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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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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Need for New Hobby Leads to Stone Marbles

[Tom Lange] said he was looking for a new hobby when he saw a marble made out of stone and wondered what goes into making one for himself. Fast forward three years and he set up shop at the Madison Mini Maker Faire to show off the tools he built and the fascinating glossy orbs he’s produced. Read on to see the awesome process he uses to turn a hunk of stone into a perfect marble.

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How to Play the Bass With Marbles

Stringed instruments make noise from the vibrations of tuned strings, using acoustic or electronic means to amplify those vibrations to the point where they’re loud enough to hear. The strings are triggered in a variety of ways – piano strings are hit with hammers, guitar strings are plucked, while violin strings are bowed. Meanwhile, [Martin] from the band [Wintergatan] is using marbles to play a bass guitar.

[Martin] starts out with a basic setup. The bass guitar is placed on the workbench, while a piece of wood is taped to a tripod. The wood has a hole drilled through it, and marbles are dropped through the aperture in an attempt to get them to land on the string. Plastic containers are used to easily alter the angle the bass guitar sits at, relative to the bench, while an acrylic guide sits around the string to try to guide the marbles in the desired direction. These guides are important to make sure the marbles hit the top of the string, and bounce cleanly in the desired direction afterwards.

The initial setup is too inconsistent, so [Martin] places a notch in the wood and builds a lever system to hold the marbles and then release them in a controlled manner. [Martin] then checks that the system works by analysing footage of the marble drop with slow motion video.

The video covers the CAD design of an eight-slot guide so the four strings of the bass can be played more rapidly than in their previous build. Two guides per string allow each string to play two notes in quick succession without having to worry about marble collisions from playing too quickly.

It’s a great build, and we’ve seen [Wintergatan]’s work before – namely, the incredible build that was the original Marble Machine.

Thanks to [Tim Trzepacz] for the tip!

Your Marble Machine Doesn’t Need to Change the World

It’s easy to get sucked into the increasing the complexity when sometimes the craftsmanship can be what makes the project. [Alex Weber] proves the point with his minimalist marble machine. There are no death-defying twists and turns, no convoluted path forks or overly-complex lifting mechanisms. This is about a clean and simple design that looks amazing whether running or stationary.

For the uninitiated, marble machines route marbles (or quite often steel ball bearings) through a set of paths usually guided by gravity for the delight of onlookers. Traditionally, making them complicated is the point. Take this offering which highlights years worth of marble machine builds all exercising different concepts. Sometimes they occupy entire rooms. We’ve seen them make a clock tick. And who can forget marble-based flip-flops that combine to form things like binary adders?

Have we scared you off from building these yourself yet? No, that’s the entire point of this one… it can be excruciatingly simple, while elegantly crafted. Check out the video demo below to see how one oval, one battery, and one motor have no problem bringing a smile to your face.

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Designing a marble track from scratch

Woodworker extraordinaire [Matthais] was approached by a toy company to create a ‘marble run’ toy. [Matthais]’ jig-building skills are beyond reproach, so whipping up a prototype for this toy was pretty easy for him.

The basic unit of construction for this marble run is a simple ramp block with inputs and outputs at either end. These were crafted from blocks of wood, with the ramp carved out with a slot mortising machine. To make the side cuts on each block, [Matthais] used his pantograph router and a jig that cuts the wood for marble inputs on either side.

After taking his creation to a hackerspace for some very large kids to play with, [Matthais] found a few problems with his initial design. The blocks didn’t want to stay aligned when marbles were moving down the ramps, so a small mortise and tenon – looking very much like a piece of Lego – were added in several locations on the underside of each block.

Making one of something is relatively easy, but [Matthais] is making hundreds of pieces for his marble run prototype, each interchangeable with another. That’s impressive for something crafted by hand, but when you’re a master at making jigs like [Matthais], everything goes by pretty easily.

Rube-Goldberg provides liquid refreshment

rube-goldberg-soda-machine

The image to the left doesn’t make this look like much, but inside of the cardboard vending machine lives a clever Rube-Goldberg device. The video after the break gives a look at the inner workings to show how a quarter manages to dispense a full can of Coke. But that’s about all the detail we get on the project.

There are two sets of counterweights used in the design. Some marbles, and what look like giant pinballs. The coin chute, located on the left side of the venting machine, funnels the money into the waiting marble. When the marble rolls off it lands on a spoon. The weight rotates the spoon-filled disk and causes one of the waiting pinballs to drop from their rack. As that metal ball falls it operates a ratcheting system to dispense just one can. It looks like the capacity of the machine is limited to two refreshing cans of sugary liquid, but that could be scaled up if more room were made for cans and counterweights alike.

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