Binary Calculator Sculpture (for rent)

Below you will find the "making of" of the Binary Calculator sculpture, Bin-Calc. The design started in 2014 and is completed in 2020. Start by watching the video of the final version below, or on YouTube. The video gives you an impression of the functionality and the beauty of the design. Further down, the pictures of the final version are shown. Followed by the most interesting snapshots taken during the entire development path, from year to year. Realize that you only see a minor reflection of all intermediate results. Besides, I had to learn new skills. Have you ever used a 3D printer and 3D modeling tools? Or programmed an Arduino and Raspberry PI? And what about practical skills for reproducible brass bending, accurate drilling in plexiglass and so on? There was no example. Everything is designed from scratch, based on knowledge, visualization and determination.

If you are not familiar with binary numbers, study the table. A and B are the two input numbers. The sum S, is the output. Click on the table to enlarge. You can also find explanations on Internet or videos on YouTube.

The sculpture is for rent, if you are interested contact us.

You can also find this video on YouTube.

2020: Ready, in all its details

Fully up and running, April 27, 2020. The tracks shine because of 8 LED lights in ceiling. Click on picture to zoom in, click again to zoom out.
Overflow at 16 ready to be clocked The calculation is 11 + 9. Ramp at the bottum brings to balls back to the lifts.
The principle: 10 1-bits full adders Input A0, B0 = 2^0 = 1. Waste ball goes right. S2 = 2^2 = 4. Watch video to see all inputs/outputs
At start, two random numbers will be choosen. The screen shows the calculation and ball placement. Circle with no number means no ball, that bit is zero.
There are three lifts for input A and B, and Clock. The 3-pin lift places the ball on the 2-pin track. The height determines right input, Arduino controlled.
Tracks from lifts to inputs (right) and clock (left). Highest clock track, see also at the lower levels. Nature always finds its way.
The ball can leave at the main-gate or waste-gate. Waste gate is hold by two 3mm split-pins. Main- and Overflow-gate are hold by a 6mm rod.
Main-gate = EXOR, Overflow-gate = AND function. Clock ball pushes shaft down to open gates. Clock ball in action, it opens the main-gate S0.

2014: How it all started

How to make an EXOR function combined with an AND function?
• For an electrical logical gate, voltages are time-continuous but balls are time-discrete. How do you know if you deal with two balls in the same calculation or two sequential balls from two different calculations? To align balls in time, the system needs to be clocked.
• Another constraint is that the mechanical logic gates should not have a “memory effect” such as a flipflop. The mechanical gates should fall back in the default position after a calculation, without the need for a reset. Otherwise, it will become too complicated.

It is great that no additional balls are needed. But how to get rid of the waste-ball in case of overflow? The "mousetrap" ensures an exit on the right side.

Mousetrap too complicated, notice new design. Clock functionality implemented. First functional design, January 25, 2014.

Hand-made tools

Tools to create reproducible tracks. Bending tools, used all the way up to the final version. Clamps for equal distances and to hold for soldering.

2015: Try, try, try and not satisfied. It is just not nice

Again another design, with Clock track. Waste-gate and main-gate, quite complicated to make. Fully functional EXOR and AND (overflow to next stage).
It is not nice, not reproducible and too much work. Notice, again another design. See the whiteboard! Brass tracks, nicer but more expensive. How to solder?

2016: Silver soldering, hmmm also not the way to go

See, another design. Quite close the final version. Silver soldering; strong, but difficult and hard to clean. To fit the sculpture within 2m height is a mind-breaker.
So far so good, but ... Soldering weakens tracks and a little stress bends it. The entire sculpture is documented.

2017: 3D printing and Plexiglass frame. Ahaa, seems the way to go

Black plastic is PETG. White is PVA, solves in water. Angles are calculated and all models are 3D drawn. Printing for months. Removing brim, to avoid warping.
Tools for accurate plexiglass drilling are 3D printed. In a limited equiped workshop you need to be creative. Plexiglass is not all polished, still mixed-metal rods.

2018: Building the core functionality progresses well

A visitor, neighbour and art painter Ton Schulten. A clock track, quite difficult to bend at right length. Two levels EXOR/AND, return, clock and waste tracks.

Videos of intermediate stages of the Binary Calculator

1-bit version, July 1st, 2018. You can find it here on YouTube.   2-bits version, August 17th, 2018. You can find it here on YouTube.

3-bits version, October 16th, 2018. You can find it here on YouTube.   4-bits version, February 2nd, 2019. You can find it here on YouTube.

2019/2020: Last but not least; all peripherals

The core functionality is ready. However, that's only half of the story. The binary calculator needs to be strong enough for transportation. It must be simply to use. And understandable, but maybe not at first glance. Mounting shall be such that maintenance is possible. In addition, the sculpture should have a professional appearance. These requirements forced me to think thoroughly how design it nicely, robustly and as simple as possible. It led to the following results.

Determining the position of the tracks at the roof. Maximum height is critical for leaving the workshop. Last goodby in functional state before demounting.

Frame of stainless steel and wood, on wheels

The ramp-bottum can be slided back for maintenance. Roof upside down. All holes are drilled, to be painted. On/off and auto-mode switch. Arduino is next to lifts.

Lifts, controlled by an Arduino

Step motor to drive timing belt, mounted in plexiglass. Wagon and 3-pin ball holder, long pin pushes bal-gate. Head of lift. Lift design requires precise dimensioning.

Arduino and 3 drivers, RPI and uSwitch connectors. uSwitch open/closed for exact positioning of wagon. Slow down, when uSwitch hit, fast up.
Ball-gate closes thanks to counter weight, no springs! Took a while to invent the ball-gate and lift structure. The balls get easily stuck, accurate distribution design.

Screen, controlled by a Raspberry PI

Break-out board for communication with Arduino. RPI is underneath screen, which is designed for that. The box arround the screen is 3D printed.

Ready to move towards the final assembly

Disassembled. Labeled! A view from a different angle.
The roof hanging on the cieling. Tracks are mounted. Last functional test of all electronics and lifts. Three iterations, not every can be determined upfront.
Bottom with ramp missing? It can be slided in. The roof can come down. The end results. Only wires on top to be done.

Few of the so many details

Code and documentation. Sculpture weight ~260kg?!. Off-centric rings to push bars against plexiglas walls. Switch symbols. It runs every 15 min in auto-mode.

If you have any comments or want more information about the sculpture, let me know. In any case, it is nice to know whether you enjoined it, so please send me an email anyway. Looking forward to your response.