Designing a marble track from scratch

marble

 

Woodworker extraordinaire [Matthais] was approached by a toy company to create a ‘marble run’ toy. [Matthais]‘ jig-building skills are beyond reproach, so whipping up a prototype for this toy was pretty easy for him.

The basic unit of construction for this marble run is a simple ramp block with inputs and outputs at either end. These were crafted from blocks of wood, with the ramp carved out with a slot mortising machine. To make the side cuts on each block, [Matthais] used his pantograph router and a jig that cuts the wood for marble inputs on either side.

After taking his creation to a hackerspace for some very large kids to play with, [Matthais] found a few problems with his initial design. The blocks didn’t want to stay aligned when marbles were moving down the ramps, so a small mortise and tenon – looking very much like a piece of Lego – were added in several locations on the underside of each block.

Making one of something is relatively easy, but [Matthais] is making hundreds of pieces for his marble run prototype, each interchangeable with another. That’s impressive for something crafted by hand, but when you’re a master at making jigs like [Matthais], everything goes by pretty easily.

Rube-Goldberg provides liquid refreshment

rube-goldberg-soda-machine

The image to the left doesn’t make this look like much, but inside of the cardboard vending machine lives a clever Rube-Goldberg device. The video after the break gives a look at the inner workings to show how a quarter manages to dispense a full can of Coke. But that’s about all the detail we get on the project.

There are two sets of counterweights used in the design. Some marbles, and what look like giant pinballs. The coin chute, located on the left side of the venting machine, funnels the money into the waiting marble. When the marble rolls off it lands on a spoon. The weight rotates the spoon-filled disk and causes one of the waiting pinballs to drop from their rack. As that metal ball falls it operates a ratcheting system to dispense just one can. It looks like the capacity of the machine is limited to two refreshing cans of sugary liquid, but that could be scaled up if more room were made for cans and counterweights alike.

[Read more...]

Multiple Marble Machine Mayhem

marble mayhem

If you like marble machines, or if you simply like alliteration, prepare to be amazed. [Denha] apparently has had a lot of time to spare over the years, as the marble machine collection he’s amassed is quite incredible. Dating back to 2009, the collection includes relatively simple machines, like the one pictured at the beginning, to one that includes physical logic gates around 5:30.

Interestingly enough, even the “simple” one that consists of two mechanisms to lift the marbles and a slide has a trick up it’s sleeve. The slide is actually modular, so that you can use the same “pumping” mechanism with different slide designs. Not that this is the only “pump” design, the last machine featured a marble lifting mechanism with an ingenious linkage assembly that translates the motion of a motor into a sort of lifting hand.

If this wasn’t enough Maddness, there is another marble-lifting surprise awaiting you in the video after the break around 4:35! [Read more...]

Cellphone microscope for about $20

Medical-grade microscope photography for $20 might be a game changer in areas where medical services are unavailable. This particular hack uses an iPhone’s 2 megapixel camera, as well as a tiny glass marble, to magnify a sample to about 350 times its actual size. The two images seen on the left are red blood cells photographed with the improvised microscope. The main issue with this magnification method is a very thin plane of focus that is overcome with processing in software.

This makes us think of the microscope hack that shined a laser through a droplet of water, to project the image on a wall. The concept was later refined to work with samples on glass slides. There are a couple of distinct advantages to using this cellphone-based method. First, the sample can be seen with its true colors. Second, you not only magnify the sample, but you have a digitized image already on a device that connects to the Internet. If you’re trying to make a medical diagnosis this can easily be sent to a qualified professional for analysis.

The team that came up with this technique also figured out how to build a cellphone-based spectrometer for just a few bucks. The image in the upper right is the result of that hack. Both have a step-by-step build guide on the page linked at the top. The microscope is just a glass bead in a piece of rubber, as seen here. The spectrometer is a bit more involved.

[Thanks Fabien]

Android controlled labyrinth

[Pcdevltd] pulled an all-nighter to get his first Android Developer Kit project up and running. Basing the project off of the example that Google used when unveiling the new accessory development hardware, he set to work controlling a marble labyrinth game using his smart phone. What began at 7pm was wrapped up by 5am to produce the results seen in the video after the break.

These ball mazes use two knobs to pivot the playing surface, changing gravity’s pull on the ball to get it to go where you want. [Pcdevltd] pulled off the bottom on his labyrinth and installed two small servo motors. These connect to the Android Open Accessory Development Kit via a small cable. Connect that to the phone and you can then use the internal accelerometer to play the game. If you have an Android phone and an Arduino this should be pretty easy to replicate since we know you can already use the ADK with Arduino. Get to work on your own projects and don’t forget to send us a link to your project log.

[Read more...]

Marble machines roundup

[Denha's] been building marble machines for years and decided to look a back on some of his favorite marble-based builds  (translated). There’s a slew of them, as well as some thoughts about each. Our favorite part is the digital simulations of the projects. For instance, the image above shows a flip-flop marble machine that was built in a physics simulator. This makes it a lot easier to plan for the physical build as it will tell you exact dimensions before you cut your first piece of material. Both of these images were pulled from videos which can be seen after the break. But this isn’t the most hard-core of pre-build planning. SolidWorks, a CAD suite that is most often used to design 3D models for precision machining, has also been used to model the more intricate machines.

[Read more...]

5/8″ ball bearing playground

This kinetic sculpture is a ball bearing’s paradise. Not only do they get a cushy ride around two lift wheels but there’s a variety of enjoyable obstacles they can go down. The first is a vortex made from a wooden flower pot which sends the balls randomly down one of two possible exits. From there it’s on to enjoy a ride on a flip-flop, a divide-by-three (takes weight of three marbles before it dumps them all), a zig-zag track, or a divide by twelve mechanism. We’re sure this is a riveting read, but don’t miss the video after the break where [Ronald Walter] shows it in action and takes it apart to illustrate the various features.

If you’re wondering about the digital logic terms used, we’ve seen wooden devices that use these concepts in the past.

[Read more...]

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