Andrew Burks

Tag: RobOrchestra

Initial Vibraphone Designs

by on Jun.18, 2010, under RobOrchestra, Robotics Club, Vibratron

Overview: We are officially crazy

Animusic is a group that makes great computer animations involving “impossible” instruments playing great music.  While considering actuation mechanisms for the RobOrchestra Vibraphone project, somehow we decided it would be a good idea to do something similar to the instrument that takes center stage at 1:07 in Animusic’s “Pipe Dream”:


Right now, 3/8″ diameter stainless steel balls are looking very promising.  Mike Ornstein, Dan Shope and I have subconsciously split up the work into 3 sections.  Dan is working on the mechanism to take the balls and dispense them onto the keys quickly and with a short reload time.  Right now, it appears that this will be accomplished with a group of DC motors.  Mike is working on the mechanism to lift the used balls back up and dispense them to queues leading into Dan’s mechanism.  This is most likely going to be done with an Archimedes screw and a paintball gun style dispenser.  I have been focusing on the structure of the whole mechanism and collecting the dispensed balls and funneling them to Mike’s mechanism.

The biggest problem I am facing with this design is the awkward hole arrangement in the keys.  I basically have two very awkward hole lines I need to support for both the naturals and the sharps.  A string pulled taut needs to go through the holes in the keys and the supports to hold up the key and let it vibrate naturally.  My initial concept involved about $60 of waterjet-cut 1/8″ ABS.  Here is a render of this initial design:

Initial Vibratron Key Support Render

This concept was that with angled plates in front of the keys sloping back toward the keys, as well as slopes over top of those angled toward the center, I could funnel all of the ball bearings into a channel between the two sets of keys.  Unfortunately it takes up a whole sheet of plastic.

Future Concepts

Moving forward, I want to find a way to eliminate all of the unnecessary material in all 32 of those vertical supports.  A bar or two mounted along the path of the key mounts could allow me to build much smaller plastic mounts for each key.  Look forward to another post with more designs, and watch my friend’s blogs for updates on their portions of the project!

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by on Jun.06, 2010, under Overhead

Purpose of the Blog

This summer, besides working at NREC on the Strawberries Project, there are a few goals/projects I am working on.  Hopefully this blog will help me keep on pace to get everything done by the end of the summer and keep my friends and family up to date on what exactly I do with my time.  If I’m committed and get positive feedback, I might even continue once the school year starts.

Robotics ClubRobOrchestra Project

After taking over the RobOrchestra project one Richie P. left, I’ve been trying to add as many new instruments as possible.  The group got nearly $1000 from the URO for a Vibraphone project.  The proposed timeline has the mechanical design completed before the Fall semester, so this project will probably take priority.  Luckily, my roommate Mike Ornstein is also on the project, so he should be able to keep me in line.  I’m also still thinking about alternative string plucking and fretting options for an upgrade to or replacement of the Whamola instrument developed last year.

Formula SAE – Custom Software

After being appointed “Full Model Guy” for the next year on the Formula team, I decided I wanted to use some of my Solidworks API knowledge/interest/enthusiasm to help organize the team.  I’ve spent several hours staring at a blank computer screen though, because I’m having trouble defining what exactly I want to make.  I definitely want to make a piece of software that can extract features from a part and use it to generate a cost report document in Excel.  Beyond that, I can’t decide how much of a version control system/custom property manager I want to make, and what kind of interface (web, add-in, both?) I want in it.

New Custom Workstation Computer

This is a personal project, although I am getting tons of advice from tons of experienced friends.  Once the parts finish arriving on Monday, I’ll take some photos and post some specs.


I’m in the middle of a lot of other projects which I should continue working on casually over the summer.  There are other RobOrchestra instruments, electronics, and coding to be done.  I also have SAE design and fabrication commitments to take care of.  If I get around to it, I might try to make some backdated posts which give a little more background about those projects.  You can also expect me to share random Solidworks or Machining tips I come across as well.  Hopefully this blog will become a very thorough and accurate representation of my technical hobbies and interests.

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