Archive for December, 2008

Rube Goldberg Card Suffling Failure

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas Edison

At my real-pay-me-to-solve-problems job, failure happens from time to time.  As an engineer it’s important to recognize when a problem can’t be solved in a reasonable manor.  Obviously the more important the problem, the higher the criteria for “reasonable”.  It’s not surprising to me that some of my hobby projects don’t work out.  Heck, it would be boring if everything just worked.  I’ve decided to share this learning experience with others.

The goal of this project was to design a card shuffling machine.  The topic came up when a friend informed me that there are two categories  of shuffling devices on the market.  The cheap $20 plastic shufflers you can find at Target, and the $1500+ professional solutions.  Both systems are fairly controlled systems, and I thought it would be more interesting to take a Rube Goldberg approach. My card shuffling machine used physical environmental factors (ie air flow) to randomize the cards.  In a nutshell my idea was to use a big fan to blow a deck of cards around in a box similar to how those bingo or Powerball lottery machines work.  Then after the cards had been randomized I’d have a series of shoots, doors and sensors to get all the cards face down in a nice stack.

I made a prototype of what I thought would work.  Here is a video describing how it works.

Here is a link to a higher quality downloadable video.

To get things working reliably I’d need to do a few more iterations of the slides and figure out how to make a small, powerful and cheap fan. I have ideas on how to get around all my known problems, but I believe solving all the problems could turn into a much bigger effort than I had expected when I started this project.  Basically I’ve decided I’m not interested enough in this problem to work through these problems I’ve found.

I have a lot of other things I’d like to work on so instead of focusing on this project, I’ve decided to cut my losses and move on to other things.  If anybody else decides to pick up this project and improves on it let me know.  I’d love to hear about any related past or future projects. I was surprised that my google searches didn’t turn up any projects like this.

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