Sorting Resistors with 3D Printing and a PIC

If you aren’t old enough to remember programming FORTRAN on punched cards, you might be surprised that while a standard card had 80 characters, FORTRAN programs only used 72 characters per card. The reason for this was simple: keypunches could automatically put a sequence number in the last 8 characters. Why do you care? If you drop your box of cards walking across the quad, you can use a machine to sort on those last 8 characters and put the deck back in the right order.

These days, that’s not a real problem. However, we have spilled one of those little parts boxes — you know the ones with the little trays. We aren’t likely to separate out the resistors again. Instead, we’ll just treasure hunt for the value we want when we need one.

[Brian Gross], [Nathan Lambert], and [Alex Parkhurst] are a bit more industrious. For their final project in [Bruce Land’s] class at Cornell, they built a 3D-printed resistor sorting machine. A PIC processor feeds a resistor from a hopper, measures it, and places it in the correct bin, based on its value. Who doesn’t want that? You can see a video demonstration, below.

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Automated resistor sorter puts them into small plastic tubes

This one might be an oldie, but it’s certainly a goodie.

Way back in 2005, [David] and [Charles] needed a project for one of their engineering courses. With so many loose resistors scattered over the lab, they decided to build an automated resistor sorter (PDF warning) to separate these resistors and put resistors of the same value together in the same bin.

The electrical and programming portion of this build is relatively simple – just a PIC microcontroller reading the value of a resistor. The mechanical portion of this build is where it really shines. Resistors are sorted when they pass through small plastic tubes mounted to a wooden frame.

There are several levels of these tubes in [David] and [Charles]’ sorter that move back and forth. The process of actually sorting these resistors is a lot like going down a binary tree; at each level, the tube can go right or left with the help of a solenoid moving that level of the frame back or forth.

[David] and [Charles]’ project wasn’t entirely complete by the end of the class; to do so would require  8 levels and 128 different tubes on the bottom layer. Still, it worked as a proof of concept. We just wish there was a video of this machine in action.

Tip ‘o the hat to [Alexander] for finding this one and sending it in.