Jan 25, 2016 | By Alec

If you’ve ever tried to 3D print a toy for one of your kids, you’ll have seen how limited the shelf life of toys actually is – unless it’s amazing, most toys are only played with a few times. That says a lot about the staying power of the Rubik’s Cube puzzle, which is more than forty years old already. It still captivates both children and adults, and that fascination has already crossed over into the 3D printing community as well. Remember this record-breaking 3D printed Rubik’s Cube? The regular cube, however, also still interests people – who are especially looking for ways to maximize solving speed. Well, the answer might be found in 3D printing, as two YouTubers have just uploaded a clip in which they use a 3D printed solving machine to set a new world record of less than 2 seconds.

For those of you who have mysteriously avoided the Rubik’s Cube all their lives, it was invented way back in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. Originally called the Magic Cube, it quickly became very popular as a mathematician’s gimmick: just endlessly turning corners achieves nothing, but establishing a series of patterns will quickly solve it. A classic cube, as you might know, has six faces each with nine separate tiles. With the help of stickers, they are divided into six solid colors: white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. The goal, of course, is to get all colors on a single side.

Some amazing records in completing these cubes have been set already, but none have been so remarkable as what this machine by Jay Flatland and Paul Rose can do. They recently uploaded the clip below, in which they show off their machine capable of completing a cube in less than two seconds – a new world record. This is much faster than existing records, which is 3.253 seconds for a machine and a very impressive 4.904 for a human (held by Lucas Etter). In contrast, Jay and Paul’s machine is shown to complete the cube four separate times, in 1.196 seconds, 1.152 seconds, 1.047 seconds, and 1.019 seconds, respectively. Thus not just extremely fast, but consistently so.

So how does this amazing machine work? Well, the robot features four stepper motors that hook onto the cube, all encased in a custom 3D printed enclosure. Four webcams are installed, all hooked up to the PC to continuously scan the configuration of the tiles. That information is fed into the Kociemba Rubik’s Cube solving algorithm (running in Linux), which directs the robot to make the necessary movements. This does require all four cameras to work to ensure that the algorithm has all the information it needs.

To get it to start, a camera is first covered with a piece of paper to block the algorithm – giving the user the time to manually scramble the cube. Once plugged in again and the paper is removed, the program collects data as quickly as possible and feeds commands back to the stepper motors. It’s an amazingly efficient 3D printed machine and definitely deserves its record. There’s just one small snag, as the duo has applied for a world record, but this hasn’t been approved just yet. Surely that’s only a matter of time?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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