Yet Another Robotic Rubik’s Solver

The Rubik’s Cube was a smash hit when it came out in 1974, and continues to maintain a following to this day. It can be difficult to solve, but many take up the challenge. The Arduino Rubik’s Solver is a robot that uses electronics and maths to get the job done.

The system consists of computer-based software and a hardware system working in concert to solve the cube. Webcam images are processed on a computer which determines the current state of the cube, and the necessary moves required to solve it. The solving rig is constructed from steel rods, lasercut acrylic, and 3D printed parts, along with an Arduino and six stepper motors. The Arduino receives instructions from the solving computer over USB serial link. These are then used to command the stepper motors to manipulate the cube in the correct fashion.

It’s no speed demon, but the contraption is capable of solving a cube without any problems. Manipulation of the cube is reliable and smooth, and the build is neat and tidy thanks to its carefully designed components. Of course, there are now even Rubik’s Cubes that can solve themselves. Video after the break.

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Teardown Video: What’s Inside The Self-Solving Rubik’s Cube Robot

You can find all kinds of robots at Bay Area Maker Faire, but far and away the most interesting bot this year is the Self-Solving Rubik’s Cube built by [Takashi Kaburagi]. Gently mix up the colored sides of the cube, set it down for just a moment, and it will spring to life, sorting itself out again.

I arrived at [Takashi’s] booth at just the right moment: as the battery died. You can see the video I recorded of the battery swap process embedded below. The center tile on the white face of the cube is held on magnetically. Once removed, a single captive screw (nice touch!) is loosened to lift off the top side. From there a couple of lower corners are lifted out to expose the tiny lithium cell and the wire connector that links it to the robot.

Regular readers will remember seeing this robot when we featured it in September. We had trouble learning details about the project at the time, but since then Takashi has shared much more about what went into it. Going back to 2017, the build started with a much larger 3D-printed version of a cube. With proof of concept in hand, the design was modeled in CAD to ensure everything had a carefully planned place. The result is a hand-wired robotic core that feels like science fiction but is very, very real.

I love seeing all of the amazing robots on the grounds of the San Mateo County Event Center this weekend. There is a giant mech wandering the parking lot at the Faire. There’s a whole booth of heavy-metal quadruped bots the size of dogs. And if you’re not careful where you walk you’ll step on a scaled-down Mars rover. These are all incredible, out of this world builds and I love them. But the mental leap of moving traditional cube-solvers inside the cube itself, and the craftsmanship necessary to succeed, make this the most under-appreciated engineering at this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area. I feel lucky to have caught it during a teardown phase! Let’s take a look.

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The Magnetic Rubik’s Cube

Ernő Rubik has much to answer for when it comes to the legacy of his namesake cube. It has both enthralled and tormented generations, allowing some to grandstand in the playground while others are forced to admit defeat in the face of a seemingly intractable puzzle. It just so happens that [Tom Parker] has been working on a Rubik’s cube with a novel magnetic design.

Yes, that’s right – [Tom]’s cube eschews the traditional rotating and sliding mechanism of the original cube, instead replacing it all with magnets. Each segment of the cube, along with the hidden center piece, is 3D printed. Through using a fused deposition printer, and pausing the print at certain layers, it’s possible to embed the magnets inside the part during the printing process.

[Tom] provides several different versions of the parts, to suit printers of different capabilities. The final cube allows both regular Rubik’s cube movements, but also allows for the player to cheat and reassemble it without having to throw it forcefully against the wall first like the original toy.

It’s an interesting build, and a great one to get to grips with the techniques involved in embedding parts in 3D prints. It may not be capable of solving itself, but we’ve seen another build that can pull off that impressive feat. Video after the break.

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Rubik’s Cube Table Has A Hidden Surprise

[Nothorwitzer] built a pretty incredible Rubik’s Cube table with hidden storage. The coolest feature of this table is the way it opens. Twisting the top section of the cube causes two drawers to pop out from the sides. The further you turn the top, the more the drawers extend. As the top hits its rotational limit, the lid of the cube lifts up, revealing the entire top section is hollow.

[Nothorwitzer] built the table from plywood, hardboard, and MDF. Hiding inside the base is an old car wheel hub and bearing. The entire rotating system spins on this assembly. The drawers are actuated by an ingenious set of plywood cams which push the two opposing drawers out as the top assembly rotates. Two levers pop the top open.

The attention to detail here is amazing. [Nothorwitzer] build a set of hidden hinges that make the lid invisible, yet allows it to lift up and over the edge of the cube. A spring ensures that the heavy lid will pop open neatly. The lid fit is so close that air pressure ensures the top doesn’t slam down when it is dropped.

While the internal parts of the table are left in bare wood, that the external parts had to match a real Rubik’s Cube. [Nothorwitzer] scrambled a cube, then copied the colors. The panels are made of cut hardboard. Each panel is spray painted, then hot glued to the cube. The body is plywood which [Nothorwitzer] grooved with a router to match the profile of a real Rubick’s Cube.

The project doesn’t end here. [Nothorwitzer] has created a second cube, which is even more tricky. The lid pops by pressing in one section. The drawers operate in a similar way, but there is a lever to engage or disengage the drawer opening. This may be the perfect place to hide your retro gaming systems!

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Symmetry For Beginners – The Rubik’s Cube

Symmetry is everywhere in our natural world. Just take a look at your hands, a butterfly, or a sunflower.  It’s easy to pass off the idea of symmetry and symmetric structures as a simple quirk of existence, and to pay it little mind. If this is your view, I can assure you it will no longer be by the end of this series. If we force ourselves to look beyond the grade school applications of symmetry, we find a world rich in connections via many different types of symmetric identities. One of the most interesting is Gauge Symmetry, which lies at the heart of Quantum Electrodynamics, or QED (we’ll get into this a bit later in the series). Several branches of higher level mathematics study symmetry in detail, allowing a host of sciences, from physics to chemistry,  to view difficult problems and theories from a different perspective.

The subject matter of the ideas explored in symmetry is complicated, and not well known outside of academia and the theoretical sciences. It is the goal of this series of articles to simplify some of the concepts that underpin the study of symmetry, so that the average hacker can gain a basic (and I mean basic) understanding of this fascinating body of knowledge, and put it to use in future projects.  We’ll start things off by taking a look at a machine that has crossed the Hackaday server many times – those nifty Rubik’s Cube solvers. Just how do those things work anyway?

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Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube In Just One Second

Some of the fastest Rubik’s cube solvers in the world have gotten down to a five second solve — which is quite an incredible feat for a human — but how about one second? Well, [Jay Flatland] and [Paul Rose] just built a robot that can do exactly that.

The robot uses four USB webcams, six stepper motors, and a 3D printed frame. The only modification to the Rubik’s cube are some holes drilled in the center pieces to allow the stepper motors to grip onto them with 3D printed attachments.

The software is running off a Linux machine which feeds the data into a Rubik’s cube algorithm for solving. In approximately one second — the cube is solved.

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Rubik’s Solver Uses FAC Machine Building System

We love a good Rubik’s Cube solver and the mechanical engineering on this one is both elegant and functional.

This is the first time we remember hearing about the FAC system, which is a standard set of parts which can be used to make any number of mechanical systems. [Wilbert Swinkels] must be a master with the system; the layout of the machine appears simple and uncrowded despite the multiple degrees of freedom built into it. Those include an insertion platform for getting the cube in and out, a gantry for three color sensors, and two axes (three grippers in all) for doing the actual solving. If you’ve used FAC before we want to hear what you think of it in the comments.

[Maxim Tsoy] handled the software which runs on a Rapsberry Pi Compute module. You’ll want to watch the demo video below. First you place the randomized cube on the insertion platform which retracts after the cube is in the grasp of the grippers. These work in conjunction with the color sensor gantry to scan every side of the cube. After a brief pause to compute the solution the grippers go to work.

It is possible to build a solver with just two swiveling grippers. Here’s a really fast way to do it.

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