Building Your Own Crash Test Dummy Isn’t Easy, But It Is Hilarious

It’s equal parts disturbing and entertaining.

byPeter Holderith|
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James Bruton via YouTube

James Bruton is something of a robotics genius. He's a YouTuber who regularly creates impressive machines from 3D-printed parts and complex electronics. Recently he's branched out into larger more powerful creations, but with great power comes great risk of bodily harm. As such, he decided to make his own crash dummy as a way to test some of his contraptions before he takes the wheel. As it turns out, that's not very easy, but it is incredibly funny.

Bruton was unable to simply buy a crash test dummy because they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. His solution to this problem is both simple and impressive. He used wood to simulate bones, large elastic-bound spheres to simulate joints, and sensors around the body to detect any possible injury. He also added a Lego face to give the human analog a little personality.

The build starts with plywood cut on a CNC machine and some metal tubes and strips welded up to form the lower spine, pelvis, and ribcages. Both ribcages are attached to strain gauges to measure impacts on that area. The neck portion and upper spine are made up of several 3D-printed segments bound together with bungee cord and a gooseneck light fitting down the middle, which allows it to tilt but generally stay in place.

The actual flesh of the legs and arms is made from a cheese-like meltable rubber called Vinamold. Bruton makes some molds out of plaster using 3D-printed positives and then melts the rubber in a pot on a regular kitchen stove. It pours in relatively easily over the wood he uses to simulate human bones, but it's difficult to de-mold. The result is something interesting but slightly disturbing to look at. Most of the build follows this general theme.

The dummy's joints are made from large wooden spheres secured in place with more bungee cable, which seems a little weak but works well enough for Bruton's purposes. After completing the legs, feet, hands, and other body parts, the dummy is mostly complete. As a finishing touch, he wires up all of the sensors and makes a face out of Legos.

He initially tests the load sensors and accelerometers by basically beating on the device in his workshop. The fun is just beginning, though. After those initial tests, he takes it outside to his shed roof, where he has setup a pile of cardboard to drop the dummy into. He also puts some gelatinous guts into the human analog, which, again, is equal parts entertaining and unnerving.

After struggling with the weight of the dummy for a moment, he drops it off the roof into the cardboard, where it lands like an egg rolled off the counter. It's pretty funny, and the dummy sustains several injuries that Bruton is able to record on the tiny computers located inside the analog itself.

The YouTuber hasn't put this dummy to the test in any of his homemade machines yet, but rest assured it will likely be improved and strapped into the driver's seat of something soon. With Bruton trying to avoid being demonetized on the platform for putting himself into potentially dangerous situations, I expect we'll see more of his "Dangerous Friend" soon.

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