NXT machine sorts LEGO blocks automatically

Smart people don’t put their toys away, they build machines to do it for them. Case and point: this NXT project which can sort LEGO pieces. Just dump a bucket of random blocks in a hopper on one end of the machine. One slice at a time, these plastic pieces will be lifted onto a conveyor system made up of several different belts, which allows for separation of the parts. One block at a time, each piece enters a specially lighted chamber where they are visually identified by the NXT brick. Once it identifies the block, a carousel of plastic containers rotates to place the correct home for the block below the output shoot seen above.

So do we now have a completed LEGO circle of life? Not quite. You can build structures automatically using a 3D LEGO printer and this sorter will have no problem organizing the parts for that purpose. But we still need a LEGO machine that can tear assembled bricks apart.

[via Tinkernology]


  1. andar_b says:

    Nifty project

    and it’s spelled chute. :)

  2. MrX says:

    Really nice construction, too bad it is so slow! Please replace the microcontroller!

  3. MrX says:

    Next step: Hashing and indexed storage of each LEGO piece for future automated retrieval.

  4. kewlnamehuh says:

    Do you know if they are using stock firmware, or Lejos?

  5. Daniel says:

    That is a beautiful device.

  6. GPPK says:

    The point made about making, sorting but not yet destroying has made me think:

    Way too skynet.

  7. Reaper says:

    And a soft AI to generate new designs for lego creations. Resistance is futile.

  8. Nick says:

    The part missed in the review above is that it sorts by not only shape, but also by weight. So if you were looking at a 1×6 block from above (dots-up), you could check the weight to tell if it was standard thickness (3x plate thickness) or just a plate.

    Very cool project.

  9. Nick says:

    Very cool. Now to get it going much faster…

  10. Kimura says:

    Definitely needs to be faster, but it looks like it does it fairly well. Now what’s with the “Error” tub? Is that just for “uncategorizable” bricks, or “stuff that isn’t even Lego”? I can see a Technic square part and a “satellite dish” in there…

    Also, it’d be cool if someone could make a system that sorts bricks by color, using just the stock NXT parts (wait, the color sensor is only in NXT v2). I’ve been meaning for years to sort my own collection, but only got 25% done…

  11. TheKhakinator says:

    It’s theoretically impossible for something built with Lego to pull Lego pieces apart – the force required would just as likely pull the parts of the machine apart.

  12. pRoFlT says:


    two words. super glue

  13. @TheKhakinator

    two words. mechanical advantage

  14. Nicco says:

    “we still need a LEGO machine that can tear assembled bricks apart.”

    I bet a BlendTec could help out in that department. har har har… meh.

    Really though, a non-destructive (read: no cutting edges) and low-power chipper-shredder/thresher-type machine would work as a first stage in disassembly. Don’t know about smaller clumps of LEGO though. Child labor?

  15. Amos says:

    Also, the phrase is “case in point” http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-cas1.htm

    on topic: Is there a wall wart for NXT? If not, this is going to take /lots/ of batteries…

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