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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Lab ME316 Spring 2015

Cloud Preliminary Designs

Designs and Process

Design Parameters

  • Clouds must have a growing and shrinking motion.
  • Clouds must give the illusion of moving freely on their own, as if blowing about in the wind

The cloud subsystem design consists of several different mechanism designs, which would be paired with a cloud design. Different mechanisms can be paired with compatible cloud types to allow for several different configuration options. The cloud designs allow for different shapes and attributes for the clouds, each with different strengths and weaknesses.

Translating Arm Mechanism

Translating Arm


The translating arm design utilizes a simple gear system to propel a slider along the length of the guiding arm. The cloud attaches to the slider or to one of the rotating gears. From these locations, the clouds can either hang freely, or attach directly  for varying motion. Depending on cloud attachment location, the cloud can have either a linear or circular motion.


  • The gear design is very simple with various locations where clouds can attach.
  • Many different types of clouds can be attached, including fluffy, paper lantern, and inflatable balloon clouds.
  • Separate mechanism and clouds can be spread out in any configuration desired.


  • Single clouds require their own gear mechanisms
  • Each separate mechanism requires several gears and cloud materials.

Clockwork Mechanism


The clockwork design has several driving arms attached to gears. These gears are all centered around a central gear which provides the main driving force for the whole mechanism. As the main gear spins, it spins the  surrounding gears with push and pull the arms along rails, similar to the translating arm mechanism. Clouds would attach to the arm sliders and moving in and out from the central gear. A larger cloud would also be built around the central gear. As the gears drive the clouds, this mechanism would simulate the appearance of a cloud growing and shrinking as it moves across the sky.


  • The design simulates a realistic growing and shrinking motion of a cloud.
  • Many clouds types would be compatible with this design, including the fluffy, paper lantern, and inflatable balloon clouds.
  • When arranged appropriately, this mechanism could create a silhouette effect visible to the Machine scape user when paired with the sun system.


  •  The large mechanism is not easily mass produced and as such cannot be arranged to fit any desired configuration.
  • While still possible, this design is not as compatible with inflatable balloon clouds as it is with other cloud types, due to a large complex gear design.

Ceiling Gears Mechanism

Ceiling Gears


The ceiling gear design combines the strengths of the translating arm and clockwork designs. A main gear provides the driving force to several surrounding gears. These gears the push a slider along a rail utilizing a arm. Clouds can be attached to various locations, such as on sliders, or hanging off rotating gears. This design is much larger than the other two designs, and can be arranged in any way desired to fill the available space.


  •  This design is much more customizable than the other designs and can be used to fill any available space.
  • This design is compatible with the fluffy, paper lantern, and inflatable balloon clouds.
  • Designed to hang off the ceiling, this design is up out of the way of other Machinescape subsystems.


  •  Clouds are limited to purely rotation or translation, and do not simulate realistic cloud motion.
  • While this design can cover a large area, each additional gear or arm requires more and more supports to keep the mechanism suspended.

Fluffy Cloud

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Images via The Farm Chicks

For this design, we took some inspiration from a set of cloud making instructions we found online. This cloud design would be made of balloons attached together with paper machete and covered in fluffy materials like cotton fibers. The fluffy design and customizable shape provide a few advantages over the other designs. Designed to be a static cloud, this design would be paired with a mechanism to provide the movement and rotation necessary.

Paper Lantern Cloud


Image via


The paper lantern design is very similar to the fluffy cloud design, featuring a paper lantern instead of balloons as the base structure for the cloud. On the surface of the lantern, a fluffy material would be applied. An upside to this design is the ease of assembly versus other designs, paper lanterns are easy to replace if damaged, and readily available at craft stores. This design would also remain static, relying on a mechanism to provide motion and rotation.

Inflatable Balloon Cloud

cloud render

The inflatable cloud design uses a air pump or fan to inflate a balloon or plastic bag in the shape of a cloud. Pairing this natural inflating and deflation with a mechanism, the range of motion available for the cloud subsystem is much broader. Despite the advantage of a more dynamic range of motion, the requirement for a device to provide airflow as well and the need to power this device adds to the complexity of this design.


Washington State University