Around here, we’re always excited about a new actuator design. Linear actuators are particularly hard to make cheap, fast, and good, so it’s even better when something new that we can build ourselves slides onto the scene.
Researchers at U Penn’s Pikul Research Group took inspiration from the cascade of falling dominoes for an innovative take on linear motion. This article on IEEE Spectrum describes the similarity of the sequential tipping-over with the peristaltic motion of biological systems, including you, swallowing right now.
The motion propagation in falling dominoes, called a Soliton Wave, can be harnessed to push an object at the front of the wave, just like a surfer. See the videos after the break for examples of simple setups that any of us could recreate with laser-cut or 3D printed parts. Maybe you won’t be using them to help a robot swallow (a terrifying idea that the article suggests), but you might need a conveyor or a novel way to help a device crawl like a shrimp. The paper is behind a paywall on IEEE, though you readers likely see enough in the videos to get started, and we can’t wait to see where your dominoes will lead us next.
This machine can be driven directly over Bluetooth like an R/C car, or programmed to follow a predetermined path via Arduino code. Here’s how it works: an Arduino Uno drives two servos and one motor. The 1:90 geared motor drives the robot around using a 180° servo to steer. A continuous servo turns the carousel, which holds nearly 140 dominoes. We love that the carousel is designed to be hot-swappable, so you can keep a spare ready to go.
[DIY Machines] really thought of everything. Every dozen or so dominoes, the machine leaves a gap in case one of the dominoes is tipped prematurely. There are also a couple of accessories for it, like a speedy domino loading stick and a fun little staircase bridge to add to your domino creations. Though all the machine files are freely available, [DIY Machines] requests a small donation for the accessories files. Check out the complete build video after the break, followed by a bonus video that focuses on upgrading the machine with an HM10 Bluetooth module for controlling it directly with a phone.
The machine is run by an Arduino Uno, that can be pre-programmed with a layout or controlled over Bluetooth in real time. It uses a geared-down DC motor to drive around a smooth surface, with a servo for steering. A second servo is used to turn a carousel loaded with up to 130 dominoes, allowing the machine to lay long runs without needing a refill. It’s designed to be easy to change so multiple carousels can be printed to quickly run courses of extended lengths.
The build is a great example of a machine capable of doing a tricky task with ease, thanks to 3D printing and smart design. We’re particularly impressed with the simple domino transport mechanism integrated into the drive system without requiring extra motors or servos. It’s not the first domino layer we’ve seen, either. Video after the break.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. At least that’s what the [Sprice Machines] thought when they decided to turn a house into the set of a 9-minute long Rube Goldberg machine to make lemonade. (Video embedded below.) The complex chain reactions runs across multiple rooms, using everyday objects like brooms and even a vibrating smartphone to transfer energy across the complex contraption.
While the team professionally builds Rube Goldberg machines for clients, the Lemonade Machine looks surprisingly organic, like something a family might decide to do for fun over a long weekend (although there area few moments that make you question just how they were able to perfectly time every sequence in the chain reaction). Even though the actual lemonade making only takes up a small fraction of the machine, watching marble runs, weights dashing across a clothesline, and random household items repurposed into energy transfer mechanisms is really entertaining.
[Fede.tft] wrote in to tell us about some work he’s been doing to save battery life for LED dominoes. He originally got the idea after reading this post about the electronic gaming pieces. That project was aimed at the 555 timer contest and therefore, used a 555 timer. [Fede.tft] calculates the battery life for the CR2302 battery in the 555 circuit at no more than about 80 days. That’s if you never use them and the LEDs are never illuminated. It makes sense to remove the batteries from the device when not in use, but a redesign to increase efficiency is definitely worth the effort.
This rendition does away with the 555 chip in favor of a CMOS chip. By building a circuit around four NAND gates of a CD4011 chip, the standby lifetime of the battery is calculated to increase to about 4.5 years. Not bad! Add to this the fact that replacing the 555 timer didn’t increase the component count, the price for the chip is similar to the 555, and you didn’t need to resort to a microcontroller. Yep, we like it.
Toppling dominoes is great fun for about 30 seconds at a time, when you are not busy setting them up for another run. [Randy] thought it was about time they got an electronic makeover to allow for constant, immediate gratification. Armed with a few simple electronic components, he has created Le Dominoux.
These LED-based electronic dominoes are actually quite simple to build. Each basic Le Dominoux is constructed on a small square of protoboard and consists of either a photo cell or phototransistor, a 555 timer, and an LED, all powered by a coin cell battery. The 555 timer, which is configured as a one-shot, is triggered when the photosensitive component on the back side of the domino is exposed to a bright enough light. The LED on the front end of the domino is then illuminated one time. This process is the electronic equivalent of a single domino toppling over.
He has constructed several variants of the Le Dominoux to act as flashing triggers, for outputting sound, as well as for turning tight corners. These variants allow the dominoes to be configured in many different ways, creating self-sustaining light shows. If anyone is looking for a fun project to introduce kids to electronics, this would definitely be it. Stick around to see a video of Le Dominoux in action – we bet you can’t stop watching it.
This is of course [Randy’s] entry in the 555 Design Contest, which ends tonight at midnight EST.