Engineering With Magnetic Spheres

We would imagine these experiments were spawned by a devastatingly boring day at the office. [Sparr] found himself the proud owner of one thousand rare-earth magnets and decided to see what geometric shapes he could build with the spheres. These are gold-plated N35 Neodymium magnets that measure just 6mm across. He discovered that every structure is built from rings of magnets with shapes dependent upon what sequence of increasing or decreasing members are used. What he’s done is visually pleasing but we’d like to try it ourselves to see how resilient each structure ends up being.

[Sparr’s] post is from the Freeside Atlanta blog, a hacker space collective. [Curbob], a regular with the group, tipped us off that a few hacker conventions are coming up in their area and they’re looking for speakers for one-hour talks about projects. If you’re near Raleigh or Atlanta this is your chance to show off that ridiculously complicated project you’ve been risking your marriage to complete.

32 thoughts on “Engineering With Magnetic Spheres

  1. Haha, holy shit. Go Hackaday. I just bought myself about 1700 of these things a week or so ago. I’ve been dicking with structures and came across the “ring” idea, too. For a brief explanation, there are 3 primary ring configurations that will hold and 4 if you count one that won’t hold for a structure. A ring of 6 will give you a flat hexagonal pattern. From the pictures, a ring of five will give you a gentle corner. And a ring of 4 will give you a steeper corner. A ring of 3 will just end up like a ring of 6 if you can get it to hold. These magnetic balls are not fond of large triangular structures.

    I’ll go ahead and get some of what I discover posted on

  2. So how does one go about getting their name actually linked in a story?

    I actually just discovered how to get the magnets to hold a sharp triangular shape. I’m uploading some new pics of some icosahedra later.

  3. Thinkgeek sells these. They call them buckyballs. I’ve been meaning to get some for a while now.. JonDecker has an interesting observation, ferrofluid would be fun with these. I don’t know if it would help, but it would look pretty cool if nothing else.

  4. Ive picked up a few sets of these from DealeXtreme importer website, and indeed upon playing with them for a few months, ive built many of these shapes, and a few others, Due to the polar nature you cant build just anything. but my favorite structures are ones that pretty much self assemble.

    also playing with these its fun to note that there is very little field given off if you make them into a ring, but you break it and lots of field off the ends.

    also clusters of 7 of them make great little magnetic tops. aee this video

  5. This reminds me of a TED talk where a woman was representing hyperbolic space using either knitting or crochette, can’t remember. But by adding or subtracting a knot per row she would get structures that resembled coral. These balls in my mind at least resemble virii.

  6. I just saw over at boingboing, you can buy these online from . They’re not gold plated, but you get 216 of them packaged in a 6x6x6 cube. The youtube video they have is pretty neat.

  7. I got some buckyballs for Christmas and they are awesome. They got passed around for 4 hours at the secret santa party. The cube they come in is surprisingly difficult to figure out.

  8. post office does not appear to care about them, but selling them in shops in the us, they have to be individually entombed in such a way they cant be swollowd and pinch a section of the digestive tract.

    even our local science museum has a hard time letting kids handle magnets due to safety fears

  9. they will attract to the metal casing of your hard drive? lol not mine. never found a hard drive that wasnt built of some non-iron-containing alloy. there are few parts in the hard drive that actually attract magnets. most of it seems to be magnesium/aluminum but the last one i took apart had some diamagnetic material or something. whatever it was, it seems to cancel out the magnetic field.
    but with neodymium magnets, which i dont mind sticking on my computer, except for damaging the paint job, about 1 inch away is safe, neodymium magnetic field is stronger but has a shorter effective range.
    funny i just thought about buying a shit-ton of magnets just to build stuff like this, the other day. and now its on hackaday. so now i will start thinking about something more important, the magnetic version of electronics. magnetronics? magnetrons are pretty interesting. i will start thinking of magnetic circuitry instead of electron circuitry, electrons are still involved, but in the way magnetic fields are involved in current electronics. this is the way of thinking that leads up to the creation of the Flux Capacitor. i have to create a magnetic counterpart for each electronic component. but instead of doing it, i will just think about it, and then it magically shows up on hackaday like this.

  10. brought my set at, came with free shipping and spares best deal i could find for us euopeans. Literally havent put them down yet, cant for the life of work out how to make the 3d ring on their video though.

  11. The pictures in this story were some of the first things I ever made from the magnets. I didn’t think they were worth being on hackaday, someone else submitted them as a surprise to me. I’ve started doing bigger and more complex stuff with them now…

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