Paper Circuit Does Binary Math With Compressed Air

Most of us can do simple math in our heads, but some people just can’t seem to add two numbers between 0 and 3 without using paper, like [Aliaksei Zholner] does with his fluidic adder circuit built completely of paper.

There’s some good detail in [Aliaksei]’s translated post on the “Only Paper” forum, a Russian site devoted to incredibly detailed models created entirely from paper. [Aliaksei] starts with the basic building blocks of logic circuits, the AND and OR gates. Outputs are determined by the position of double-headed pistons in chambers, with output states indicated by pistons that raise a flag when pressurized. The adder looks complicated, but it really is just a half-adder and full-adder piped together in exactly the same way it would be wired up with CMOS or TTL gates. The video below shows it in action.

If [Aliaksei]’s name seems familiar, it’s because we’ve featured his paper creations before, including this working organ and a tiny working single cylinder engine. We’re pleased with his foray into the digital world, and we’re looking forward to whatever is next.

Thanks for the tip, [qweqwe]

32 thoughts on “Paper Circuit Does Binary Math With Compressed Air”

1. Howard says:

Sometimes the words “cool hack” just don’t seem sufficient. Beautiful build!

1. dr.rockzo says:

I agree, paper-craft blows my mind sometimes. I work with metal all day and can’t even comprehend making something like this with paper…hell I can’t take a print into the shop without destroying it.

2. Ostracus says:

Paper: the wonder material.

3. jacques1956 says:

Really nice project.

4. Matt says:

To me this is a much better logic demo than the simulations I’ve done in classes. The paper makes the concept so much more real and tangible than a simulation or even a real circuit ever could.

1. ???? ???? says:

Clear plastic with colour tints on the moving internal parts would literally make things a lot clearer.

1. Ostracus says:

Not bad, and I see the relevancy.

2. alex says:

Beautiful story. Thank you for posting the link!

3. Alice says:

That was pretty good.

I’ve always wanted to find a way to do binary logic with paper. So this is beyond awesome to me. Good show!

To be honest, this would have been much easier to do with a 555 timer.

1. Tane says:

Or even an Arduino. >.>

1. kao says:

Or a RPI <xD

2. itanium says:

Maybe RPi Zero with USB hub?

7. Gives new meaning to logic “fanout” eh?

Seriously, I beat everyone to that?

1. Neb says:

Genius!

8. Dax says:

It must be fiddly as heck, since any difference in pressure between the two sides of the AND gate will make it latch up.

1. bossssie says:

I don’t think so, because a difference in pressure would make the lower pressure input the output. So it’s still a valid output.

9. Unferium says:

Now someone needs to make either a 4-bit or 8-bit compressed air computer running at maximum stable Khz.

Better still… have it interface to a custom mechanic to logic pulse converter that interfaces an Ethernet connection… Set up the pipework to serve up a lightweight text page over the internet…

Then that someone really will winz all teh internetz for a whole year!

1. ???? ???? says:

It has been done in 2009 but I’m not going to bother posting the link since the last useful and relevant URL I posted is nowhere to be seen.

10. aztraph says:

How would you measure speed, in hz or reams? and how would you do ram? TP rolls?

1. Unferium says:

Ram == 3-part device with weak latching leaf springs that hold the “Gate” in place. A valve if stuck closed == disabled (Doesn’t pressurize the bus) stuck Open valve == enabled (Presses on a logic input on a gate).

I’d thought of doing something similar at college as part of the project in the BTEC L2 stage as it was part of the coursework to prove that we’d understood the coursework and not just regurgitating it. Would of combined all the coursework in one go: CAD, Engineering Mathematics, design, materials engineering sciences, electronics practical and theory (Both were separate classes), Also if I could somehow organize the project amongst the other students whilst sourcing the materials (Or at least writing up a report as though it were) would include the business systems class into the likely distinction (Maxed out marks would of been achieved for said module

What I was going to do was make mini air powered/controlled BJT transistor clones or even a reverse-MOSFET like device and try to make at least the usual NAND, AND, OR, comparators Etc…

However I chose to have a home and a job instead of being an NVQ or higher qualified engineer in a cardboard box on the street.

11. elwing says:

This is not hack, this is art!

12. nonono says:

Fucking COOL

13. Chief says:

[Aliaksei]’s work is simply amazing, his ability to duplicate complex moving structures in paper boggle the mind. Gotta love technical art!

14. Drone says:

I think I’m a bit off-topic here with my post. But those air-powered paper things remind me of gas-powered waveguide switches. So here goes…

This reminds me of work I have seen that uses compressed gas to switch/modify high power microwave waveguide transmission networks for redundancy (simplest case), or even steering phased-array antenna elements. The advantage is much smaller size, lower weight, lower cost, and higher RF efficiency compared with the likes of electromechanical “Baseball” switches, and certainly more efficient than electromechanical coaxial/planar switches.

Examples of high power electromechanical baseball switches can be seen here:

The objective is to REPLACE the examples of rotary baseball switches as shown in the above link.

A gas-driven switched waveguide network is advantageous for aircraft. A plane in-flight has plenty of compressed gas to deliver as a switch-mover. Also a warcraft will likely have reserves of on-board dehydrated compressed gasses and systems to deliver them at all working altitudes.

Of-course this approach, especially in military airborne applications was used before the advent of switched-distributed high-power microwave non-waveguide systems like we see today.

But it doesn’t mean that gas-actuated waveguide switches don’t still live! Physical waveguide switches still have no replacement where there are HIGH (EW) microwave power levels involved. A physically moveable waveguide switch will always have far less return-loss/power-dissipation compared with anything you can do with a semiconductor switch or even a coaxial relay.

1. Dan Maloney says:

Off topic? Not when it’s as cool as that! I’ll have to look into it. Microwave stuff just blows my mind — the fact that the shape of a cavity can have a defined function is so cool to me for some reason.

So if I get your point, you’re talking about compressed gas physically driving the “baseball” waveguide switch rather than an electromechanical actuator, right?

15. Alice says:

Has to be one of the most interesting things I have ever seen made from papercraft.

16. Schobi says:

Amazing papercraft!

I imagine a similar principle with compressed air, 3d printed and scaled to a full machine… Please let me know!

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