Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Labyrinth: 13 tracks, no end in sight.

I have gone beyond my estimation of a 12-track ball machine with the completion of my 13th track yesterday. I now have an estimated 16,000 pieces invested in this machine which is still growing daily.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Labyrinth: Vertical Race Completed

The largest track of the entire structure, the vertical race, has been completed. This track took 2 days to build, stands 7 feet tall and uses 3000 pieces. It also has its own motor. Basically, the vertical race is its own ball machine, but it will have a track branching off of it which integrates it with the rest of the tower.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Labyrinth: The Vertical Race

I am almost finished with the vertical race track. This is the largest and most complicated track in the machine, as it includes the tallest tower, its own dedicated lift hill and motor, and over 3000 pieces (as many pieces as in the entire Big Ball Factory) The two massive, 900-piece ball drops are in place, supported by the large lift tower. Construction of the switch is underway and should be completed soon.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Labyrinth: New pieces, New tracks, New tower.

I have come up with a new design for a very cool track, but it will require the construction of a 7.5 foot lift tower using yet another motor. The track will use two extremely tall flapping ball chutes (as seen in the Big Ball Factory) side by side. Using my design for a simultanious ball release mechanism, I will drop one ball down each chute at the same time and they will race to the bottom. I am done with the semester and am in winter break, so I will be building a lot. More updates soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Labyrinth Preview Video

Since the labyrinth works perfectly in its half-completed state (i weighed down some of the switches so the balls only go down the 5 finished paths), I filmed this preview video showing my progress so far. Enjoy!

Labyrinth: 5 paths down, 7 to go!

The Labyrinth now has 5 paths crammed into the corner above my computer, with several more still under construction. This machine uses about 7,000 pieces so far, but that number will start to get much larger. soon. I have recently acquired about 5000 pieces from ebay and craigslist (the first actual money I have spent on k'nex in over 2 years) and have more pieces on the way. I also got a third motor, which MIGHT be used to power a fourth lift-hill, giving the Labyrinth a total of 16 tracks. If that did happen, it would not be for a few months though. I am still rushing towards a New Years Eve completion.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

K'nex Ball Machine Update (working title: Labyrinth)

My new K'nex ball machine, which is now known as The Labyrinth, is progressing smoothly. I have completed 3 tracks spread across 2 towers, and 3 more are under construction. Judging by how crowded this machine is at only 1/4 completed, by the end it should be a very intense ball track. More updates late next week. (finals coming up...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Knex Ball Tower 3 - New Tower, New Tracks

The new desk in my room is preventing me from constructing a single massive tower like the subatomic paraball, and the dual-drive mechanism for the two lift towers raised them an additional 6 inches. As a result, I know there is no way I can a room-circulating path in this machine, as it has only about 3 feet of vertical drop available. Rather than do away with this path, I decided to simply construct a third lift tower, using the powerful 12v motor I used to drive my ferris wheel. Now I have got 2 motors powering 3 lifts which branch into 12 paths. So far, 3 paths are under construction simultaneously, and I have no plans for what to do with the other 8 (assuming one will be used for the room-circulating path. With the weekend approaching and winter break in a couple weeks I am sure to be making much more progress soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Knex Ball Tower 3 - Update

I have completed both lift towers and return ramps and added the central ferris wheel tower. (most elements on this wall will center around the wheel, including a 2-foot giant loop).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's That Time Again

We have gotten our first snow, so the outdoor projects are done for the year. To keep me from losing my sanity, I have started another large ball machine project. This unnamed project will have 2 separate lift towers at either end of the machine, branching off into anywhere from 6 to 10 tracks. The working design so far is similar to the subatomic paraball, with one large track circling my room and 2 walls full of various tracks. I will be bringing back my favorite elements of the subatomic paraball, such as the chain bridge, giant loop, ferris wheel and spiral bowl. Here are pictures of the construction progress so far. A completed model can be expected in january of 2010.

Drive mechanism completed

First tower completed

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Railgun: World's Fastest K'nex Roller Coaster

The first high-speed test of the Railgun reached nearly 120 MPH

I decided to go for the world record I missed back in 2006 with my roller coaster "Aussam". Though the tallest in the world at the time, Aussam could only reach speeds of about 50 MPH. With other coasters launching their trains at over 70 MPH I thought I would try to knock this record out of the park. The solution: Rocket engines. By using a C11 model rocket engine I managed accelerate a K'nex coaster car up to 122 MPH in only 40 feet. At 50 MPH faster than the previous record, this run will be hard to beat! A video of the coaster can be seen here:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cable-Stayed Bridge Complete

I have completed, for now at least, my K'nex cable-stayed bridge. The bridge measures 55 feet long with a 25 foot central span which rises 3.5 feet above the ground. The two supporting towers measure just over 7 feet high and the road deck is 7 inches wide and 1.5 inches thick. The bridge is supported by over 200 feet of cables and uses just over 9000 pieces. If the bridge can support it, I may double the width of the road deck.

Pix or it didn't happen:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bridge construction delayed... several times

Due to midterms, excessive amounts of homework and cold/rainy days I have not been able to get any work done on the bridge, and have left it sitting in it's half-built, semi-stable state. Of course Murphy's law decided to troll me with a surprise 2-inch snowfall in early October... Naturally the weight of all the snow on the road deck caused half the bridge to collapse. Since one of the towers is now a 2.5 foot pile of rubble I will need to wait for everything to melt and dry off before I can do any more work. I DO intend to finish, however, even if i have to wait out the winter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

K'nex Bridge Setup Begins

I extended the height of the main towers by another foot and placed both of them outside to begin attaching the road deck. The progress is very slow going because one 5-foot section of bridge takes an hour to construct due to the strength requirements. So far I have both of the lead-in ramps nearly completed, and some test cables in place balanced by a 7-foot section of the main span. The cables in this image are made of K'nex chain, but I will probably end up using rope due to piece limitations.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Project - Cable-Stayed Bridge

I have begun to work on a K'nex cable-stayed bridge with what I hope to be a 25-30' center span. So far I have a prototype for one of the main supporting towers complete, but it turned out smaller than I had expected, falling 2' short of my plans. When completed, if all goes as planned, the bridge will measure over 60 feet long and be supported by 8 pillars (2 main towers, 3 smaller towers on either end).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Compact Model Rollercoaster

This is not K'nex, but it is still a building system so I decided to post it. I built this model roller coaster in one afternoon from about 700 pieces and contains about 25 feet of track which twists into three inversions, all barrel-rolls. The entire model fits onto a space only five feet long in between two bookshelves.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

21 Foot K'nex Tower

This is a K'nex tower built by myself, Simon Olson and Sam Ihlenfeldt in a little over an hour. It measures 21 feet tall and only 3 inches wide, which could be a record for a height-thickness ratio but it would be too much work to validate that, this is just for fun. The ground the tower rests on is on a slight slant, and the tower collapsed 30 minutes after completion, nearly landing on a surprised biker! The tower has been moved to a more stable location where it remains standing.
The base of the tower is weighted down with bricks for stability.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

K'nex Chair

This K'nex chair was built in about one week and can actually be used to sit in as it is capable of supporting over 300 pounds. The chair is supported by four legs and contains over 2000 pieces.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

New Project - 2 story ball tower

I have started work on what will be my largest K'nex ball tower yet. The motorized lift will sit outside my house where it will take balls out from the side door and up through my window. From there the balls will wind through my house and down the stairs to the lift again. So far I only have the main lift support completed. The track will be modular so it can be assembled as quickly as possible. More pics coming later.

Edit: The ball tower is finished and can be viewed Here

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Knex Computer - DONE

All 8 computational bits and the additional operand bit have been completed and the computer can now add and subtract numbers as large as 255, in less than 30 seconds, making it the most powerful, fastest and most compact k'nex computer in the world (to my knowledge). All of its functions are controlled by the "keyboard" at the bottom of the computer which are attached to the "RAM" (the long, dense bit along the very top) by long linkage rods. Video coming soon.

Friday, July 24, 2009

K'nex Computer reaches 5 bits

My K'nex computer is now more than halfway to completion with 5 fully functioning bits of cpu and memory, as well as 5 keys for keyboard input. I can now add and subtract numbers from 0-31, as well as simply have the machine automatically count up from 0-31 and then start over. At this rate my computer is doubling in power every day and should be completed sometime next week, having achieved 8x the computing power it has at the moment. In order for subtraction to function in binary I am required to add an additional bit, making 9 bits total, though this bit will not be as complicated as the other 8.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

K'nex Computer - Prototype 1 (3-bit)

I have completed a fully functional 3-bit prototype of my K'nex Computer. The model already stands at its final height of 7 feet and has many features completed and working. The automated ball loading system and keyboard input are functioning as expected and the computer can already add numbers from 0-7. The model is not even half done yet but it is a good start. Included are some pictures of the individual components of the computer:

Here is a cutaway of one "bit" of the CPU. With the ball in this position the bit is in the On, or 1 state. The position of the rocker determines the state of the bit.

This is 1 bit of "RAM", or more specifically, the automated ball loading mechanism. When the switch is in this position, a 1 is stored in the RAM. When a ball rolls over the trap door, it falls through, closing the switch (and removing the bit from memory) and continues through the "FSB" (series of pathways) to the CPU seen above. When all 8 bits of RAM and CPU are in place, the rockers will store the next operation to be loaded into the CPU, if you follow me :P

Though the individual components are quite small, combining enough of them together produces a very large k'nex computer. This view is from the bottom looking up. The dense diagonal row of pieces in the lower right is what is completed of the CPU. The arrows connected to each bit represent either a 0 or a 1 (they are all set to 0 in this picture). Above the CPU is the FSB if you will, though it is really just a series of vertical chutes that connect each bit of RAM to its corresponding CPU bit. The dense area at the very top is the RAM. The chain lift to the left brings the balls up to the top of the computer one at a time and they are delivered to the CPU in a precise order as determined by the switches in the RAM, which were initially set by the users input. Not shown in this picture, a series of very long linkage rods connect each key to the bit of RAM above, allowing the user to input calculations into the RAM directly for later computation. I'm sorry if this is hard to follow, when it is completed I will make a video so it makes more sense.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mini Project - Starship Enterprise

I had some extra pieces lying around so I built this scale model of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701 from TOS. The model measures 4.5 feet in length, and the saucer section is 2 feet in diameter. The model, including the stand, uses about 650 pieces and took 3 hours to construct.

New Project - K'nex Computer

I have reached a structural limit with my K'nex ball machine and am unable to construct any more tracks for fear of the artificial ceiling collapsing. I have now decided to begin work on a new project, what I hope to be the worlds most powerful and compact K'nex computer in an attempt to surpass the speed and power demonstrated by the K'nex Computer seen here. My computer, if successful, will feature an 8-bit processor, keyboard input and a completely automated calculation process powered by a K'nex motor. If all goes as planned my computer will, like the computer in the above link, perform the calculations using K'nex balls to represent individual bits of data within the machine. A motorized lift and an automated ball input system controlled by a keyboard will eliminate manual loading of the balls into the machine. This new computer will expand on the design of a previous, 6-bit computer I started to construct but failed to complete. More information will be posted once construction progresses further.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Elevated K'nex Ball Machine: Stage 1 complete

The elevated K'nex ball machine now has 2 working tracks and 15,000 pieces. 3 weeks in the making, this ball machine is finally in a stable, working condition, but is still a work in progress. 2 more tracks are in the works, check back for more updates.

Click Here for the video.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ball Machine - Track 1 Complete

After 2 days of hard work, the ball machine finally makes a complete loop. This track contains an estimated 65-70 feet by itself, and takes half a minute for a ball to traverse. By now, the machine contains about 7,000 pieces and runs 7 balls simultaneously, though the current design could support up to 20. I have ordered 220 more pieces online and plan to begin construction on track 2 when the arrive. Multiple tracks will be constructed by placing 2 lift hills side-by-side and having the balls alternate which path they take without the use of switches. At least 1 additional path is planned, more paths will be added if I have enough pieces.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Knex Ball Machine - track test 1

With the frame structurally sound, I was able to build about 20 feet of test track today, and it works quite well. This may very well not be the final design, but it gives me a good idea of how building from a k'nex ceiling will work. Here is a video of the current track.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ball Machine - supporting frame nearly completed

Since this new ball machine will span my entire ceiling unsupported, it requires a massive, multi-thousand piece support structure. The current frame consists of 3 beams making a total of 6 spans, supported by 5 towers around my room. There are also some design tests for the knex "ceiling" which will fill in the gaps between bridges. I have also built some test track coming off the lift hill (not shown.)

After third collapse, ferris wheel deconstruction begins.

Strong winds yesterday blew the wheel against the side of my house, destroying the base and buckling the top half of the wheel. Repairs at this point are no longer worth my time and effort, so the wheel is coming down. The good news, however, is that construction on my ball machine can resume. More updates soon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Structure - Room Ball Machine 2.0

I will be taking down the Ferris Wheel this week to build my next large project, another large and presently untitled ball machine similar to my Subatomic Paraball. If all goes as planned, this ball machine will be larger, longer and taller than my last, though the main lift is only 4 feet tall. The main superstructure will consist of about 6 large supporting towers which reach my ceiling, all connected by a network of strong bridges. A wall of k'nex will then be built to fill in the gaps between the bridges. The result: A completely free standing k'nex ceiling. The ball machine will twist and loop through the holes in the ceiling on fewer, but much longer paths. Rather than fast short tracks designed to get the ball to the ground, these paths will be slow and twisting, winding around the ceiling until they reach the bottom of the lift. The lift has already been constructed and I will resume building the ball machine when I tear down the wheel.

Friday, April 24, 2009

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - Video

The weather was not as bad as predicted, so I was able to film the wheel today. Here is the finished video, with information and original music.

For a higher quality video click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wind Storm

This week has been nothing but high winds, and even with 3 additional wires holding the wheel in place, a gust of wind still managed to do some serious damage, by which I mean, it ripped 3/4 of the wheel right off the axle. The parts that came off were crushed under their own weight, as they are only structurally sound when the wheel makes a complete circle. 18 cars were damaged as well, and about 100 pieces were broken. After a few days of tedious work, the wheel is completely rebuilt, though the cars are not yet attached so it remains untested. The winds are still blowing strong so construction is slow going. To make matters worse, the forecast is for rain over the next 4 days. I still plan to film it, but I am not sure when I will be able to.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - Finished!

After 5 hours of work today, the World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel is finally complete! The structure stands 13 feet tall, 12 feet wide and now has 32 gondolas. It is powered by a variable speed 12v DC motor and supported by a single 1/4 inch steel axle. The wheel revolves at about 1 RPM and contains over 6000 pieces. The entire structure, including the base and wheels, contains somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 pieces. The construction went more smoothly than I ever imagined, meeting nearly every design goal without the need for any major redesign/reconstruction. Videos coming soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ferris Wheel Gets New Motor

The K'nex DC motor is experiencing noticeable wear. The gears are beginning to get worn down from repeated grinding and the motor is losing power from being run under heavy load for several hours per day. So today I bought a 12v geared motor which has an axle perfect for K'nex gears. The motor is connected to a variable speed/direction adapter and powers the ferris wheel easily, hardly straining at all. This new power system should prove much more reliable as the rest of the carts are added.

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel Becomes World's Fastest!

Today I decided to hook up a 1300 RPM power drill to the driving rod of the ferris wheel to see what it could do. The results are quite impressive! The outer rim of the wheel reached speeds of nearly 20 MPH at the fastest, ripping some gondolas right off the wheel. This will most likely not become a permanent power source though.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - 8 Gondolas

Now that the wheel is completed and the drive system perfected, I can spend time constructing the 32 gondolas which will ride the wheel. So far I am up to 8, and have them evenly distributed around the wheel, as the wheel's drive system is extremely sensitive to slight changes in balance. Construction could not be going any more smoothly and I will probably be finished within the week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - Motorized!

I spent all afternoon working on various designs, and finally settled on something that works reliably! Here is a POV video of a camera riding in a gondola.

(for a higher quality video, click here )

Monday, April 13, 2009

The World's Largest K'nex...well, Wheel anyway

After an entire afternoon of non stop work, the wheel is not only repaired, it is finished! The structure has reached its 13 foot final height and full 12 foot diameter all the way around. There is just a bit more tweaking to be done on the wheel's design before it is ready to be connected to the motor. Due to the recent wind-aided collapse, the tower has been fastened to the deck by 2 cable stays to prevent it from falling over. Eventually the base will be widened to further increase stability. The recent addition of the steel axle allows the wheel to turn freely and smoothly, so powering it should not be a problem. The motor should be hooked up by tomorrow or Wednesday, though it will still take some time to construct and attach the 32 gondolas, which by themselves contain a total of 2,400 pieces.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Sometimes the wind can be extremely annoying.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ferris Wheel Gets New Axle

I've been worrying about how I would power this wheel since I started construction, so today I bought a 4 foot long 1/4 inch steel rod and swapped the k'nex axle with the steel one. The wheel is now completely supported by this axle and the little rollers which previously supported the wheel's massive weight are obsolete. This means I will be able to stretch a chain around the 37 foot circumference and power it with the k'nex 9v motor extremely easily. This should greatly decrease the time it will take to finish the wheel.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ferris Wheel Reaches Minimum Diameter of 8 Feet

Today, thanks to the help of Stephen Walker, the Ferris Wheel now has a minimum diameter of 8 feet after the completion of the third layer, which contains the fifth and sixth supporting rings as well as the third layer of horizontal crossbeams. This new layer brings the height of the structure to 10.5 feet and completion of the wheel is well within sight. However, construction may be delayed due to an ever worsening K'nex piece shortage. Except for lowering piece supplies, construction is going remarkably smoothly and rapidly. Now that the weekend is here, I will have more free time to build, so the wheel should really take shape over the next few days.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ferris Wheel Over Half Finished

One supporting tower is now finished, and the other is nearing completion. On the wheel, I have switched from building the 128 spokes one at a time to building all of the spokes simultaneously one layer at a time. While still only 3/8 of the wheel are at the full 12 foot diameter, the entire wheel now has a minimum diameter of 6 feet, which makes it a tie for the largest K'nex Ferris Wheel. The wheel now rises nearly 9 feet high and is growing rapidly. The structure of the wheel should be finished by this weekend, assuming I do not run out of pieces. I have decided to build the rest of the wheel using this method because now I can make sure the 10 supporting rings which circle the wheel will be exactly the right length to make a complete circle at their designated radius. So far, 4 out of 10 supporting rings have been made into complete circles. For the rest of the wheel I simply guessed on how long to make the segments of the rings which connect the 128 spokes, which is why the spokes to the lower right and left of the completed section of the wheel appear to be bent. As each layer is completed, I modify the lengths of the supporting rings to straighten the spokes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wheel construction 3/8ths done, towers half done.

Work on the wheel is progressing relatively smoothly, though certain parts have had to be redesigned several times. Because the wheel at this point contains over 2000 pieces and would easily snap the axle if it were freestanding, the rims of the wheel also rest on 4 wheels positioned at the bottom of the support towers for added support. However, as the wheel nears completion I will probably need to add additional wheels, as well as a wider base as the wheel will need to be moved outside soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - Construction Begins

Today I have started construction on what will be, to my knowledge, the largest K'nex Ferris Wheel ever built, measuring 13 feet high and 12 feet in diameter. The wheel alone will use over 6500 pieces and will be so massive that no axle will be able to support its weight (this may become a problem later on). When complete, the wheel, supports, 32 gondolas and drive system will use approximately 12,000-15,000 pieces. The wheel will have 128 spokes attached to 16 white rods stacked on the axle.