1968 – “Mechanimals” Walking Models – Masahiro Mori and Ryuichi Tomiya (Japanese)

In this image, from top left, we have the Lunar Inchworm, Giant Inchworm, Crater Crab, Giant Snake, Martian Frog, and Star Squid.

Above Images Source: Robots: Fact, Fiction & Prediction, Jasa Reichardt, 1978.

Space Mechanimals advertisement in New Scientist , 23 Oct 1980 showing the available models and their model numbers.

LUNAR INCHWORM No. 81196 91 pieces

STAR SQUID No. 81197 96 pieces

MARTIAN FROG No. 81199 113 pieces

CRATER CRAB No. 81200 88 pieces

GIANT MECHANIMALS No. 2001 503 pieces is a 3-in-1 construction kit that could build a GIANT SPIDER or GIANT SNAKE or the GIANT INCHWORM.

Was there a model No. 81198?

LUNAR INCHWORM No. 81196 91 pieces

STAR SQUID No. 81197 96 pieces

MARTIAN FROG No. 81199 113 pieces

Click on the above image to see pdf instructions.

CRATER CRAB No. 81200 88 pieces

GIANT MECHANIMALS No. 2001 503 pieces is a 3-in-1 construction kit that could build a GIANT SPIDER or GIANT SNAKE or the GIANT INCHWORM.


Click on the above image to see pdf instructions.


Click on the above image to see pdf instructions.


Click on the above image to see pdf instructions.

Current "Mechamo" version of Inchworm.

GIANT ASTRO CENTIPEDE No. 81206 268 pieces

Current "Mechamo" version of Centipede.

Above video clip is of Mechamo Centipede and Crab.

GIANT STELLAR CRAB No. 81207 301 pieces

The "Mechamo" version of the Crab.

Translated from Japanese by Google. Sourced from here: http://otonanokagaku.net/products/mechanic/crab/history.html

History of Mechamo

Japanese Automotive Technology is procreation "biological robot" machine
Has developed a bio-mechanical robot became the prototype of the "Mekamo" ["Mechamo"] series of Gakken, the late Mr. Ryuichi Tomiya. In person is said to be the pioneer of automotive engineering in Japan, after graduating from the Faculty of Engineering, Chiba University, joined the Corporation automobile manufacturing (Nissan rear) in 1934, he has been involved, such as the Datsun, the design of the finest cars of many underneath. Toyota also served as technical advisor after, it was someone like the history of Japanese Automotive Technology itself exactly.
At one point, based on the idea that pops into the midst of a study of the suspension system of the car, the Tokyo Institute of Technology professor Masahiro Mori is a Japanese robotics guru Mr. Tomiya this, and (at the time, now professor emeritus) robot is a prototype of Mekamo jointly build. This was a robot made ​​of aluminum, similar to natural organisms. It is the whole thing to work to convert complex movements using the crank gear and the rotary motion of the motor of any one. Was what I was born to be a result of the pursuit from the point of view of mechanical engineering, "at how little energy, yet simple structure, or forced to move in a way that makes sense" of them. According to Mr. Tomiya, "the pursuit of these results, it has become something like the movement of the animal happened to" It seems to be that. Initially, these robots, named "Mekanimaru" ["Mechanimals"] was coined in the mechanical + animals. It is of about 1968 (1968). Since is 1972 (1972), was to be released in the name of this is called "Mekamo" ["Mechamo"] been brought to Gakken later is was was needed four years still about to commercialize it.

Products to be "material" instead of "toy"
When you then, Mr. Mori and Mr. Tomiya has been appeared on educational television NHK, I introduced this Mekanimaru. Then, immediately after the broadcast query, from toy manufacturers such as "I want to commercialization," seems to have to rush. Two of the developers had developed without thought of the initial commercialization. However, we were inundated with queries that is so strong it was the meaning that "these things are established it as a commodity" called. However, as a developer feeling "being sold as just a toy can not be convinced" that was strong. Are those who were born from the study of (suspension) suspension device of the car, Mekanimaru, as the mechanism is exactly the materials of "linkage" exactly. If you sell anyway, there was a desire to sell to them as "material" and not a toy. Mr. Mori is now that there is also the author of "The Science of years ○" of Gakken at the time, is demonstrated in front of the president of Gakken of the time there is also such edge. So, the electronic block Gakken know, department toy of Gakken at the time (we have become a separate company now) because it was dealing with a toy and educational to say the toy, I meet even glasses your teacher forest I think he was. President who is also the founder of Gakken is seems to have decided that "instantly from trying to commercialize this interesting" to see the movement of the Mekanimaru. However, since it was hard. In order to mass-produced products is essential. How do I mass production of metal robots have never seen. Has singled out was standing here, was Mr Ishiyama Gakken employees yuan. After studying mechanical engineering at the University, through the company or toy manufacturer of mechanical design, Mr. Ishiyama, he had just joined the Gakken time. Ishiyama said, "because I was doing the mechanical engineering," I It is said that "we have to work in raining suddenly feeling that" you do. Experience in mechanical design and toy design was Mr. Ishiyama rich already, when I started to see the metal handmade robot I heard that Mr. Tomiya Menkura~tsu. Things you've never seen exactly, where no idea Do I need to design how … and a disciple as a research student in the laboratory of Dr. Tomiya Sagamihara time by Shamei, Mr. Ishiyama, the design of the robot I was supposed to learn from scratch.

The birth of "Mekamo" Gakken
Mr. Ishiyama who was ordered to developers of Mekamo suddenly. Admitted to his laboratory in Sagamihara Tomiya, through the Institute daily rent an apartment close to the Institute, he was devoted to the development is likely from morning till night. This apartment Gakken generation was borne, because it is no convenience store era, yet everyday life is so was pretty lame. We should not be developed as work since we will ask them to rent apartment in company money, what is not to commercialize anything. That pressure seems to have been considerable. I have heard about once boss of Gakken come to check the progress of a week, especially, was a most melancholy. While the first study of the link mechanism, in Tomiya Institute, he began writing a drawing toward commercialization in reference to Mr. Tomiya Mekanimaru made ​​by hand. Under the guidance of Mr. Tomiya, write a rewrite drawings. I continued for about two years seems to have a repeat of this intently. Even though the cause drawing, I do not wake up in the drawing exactly what Mr. Tomiya made. Since we launched as a product to mass production, mass production in mind, which can not be part of the assembly will change the structure. The original Mekanimaru was handmade by Mr. Tomiya, became the birth of "Mekamo of Gakken", at the stage of Mr. Ishiyama was designed for mass production in mind. Mekamo was originally developed as a product for the elementary school. However, when we launched, a user could center around high school students from a junior high school student. Assembly and for the split was difficult, as many cases, query for children that can not be assembled well in elementary school, that "does not work" has been justified I was in a lot of company. In addition, many cases that are being brought in for repair shop model of the town, I heard that in the model shop Irassha~tsu also was familiar with the repair of Mekamo. Therefore, series that was easy to assemble Minimekamo little was planned. I did things in this series, the drawing was made ​​in 1973 by the cheaper prices significantly reduce the number of parts. In this way, a big hit that first shot Mekamo series was released in 1972 (1972) in July, he often had not been shipped three million monthly. However, an unexpected challenge to Mekamo series was good was waiting. It was the oil crisis that hit the whole of Japan.

Trials of the first oil shock
First oil crisis occurred in the fall (1973) 1973. I think many people remember the commotion that toilet paper one day suddenly disappeared from the supermarket. Situation that leads to soaring raw materials, oil shock gave a very serious blow to the Japanese economy as a whole at the time. I was influenced by a very large Mekamo this fact also. I was forced to raise when not endure to soaring raw material by the oil shock, there is Mekamo. Because he was so significant increase Inchiu~amu was ¥ 1800 to ¥ 3500 for example, this is in terms of sales has gone Mekamo sizable impact. On the other hand, Mekamo itself has received high praise from all quarters. Is often used as teaching materials in the Faculty of Engineering of the University, particularly in Waseda University and Tokyo Institute of Technology, Mr. Tomiya had been an instructor lectures, seems to have been done Mr. Ishiyama served as an assistant designer. In addition, in the Okinawa Ocean Expo was held in 1975 (1975), the exhibition was held in the Hall芙蓉Mekamo. Furong Pavilion theme is something called "bionics of the Sea", (which was called by the name Mekanimaru here) was "Aquarium" machine exhibition of its center. In this case, with the theme Mekamo sea creatures were displayed number. This seems to have the activities of Mr. Ishiyama Gakken is also versatile, greater involvement in the exhibition itself.

The late 1970s it became a turning point
It was Mekamo you've evaluated from various quarters, I could not do if we do not fight in the second half of the 1970s, will continue to up the cost of plating by environmental regulations have become stricter gradually, and the high costs further. In addition, it is also likely to have become gradually more query "can not be made ​​well." In fact, on the radio that "years of scientific ○" had been put in the appendix of Gakken, from what type of winding your own coils, have been wrapped in advance, did you change something ready-made, but it was around the end of the 70s just . In the editorial department, I had to him for sending to make those coil wound neatly each time, because there are a lot of complaints similar too, he is now with the appendix is wrapped with a pre-coil forced I was Tsu. As we did become less environment or later, we will move on to another rapidly from "what make with their own hands," interest of the children from this era, just that it can make something to devise their own I think. The second half of the 70s, I think it may have been the era that just hit the tipping point. Mekamo also, it is not possible while being massaged with the times like this, just to continue the production, he was discontinued at the beginning of the 1980s, while the results will be missed.

Over time, that can be reprinted
At the time, Mr. Ishiyama et al, we worked desperately to reduce costs whether somehow unable to continue production. I heard also try to manufacture brought into Hong Kong and China mold, China at the time does not have technology as much as now still, it is seems to have given up because they could not be to the level you want to sell as a commodity.
I think right now, you can re-release Mekamo, and largely due to changing times greater. As a direct factor is that many of the part owing to technological advances may irony China. However, I think that it can also be in the form like that, regardless of the world once again today, products that disappear into the waves of the times while being spared the past, whether it is not of such significance that there. So we also think Mekamo this series, and I want to sell for a long time as a member of the "adult science" From now on, I hope you'll watch warmly.

Similar aquatic models from 1978

The Department of Mechanical Aquarium "Marine Science Museum" is located in the second floor of the museum, and the machine is called Aquarium (Mekanimaru). Born in 1978 as the theme "Learning from sea creatures, think about the future of ocean development," and mechanical aquarium was reopened in Exhibits aware coexistence with stronger creatures in 1995. Here, (Mekanimaru) animals are exhibited machine to analyze the behavior and function of sea creatures, was created based on that data. Because they adapted to the environment in which to live, that reproduce by machine to analyze the function and these actions, behavior of marine animals, the hint of making marine robot needed to develop ocean way is not obtained from the idea, or was born Mekanimaru.

Click on the above to be taken to a video clip of these.


Japan Natsot/Engcomm Duration: 2.50"

At a marine Science Museum southwest of Tokyo, everything is not as it seems. Tanks contain rare examples of sea-life, as well as the unexpected. In what's become known as the "mecquarium," mechanical fish dart through the weed. Their purpose is to teach children how robots move and encourage their interest in science, at the same time. Children can manipulate the controls of the 150 mechanical fish, all hand-made by museum staff. Curator Tadanobu Ishibashi has crafted the museum's latest exhibit, a mechanical lobster. Its sensors enable it to detect food from the seabed floor. It can also spot enemies, like the blue ringed octopus.

Step Dozer

Another related Gakken kit similar to the Soviet PrOP-M Lunar Stepper.

Other than this poor image, I know nothing about the Step Dozer.

"Mechanimals" was also the 1950's trading name of Frank Stuart's Mechanical Elephant business.

Thanks to Bryan Spiegel who suggested this post; an even more obvious omission given that I own a few Mechanimal and Mechamo models myself.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 at 1:19 am and is filed under Bionics, Walking Machines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “1968 – “Mechanimals” Walking Models – Masahiro Mori and Ryuichi Tomiya (Japanese)”

  1. Laurie Atkinson Says:

    After searching through the internet, yours is the only site I found that had but one image of the Step Dozer. I still have my assembled and working Step Dozer and was thrilled to find the boxed picture. It brought back fond memories of the excitement I felt, when first opening mine!

  2. [BLOCKED BY STBV] 2014年07月08日(火)の日常 | okaz::だめにっき Says:

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