Apple Engineer Makes Printer From Lego's

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Apple Engineer Makes Printer From Lego's

 user admin 2014-12-04 at 11:04:39 am Views: 257
  • #41574

    Apple Engineer Makes Printer From Lego's
    by Kathryn Nave

    This hand-cranked writing machine is made entirely out of LEGO — right down to the mechanical code it runs on. "There are several needles which move up and down to touch these LEGO chains with wide and narrow links. One turn of the hand crank moves one link of the chains," explains the automaton's creator, Apple software engineer Andrew Carol.

    "If the needle hits a wide link, it's blocked from going further down; if it passes a narrow link, the needle can continue to go past it to engage a ratchet and turn a gear. It's reading a binary code written in the chains." Two chains move a pen left or right, two move the paper forwards or backwards, and a fifth operates a lever that raises or lowers the pen. Up to 150 short, straight strokes can be encoded, allowing the machine to create simple drawings as well as words.

    Cupertino-based Carol's obsession with building LEGO machines began in 1991, when he read about the London Science Museum making a working model of the Babbage Difference Engine, a mechanical calculator devised in 1822. He decided to create his own brick version; it took him ten years. "I only use standard LEGO pieces," he says. "It's like solving a puzzle — I have to be very creative in how I utilise the parts." 

    Now he's working on a device that can play a perfect game of noughts and crosses. His grand vision is to build an entire multifunctional computer out of nothing but LEGO. "It would just be a demonstration, but if you swapped out the chains it would completely change the function of the machine," he suggests. "One set might play a game, another might solve a mathematical problem. That's my ultimate dream." 

    From the same desktop

    Andrew Carol's LEGO creations are often years in the making, and go through many iterations. Here are two of his most successful complex constructions.

    Difference Engine, 2010 

    Stan Musilek

    Babbage's Difference Engine can calculate seventh-order polynominals to 31 digits of accuracy; Andrew Carol's third-generation machine can manage it to three. To set the calculation, you need to set each rotor-based adder (behind the red squares), and then turn the crank to engage the cycle. It was built in yellow to make the mechanism more visible.

    Antikthera, 2010

    Stan Musilek

    The original was discovered on the Antikythera wreck in 1900, and dates from 150-100BCE. Carol's version doesn't use gears of the same size (LEGO don't make them), but replicates the functions of calculating the positions of the Sun and Moon, and dates of lunar and solar eclipses, by using the same gear ratios.