Tuesday, January 30, 2018

GBC Mailbag #1 📦

Trying something new!

In this video I'm unboxing a few packages of GBC parts from BrickLink, please leave me a comment if you have any feedback on these types of videos.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Weekend GBC Observer

Hey guys, I hope everyone is having a great weekend.  Here are two new GBC videos that have appeared on YouTube.

Huw, the man behind Brickset.com is showing off a few of his new modules.

Maico has a new Layout Video from the Deutsches Museum in Bonn, Germany.

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Module Video - Bucket Boost

Today I present the second GBC module that I ever built, Bucket Boost!  The main lift mechanism uses buckets that are built from 4 stud tall half-cylinder pieces sitting in between two 7L technic beams.

I received "buckets" of these half-cylinder pieces at BrickCan 2017 in a parts draft and wanted to use them in a GBC.  I originally planned the module to have 8 buckets, but after the prototype phase I realized that 8 buckets would be a very large module.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mid-Week GBC Observer

Seems like a good week for Lego Great Ball Contraption layout videos! Here are 3 new ones that I found on Youtube over the last week.

Brickworld Fort Wayne 2017

Alexandra Palace/LMEE (Jan 2018)

Brickvention 2018 in Melbourne, Australia

Saturday, January 20, 2018

New GBP Module Video - Morgan's Mine

Today I present a simple module based on GBCRamps by Bryan Bonahoom

I skinned this module using pieces and build ideas from the Lego Minecraft series.

GBCRamps is a simple, reliable module that I would recommend to anyone wanting to create their first Great Ball Contraption.  It uses a Power Functions M Motor and common parts.

The original instructions for GBCRamps can be found here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mid-Week GBC Observer

I hope everyone is having a great week!

Here are some links to some GBC modules that I have discovered over the last few days.

Archimedes Screw By J Douglas


Double Helix Tower By C Bartneck


A bendy style of lifting cup in a mini-loop by sawyer

A new Great Ball Pit video will be released Friday!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lego Power Function Motors ⚡️⚙️

What are they?

Lego Power Function Motors are the small electric motors that Lego currently manufactures.  They are small motors that can be powered by Lego battery boxes, or an older Lego 9 Volt Train Controller. The motors can run in either direction, and drive an axle socket.  So any lego piece with the cross shaped axle connector can be inserted into the motor.
(left) XL Motor (right) M Motor

These Lego PF motors come in a few sizes: Medium, Large, Extra Large and Servo.
Servo Motors behaves differently then the other motors, as they were designed for adding steering to a radio controlled car, and only have 180 degrees of rotation.  Maico Arts has some instructions for modules with Servo motors here

The regular motors that rotate 360 have different speed and torque ratings as follows:

Approximate Values
M Motor - 40 nMn Torque, 380 RPM
L Motor - 45 mNm Torque, 380 RPM
XL Motor - 90 mNm Torque, 220 RPM

How do they work?

Like most Lego and Technics, the PF Motors have various connection points which include technic pin holes, and additionally on the M Motor there are anti-studs so you can stick the motor directly to bricks. (I do this in my Greylime module)

When connected to a battery box the motor will run at full speed in either direction.  When connected to a 9 volt Train Controller you can vary the speed in 6 increments.

Determining what speed you can run your motor at is one of the first key elements you need to decide upon before you start constructing your modules.  If you don't have access to a train controller you can attain different speeds by building gearboxes and linkages. (To be discussed in another article)

A Lego M Motor connected to a battery box via a Control Switch
A Lego M Motor connected to a 9 Volt Train Controller using an extension cable.

Motors can drive all sorts of mechanisms with some creative building.  Watch a few GBC layout videos you'll see how these motors can be used.

Video: My simple layout with 4 different lift mechanisms.

Where can you get them?

Lego Online and Retail Stores - Look for the 8293 Power Functions Motor Set

Individual Purchase on Lego Shop @ Home: Extras → Power Functions https://shop.lego.com/en-CA/Power-Functions

On BrickLink search for the following parts:
Power Functions M Motor: 58120c01
Power Functions L Motor: 99499c01
Power Functions XL Motor: 58121c01

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lego Power Functions Control Switch ⚡️🔌

What are they?

Lego Power Functions Control Switches are a three position switch that can be used to turn a motor on in either direction, or turn it off.  This can be done manually or mechanically.  A few Great Ball Contraption modules have used the switch to mechanically change the direction when required.  Tom Atkinson's Up-Down Elevator is a good example of this.

These switches can help configure your GBC layouts by reversing the direction when needed.  For example: If you have 3 modules connected to a single train controller, one of them may be going in the wrong direction. You can use a the Power function switch to change the direction of that module.  This is something I have to do with my Tri-Sep module since the Conveyor and Sweeper are driven by 2 separate motors.

Switches can be built up anyway you want!
I added some coloured levers to these.

I own two variants of the Power Function switch, one with a micro switch that changes the direction (again), and one without.  If for whatever reason you only wanted your switch to flip up and not down.  The microswitch will make sure that when flipped up, it turns the motor in the direction that you want.

Two variants, the one on the left has a second micro switch.

How do they work?

Switches can be inserted into a wired connection to either a battery box or a Power Functions extension cable.  A PF switch cannot be attached directly to a 9 volt speed controller because that uses the legacy connector that only the extension cable can interface with.

Power Functions Battery Box, Switch, and M Motor

One Way Flip
In the below image you can see I've built some stuff onto my train controller.  I've made it so that the switches can only be flipped upward.  They are blocked if they try to flip down.  By setting up your power like this, it makes it really easy for other people to start and stop your module at collaborative layouts.  It reduces the chance that someone else could put your module into reverse which could be catastrophic.

Switches attached to a 9v Train Controller and built so they can only be flipped up, not down.

Where can you get them?

You can order switches from shop.lego.com in the Power Functions section.
Buy them at retail locations in the Power Functions Motor Set (8293)
Get them on Bricklink.com search for part number: 8869-1

< Back to Learn About GBC

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Weekend GBC Observer

Here are some new Lego Great Ball Contraption videos that have appeared over the last week.

BrisBricks 2017 GBC Layout from Brisbane, Australia
Lots of new modules in this layout, I really liked the Batman and Minecraft themed modules.


John Sherman's GBC Layout from BrickCon 2017 in Seattle, USA
John's added a new see-saw lift module to his layout this year.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Greyline Series Conclusion

I'm happy to have concluded what I'm calling the Greyline series of modules.  This series  included Greylime, Reservoir, Tri-Sep, and Bucket Boost.

Greylime was my first Great Ball Contraption module that was built late 2016.  Tri-Sep was recently completed early 2018.  I did work on other modules in between this timespan, with half of those not making it to a working model (like most GBC).

I'm glad to have created 4 modules that are quite unique from each other, showing off different lift mechanism, while being fairly reliable.  Bucket Boost drops the most balls, so I hope to have it tightened up by the time BrickCan 2018 begins.

Please enjoy the video.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lego 9 Volt Train Speed Regulator 🔌⚡️

9 Volt Train Controllers. Yes you can build on them!

What is it?

The 9 Volt Train Speed Regulator is an official lego train controller that was last available in  Lego sets between 1991-2004 ending with the Harry Potter Hogwarts train set (10132).  These are highly desirable by GBC builders because they allow you to power your modules with AC power from an outlet.

They have 6 speeds and can be run in either forward or reverse by twisting the large yellow dial clockwise or counter-clockwise.  They can power multiple motors, the only limitation being that they will run at the same speed.

Being able to control the speed in small increments can help you debug your modules.  When running at a collaborative layout, having the controller makes it easier to control the flow of balls through your portion of the circuit allowing you to speed up or slow down depending on how other peoples modules are interacting with your own modules.

How do you use it?

You will need a 9-12 volt power adapter with a plug size of S2.1x5.5mm.
Train controllers to vary slightly since they were produced over a number of years.  1 of the 4 that I own will only take 9-10v input, where the other 3 will take 9-12v input.  Be sure to check what voltage input your controller needs, it will be stamped into the base near where you plug it in.

A 12 Volt Power Adapter
Different Input Voltages 9-10 and 9-12
You will also need a Power Functions Extension cable.  These cables have a different connector at each end.  One fits the legacy connection to the train controller, while the other end will work with Power Function motors.  These cables can be ordered directly from shop.lego.com in the Power Functions section.

A Power Functions M Motor and Extension Cable
Motor connected to the Controller

Where can you get one?

You can order the Train Controllers from Bricklink.com  Search for Part Number 2868b

I would recommend buying an extra if you can afford it.  These will become harder to find as GBC continues to grow in popularity.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lego GBC Balls ⚽️🏀

What are they?

They are official Lego Soccer and Basketballs.  More recently they have been used to represent pool and beach balls in several Lego Friends Sets.

GBC Balls are the most important element of a GBC layout, the lifeblood if you would.  They move around, up and down, slow and fast, alone and in groups.

GBC balls are sometimes confused with "zamor spheres", which was another ball type piece that lego produced in the past.  Zamor spheres are larger and can get stuck in GBC modules due to their size and weight.

Zamor spheres on left, GBC balls on right

How do they work?

Lego GBC Balls are all created with a high degree of tolerances the same as other lego components such as  bricks, gears, etc.  They have a specific size and weight that many GBC modules are so precariously designed around.  The majority of GBC builders prefer them over using other objects such as marbles, beads or ball bearings.  GBC layouts at public conventions will always be using official Lego balls, so that all the modules can work as designed.

Where can you get them?

Search for these part numbers

  • Sports Basketball with Standard Lines Pattern 43702pb02
  • Sports Soccer Ball with Standard Pattern x45pb03
  • Sports Soccer Ball Plain x45
  • Sports Soccer Ball with Magenta Outlined Heart and Star Pattern x45pb06
Lego Sets (Updated for July 2018)
Here are few recent sets that have a GBC ball included, they are quite expensive for just 1 ball, but you also getting other parts.

  • 41335: Mia's Tree House (Orange Ball) 
  • 41338: Stephanie's Sports Arena (Orange Ball) 
  • 41330: Stephanie's Soccer Practice (White Ball)

shop.Lego.com Replacement Parts
Search for Element/Design Number: 72824

< Back to Learn About GBC

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New module video - Tri-Sep

The video for my Tri-Sep module has gone live.  I had to build a second module to provide a reliable input for this vertical sweeper module.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Rolling into 2018

2017 saw a lot of growth in the GBC scene as mentioned by Tom Atkinson in the Brickworld Virginia 2017 video.  Here's hoping 2018 gets even more builders involved!

Great Ball Pit News
I'll be attending BrickCan 2018 this year in April with my modules, and I hope to meet some more GBC builders there!

Goals for 2018
  • Build 6 new original modules
  • Upload 2 or more YouTube videos per month
  • Live stream some module building on Twitch
New modules from other builders on YouTube
Sawyer does a Lego GBC Ball Molding module.

Keep on rolling!