K’nex Pinball Machine Is A Playable Work Of Art

It’s really a wonder that we missed this one, what with all the extra time in front of a computer we’ve had over the last year or so. But better late than never, we always say, so behold, (a little at a time, because there’s quite a lot to look at), [Tyler Bower]’s pinball machine built entirely from K’nex.

Where do we even start? This is a full-size pinball machine, as in 7′ tall, 5′ long, and 3′ wide. [Tyler] estimates that it’s made from about 16,000 pieces, or around 73 pounds of plastic, much of which was obtained locally and is secondhand. Many of those pieces make up the ten drill motor-driven chain lifts in the back — these move the ball through the machine after it goes through one of the track triggers and return it to the playfield in various delightful ways.

Speaking of ways to score, there are nine of them total, and some are harder to get to than others. They all involve some really amazing K’nex movement, and each one uses aluminum foil switches to trigger scoring through a MaKey MaKey.

Of course there’s a multi-ball mode, but our favorite has to be the trap door in the playfield that gets you to the mini pinball game in the upper left, because only the best pinball games have some kind of mini game. Either that, or our favorite is the rotating arm that swings around gracefully and drops the ball on a track. Anyway, all nine elements are explored in the video after the break, which frankly we could watch on repeat. If you’re hungry for more details, there’s quite a bit of info in the description.

The only thing this machine is missing is a tilt switch, but as you’ll see in the video, it would probably get triggered quite often. Is this somehow not cool enough for you? Here’s a slightly bigger K’nex ball machine that doesn’t seem to move as much, but also isn’t a full freaking pinball machine complete with meta game.

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The Citadel Is The King Of K’nex Builds.

Following one’s passion can lead to amazing results. Sometimes this results in technological marvels; other times, one marvels at the use of the technology. An exemplary display of the latter is The Citadel.

Over the course of three years, redditor [Shadowman39] pieced together this monstrous K’nex structure. With over 17 different paths(!), 45 different elements, and over 40,000 parts, you would expect some meticulous planning to go into its construction — but that’s not the case! [Shadowman39] assembled it largely on the fly with only a few elements needing to be sketched out and only the main elevator proving to be troublesome. Three motors power the structure — one for the main elevator, one for the smaller lifts on the bottom, and one for the release gates.

This is an absolute leviathan hobby project. To satiate the obvious curiosity of anyone who stumbles across this picture, its intricacies can be seen in the video:

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K’nex Whiteboard Plotter

[Jerry] has been wanting to put together a whiteboard plotter for some time and just recently got around to building one.

The plotter draws pretty much about anything he can imagine on a white board measuring just shy of 2′ x 3′. The design first started off with a Basic Stamp board at the helm, which he sourced from another project he no longer had any use for. The Stamp worked for awhile, but eventually he ran into problems due to the board’s limited 128 bytes of program space. Needing a more robust micro controller, he switched to an Arduino mid-project, which he says runs the plotter far faster than the Stamp ever did.

The plotter uses a pair of stepper motors mounted on a horizontal platform situated above the whiteboard. Much like this large-format printer we featured earlier this week, the steppers vary the length of a pair of fishing lines, moving the pen precisely across the board.  As you can see in the image above, [Jerry] has been able to create some pretty intricate patterns with his plotter, and we imagine they will only get better with more refinement.

Be sure to check out his site for more details on his build process as well as several additional samples of the plotter’s capabilities.

Dublin Knows How To Bring-a-Hack

When on the road, we love to stop by a local hackerspace and connect with the hacker community. On Friday, TOG Hackerspace in Dublin, Ireland opened their doors to host a Bring-a-Hack with Hackaday and Tindie.

The city center of Dublin is anything but a grid. The cobblestone roads meander every which way and are a puzzle of one-way and surprise construction, none of which seemed to faze Google’s navigation algorithms. I was happy to be operating the smartphone instead of the rental vehicle. A big thanks goes to Jenny List for taking on the stress of driving on our refreshments run without coming in contact with people or cars.

You’re likely wondering why the street layout of the city deserves such attention. I’m used to centrally-located Hackerspaces being tight on space, and indeed the members of TOG cautioned us that 50 people would feel cramped. Much the opposite, the pubs, restaurants, hotels, and performing arts centers are not small, nor winding, nor made of cobblestones. Dublin is a fantastic place to party, with plenty of space for us hardware geeks to congregate. TOG itself, which about 20 minutes walk from the central Temple Bar area (where this image was taken), even has a small parking lot which made our beer drop off and pizza delivery a breeze.

A Tour of TOG Hackerspace

TOG is a Gaelic word which loosely translates as “to make”. Declan met us for the beer drop and gave us a tour when we returned for the evening event. The building is divided into several different spaces, starting with an entry area that serves as a meeting space, gaming room, and showcase of projects.

Where you might see prayer flags strung up on an apartment building, we see floppy disks (both the hard and soft variety) strung around the meeting area. Declan has a shamrock of K’nex parts wired up with a microphone controlled RGB LED strip — it’s like a test your strength game to see who can shout the coolest colors.

I also really enjoyed the fabric anatomy display that has snaps on each organ and only lights up the labels if you complete the circuits in the correct locations.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more after the break so join me for the rest of the tour, and some of the notable hacks that showed up on Friday evening.

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Enlarged Miniature Forklift

How do you classify something that is gigantic and miniature at the same time? LEGO kit 850, from 1977 when it was known as an Expert Builder set, was 210 modular blocks meant to be transformed into a forklift nearly 140mm tall. [Matt Denton] scaled up the miniature pieces but it still produced a smaller-than-life forklift. This is somewhere in the creamy middle because his eight-year-old nephew can sit on it but most adults would demolish their self-esteem if they attempted the same feat.

[Matt] has been seen before building these modular sets from enlarged LEGO blocks, like his Quintuple-Sized Go-Kart. He seems to have chosen the same scale for the pieces and who wouldn’t? If you’re printing yourself a ton of LEGO blocks, it just makes sense to keep them all compatible. Isn’t combing all your sets into one mishmash the point after all? We’ll see what his nephew/co-host constructs after his uncle [Matt] leaves.

In the time-lapse video after the break, you can see how the kit goes together as easily as you would hope from home-made bricks. With that kind of repeatability and a second successful project, it’s safe to say his technique is solid and this opens the door to over-sized projects to which LEGO hasn’t published instructions.

Hackaday is bursting with LEGO projects, K’Nex projects, and even Erector set projects.

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I’ve Seen The Future And It’s Full Of Freakin’ Huge Bricks

“Did you know you can 3D-print LEGO bricks that can actually be used as regular LEGO?”–me, in 2009

Those magical words made real to me the wonder that was 3D printing. It was a magical time! Everyone was 3D printing everything, though most of it wasn’t very good because the technology wasn’t there. But just as every technology goes through an evolution, the goalposts of coolness move on past what used to be remarkable to the new thing everyone’s talking about.

These days, no one is going to be more than mildly curious about your 3D-printed LEGO brick. Still, when you look at that uneven lump of plastic as being just one step in an evolution, it’s pretty momentous. What I’m saying is that we’re looking at a future that can be described in three words: Freakin’ Huge Bricks.

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Make A Tesla Coil Winding Rig With K’Nex

Instructables user [birdycrazy] built a winding rig from a PVC pipe and a bunch of K’Nex. He had recently started a Tesla coil project and needed an efficient way to wind the secondary coil. All of the designs for DIY winding rigs he found on the Internet required parts he didn’t have or simply cost a bunch of money. Then he realized he’d been building with K’nex a lot, and why not build a tool to help him?

He ended up investing only his K’nex elements and a length of 4” PVC pipe for the project. He used a K’nex 12V motor because it plugs in rather than requiring batteries. After the coil had been completely wound he set it to rotate the assembly over a period of several days while the varnish coating dried.

[birdycrazy] has several cool K’nex projects including a couple of automatic transmissions and a differential, all made with the toy. Also be sure to check out the K’nex whiteboard plotter, the Citadel monster K’nex castle, and the K’nex skeeball table we published in the past.