sketchy, I agree with J-Man on that -- First of all, you're not really saving money or time when you consider your effort and energy to reinvent and solve problems in making the cylinder that is many times better than you can make and they are safer too. I recommend investing in a pneumatic kit that has all the fittings, tubes, and control solenoids that will take out the stress of purchasing decisions so you can focus on building your prop. Later on you can repurpose the parts to make other props when you want to move on to doing new things. You can look at several of the popular Halloween stores, I went with Halloween FX props they are nice people, I emailed then to customize a kit for me. In fact this year I purchased another cylinder for my Zombie animatronic and repurposed the cylinders for a pop up prop that I want to make do something else. BTW I use a low voltage 12V solenoid controllers and easily interface it to an Arduino.
 

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I really like building stuff myself, but I'll be taking your, and J-Man's, advice... no homemade cylinders.
I understand what you're saying, I'm very much into making my own stuff too -- But I think you'll see for yourself that once you start building the prop itself, there's enough challenges and tinkering that makes it fun and/or frustrating... Let me tell you -- this year I've got a real good one: it's a zombie that has a compound action of standing up and it raising it's arms and then a second cylinder lunges forward about 12" -- you can see pics of it; I posted in my album. First I had to figure out how to make the mechanism actions happen -- not so straight forward. Then you might think that the prop's weight wouldn't factor in to it but it does -- I made the head, arms, and torso as light as I could and made the lifting mechanism out of fairly light wood (1x2), but even at 90 PSI (the highest I dare to run my cylinders) it only stands up partially. I checked, no air leaks, so the either the mechanical advantage is wrong, or I should have used a larger bore cylinder... but I'm actually fine with the operation as it stands. I hope that this gives you the flavor of the kind of stuff you run into when doing a prop build... Yep... It's a blast Have fun
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Your 2018 Zombie Pneumatic Prop is awesome! That's what I'm hoping to get in to... along with using electronics to control the lights and sound. I had one simple prop last year that was tied to a string that I pulled to make it rise... it "startled" some kids but without sound and lights, it was pretty silly.

I have so many inspirations from this website and others... I don't know where to begin. It'll be hard to stay focused on just one prop.
 

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Just an FYI on cylinder force, unless you're constructing a prop from plans that specify the cylinder size, it's best to build the prop first and see how much force (in pounds) it takes to get the movement you want, and how much travel is needed for the stroke. Once you know that, you can determine the the bore and stroke of the required cylinder. The formula for calculating the force of a cylinder is: bore radius squared x 3.14 x PSI. That gives you the force in pounds that the cylinder will yield. I always try to keep the PSI under 50.
 

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It depends on what you're doing and what you have access to. Some props cost me $5 because I have most of the materials. Some cost a couple of hundred dollars if they're big and complicated and require a lot of purchases. There's no real way to generalize.
 

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I built a wiper motor prop this year (Boar-headed monster turning a corpsed human skeleton on a rotisserie). I bought the motor kit from Monster Guts, and total cost of the project was probably around $180. If that gives you and idea. (You can search for my thread on here as I worked through it. I need to post a final video)
 

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I started with pretty much static props this year, getting a good base for the house (everything can't be animated).

Next year I plan on building a troll/tree with some animation thinking one arm lifting a skeleton and head turning.

I also am looking at a "one arm grave grabber". These seem pretty basic and a good starting place if your just starting out.
 

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Just an FYI on cylinder force, unless you're constructing a prop from plans that specify the cylinder size, it's best to build the prop first and see how much force (in pounds) it takes to get the movement you want, and how much travel is needed for the stroke. Once you know that, you can determine the the bore and stroke of the required cylinder. The formula for calculating the force of a cylinder is: bore radius squared x 3.14 x PSI. That gives you the force in pounds that the cylinder will yield. I always try to keep the PSI under 50.
Well, I agree with you -- That's the ideal way to build a prop, and with past Halloweens I had been running around 60 PSI because, like you, I am worried about using too high of a pressures and safety. Especially if it is unnecessary.

I didn't have any plans to build this prop, instead I had the cylinders and built the prop around them. I knew I had more room to turn up the pressure if needed. These cylinders are rated for a max of 0.8 MPa which is 116.03 PSI so, I'm 26 PSI from the max, or put another way, I'm at 78% of max pressure... IMHO that's a comfortable safety margin... and that's what my air tools specify, 90 PSI, it's what I'm used to running in the shop for years anyway. With 90 PSI, the lifter cylinder for this prop moves properly, not too fast, the cylinder doesn't go completely to the end of travel but slowly rises the rest of the way... anyway, I think it's going to be just fine... Does this seem reasonable? BTW: I use a flow regulators to control the pressure to each of the cylinders and I have the others turned down so that prop is not blasting it's way to the stratosphere.
 

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My first pneumatic prop did not cost $100. I got a small cylinder and most of the rest from fright props except a skull I had. It is basically a trashcan trauma but I built it in a foam tombstone. Of course if you include the 60 gallon compressor then it was well over $100. I would say for really simple props your $100 estimate is possible.
 

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Well, I agree with you -- That's the ideal way to build a prop, and with past Halloweens I had been running around 60 PSI because, like you, I am worried about using too high of a pressures and safety. Especially if it is unnecessary.

I didn't have any plans to build this prop, instead I had the cylinders and built the prop around them. I knew I had more room to turn up the pressure if needed. These cylinders are rated for a max of 0.8 MPa which is 116.03 PSI so, I'm 26 PSI from the max, or put another way, I'm at 78% of max pressure... IMHO that's a comfortable safety margin... and that's what my air tools specify, 90 PSI, it's what I'm used to running in the shop for years anyway. With 90 PSI, the lifter cylinder for this prop moves properly, not too fast, the cylinder doesn't go completely to the end of travel but slowly rises the rest of the way... anyway, I think it's going to be just fine... Does this seem reasonable? BTW: I use a flow regulators to control the pressure to each of the cylinders and I have the others turned down so that prop is not blasting it's way to the stratosphere.
Using higher air pressure is typically safe if all of your components are rated for it, no problem there. The reason I like to keep it under 50 psi is strictly that I don't need my air supply to stay at 100 psi. And it makes me feel a little safer!
 

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Is there an easy introduction to pneumatic props thread anywhere? I would like to go this route next year, but have a limited understanding of pneumatics (and by limited, I mean practically non-existent)
 

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The following seems a great into to Animated props. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDxZNeLr8nI, It does not really cover pneumatic props, but it looks like a lot of the motion can be covered with non-pneumatic motors.

And being that the prices start around 5-10$ for the motors, seems a cheap alternative.
Motors have their place and are a good choice for certain props but they can't replace what pneumatics can do. For fast action, moving heavy loads, and reliability, pneumatics are hands down the best option.
 

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Is there an easy introduction to pneumatic props thread anywhere? I would like to go this route next year, but have a limited understanding of pneumatics (and by limited, I mean practically non-existent)
FrightProps has a lot of good info on their site.
 

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You can spend a little to alot. If you dont have the 1/4 air hose, compressor, check valves, 1/4 push connects etc things can add up quick. If you want animation and want to use cylinders you can start with linear acuators which require no air. Granted they don't move as quick but run off of 12v.

Eventually when you make your move to pnuematics I would suggest researching it alot. There are so many mounting options (rod clevis, pivot arm, standard bracket) I always use double acting cylinders but spring loaded are just as good if you need control in one direction.

Then there is the program for the routine where you can use a simple timed relay to a full blown 16 output controller.

Some of my pneumatic props were built for $150 others in the $800 range
 
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