It Sucks To Pick Up The Pieces

Jigsaw puzzles are a fun and interactive way to spend an afternoon or twelve, depending on the piece count and your skill level. It’s exciting to find the pieces you need to complete a section or link two areas together, but if you have poor dexterity, excitement can turn to frustration when you move to pick them up. [thomasgruwez] had the disabled and otherwise fumble-fingered in mind when he created this pick and place jigsaw puzzle aid, which uses suction to pick up and transport puzzle pieces.

The suction comes from an aquarium pump running in reverse, a hack we’ve seen often which [thomasgruwez] explains in a separate Instructable. A large, inviting push button is wired in line to turn the pump on and off. An equally large and inviting momentary switch turns off the vacuum temporarily so the piece can be placed.

At the business end of this hack is the tiny suction-cupped tip from a cheap vacuum pen. To interface the pen head with the pump, [thomasgruwez] designed and printed a rigid straw to bridge the gap. With utility already in mind, [thomasgruwez] also designed a ring that can be bolted to the straw to house a steadying finger of your choice, like the pinkie hook on a pair of barbers’ shears.

Our favorite part of this hack has to be the optional accessory—a tiny platform for quickly flipping pieces without cutting the vacuum. Check it out after the break.


11 thoughts on “It Sucks To Pick Up The Pieces

      1. I had “pretty” good luck with one of those $1 ones too. Then I took the tip of the tool and put it into a syringe, which had a spring inside it. Now it’s really good. Vacuum is strong enough to hold even large ICs when poking them. Before the mod ICs often dropped when they touched the PCB even slightly.

        Demonstrated in my video

  1. “Jigsaw puzzles are a fun and interactive way to spend an afternoon or twelve […]. It’s exciting to find the pieces you need to complete a section or link two areas together,”

    You lost me there.

  2. this would be a great build for the game/activity room in care-homes.

    my father loved puzzles, but as ALS robbed him of his dexterity, he couldn’t keep doing them without help. Add this as a tool-end to an actuated arm, and anyone can love a ravensburger again!

  3. Nice project. However, I would quickly tire of the on – off switch. My suggestion is to incorporate an air inlet somewhere between the finger hold and the vacuum tip. In this way, with the unit always on, one’s index finger can cover the air inlet to cause vacuum at the tip. When the finger is removed from the inlet, the vacuum at the tip will greatly diminish thus dropping the puzzle piece.

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