Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

A new topic to attempt to centralize information, improvements and discussions about the most iconic Great Ball Contraption made by Kawaguchi Akiyuki,
The Ball Factory GBC

Version 0, July 2008 by Superbird28. Akiyuki stated himself he was inspired by Superbird28 when designing and building the Ball Factory. Why can be clearly seen in this video dating back to the pre-digital age. Thanks @Jonas for noticing.

Version 1, June 2011: with color sorter as input:


Version 2, november 2011: picker for 2 balls and optimized for higher speeds (1.3 balls/s)

 

Februari 2016, @Blakbird and @TheRebricker reverse engineered the Ball Factory over a period of two years and posted the below:

April 2019: Ball Factory New Style GBC compliant, reliable and easy to move:

 

A big thank you to Blakbird and TheRebricker for all their hard work! This reverse engineered version adds the option to circle balls within the ball factory, here my build from December 2016


Many have build the Ball factory in various colors and versions. Below an overview of suggested and quoted improvements with pictures out of the 77 pages in The Akiyuki Project topic, up to you what changes you want to make. Feel free to add your builds, improvements or questions about The Ball Factory to this topic.
___________________________________________________

Spiral Lift platform improvement by Jonas: used a SNOT technique to get a stronger platform. It allowed me to remove the gap and to fix the superstructure to the studs. Moreover, I used the remaining stud of the 30414 brick to stabilize the tower column by a vertical 1x6 tile. Now, each column is fixed from 3 sides and the tower is really stable. It will survive even an accidental kick.

spiral-tower-platform-new.jpg

And, I added another (third) black pin to strengthen the vertical support (shown on page 186 in Blakbird's manual)
___________________________________________________

Ball picker improvement by Jonas: 

I have also made a small improvement of the ball picker - the part that picks a pair of balls and puts them into a bucket.

It happened quite often that the right ball dropped before it reached the bucket.

When I analyzed the construction of the picker, I noticed that the rightmost axle is significantly looser than the other ones. While the other two rear axles are attached to the rail construction, this one is not and cannot be attached.

In my version, I fastened this axle to the rest of the assembly by replacing a 3L liftarm by an L-shape liftarm (not necessarily in yellow color).

repl-ball-picker.jpg -> repl-ball-picker-new.jpg

Since that time I have not observed any earlier drop.
___________________________________________________

Back pivot point by @Ankoku

I have used the 5.5L Axel with Stop just like the original. You could probably get away with a 5L, but the connection may be hanging off slightly.

The main piston rod has been changed from 20L to 19L in complete length. I used the "Technic, Plate 1 x 5 with Smooth Ends, 4 Studs and Center Axle Hole" which Akiyuki used, just because I did have them kicking around spare. A 6L Plate would be fine. I have gone with a 11L and 7L lift arm. Akiyuki went for a 15L and 3L, thus far, I haven't seen any reason for using those particular lengths.

One bonus with using the plate to connect the two lift arms, is that the connection is rock solid, so you no longer have the wobble of the altered version.

As you can see on the right, the connect on the end of the 8L axel is flipped. In the ReBricker instruction video, he has it this way round and then adds a later correction to show it the other way around. This way round is the way it is in the Akiyuki video and it is required to make this pivot point work.

1280x720.jpg
___________________________________________________

Bucket shift timing mechanism by Ankoku

Here is the piston itself. I have changed it to the original format. This is obviously the left one of the two in the video, as you can tell by the connector end, but other than that, the two pistons are identical.

The crucial change is Technic Beam 1x3 Thin between the two year 1x5 Technic Beam Thick. The reverse engineered solution doesn't have that. That provided the extra travel I was looking for.

As you can see, the connections for the yellow beam on the right aren't as pretty and you lose the symmetry. That said, the new motion is as smooth as butter, which is immensely pleasing in comparison to trying to make the other method work.

1280x720.jpg
___________________________________________________

Bob improvements by Ankoku

The initial changes to the height didn't do much to improve smoothness and I found that the paddle seemed to now be an issue. It was also the source of quite a bit of friction.

Bob_Paddle.jpg

As you can see in the image, the paddle is 3 deep in total. You can tell this from the light grey 3L axel. The bottom part of the paddle is a Technic Beam 3 x 3 L-Shape Thin. Using that piece makes a lot of sense and seems far better than using 3x Technic Beam 1 x 3 Thin, where the 1st of those completes the light grey 3L axel length and the other two are at 90° to create the L shape. Unsurprisingly, this approach is smoother as there is less friction.
___________________________________________________

Bucket unloader by Ankoku

So I was playing with it and it didn't seem to work very well and certainly didn't reflect the motion I was seeing in the Akiyuki video.

Having watched the video more times than I care to remember, I noticed that the lift motion seemed to be in a single motion, not two. I also noticed that the lift arm used seemed shorter than the one in the instructions.

So in the end, I changed it from a Technic Beam 1 x 5 Thin with Axle Holes on Ends, to a Technic Beam 1 x 4 Thin with Axle Holes on Ends, using yellow ones to reflect those in the video. This seemed to work well and reflect the video.

Bucket_Unloader_Lift_1.jpg

Then I checked on Bricklink and it seems that Technic Beam 1 x 5 Thin with Axle Holes on Ends don't come in Yellow. So yeah, that bit needs to be a 4L not a 5L.
___________________________________________________

Back slider by Ankoku,

There is definitely these two beams there, length unknown. Below I am using 2x Technic Brick 1 x 15. You can see both in the Akiyuki video, although only 1 at any one time. This also explains why the bottom Technic Axle and Pin Connector Perpendicular is attached differently to the two above it. For the forward back motion you see in the video, this is not possible with the use of a pin instead of an axle.

The axle you can see here, allows full motion in one direction, but slightly limited in the other, which is exactly what you see in the video. It is only possible to put the top Technic Brick 1 x 15 in there if you remove the plates from the bottom of the slider. If you look in the Akiyuki video, those plates are not there.

I still don't know how either piston connects to the slider exactly. I am still hoping to hear back on that. That said, these two beams seem to be correct and answers a few questions.

1920x1080.jpg___________________________________________________

Bucket slide by Ankoku

The area that the buckets slide along for the shifter is actually offset by half a stud in the Akiyuki version. This is not reflected in the instructions.

This answers why the shifter itself is half a stud over the sliding area at maximum backwards reach. I always thought the shifter didn't do full travel, but it does, it is just the sliding area which is misplaced.

Shifter_Offset.jpg

Here you can see how the sliding shelf is connected to the conveyor with a Technic Brick 1 x 2 [2 Holes]

Slider_Connection.jpg

Anyway, changed the length of the slider my one, so that is now correct. Removed the plate from the bucket stopper just before the slider, so that is now working correctly and is the same as the video. Bob now actually aligns correctly with the buckets at maximum reach.

1920x1080.jpg___________________________________________________

Shifter changes by Ankoku

This removes the need for any universal joints and thus removes the variable speed of the conveyor.

1920x1080.jpg___________________________________________________

Shifter changes by Ankoku

It seems Akiyuki has reworked the pivot mechanism and beam length. This new approach removes any potential bend in what would have been an 8L axle. The new approach requires a shorter piston beam, a longer beam under the shifter.

1920x1080.jpg

The brace is 2x Technic Beam 1 x 6 Thin.  Here, you can see the positioning of the pivot point, the indentation in the conveyor tower, which is 2 bricks deep to allow the pivot arm to travel that far. You can also see the black axle instead of the grey one, as it requires that extra 1L for the back and forth arm to pivot one. At the top, you can see where the slider platform connects and how it is moved 0.5L across.

1920x1080.jpg

Shifter Changes in action:

___________________________________________________
 
Ball dumper by Ankoku

It sits at the right height, the ball router works well and the axle housing is aligned correctly.

1920x1080.jpg

As you can see above and below, I have added blockers to either side, which means that a renegade ball can't escape up hill. Balls can only pass when the router is in the correct position for that route. Inside is only 2 wide now and doesn't have any pins etc.

1920x1080.jpg___________________________________________________

Ball unloader by @smdzucladoc

After seeing Ankoku's mods as well as his detail photos of the bucket shifter, My ball factory has been much improved.  I was still having a lot of friction in the ball loader until I add these mods.  Now the ball loaders is very smooth.

I add a 1x3 liftarm in between the two Axle and Pin Connector Perpendicular Triple and it seems that the loader doesn't bind to the axles anymore and it is very smooth.

42489089305_46fe0d7608_n.jpg 28523748087_9d2de89dab_n.jpg

I also added some additional bracing to the back of the ball loader.

I added two additional Technic, Brick 1 x 2 with Hole and a 1/2 bush to the bottom axle.  I also change the axle 3L to 4L and added 2 Axle and Pin Connector Angled #1 and then a 6L axle perpendicular to try to brace the 12T and 40T gear as perpendicular as possible.   

28523834217_0f40412b29_n.jpg 28523834477_2e9cdf6cd6_n.jpg 28523834357_02ab03b3b1_n.jpg

___________________________________________________

For inspiration, this extended version by @Jonas

and black version by @Thunderthumbs

 

Edited by Berthil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2,5 years ago I have build the Ball Factory as my first GBC module. I got it working well but I found it unfit for events and took it apart to build other GBC modules from the parts. But still I consider the Ball Factory the most iconic 'GBC'.

For this reason I started rebuilding the Ball Factory again but now with 2,5 years of experience in GBC designing and building.
My goal is to make a version that will be more easy to move and reliable enough for events.

To achieve this I'm attempting to put all elements on the well known Akiyuki frame to achieve a rigid construction and have enough clearance for dropped balls under the mechanisms. I also want to make it fully compliant to the GBC standard meaning 10 bricks high in- and outbox. The original version 2.0 Ball Factory is from 2011 and uses a lot of classic (technic) bricks. I plan to use more studless to save on classic bricks and add rigidity but still want to stay as close to the original as possible.

I only got the Spiral Lift done at the moment but this already looks promising with added rigidity and much lower brick count. I will post some pictures by the end of the week of my progress.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was talking about this with @9v system. I am just learning Studio.io at the moment and will be doing The Sun as a part of that. I also intend to create a elevated base for the Ball Factory, to make it GBC compliant and take the bases out of the picture. Thus it should be easier to move and also isn't confined by the size restrictions of two base plates.

Most of it, when corrected works pretty well. The corrected tower is far better. I will post some pictures of that.

Currently, the main issues are: Bob putting the buckets back on the wheel. That is far better now, but not perfect, this is from my own changes. The other issues is the bucket emptying. I have corrected it to the Akiyuki original, but if it ever fails to lift a bucket, it seriously crunches the machine. I was considering putting some rubber pieces into the mix of that one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Ankoku  your research and improvements are very much appreciated. Presenting them in Stud.io renders would help a lot although I think to understand the changes one has to build the Ball Factory first and make changes later.

@dunes is also planning on building an elevated 'version 3.0'. Let us share our building progress here and share ideas. I'm building in real bricks but plan to digitize in Stud.io if I'm successful in reaching my goals. I've already started the digital file. It will not be a fast progress as I need to order parts as the build progresses.

I will update the first topic with new insights communicated here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My general goal is to keep it as identical to the original as possible, just raising it up. So my elevation isn't going to be anything interesting.

I will make a push to get all the changes back to his original well documented with photos initially though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was thinking about it. One of the biggest changes required, is a redesigned of the bucket emptying tower.

The top part of it can remain the same to the Akiyuki design, but the rest needs a complete overhaul and provides opportunities for improvements. When I constructed mine, it was basically defined by what pieces I had to hand.

Anyway, I will post the main two issues with it.

I am having surgery on my foot tomorrow, so my easy access to photographing the factory kinda starts and ends tonight for a week or two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Great idea to create a separate topic for this one and to centralize all improvements, mods and variations! Worked well for the Akiyuki train system. Also for me this was the first GBC I built at the end of 2015 and it's still one of my favorites. :grin:

Although quite fragile and indeed difficult to move around, I loved working on it and spent quite some time back then on setup, timing, alignment etc. Unfortunately never got it to run flawlessly and 100% reliably for a longer period of time... :angry:

It's now collecting dust on a shelf and that's a real pity for such an iconic piece of Lego machinery, so I'll follow this thread with great interest, because I'm certainly planning to rebuild the Ball Factory at some point in time and I'm sure this thread will be of great help!

Edited by Lego_GBC_NL
Grammar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is funny how this is the first module many people make. It is terrible in that regard, since it is one of the more expensive ones, it uses a bunch of pieces you are unlikely to have and requires a lot of balls to have it fully utilised. Oh and syncing it is a nightmare :P

I think people also liked the fact that it could be stand-alone.

I spent way too many hours fixing it, which is why I stepped away from it for a while. It was nice to just make some modules and enjoy them without hassle. Although most needed correcting or modifying, they have been far easier than the Factory which had a lot wrong with it.

I think one thing worth working out early on, is a specific speed to run it at. e.g. various bits behave differently, depending on speed.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Taken about 40 photos, will post later.

Camera has a crappy focus and I am short on time, but it did have a flash, so that should help with working out brick heights etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

+1 on this!  I built the Ball Factory V2 as my first GBC 2 yrs ago or so, and lost interest in GBC soon after building it, only to get back into it this year.

After building several other designs, most workshop modules, I am starting to see the difference between a cool GBC for a shelf display, and a fun GBC that can be setup for a show and run for 8 hours or more reliably.

Would love to take mine apart and rebuild it in a more refined manner.

-Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After building a lot of Akiyuki modules and some from other designers ( @Berthil I recently bought the parts four your rainbow wave :classic: ), this holy grail is still on top of my to build list. But I was always waiting for you guys to finish your improvements. So I am really excited about this collection thread and I really appreciate your awesome work so far. Unfortunately I dont have any time to try around and investigate by my self. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Frequenzberater said:

After building a lot of Akiyuki modules and some from other designers ( @Berthil I recently bought the parts four your rainbow wave :classic: ), this holy grail is still on top of my to build list. But I was always waiting for you guys to finish your improvements. So I am really excited about this collection thread and I really appreciate your awesome work so far. Unfortunately I dont have any time to try around and investigate by my self. 

 

Exactly what he says! +1 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i have built the ball factory and i have displayed it in a collaborative gbc layout a few years ago, but now i want to build a second one in blue or grey and use @Berthils paternoster to bring the balls back to standard height. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thinking with a centralised topic.  It is on my build and is one of the best to sit and watch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I built my Ball Factory about 6 months ago as my first GBC and my 3rd ever Lego build. The other 2 were earthmovers and diggers. While my Ball Factory is rather stable, it is also rather fragile. I put the base plates on a 5/8" thick piece of board, so I can move it from one area in the house to another. I would never attempt to move it outside the house or transport it. I will follow your Topic with great interest. Maybe I can offer some comments along the way. I built it completely from the Rebrickers videos. I have been debating what to do with it, as space in my house is at a premium. I am also starting to build the Akiyuki train GBC. I would hate to dismantle the Ball Factory, but now @Berthil has given me a renewed interest to continue to make it more reliable and stronger.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Moving it and taking photos of it last night reminded me of just how big the thing is!

As a reminder, my BrickSafe has more images from Akiyuki. Do you want me to post them here? They are just sitting there, publicly available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, Ankoku said:

Moving it and taking photos of it last night reminded me of just how big the thing is!

As a reminder, my BrickSafe has more images from Akiyuki. Do you want me to post them here? They are just sitting there, publicly available.

Bricksafe link is enough I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Here are his images of the Ball Dropper Tower. The tower required a bunch of changes to get it back to his original design. It worked way better as it requires less tight syncing.

https://bricksafe.com/pages/Ankoku/akiyuki-ball-dropper

These are Akiyuki's shifter photos. They include changes he has made since it was last shown in a video:

https://bricksafe.com/pages/Ankoku/akiyuki-shifter

Edited by Ankoku

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is also a video from TheRebricker with his changes after the initial build.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too like many others decided the Ball Factory would be my first GBC build.    I wish it hadn't been because after countless hours of re-timing and fixing axles that have slipped out of connectors etc.  I gave up GBC for a couple years.  Now I'm back BIGLY and have almost 25 of the largest modules I can find directions for done.   I agree with Berthil that this module needs to be off of the 32x32 plates and put together on a studless frame so it is more durable and can be moved.   If anyone is serious about doing this I would like to help.  I still have most of the parts from my first build but will obviously need a few more visits to Bricklink.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I'm progressing well on first steps of placing it on the Akiyuki frame and convert to a more studless build. The ball picker and dropper tower I have almost studless but still must integrate with the spiral lift and ball picker feeder on the correct height with all dynamic connections. I hope to post some pictures soon. I feel confident in achieving the build, a lot is possible in combinations of studded and studless, I just need to find the right ones.

@Ankoku I hope surgery went well on your foot! Any original Akiyuki pictures are much appreciated, I already used the ones from the tower.

28 minutes ago, RickBobbie5 said:

I too like many others decided the Ball Factory would be my first GBC build. Now I'm back BIGLY and have almost 25 of the largest modules I can find directions for done. I agree with Berthil that this module needs to be off of the 32x32 plates and put together on a studless frame so it is more durable and can be moved.   If anyone is serious about doing this I would like to help.  I still have most of the parts from my first build but will obviously need a few more visits to Bricklink.   

Sounds good. Any videos or your modules? My build will be different from the first build, I will use more studless. Although I will be using 16L DBG technic bricks as much as possible as I have many from a Lugbulk. Pictures soon as promised.

Edited by Berthil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Sorry, forgot to use the quote button.

  "Sounds good. Any videos or your modules? My build will be different from the first build, I will use more studless. Although I will be using 16L DBG technic bricks as much as possible as I have many from a Lugbulk. Pictures soon as promised. Edited 1 hour ago by Berthil"

 

 

Those DBG 1x16 are really not to available in the USA without many trips to Bricklink.  I have a huge amount of technic models in another room and realized that the Bucket Wheel Excavator "42055" has about 75 of the 1x15 DBG studless beams so I may try to incorporate as much of that as possible to keep cost down.  I realize the bricks are stronger than beams so it may be a combination of both.  No videos yet but a small portion of what I have built has consumed my billiards table.

 

 

 

GBC pic.jpg

Edited by RickBobbie5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@RickBobbie5 That's a very small picture of an excellent and big collection! I hope you share through events because that's a pitty to just leave on your billiards table :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.