Sort Your Legos Like an Engineer with This Crazy Machine

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Sort Your Legos Like an Engineer with This Crazy Machine

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My parents put up with (who are we kidding — fueled) my Lego addiction for years. To this day, a stack of plastic shoeboxes stands in their home, sorted by color and brick type. After three kids, we had enough for a full box of red plates, another of red bricks, and a third of miscellaneous-shaped red ones, and similar amounts of each other color.

So, when I saw Richard Chow’s automated Lego Parts Sorter, I shared it with my folks immediately. “I wish we’d had one of those when you and Noah were little,” wrote my mom. I’d like to know how many minutes she spent disassembling and sorting Legos per hour we built with them.

On second thought, I wouldn’t like to know that. But whatever it was, it was probably less time than Chow spent on this device, which seems best suited to sorting Legos on an industrial scale, somewhat like what my collection will be if I have kids and pass all my old ones along to them while adding onto the pile every birthday and Christmas.

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The 5-foot by 10-foot sorter runs bricks down a conveyor belt, shunting them into cups based on size and shape, and even tile and axle styles. The mechanical details of the build can be hard to parse, but basically, Chow gradually increases the size of the holes a brick might fall through, dumping smaller ones first, and then gradually decreases the height of the barriers to allow flat pieces through while bumpy ones get removed.

It’s based partly on Akiyuky’s Automatic Liftarm Sorter, which sorts only liftarm-type pieces. Chow also has a video of early prototypes, but it doesn’t give away much of the build technique either.

Admittedly, the sorter doesn’t work for every part. But Chow indicated he’s working on a second version, so we hope to see it updated soon. Also not to be missed: Chow’s stop-motion film featuring silent-movie style quotes, a giant mech suit, and a Batman/Joker showdown.

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5 thoughts on “Sort Your Legos Like an Engineer with This Crazy Machine

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  2. Antron Argaiv says:

    I’m getting seasick from the video.

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  5. Rex Barker says:

    Nifty, but too large, too complicated, and too many parts. Instead of building a larger mechanical sorter, why didn’t you try using a more a software/hardware combination using computer vision to determine the brick type and then place it in the correct bin? There are many ways of utilizing more complicated computing techniques in combination with legos/lego mindstorms. For real process engineering, your sorter would be nightmare in terms of maintenance.

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Nathan Hurst is an editor at Make. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling. He tweets as @nathanbhurst.

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