The Story

75 Years ago, something was found... it would become known as "The Thing" aka "The Great Seal Bug".

This website isn't for re-telling the story, it's well documented on Wikipedia.

This website is dedicated to creating a model of it and the process I went through in order to create an accurate representation from the few images of it available on the internet.

The Bug

The Thing was originally mounted inside The Great Seal, however, I wanted my version to be touched, taken down, disassembled when the curious ask about it, and then quickly mounted back on the wall.

So my version is mounted to a plinth, which has an embedded magnet. The Thing also has an embedded magnet so it securely snaps into place

The final piece
Part are modelled in Blender
I got in contact with a few different CNC shops, unfortunately they weren't able to help. I would love to have done this myself, I like the look of the Bantam Tools CNC but it's out of my range for a small project. In the end I went with Shapeways for the main body assembly.
1st Parts arrives from 3d printer, screw top
The membrane is very thin, 75 microns, I have no idea where I can get a material that thin, a coke cake is thicker than that, also I need something to measure it
I buy an extremely accurate Japanese micrometer, this tool is so beautifully made (Mitutoyo 103-129 Outside)
I find a roll of material from Amazon, it's the perfect size (1100 Aluminum Shim Stock, Full Hard Temper, AISI 1100-H18, 0.003" Thick, 6" Width, 100" Length)
Other parts arrive, o-ring and grommet were printed in metal just to see, as at this point, I didn't know what I was going to do about the rubber grommet or the seal
All parts together, note the back screw plate and a plastic o-ring
Call me crazy, but the antenna that "The Thing" had was very thing and had a flattened head, I again didn't know how I was going to make it at this point, so I had one made in a non-conductive aluminium, the finish on the piece is terrible, and it's very easy to bend. Note the units pieces screwed together great
I added a material cover just to see how it looks, and tried and failed to bend a piece of copper to fit my needs, it wasn't going to work.
In this picture you can see a piece of rubber where the grommet would was from a hand protector of a recycleable coffee cup
This photo shows how great the finish is on the unit, ignore the dirty oven top.
It was around this time too I started to think about how I was going to present it. The original was hidden inside the seal, but I wanted to show mine off. I wanted to show the old with the new, maybe a bright plinth?
A short movie spinning it around, not the backing plate is hex shaped, it's modelled like this so I can get a grip of the back and unscrew it, in future designs this is modified
This picture makes the cut as it feels warm, you can see how I've bent the copper rod
Plexiglass samples arrived, I really like the red, it's futuristic, walnut wood also arrived, it was very thin though, so we joined it together with wood glue.
I really wanted a fancy plaque to go at the bottom, maybe it should have a QR code? Paper will do for now.
I also wanted to try different materials for the plinth, here's a blue
Here's a textured red
A red/purple colour.
A brown colour.
Pine wood, an immediate dismissal from me
Textured black
In this photo I decided to bring in a frame, should it be mounted in a frame?
A green colour sample form somewhere found it's way into the mix.
The wood was varnished as a test and also the edges were routed just to see what sort of effects we could have, at this point, I'm not that happy with how it came out
A plaque sample arrived, I think the plaque looks great.
Checking the aluminium 3d printed antenna against an unknown piece of metal and the copper
A video of how the rubber grommet injection molding should be assembled, bare in mind, this piece is tiny
An injection mold made of PA12 Rigid polyurethane, this was very expensive :-/
An injection mold made of polished bronzed silver, I was amazed that this could be printed at all, the main issue straight away was that the locking keys had rounded off and were not sharp, this meant that the two halves would not fit together, I tried to fix this, but in the end just ended up sanding them clean off
A side-by-side comparison of the two injection molding blocks
I wasn't sure of the detail of the molds, so I purchased an inexpensive microscope from ebay to have a look
When I say Injection molding, I mean Injection molding. These parts are so small, and the amount of rubber I was going to make also tiny
Up until this point in life, I'd never made a mold, or played with silicon rubber, I was about to get messy
Adding the catalyst to the base
Silicon rubber in the syringe
After mixing up some silicon rubber, sucking it up into a syringe and then squirting it into a mold, it actually took quite a bit pressure
Using a micro clamp to hold the molds in place, I'll come back tomorrow to see how it sets
About to break open the first mold (metal)
Succes! Well, kind of, I didn't 3d print the piece that goes in the middle of the mold, at this scale, it's just really small so I forego it going forward
The grommet from the PA12 mold has higher resolution
Checking to see if the grommet fits
Two sample parts arrive from China. I was trying to figure out how this antenna could be made, 3D printing wasn't an option as it's too expensive and it wouldn't fit inside the printer. I posted on upwork for someone to produce me one, maybe someone had a watchmakers lathe? It wasn't until about a week later when a Chinese company posted and said why I don't I just press forge mind was blown
I couldn't just buy one antenna, I had to buy a bulk load of 500
I was experimenting with different materials, this one is silver. The lost wax casting process on this one failed.
The steel antennas need to be golden, however, I can't just gold plate these apparently they have to be nickel plated first, so we're just cleaning off any excess oil.
Again, it was my first time plating anything, so I bought some equipment. First I need to actually make some nickel plating solution
My simple setup, two nickel rods in a glass full of vinegar, connected to a power supply
Turning on the power and we start to see some activity
After about an hour or so, the liquid starts to turn green, a tell-tale sign that it's working.
My first attempt at nickel plating, how wrong was I? fail.
I tried to nickel plate a penny, whilst it looks silver~ish, it wasn't what I was expecting...failed. Note: I was testing on a penny because it's quite difficult to see on the already silver rod if it was getting more silver
I was getting what looked like burn marks on the rod, was it left over oil? Was it something else?
After some experimenting with voltages my penny seemed to look better
I start to make notes of my tests, so far, all failures
I ordered some fine-detail plastic versions of the grommet mold, they were alot cheaper than the PA12. I also ordered some rubber dye as the grommet should be black, not pink.
This is quite hard to see, but the bottom part of the antenna has been plated, the top part has some bad burns.
A reminder that these antennas are delicate
Here's a better picture of one of the ends plated, but I could see I was running into a problem. Whenever I plated one end, the other end would get messed up, Was it the voltages? or did I just need a better setup. I didn't snap a photo, but in the end, I created a larger bath for the antenna so that it could be submerged as one piece.
I kept on filling out my results
Grommet molds ready to be opened
Grommet mold results, the fine detail plastic are clear winners
I was now a rank amateur in Nickel Plating, but I still needed to gold plate the antenna, I had to buy a gold plating kit
A collection of different gold plating chemicals
Preparing the antenna, it's worth mentioning my first attempts failed badly, everything was burning...then I realised I had the poles switched on the current
Compared to me table of results
Routing the edge of the walnut
Once the routing was complete, it was time to sand down the edges
A closer look at the edge
Getting prepared for assembly...but wait, the woods not done
Removing the flashing from a grommet with a sharp knife
Lining up the elements, the hole is for a magnet, I wanted to be able to take "The Thing" off the plinth and disassemble it to show to people whenever I wanted.
I wasn't happy with the varnish finish, and I was too impatient to wait for it to dry, beeswax made the walnut amazing colour.
I didn't know, but applying the beeswax with wire wool works very well
The walnut looks gorgeous with the bees wax
Attaching the name plaque
Glueing in the magnet and squeezing it in
First full fix assembly photo
Holding it against the wall to see how it looks
Showing off the magnet attachment, I tried so many different magnets. In the original design, the magnet was mounted behind the wood, but I couldn't find a magnet strong enough at such small size
We purchased a special drill bit to drill an internal mounting hook into the wood
Proudly mounted on my wall
Taken off the wall and showing the insides
Detail on the backing plate pickup
The modified backing plate with a circular inset for a magnet to attach to the plinth
This is a model of "The Thing" it wouldn't be right not to test the antenna... Note: Leads are in the wrong connectors.
Build Photo Gallery