LEGO Technics Machine Produces True Braided Rope

We love a good LEGO build as much as anyone, but Technics takes it to the next level in terms of creating working mechanisms. And nobody takes Technics as far as [Nico71], as evidenced by his super-fast Technics rope braiding machine.

The last time we saw one of [Nico71]’s builds, it was also a LEGO Technics rope-making machine. At the time, we called it a “rope-braiding machine” and were taken to task in the comments since the strands were merely twisted to make the final product. [Nico71] must have taken that to heart, because the current build results in true braided cordage. That trick is accomplished by flying shuttles that are not attached to either of the two counter-rotating three-spoked wheels. The shuttles are transferred between the two wheels by a sweeper arm, each making a full revolution with one wheel before being transferred to the other. Each shuttle’s thread makes an intertwining figure-eight around the threads from the two fixed bobbins, and the result is a five-strand braided cord. The whole machine is mesmerizing to watch, and the mechanism is silky smooth even at high speeds. It seems like a much simpler design than the previous effort, too.

You’ve got to hand it to builders like [Nico71] that come up with fascinating machines while working within the constraints of the Technics world. And those that leverage the Technics platform in their builds can come up with pretty neat stuff, like this paper tape reader for a music machine.

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Lego Technic of the Past Eliminates Apple ][ with Arduino and Touchscreen

[JAC_101], the Director of Legal Evil Emeritus for LVL1 Hackerspace (don’t ask me, it’s their title system), was challenged to a hacking duel. It all started years ago. The person who is now president of LVL1, visited the space for the first time and brought with her a discarded Apple II controller for Lego bricks which had previously belonged to her father. Excited to test it, the space found that, unfortunately, LVL1’s Apple II wouldn’t boot. An argument ensued, probably some trash talking, and [JAC_101] left with the challenge: Could he build an Arduino interface for the Apple II Lego controller quicker than the hackerspace could fix its Apple II?”

Other things that belonged to people's fathers.
Other things that belonged to people’s fathers.

In the end, a concentrated force by one hacker over two years overcame the collective ADHD of many. He began by opening the interface to look inside, a completely unnecessary step since he found it was already thoroughly documented. Next he forgot about the project for a year. Then he remembered it, and built an interface for an Arduino Uno to hook to the controller and wrote a library for the interface. Realizing that sending serial commands was not in line with the original friendly intention of the device, he added a graphical display to the project; which allowed the user to control the panel with touch. In the end he won the challenge and LVL1 still doesn’t have a working Apple II. We assume some gloating occurred. Some videos of it in action after the break.

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“Bricking” Microcontrollers in LEGO Motivates Young Programmers

Back when he was about seven years old, [Ytai] learned to program on an Atari 800XL. Now he has a seven-year-old of his own and wants to spark his interest in programming, so he created these programmable LEGO bricks with tiny embedded microcontrollers. This is probably one of the few times that “bricking” a microcontroller is a good thing!

IMG_20150519_144818The core of the project is the Espruino Pico microcontroller which has the interesting feature of running a Java stack in a very tiny package. The Blocky IDE is very simple as well, and doesn’t bog users down in syntax (which can be discouraging to new programmers, especially when they’re not even a decade old). The bricks that [Ytai] made include a servo motor with bricks on the body and the arm, some LEDs integrated into Technic bricks, and a few pushbutton bricks.

We always like seeing projects that are geared at getting kids interested in creating, programming, and hacking, and this certainly does that! [Ytai] has plans for a few more LEGO-based projects to help keep his kid interested in programming as well, and we look forward to seeing those! If you’re looking for other ways to spark the curiosity of the youths, be sure to check out the Microbot, or if you know some teens that need some direction, perhaps these battlebots are more your style.

Green Light LEGO, Red Light Stop

Master LEGO craftsman [Baron von Brunk] had the same childhood passions as a lot of us—LEGO (obviously), Transformers, and Nintendo. But he also harbored a passion for traffic lights and road signs. His latest offering, a fully functional LEGO traffic light, is some pretty fantastic plastic. You might recall that we featured [Baron von Brunk]’s LEGO mosaic lamps a few weeks ago. This project is that one on steroids.

The body is made of 1700+ LEGO and Technic pieces. [Baron von Brunk] was kind enough to provide his LDD file, though he says it should be considered a rough guide to construction. The red, yellow, and green 1×1 areas are each lit with a 48-SMD LED floodlight bulb. Colored lights are available, but he used the solid white variety for greater luminescence. The lights are driven by a traffic light controller typically used for model railroads.

[Baron von Brunk] ended up lining the inside with black 1x1s and metallic reflective duct tape to keep the light from leaking out of the masonry. He used some Technic bricks on the rear door to form hinges, and Technic pins to hold the LED lamps.

The Lego Synchro Drive

[M-byte] wrote in to tell us about the Lego Synchro Drive. Although not a new hack, this autonomous vehicle is quite amazing in it’s simplicity.  Using only one motor turning at a constant speed, this device is able to navigate obstacles by simply turning.

As [m-byte] was quick to point out, this is a simple task using modern electronics, but this drive is made using only Lego Technic parts. The machine’s motion is quite pleasing. When it hits an obstacle, the outer rotating ring stops, allowing the casters on the bottom to switch direction. One could see this invention coming out of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook (minus the Legos).

Check out either of the embedded videos after the break to see this device in action. If you’d like to build one yourself, follow this link for very well illustrated directions. Continue reading “The Lego Synchro Drive”

Lego Technic Super 8 movie projector


It always blows our mind to see the things that people dream up when playing with Lego. Given enough time, you could likely replicate almost any mechanical device with the right amount and type of blocks.

[Friedemann Wachsmuth] recently wrapped up construction on a very impressive Super-8 movie projector with the help of his friend [Kalle]. The projector is fully functional, and is made completely from Lego aside from the reel spindles, the lens, and the lamp. As you can see in the video below the projector plays the film quite well, and even though it is only lit using an LED flashlight, it’s more than bright enough to get the job done.

The projector boasts automatic film feeding, a 24 fps framerate, as well as fast rewind capabilities – all provided by just two small Lego Technic motors.

You really need to watch the video to appreciate how much work went into this projector – it’s amazing.

[via RetroThing]

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Toyaanisqatsi: time lapse control using LEGO parts

A simple panning motion can add impact to the already-dramatic effect of time lapse photography. To accomplish this, frugal cinematographers sometimes build [Rube Goldberg] contraptions from clock motors, VCR parts or telescope tracking mounts. Hack a Day reader [Stephan Martin] has assembled a clever bargain-basement system using an Arduino-driven stepper motor and a reduction gear system built up from LEGO Technic parts, along with some Processing code on a host PC to direct the show.

While the photography is a bit crude (using just a webcam), [Stephan’s] underlying motion control setup might interest budding filmmakers with [Ron Fricke] aspirations but Top Ramen budgets. What’s more, unlike rigid clock motor approaches, software control of the camera mount has the potential for some interesting non-linear, fluid movements.