Complex Mechanical Rigging

Hello all. I’ve been getting to grips with Blenders constraints, drivers etc. and I wanted to try something a little more complicated - an articulating robotic head with a control rig.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of tutorials which deal with the basics, but I cannot find anything that will show me how to do what I am attempting to do. Because this will be a long process, it’s best if I start with simple questions first and keep asking until the model is completed rather than explain exactly and in detail the full model.

The first question is this - the robot’s head is divided into panels. These panels raise and slide backwards, one after the other, as the head articulates upwards and return to the closed position when the head is neutral. Imagine plates being raised on a suit of armour before allowing articulation, and that’s basically what I’m trying to do.
I need to know how to set up a control rig so that when the robot is looking upwards, all of the plates are fully raised and slid back, and when it is looking straight ahead, they remain closed. I also need to know how to make the panels raise one at a time, front to back - meaning that the rearmost panels remain closed until the panel in front has reached it’s fully open position. Preferably, the control rig will be a simple slider that controls the entire mechanism, where at 0% all panels are closed, and at 100%, they are fully raised.
Lastly, to make sure this point is understood, the panels raise first before sliding back. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is two animations rather than one, but again, this needs to be done in sequence:
Front panel raises, THEN slides back to full position. Middle panel senses that front panel has reached full position, THEN raises, THEN slides back into full position. Rear panel senses that middle panel has reached full position, THEN raises, THEN slides back into full position.

So, in brief, the question is how do you make a control rig - a simple slider - that will raise a series of three panels IN SEQUENCE as the slider goes from 0 to 100.

Thank you very much for any replies. Take care!

Hey, As some one who has spent a good amount of time doing mechanical rigging, there are two approaches to this: first and the one most people try is to due this all/most in the ‘time line’ - good for simple ,bad for complex.
Second way is to create actions that can be used to assemble more involved/complex actions/strips in the NLA editor, this method will be the most flexible and provide the most benefit.

Action Constraint
Make use of ‘Action’ constraints which are operated by an ‘Emptys’ Z location tied to that action (panel transforms), offset each ones target value.
TBH - it would be helpful to have a file, but I can do it blind too, you just might not get what I’m saying :upside_down_face:

Ello. Will set up a quick animation tomorrow to demonstrate what I am trying to do and post it here.

In fact, I’ll just post it now. I was bored.
Test_Head.blend (568.5 KB)

Hey, so what I posted about using an action constraint is what you prob need - you create actions for those objects like your example file.
Go to the action editor > select an object, its action (name) will be shown > click the “F” button (Fake User) > click the “X” button - that unlinks the action > add action constraint to object using its action name, Target and what you want (transforms) to trigger the action you have to decide - ‘Action Range’ is the frames of the action (first frame to last frame, but can be what ever) - ‘Target Range’ is the amount it takes to go from start to end.
So in your example file adding an ‘empty’ to use as the ‘Target’ (Z Loc Local)
NOTE: You have un applied scale and rotations to your objects, but fix this after you unlink the action from that object by ‘CLEARING’ the scale and rotations and location too.
So the frame range is 1 to 81 on both and target range is 0 to 1 on both also., moving the empty from 0 to 1 on the Z axis will operate the objects.
EDIT: “F” button is ‘Shield’ button in 2.9

This is interesting. Time to Google up action constraints. I don’t suppose you could make a quick demo in Blender and share it?

If not, thank you anyway. Your answer means I have something interesting to learn about in the morning.