Robo-Wire-Snips Clip 1k Segments

Quick, you need 1000 pieces of wire of the same length, what do you do? The disappointing answer is to put on the miniseries masterpiece Frank Herbert’s Dune and get to work snipping those bits by hand. We usually clamp a scrap piece of molding protruding perpendicular to the bench to use as a length guide in these cases.

The more exciting answer is to build a robot to do it for you. There’s no way you can build the robot faster than you could cut the wire… unless you have admirable rapid prototyping skills like [Eberhard]. He strapped together a barebones machine from two motors, and one switch in no time. Pretty amazing!

Wire coming off the spool feeds through two guides held by a third-hand. The outfeed length depends entirely on timing; two slices of wine cork drive the wire which passes through the open jaws of a wire snip. Those snips are hot-glued in place, with a motor winding up a strip connected to the other handle in order to make the cut. The only feedback is a limit switch when the snip is fully open.

It is entirely possible to get even less advanced. Here’s the same concept without the limiting switch. We appreciate the eloquence of the snipper squeeze method on that one. But for the most part we think you’ll be interested in one that goes about stripping the wire ends as well as cutting to length.

29 thoughts on “Robo-Wire-Snips Clip 1k Segments

    1. Limited production runs of custom electronics of all types, last time I needed that many little bits was for several custom 12 channel microphone pre amps for a broadcast facility that had multi-pin connectors unavailable in PCB mount and needed jumpers from connector to board, I think it came out to around 600 6″ wires (I hired an out of work bass player to cut them for me as piece work). This is a brilliant hack by the way! A true hack-not pretty, just gets the job done and well executed, I give it an eleven!

  1. brilliant hack.
    an even faster (though not that cool) way could’ve been to wrap the wire around a cylinder (like a pvc pipe) with just one layer so the wire coveres the whole surface (use an electric drill to spin the pipe). then cut two times along the long side of the cylinder at the right length and you end up with a bunch of wires all having the same length. propably some tape to hold them in place. more wasteful this method and wire is bent.

  2. I read the headline and thought ‘A. What kind of project uses 1 kilometer segments of wire? And B. How big is the feed spool that it would hold so many 1 kilometer segments that the process would need to be automated?’
    Then I read the article. I’ve cut hundreds of wire segments at a time to assemble kits for training sessions. This hack is awesome.

      1. Correct. No physical switches – just the reflective opto.
        If I had more time (this was a 12 hour deadline), I would have made some linear sensing as well, but feed-motor run time (with a heavy duty PSU) was quite reliable.

  3. Love the quick and dirty aspect of this. Something elegant could be built but would take way too long as opposed to just sitting down and earning a few calluses on your hand. Now I want to see a DIY build that cuts to length and also strips both ends!

  4. Mmm…my idea is a pair of wheels, one of which is the circumference equivalent to the length of wire you cut.

    Embed a blade into one of the wheels.

    Turn wheels, acquire wires, ????, profit.

    Granted, the only way to adjust the length is to change the diameter of the cutting wheel, but, eh. Very quick setup (assuming you already have a way of producing a correctly-sized wheel), still much easier than cutting by hand.

  5. For solid core breadboard wire I always strip off a long length of the insulation. Then for a jumper I cut the insulation exactly to length between the holes then cut the conductor to length plus 16mm. Then push the conductor back through the insulation leaving 8mm either end. It sounds long winded but can save time if you’re doing loads and you have no chance of damaging the conductor.

  6. Or maybe wrap 50 turns of wire around 2 nails driven in a board with some space between them, then cut the bundle to length with a bolt cutter? 5 minutes job… It’s the way I was making jumper wires for breadboards before realizing I could buy them already made :)

    1. Well, I guess this is what sets business people apart from hackers and makers…

      And, if you calculate the time to look up a supplier and set up a deal (i.e. writing down the wire specs, getting quotes, choosing a supplier, hoping that they really deliver what you want, etc.), I doubt that there’s much time saved (at least as long you’re able to hack a DIY solution together in a couple of hours, like I did). And this doesn’t even count the advantage of a 0-day lead time and no shipping costs for the DIY solution…

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