M&Ms and Skittles Sorting Machine is Both Entertainment and Utility

If you have OCD, then the worst thing someone could do is give you a bowl of multi-coloured M&M’s or Skittles — or Gems if you’re in the part of the world where this was written. The candies just won’t taste good until you’ve managed to sort them in to separate coloured heaps. And if you’re a hacker, you’ll obviously build a sorting machine to do the job for you.

Use our search box and you’ll find a long list of coverage describing all manner and kinds of sorting machines. And while all of them do their designated job, 19 year old [Willem Pennings]’s m&m and Skittle Sorting Machine is the bees knees. It’s one of the best builds we’ve seen to date, looking more like a Scandinavian Appliance than a DIY hack. He’s ratcheted up a 100k views on Youtube, 900k views on imgur and almost 2.5k comments on reddit, all within a day of posting the build details on his blog.

As quite often happens, his work is based on an earlier design, but he ends up adding lots of improvements to his version. It’s got a hopper at the top for loading either m&m’s or Skittles and six bowls at the bottom to receive the color sorted candies. The user interface is just two buttons — one to select between the two candy types and another to start the sorting. The hardware is all 3D printed and laser cut. But he’s put in extra effort to clean the laser cut pieces and paint them white to give it that neat, appliance look. The white, 3D printed parts add to the appeal.

Rotating the input funnel to prevent the candies from clogging the feed pipes is an ace idea. A WS2812 LED is placed above each bowl, lighting up the bowl where the next candy will be ejected and at the same time, a WS2812 strip around the periphery of the main body lights up with the color of the detected candy, making it a treat, literally, to watch this thing in action. His blog post has more details about the build, and the video after the break shows the awesome machine in action.

And if you’re interested in checking out how this sorter compares with some of the others, check out these builds — Skittles sorting machine sorts Skittles and keeps the band happy, Anti-Entropy Machine Satiates M&M OCD, Only Eat Red Skittles? We’ve Got You Covered, and Hate Blue M&M’s? Sort Them Using the Power of an iPhone!  As we mentioned earlier, candy sorting machines are top priority for hackers.

[via r/electronics]

46 thoughts on “M&Ms and Skittles Sorting Machine is Both Entertainment and Utility

  1. I think he frankly missed a huge opportunity in here not having it auto-detect whether the individual candies are, in fact, M&Ms or Skittles. The headline gave the impression it would. You want a useful machine, you add that one feature and this becomes sheer genius. Maybe even add in detection of Reese’s Pieces.

    1. I think it’s already sheer genius. Sure, there can always be more features, but this takes one task — candy sorting by color — and performs the task at a high level while presenting excellent industrial design, and entertaining functionality. I love this project!

      1. The marginal cost to add one more feature like that would be fairly low though and the utility would become slightly wider given the fact that sorting out those material or color differences seems (at first) to be pretty straightforward. Not sure this problem is being solved is truly what matters here though due to the speed of the solving being quite slow but it’s still a well built machine that draws from several different mechanical, electrical, software and fabrication techniques that has been put together in a clean and professional way that could certainly be expanded a bit to add some new functionality.

      2. It’s definitely an appealing and effective design. I think rather than auto-detection, which is an incredibly difficult problem for computers, the best addition would be a UPC reader to load/create presets. Scan a new UPC, and it’ll begin sorting (attempting to create a preset if need be). Easily expandable, completely optional, and only requires an easy set of RGB values to write your own presets.

        1. It’s probably a case of them having different colours. If so, you just need to map the mutual colours to the same pot and , upon detecting a colour only present in one of the sets, you know what to expect for the rest of the run.

    2. I was thinking the same thing. Pieces of similar color could be grouped by the limited number of cups. For example, the different hues of red Skittles and red M&Ms would go together. Regardless, it’s a great build and a ton of work!

      1. Or you just decide by the first piece of candy in the sensor, which has different color in skittles or M&Ms, what it is. But that would not work if you have e.g. a mixture of red skittles, red M&M’s and green skittles. Probably red M&Ms taste completely different than red skittles. So it’s not good to mix them together. The machine has to separate any different type of candy.

  2. This is brilliant. When I was a kid, my mom would by Christmas M&Ms on sale after the holiday, then sort them and put out the red ones for Valentine’s Day, followed by the green ones for St. Patrick’s Day. So practical use, not *just* OCD!

        1. Even at minimum wage, it is unclear that the value of this machine exceeds the “savings” of what this represents in most all cases. It’s a neat but unique machine, slow to do the work and requires skills and cost to create. Also, don’t forget the opportunity cost here.

          1. If making the machine is enjoyable, then it only has to save enough money that the “wasted” cost is equal to or less than what it costs to have an equivalent amount of fun.

  3. For M&Ms, the only reason really is OCD or aesthetics (though I will mention that you can buy monocolor M&Ms mail order). But for Skittles, the different colors taste different. So there’s more of a point to sorters for them. Starburst sorting would be another challenge. A particularly useful one given the red ones are horrendous.

  4. It seems like so many folks on HACKADAY miss the point in some of these projects. :(

    Let me see if I can explain; as an engineer, inventor and hobbyist, I can see see the beauty in these types of designs. As inventors, we have to be electronics engineers, component engineers, systems engineers, mechanical engineers and software engineers all rolled into one. Making use of all those skills is an art of its own. It takes a lot of imagination, thinking, planning and debugging to make all those elements dance harmoniously together.

    If the inventor of this device is a hobbyist, and seeing the beauty of his/her creation, I am sure (s)he is, then (s)he is not looking at it as a commercial machine to sell for profit and gain, (s)he is looking at it as a work of art. For him/her, it has no commercial value because it is “priceless” no matter what it actually cost in time and materials to create it..

    Peace and blessings.

  5. No, this isn’t the worst thing that can happen to someone with OCD. OCD is a real mental disorder. It’s not just being a bit fussy. Indeed what’s commonly referred to as “OCD” is more like “Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder”, which is a different condition.

    But mostly it’s just being bit fussy. It’s demeaning to people who really have mental illnesses for people, and especially half-arsed TV programmes, to casually misuse terms like this. You might notice on the TV show “Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners”, a little disclaimer “xxxx has not being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder”. This disclaimer is used, as much as I’ve seen those programmes (not much), on EVERY “obsessive”. NONE of them have OCD! They might have anxiety problems, they might be a bit neurotic (in the non-clinical sense). But that’s not the same as a real mental disorder than utterly ruins and devastates people’s lives. You DON’T “wish I had it, my house would be so clean lol!”.

    In the past it was using “schizophrenic” to mean “changeable”. Where what was mistaken for schizophrenia was actually multiple personality disorder. Which is an incredibly rare disorder. Actual schizophrenics only have one personality, and spend much of their time in a psychotic state, hallucinating and terrified of people tampering with their brains.

    But besides all that…

    This has been done before, many times. It’s becoming a standard. So, I propose an answer to all this duplication.

    A challenge! To see who can sort Skittles the fastest. All that effort and brains, all that equipment, may as well strive to do something as well as it can be done.

    You could have competitions at conventions and stuff. For my part, I offer nothing whatsoever. I don’t want to organise it. But if people are going to do it, why not do it together, and competitively? Create a community. Might be a challenge used to get people into learning STEM.

    1. @Greenaum
      To be fair, personality disorders pretty much *are* normal personality traits, exaggerated. It’s just that people without first hand experience tend to underestimate just how exaggerated. They read the diagnostic criteria and think “hey, that sounds like Uncle Fargswaggle.” Then they read a case study or encounter a sufferer in real life and hoooo boy.

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