As a genre, "desk toys" are usually pretty corny, from Newton's Cradle sculptures to creepy meditation balls. But these tiny creatures — which are miniatures of the giant self-propelled sculptures designed by Dutch artist Theo Jansen — are anything but.
Jansen is best known for his huge moving creatures, which he calls Strandbeests. These incredible mechanisms, often made out of discarded materials, are feats of engineering: Each contains hundreds of moving parts that, together, allow it move through space of its own volition:
But in addition to the full-sized versions — which you should definitely check out — Jansen offers tiny, 3D-printed replicas for purchase on Shapeways. Gizmodo wrote about the creatures a few years back, but Jansen has since introduced some even more wonderful options.
For example, there's Animaris Geneticus Parvus, a $US101 creature that skitters along on 20 long legs and 122 moving parts. Or Animaris Geneticus Gracilis, a new extra large strandbeest that was introduced a few months ago and is almost twice the size of the Parvus for just $US12 more. You can add a wind propeller to this beast for $US39, which lets it walk on its own without your guidance.
Then there's the $US55 Larva, the smallest Strandbeest: At just 8cm wide, it's something of a microscopic version of its elder brothers, just larger than a spider, but with 74 interlocking parts that make it no less complex. This little guy, Jansen says, "specialises in cuteness". [Shapeways]