How-To: Phone Plug Tilt Switch

How-To: Phone Plug Tilt Switch
Cross-sections of phone plug tilt switch in open (left) and closed positions.
Cross-sections of phone plug tilt switch in open (left) and closed positions.

Component of the Month: SwitchesHere’s another cool improvised switch hack from Forrest Mims’ 1996 Sensor Projects mini-notebook for RadioShack (now available as a compilation with two other classic Mims books in Electronic Sensor Circuits & Projects).

All it requires is a spare tip/shield male connector with a removable housing, and a BB or other conductive metal ball. The version I built and photographed below uses RadioShack’s #274-286 1/8” mono phone plug (2-Pack) and a 7/32″ chrome steel ball (such as Amazon Supply’s BS-0219-C). The dimensions of the ball are not too critical.

Phone plug tilt switch detail

To put it together, all you have to do is remove the housing, set the ball in place between the contacts, as shown, and then put the housing back on. I built two of these, for testing purposes; the first worked like a champ, and second one was a bit wonky until I polished the plug contacts with a Q-tip moistened with rubbing alcohol and then touched to a pile of table salt.

[wpvideo dnNE6165 w=598]

6 thoughts on “How-To: Phone Plug Tilt Switch

  1. J. Schacher says:

    What is this? What does it do?

    1. Gavin says:

      Its a swich that if you connect wires to the different terminals (seperated by the sm. black line), then it allowes current to flow only if it is pointing down. otherwise, it wont allow power through.

  2. Zack Jones says:

    It could be used in app development as well. One could develop an app that does something when the phone is in the upright position ( upside-down for other models). Sure you are thinking, well what about my accelerometer and gyro? Can’t we just use those instead? Sure but this seems to be a better solution for a quick response. The accelerometer and gryo codes can sometimes be heavy and takes up plenty of the processing power due to their constant checking characteristics. In this case the code wouldn’t have to constantly check to see if the switch has been triggered, only after it shorts the connection would the program have to respond. This could be great for physical computing devices as well. Installing a headphone jack onto an Arduino prototype board is easy and you will be able to cut a system off whenever it falls or isn’t in the upright position. Similar systems are used in water pumps and also in your vehicles.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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