Video: An Industrial Robot Made Entirely of Legos Sorts 48 Items Per Minute

A miniature working replica of a delta assembly line

The Lego Quad Delta Robot System

As industrial robots go, Chris Shepherd's Quad Delta Robot System is decidedly awesome. It's not so much that it produces something particularly amazing--it doesn't. All it does is sort colored blocks as they trundle by on a conveyor belt. No, the cool thing about this particular factory 'bot is that it is made entirely of Legos.

Constructed from Lego NXT components, this model of a working robotic factory system has four flexible arms (capable of motion in three dimensions) each packing a pneumatic gripper that can pick things off the line and sort them into the appropriate spaces. Two conveyor belts fitted with light sensors send colored blocks down the line while simultaneously relaying their color and positions to the arms, which snatch them up and sort them at a rate of 48 blocks per minute.

These kinds of systems are common in manufacturing facilities and other centers of industry, but to create one with Legos and simple light signals very astute blending of both building block prowess and computational cleverness. After all, these robotic arms are smart. Not only do they know what color an incoming block is, but they know where it will be at what time and have the patience to wait for it. They even account for the little bit of extra forward motion the conveyor belt imparts to the block at liftoff.

For a full rundown of the project, check out Shepherd's Tinkernology blog.