Using parts from a 3D printer, custom laser-cut components, and LED lighting RCLifeOn created this mechanical table that uses a magnet and a ball bearing to draw complex patterns in sand, only to erase everything it doodles. On the plus side, as soon as it wipes out an image, it gets to work on another.
THE BEST Machines
Zita and Rafael of Zurich-based animation studio Crictor love to make super-short videos with the goal of making people smile. Previously, they used a blow torch to pop a single kernel of popcorn; now they’re celebrating the new year by blowing streamers into the air with a hairdryer.
What’s better than a delicious cupcake? A machine that can crank out cupcakes for you on-demand, that’s what. Skeyntific shows off a robotic factory line he built that first pours dough for each cupcake, moves it into a modified microwave for cooking, then applies toppings using motorized caulking guns.
It’s always fun to watch stuff tossed into an industrial shredder. In this clip by Gojzer, they load up a machine with all kinds of satisfying stuff, including ping pong balls, squeaky toys, light bulbs, and popcorn, and gooey blocks of gelatin. Those Coke bottles weren’t going down without a fight.
Sprice Machines enjoys building overly-complicated machines to perform simple tasks. In this case, he created a machine that takes nearly 3 minutes to toss a toy basketball through a hoop. Like most Rube Goldberg machines, this one took a bit of trial and error. If the NBA played this slowly, games would end with scores like 8-6.
Do you have lots of gifts to wrap? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a machine that could measure and cut paper to exactly the right size? LEGO builder The Brick Wall made just the thing. Simply place a present on the box scanner, and the Mindstorms-controlled machine automatically unrolls the paper and cuts it to size.
To celebrate the holidays in these times of social distancing, Jason Allemann created this little machine that can fling candy canes at a recipient so they don’t have to go rummaging around his candy bowl with their grubby hands. He built the gizmo using the LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor Set. Full build details here.
Builder Laura Kampf designed and created this dangerous but awesome looking machine which generates a huge stream of sparks for creating epic long-exposure photos. When she got stumped about the ignition system, she turned to her pal Adam Savage to help come up with a creative solution.
Giant wind turbines are a common sight in the countryside, and we’ve occasionally seen them being transported on long flatbeds. But getting their enormous fan blades up a mountain along curvy switchbacks poses a unique set of challenges. This video from China’s CGTN shows just how they do it.
Injection molding is the process of injecting melted plastics into a mold to create parts. It’s typically reserved for large, industrial machines, but the MicroMolder changes that. It can accept aluminum, 3D-printed SLA, or high-temp cast urethane tooling, producing production-quality parts from pellets.
A bucket chain excavator is an enormous piece of equipment that’s used in strip-mining operations. It’s a pretty imposing machine sitting still. This time-lapse that shows one gradually moving across the ground makes it look like some kind of giant machine-mollusk crawling along on its belly. Video by Ibra Ibrahimovič.
The M2 is a CNC machine that can automatically cut shapes in materials up to 4′ x 8′. Instead of taking up table space, it mounts on the wall and uses a precision chain drive to move a router on X/Y axes, while it can adjust the router Z-axis for depth. Sold in kit form, and the DeWalt 611 router shown is sold separately.
Music technologist and producer Jay Harrison built this machine he calls an Electromechanical Lithophone. It uses a series of servos and hammers to strike metal plates and play music. Sit back and enjoy as it performs Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al, along with ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky.
There are lots of machines out there that can cut holes in flat sheets of steel, but MarkGyver built a machine that can make cuts into the curved face of a cylinder. Using a high-heat plasma cutter and a chain-driven rotating holder, the computer-controlled system can make smooth cuts through the surface of a steel tube.
Making drones out of lightweight materials is a must if you want them to fly. But Motores Patelo went the opposite direction, and created a flightless drone out of metal. Sadly, he couldn’t record the whole build due to the lockdown, but the finished piece is still amazing… and could easily take off a finger.
This footage from Chinese company Jiake Machine shows the process of taking coiled wire and transforming it into a sturdy mesh for fences or construction. The system pulls wires from dozens of spools and feeds them through a welding rig that spot-welds each intersection, with the mesh emerging from the other side.
Sometimes you don’t have the time to get up and go to the kitchen to fix a sandwich. Joseph’s Machines solved that problem by building a series of silly Rube Goldberg machines to assemble and deliver a peanut butter and jelly sandwich right to his mouth. We love how he worked his dog into the jelly machine.
A planetary gear is an arrangement of gears in which a central “sun” gear rotates as an outer ring is turned. Typically these have 3 or 4 “planet” gears to transfer energy from the ring. This impressive feat of engineering has 10 planet gears with a square sun gear. This 3D-printed double planetary gear is pretty awesome too.
Traditional conveyor belts can move items along a single axis. But Cellumation’s unique system can shuffle items around in any direction. It uses a series of hexagonal modules, each of which has three sets of wheels. Its controller and software can then be programmed to grab and arrange a payload in any pattern.
Inventor Colin Furze has been working on his homebrew screwtank for a while now. He already proved how agile it is on various terrain and in the water. Now he’s completed the build, adding an armored cage, along with a fruit-firing canon and a flamethrower at the pilot’s sides.
Engineer Tom Stanton is fascinated by the way in which flywheels can store up energy as they’re spun up to speed. In this clip, he combines a flywheel mechanism with a sturdy aluminum trebuchet, creating a durable machine that can toss a tennis ball at fast as 180 mph.
Maker jbumstead is intrigued by devices that can store information, so he built a machine that can read data stored on large wooden discs. Similarly to a CD player, the machine uses lasers, photodiodes, and an circuit to decode and play back text messages stored on the discs. Check out the full build details on Instructables.
Simone Giertz has built some strange and wacky devices. Her latest creation is a wall of fake teeth that she rigged up with motors and a MIDI controller so she can use them as a musical instrument. Along the way, she plays amateur dentist, chats with Andrew Huang, goes house shopping, and has a good cry.
It’s both a useful packing material and a wonderful plaything for fidgeters like us. Now go inside Sealed Air’s factory and see how they make their official BubbleWrap brand bubble wrap. It’s interesting that the first bubble wrap machine was designed to make wallpaper.
This impressive piece of computer-controlled machinery from Germany’s J. Neu can take straight pieces of metal tubing, and bend them to its whim. We’re not getting the accompaniment of The Godfather music, but maybe it’s a threat that the machine will bend you like a pretzel if you go against it.
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