Disco Ain’t Dead: Blinky Ball Makes You Solder Inside A Dome

Disco balls take a zillion mirrors glued to a sphere and shine a spotlight on them. But what if the ball itself was the light source? Here’s a modern version that uses addressable LEDs in a 3D-printed sphere that also hides the electronics inside the ball itself.

Check out the video below to see the fantastic results. It’s a Teensy 3.6 driving a whopping 130 WS2812 LEDs to make this happen. (Even though the sphere has the lowest surface area to volume ratio.) There’s even a microphone and an accelerometer to make the orb interactive. Hidden inside is a 4400 mAh battery pack that handles recharging and feeds 5 V to the project.

For us, it’s the fabrication that really makes this even more impressive. The sphere itself is 3D printed as four rings that combine to form a sphere. This makes perfect spacing for the LEDs a snap, but you’re going to spend some time soldering the voltage, ground, and data connections from pixel to pixel. In this case that’s greatly simplified because the LEDs were sourced from AliExpress already hosted on a little circle of PCB so you’re not trying to solder on the component itself. Still, that’s something like 390 wires requiring 780 solder joints!

We love seeing an LED ball you can hold in your hand. But if you do want something bigger, try this 540 LED sphere built from triangular PCBs.

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Gyro Controlled RGB Blinky Ball Will Light Up Your Life

[James Bruton], from the XRobots YouTube channel is known for his multipart robot and cosplay builds. Occasionally, though, he creates a one-off build. Recently, he created a video showing how to build a LED ball that changes color depending on its movement.

The project is built around a series of 3D printed “arms” around a hollow core, each loaded with a strip of APA102 RGB LEDs. An Arduino Mega reads orientation data from an MPU6050 and changes the color of the LEDs based on that input. Two buttons attached to the Mega modify the way that the LEDs change color. The Mega, MPU6050, battery and power circuitry are mounted in the middle of the ball. The DotStar strips are stuck to the outside of the curved arms and the wiring goes from one end of the DotStar strip, up through the middle column of the ball to the top of the next arm. This means more complicated wiring but allows for easier programming of the LEDs.

Unlike [James’] other projects, this one is a quickie, but it works as a great introduction to programming DotStar LEDs with an Arduino, as well as using an accelerometer and gyro chip. The code and the CAD is up on Github if you want to create your own. [James] has had a few of his projects on the site before; check out his Open Dog project, but there’s also another blinky ball project as well.

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Marble Chooses Its Own Path

[Snille]’s motto is “If you can’t find it, make it and share it!” and we could not agree more. We wager that you won’t find his Roball sculpture on any shopping websites, so it follows that he made, and subsequently shared his dream. The sculpture has an undeniable elegance with black brackets holding brass rails all on top of a wooden platform painted white. He estimates this project took four-hundred hours to design and build and that is easy to believe.

Our first assumption was that there must be an Arduino reading the little red button which starts a sequence. A 3D-printed robot arm grasps a cat’s eye marble and randomly places it on a starting point where it invariably rolls to its ending point. The brains are actually a Pololu Mini Maestro 12-channel servo controller. The hack is using a non-uniform marble and an analog sensor at the pickup position to randomly select the next track.

If meticulously bending brass is your idea of a good time, he also has a video of a lengthier sculpture with less automation, but it’s bent brass porn. If marbles are more your speed, you know we love [Wintergatan] and his Incredible Marble Music Machine. If that doesn’t do it for you, you can eat it.

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Mechanisms: Bearings

They lie at the heart of every fidget spinner and in every motor that runs our lives, from the steppers in a 3D printer to the hundreds in every car engine. They can be as simple as a lubricated bushing or as complicated as the roller bearing in a car axle. Bearings are at work every day for us, directing forces and reducing friction, and understanding them is important to getting stuff done with rotating mechanisms.

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Keeping Magnetized Marbles From Stopping The Music

Take a couple of thousand steel balls, add a large wooden gear with neodymium magnets embedded in it, and what do you get? Either the beginnings of a wonderful kinetic music machine, or a mess of balls all stuck together and clogging up the works.

The latter was the case for [Martin], and he needed to find a way to demagnetize steel balls in a continuous process if his “Marble Machine X” were to see the light of day. You may recall [Martin] as a member of the band Wintergatan and the inventor of the original Marble Machine, a remarkable one-man band that makes music by dropping steel balls on various instruments. As fabulous a contraption as the original Marble Machine was, it was strictly a studio instrument, too fragile for touring.

Marble Machine X is a complete reimagining of the original, intended to be robust enough to go on a world tour. [Martin] completely redesigned the lift mechanism, using magnets to grip the balls from the return bin and feed them up to a complicated divider. But during the lift, the balls became magnetized enough to stick together and no longer roll into the divider. The video below shows [Martin]’s solution: a degausser using magnets of alternating polarity spinning slowly under the sticky marbles. As a side note, it’s interesting and entertaining to watch a musician procrastinate while debugging a mechanical problem.

We can’t wait to see Marble Machine X in action, but until it’s done we’ll just settle for [Martin]’s other musical hacks, like his paper-tape programmed music box or this mashup of a synthesizer and a violin.

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Follow The Bouncing Ball Of Entropy

When [::vtol::] wants to generate random numbers he doesn’t simply type rand() into his Arduino IDE, no, he builds a piece of art. It all starts with a knob, presumably connected to a potentiometer, which sets a frequency. An Arduino UNO takes the reading and generates a tone for an upward-facing speaker. A tiny ball bounces on that speaker where it occasionally collides with a piezoelectric element. The intervals between collisions become our sufficiently random number.

The generated number travels up the Rube Goldberg-esque machine to an LCD mounted at the top where a word, corresponding to our generated number, is displayed. As long as the button is held, a tone will continue to sound and words will be generated so poetry pours forth.

If this take on beat poetry doesn’t suit you, the construction of the Ball-O-Bol has an aesthetic quality that’s eye-catching, whereas projects like his Tape-Head Robot That Listens to the Floor and 8-Bit Digital Photo Gun showed the electronic guts front and center with their own appeal.

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Making Metal Dominoes

Nearly as versatile as a deck of playing cards, dominoes are a great addition to any rainy-day repertoire of game sets. [Apollo] from the Youtube channel [carbide3d] has manufactured for themselves a custom set of domino tiles replete with brass pips.

Cutting the bar stock to the appropriate size, [Apollo] ran a few test engravings and hole sizes for the brass pips. That done, all they had to do was repeat the engraving and milling process another couple dozen times, as well as all the requisite wet and dry sanding, and buffing. [Apollo] opted to use paint marker to add a little extra style to the tiles, and advises any other makers who want to do the same to set their engraving depth to .01″ so  the paint marker won’t be rubbed off when buffing the pieces.

When it came to installing the brass balls, [Apollo] undersized the holes by .001″-.002″ for a snug press fit — adding that the hole depth is a little greater than half the ball’s diameter. They used 1/8″ balls for the pips, and 3/16 balls for the center of the tiles which also allows the tiles to be spun for a bit of fidgeting fun during play. Check out the build video after the break.

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