Kawaii Mood Rings – Detailed Plans p.1 – What

My main project is a desktop toy that will consist of three independently rotating concentric rings, with each of the rings holding different elements, again playing up the Kawaii aesthetic. The outer and middle rings will have holders for mylar buttons, the outer ring having buttons of ~1” diameter, and the middle having 1.25” diameters. The outer ring buttons will have different headwear, such as a top hat, tiara, bunny ears, etc. The middle ring will have faces of characters sporting different expressions, such as angry/pouty, yawning/sleepy, and sparkly/gleeful. The inner ring will have a continuous, fun design that’ll be entertaining as the rings rotate, and I would like for the central circle to spin as well, likewise with a design that takes advantage of the dynamic nature of this toy. Below are initial sketches of my vision, followed by a more detailed CAD model with a list of the slot design designations.

I anticipate the mechanics aspect of this toy to be the most challenging and time consuming. First, I will prototype the ring movement with a LEGO gear set, to get a better feel of how it will all come together. Next, I will add small neodymium magnets centered at the bottom and top of the outer and middle rings’ slots, so that they will “snap” into position and align the buttons. Precision here will be important, as I will need the magnets to just barely not touch each other to achieve maximum force, and also to ensure the buttons end up vertically aligned and not slightly askew.



If I find the movement of the LEGO gears to be sufficiently satisfying, I’ll paint them to match the Kawaii aesthetic. If needed, I will look into alternatives such as ball bearings with 3D printed shafts. I plan to also 3D print the base, and add weights to increase its stability.

Finally, for the zoetrope, I will do something along the lines of the below.


This will pose another challenge for me timewise, as I’ve never made a zoetrope before. However, since this is essentially just a flipbook, I am confident that with my Photoshop skills, I’ll be able to pull this off. I am considering some other designs as well for the zoetrope, but I think this will fit well as it’ll appear as if Kirby is running along the ring, and is a simple design as only the feet need to change positions. An alternative could be a flower in bloom, with a hand-drawn kawaii style to it.

I anticipate this taking me several iterations to achieve the standard of movement and Kawaii I am aiming for, so my materials are on order and prototyping is to begin within the week!

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • […] Kawaii Mood Rings – Detailed Plans p.1 – What […]

  • Abdulrahman Nashawi
    March 15, 2020 6:24 pm

    Hello Thomas! I think you are making an interesting toy that the user will spin for a long time when they play with it. I like how you are making it complex by making multiple rings and how everything on your toy can rotate. I think the critical part of your project is centering all the circles in a single point in the middle and having everything rotate with minimal friction to keep rotating for a longer period of time. I know it is hard but I think you will do a great job with that. Good luck with making your toy!

  • Victoria Rios
    March 11, 2020 11:49 am

    I am so excited to see the finished product! I love the Kawaii aesthetic and I like all the emotions/hats you chose. I also think its awesome that you are drawing your own designs on your buttons. It would be cool if the buttons were detachable so that if you wanted to wear the buttons you got that day you could, and then be able to put them back and pick new buttons. I also think that making a facade will make the product a little bit more intuitive to use. GOOD LUCK!

    • Thomas Buckholtz
      March 13, 2020 12:17 pm

      Yes, I was really hoping to keep them detachable as well! That way it could serve as a sort of randomizer for what button you’d be rocking for the day if you wanted. Unfortunately with the new time constraints, I’m able to only pull off one prototype, and I didn’t achieve as nice of a press fit as I was hoping. Since I won’t be able to just pop them in and out of the slots, I’ll need to use a more permanent mounting method to ensure they don’t go flying when the rotation starts. I’ll look at making some sort of indicator at the 12 o’clock position while toying around with the mechanics piece, thanks for the recommendations.

  • Daniel Straub
    March 11, 2020 11:38 am

    I love desk toys like this. I am with Nicole in that I don’t fully understand how the image will change. It would help me to see a couple sketches of what the different “mood images” will look like. Otherwise I think this is an interesting project. Designing the gear train will be fun. As a stretch goal, it would be awesome to add LEDs.

    • Thomas Buckholtz
      March 13, 2020 12:31 pm

      When you refer to how the image will change, are you referring to the zoetrope? In reference to the different mood images, I’ll be sure to include more of those in the next posting. I’m squeezing in my prototype in the last day ITLL is open, so hopefully it’ll be a physical example to see by then. I agree adding LEDs would be awesome, especially if I could coordinate them with the motion of the rings. That may be simpler than I initially think, given the capabilities of Arduinos and the like, but for now, especially considering our limited manufacturing resources, I will leave that outside of the scope of this project.

  • Hi Thomas, I really appreciate that you are sticking with the kawaii aesthetic throughout the semester. I also really like the idea of using a lazy susan type bearings. I think it would make a lot of sense to add an arrow or something that indicates the mood the user is choosing.

    • Thomas Buckholtz
      March 13, 2020 12:34 pm

      I agree an indicator will be helpful, I’ll work on including that with the mechanics aspect. I really liked the idea for a lazy susan type bearing as well! I actually have one that sits unused in my house, so I’ll be pulling it apart to see if I can somehow incorporate it. It’s also nice since it takes care of a stable base issue at the same time.


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