Ball Bearing Machines

I have a thing for interesting machines, especially the type where there is a lot going on and you can get lost following things through and working out how everything functions.

Cool machines

One machine that recently caught my attention was the Marble Machine, a musical instrument by Wintergatan powered by ball bearings. This is a beautiful machine that I have spent quite some time watching, the way everything works together is really amazing and the music it produces is equally as good.

The marble machine was fascinating and I wanted to have a play myself so I ordered a load of ball bearings and some plastic pipe for the balls to run through but like a lot of things I start I quickly lost interest!

A few weeks back I went to Tim Hunkin's Novelty Automation shop in London and one of the things there was a machine that "pumped" ball bearings from the counter, up to and across the ceiling and then back into an arcade machine. Thankfully the mechanism was visible and watching it work got me thinking about moving ball bearing again, a quick search then led me to this really good demonstration of how the mechanism works. Its a really simple system and what was clear from the one at Novelty Automation it has the power to move ball bearings up to quite a height.

Back to the present day

I decided to have a go making something myself, I had been using the 3D printer a lot recently for my LIDAR scanner so I knocked up a design and after a few small revisions I had a "pump" for ball bearings.

I got rather lucky with this project as everything worked first time, each revision ended up being to add more onto it. I didn't have an end goal in mind so after reading a comment on Twitter I made a few changes so the balls move back to the start and the whole thing runs in a loop. This way even if I don't take this any further it still does something cool!