Auto-Balancing Gimbal Keeps your Coffee from Spilling

[Joe] works in one of those fancy offices that has some… unique furniture. Including a swinging boardroom table. See where we’re going with this? [Joe] made his own coffee cup gimbal.

The gimbal itself is made out of solid steel, welded together for maximum durability. He first built it out of plastic to test the concept, but then quickly moved to the all-metal solution. It’s a 2-axis gimbal featuring very powerful brushless DC motors, capable of balancing even a light-weight DSLR — however we think balancing a coffee cup is much more entertaining. It does this with ease, even when sitting on the treacherous swinging boardroom table (of DOOM).

It was made as one of his projects for an Artist in Residence (AIR) program made possible by a Instructables and Autodesk. We know that first “a-word” probably scared most of you off, but it’s actually a fascinating residency. They’ve put together the Pier 9 workshop, which has every tool and machine you can imagine. The program gives makers, designers, artists and engineers a chance to work with some of the latest technology to design and build projects, to share on Instructables. It actually sounds pretty awesome.

The primary goals of the residency program are to support the artist/maker community by connecting innovative and creative individuals with our unique set of tools and resources. We strive to build a community that shares their ideas and knowledge.

Oh yeah, and here’s the video of the Coffee Cup Gimbal in action:

35 thoughts on “Auto-Balancing Gimbal Keeps your Coffee from Spilling

  1. Wouldn’t it be easier to just build the table with a bunch of coffee cup holders built-in?

    That way you could mechanically link into the ceiling (or whatever mount is anchoring the entire table up there) and just pivot all the cup holders at the same time, keeping them parallel to the horizon. No electronics necessary.

    Also, if they have a projector in that room, is it strapped to the table?

  2. Keeping the coffee cup level doesn’t seem like the correct optimization if your goal is to keep the coffee in the cup while it’s swinging around on that table, but it’s a cool build regardless.

  3. Ok 3 things to say…

    1. Wouldn’t this work just as well with big ass weights instead of motors? (Of course it would weigh 50 lbs. but coffees worth it.)

    2. Cool table.

    3. Death to Vimeo!!!!

    1. Wouldn’t need to be 50lbs, honestly… A properly built, light weight unit would do the job purely on the weight of the mug and the god-liquid inside. (or substitute, obviously. Tea, while not the fuel of life, weighs the same).

      1. agreed, whilst a ‘cool build’ it’s an expensive and over-complicated solution. A passive mechanical gimbal, with the (virtual) pivot axes at or above the height of the cup could achieve the same result, without spilling coffee when the batteries go flat.

          1. He also acknowledges that using the motors is “way faster that a gravity balance.” Jeez, I thought it was a really nice & succinct video, and yet still people post without watching. ;)

    1. When was the last time you heard something useful come out of a boardroom, apart from the cleaner’s vacuum? The table’s function fits that of the room, an expensive waste of space.

  4. Love it! I’ve had to hang from the galley windows of a sailboat heeling way over, all the while trying not to spill the soup on the gimbaled stove. Gimbals are good, active gimbals are even better. My beater pickup needs this now!

  5. Great execution and use of materials, however methinks the physics of the swinging table (i.e. pendulum) would cause the coffee in the cup to remain in the cup and the liquid surface perpendicular to the table (yet not spill), and the cup to remain in place regardless of the angle of the table… unless some bored member stands firm and stops the motion (heh heh) abruptly, in which case the gimbal assembly would slide off the surface anyway.
    I would have thought the resolution of the poles those motors to be too course for the smooth movement it appears to achieve (they look like permanent magnet model aircraft motors… mine cogs significantly). Sure looks like a fun place to work!

    1. Indeed, all he needed was a sticky coffee cup, this will cause the liquid to jump out at each fulcrum point. Typical corporate engineer doing something overly complicated that makes no sense. You can take a half full water bottle and swing it in a wide arc and obviously see he is an abject fool.

      “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
      E.F. Schumaker

    2. I can’t help but think that with a few carefully placed ultrasonic transducers, the motion of the liquid could be effectively damped within the gimbal. Some say “over engineering”, I say “not nearly enough”!

  6. Reading or typing anything on that table would be annoying as hell.
    Sleeping on it (proven) would be heaven.
    The capacity of a cup or glass is defined by it remaining a container while in use.

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