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Watch this mesmerizing machine roll a ball into eternity

Arduino TeamJune 30th, 2023

If you’ve ever found yourself in a trance while watching an episode of How It’s Made, then you understand the appeal of seeing a well-designed machine in action. But what if you didn’t have to turn on your TV or venture into a factory to get that buzz? That’s why JBV Creative built this real life “oddly satisfying GIF” machine that rolls a ball into eternity.

This project is a real life representation of the those simulation GIFs that show virtual machines moving balls in endless cycles. A simulation like that is easy to make when you don’t have to adhere to physics, but it takes some doing to accomplish the same thing in real life. Perpetual motion is, of course, impossible. So this machine utilizes motor-driven mechanisms to keep a ball moving around a vertical track. That track is clear laser-cut acrylic, while the rest of the custom parts are 3D-printed.

An Arduino Nano board controls the machine and it has two jobs: monitoring a sensor and rotating a motor. There are two mechanisms: one to lift the ball to the top of the track and one to move a “bridge” from the top track to the bottom track. A single stepper motor spins gears to actuate both mechanisms, and the Arduino controls that motor through an H-bridge. An infrared sensor tells the Arduino when the lift mechanism arm reaches a specific angle, so the Arduino can vary the motor rotation speed to ensure smooth movement.

This is oddly satisfying to watch and the machine would be great on a desk where it could act as a soothing distraction.