Help with hardware for project

So, I'm a computing scientist. The coding stuff is straightforward and easy. I have no idea where to start on the physical side and have no background with electronics.

What I'm going to try to build for my first major project is a card sorting machine that can sort magic the gathering cards (www.wizards.com/magic)

I have some software on my PC that I've written for identifying a card and sorting it in memory, but I need to do this action physically, (I also still need to work in the webcam part, but I can do all that on the PC).

so what I need is a way to pick up 1 card at a time and move it to and from various 'buckets'. At least this is how I picture it going. Recommendations on better ways to do it are welcome.

What I envision is something along the lines of several 'buckets' in a row where the first bucket is where you would put the cards in, the camera would take a picture of the top card, and move it to a bucket to the side. I was thinking of using this method to merge sort the cards and then give back the sorted cards to the user. The concerns are how do you pick up 1 card at a time, place it with precision, without damaging it.

I'm at a complete loss as to where to begin with the hardware side of things. I bought an arduino and abook on getting started and it's awesome, but learning how to light up LEDS doesn't really help me with some of this.

With a certain age comes a certain wisdom, and the wisdom I would like to impart is before asking “How do I do this?” one should ask “What is the relative magnitude of this problem?”

If you “have no idea where to start on the physical side” you are undertaking quite a difficult project. It is a big jump from lighting LED’s to material handling. You are talking motors, sensors, vacuum pumps (just one way to do it), gearing, pulleys, belts, etc. etc. etc.

If you don’t mind jumping into the deep end and launching on a long, difficult, and possible frustrating journey, jump on in and follow the comments and suggestions sure to follow mine. My recommendation: take a few more baby steps beyond LED’s before tackling something like this.


Beat707: MIDI drum machine / sequencer / groove-box for Arduino

Can't help you with any of the elctronics side but for the actual hard hardware I would suggest for picking up the cards without damaging them something like this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmCVSmbuMrc&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLFEB6F59B6E15131E

The problem would be only one at a time....

For an actuator I would probably use either rack and pinion or timing belts like that of a Laser cutter (so it is realy fast) using stepper motors.

Since we are proably not talking .1mm or less (or more depending on you look at accuracy) accuracy you should be fine using some aluminium rod and some drilled HDPE blocks should act more than fine for you rails.

Then it is basically just a 3 axis cnc machine. Loads on the net regarding them. Try something like instuctables and buildlog.net for the some ideas.

I hope this helps,

RuggedCircuits: With a certain age comes a certain wisdom, and the wisdom I would like to impart is before asking "How do I do this?" one should ask "What is the relative magnitude of this problem?"

If you "have no idea where to start on the physical side" you are undertaking quite a difficult project. It is a big jump from lighting LED's to material handling. You are talking motors, sensors, vacuum pumps (just one way to do it), gearing, pulleys, belts, etc. etc. etc.

If you don't mind jumping into the deep end and launching on a long, difficult, and possible frustrating journey, jump on in and follow the comments and suggestions sure to follow mine. My recommendation: take a few more baby steps beyond LED's before tackling something like this.

-- Beat707: MIDI drum machine / sequencer / groove-box for Arduino

Absolutely correct. There are two reasons I ask this now.

1) Feedback like this an be very helpful. I have no issues jumping into the deep end. What I'm trying to get at though is something to think about while I build up to it. Right now I don't know anything about resistors and servos (beyond the extremely basic stuff in the book I have) and when I look at online projects there doesn't seem to be a good interim from one level of project to the next (in my opinion, obivously I'm speaking from a beginners point of view). I find the simple projects very easy and the advanced projects are specific enough to not help me learn what I'm aiming to learn (I mean I hardly need RF communication here).

2)Because I don't really know what kind of hardware there is available for this kind of project I figured it was best to ask the community. Like I would not have thought of a vacuum pump as a possibility. I thought of belts, but how do I ensure they only grab 1 card at a time? Stuff like that I don't know where to get or how hard they are to work with (do I need to know resistors and stuff for these things, stuff like that).

No-one:
I hope this helps,

Wow, that’s awesome. It’s definitely given me a couple ideas at least for prototyping. That’s pretty slick and looks like it would work perfectly for my initial idea. Thanks so much. I don’t see how the only one at a time thing is a problem? This is exactly what I needed. It picks up 1 card at a time, without damaging it and then moves it. With that I could move cards between stacks and use the bucket I idea I mentioned before to help keep things lined up and in stacks.

Of course hooking up this needle sucker mechanically would be the next step. Still very cool.

Also thanks for the sites to research.

Moving things about is going to require you to know something about stepping motors. http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Workshop/Motors_3.html and http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Workshop/Motors_4.html

You might get a bit closer with a look at my CNC project:- http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Hardware/CNC_Conversion.html

However, this sounds like the sort of thing you could do with Lego, there are lots of cool sites for that system of construction.

Grumpy_Mike: Moving things about is going to require you to know something about stepping motors. http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Workshop/Motors_3.html and http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Workshop/Motors_4.html

You might get a bit closer with a look at my CNC project:- http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Hardware/CNC_Conversion.html

However, this sounds like the sort of thing you could do with Lego, there are lots of cool sites for that system of construction.

Very cool, I'll have to look into this when I have some more free time. Definitely a lot to learn. I don't think I've been this excited about a project in a long time lol.

I actually did look into lego mindstorm and knex stuff but none of it was readily available where i live (haven't seen anything for sale around me at least) and figured this would be more interesting for me long term and would let me do more with it once I want to (am capable of) taking it further.

Long term something like this would be sweet, at least in terms of being able to quickly sort buckets.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMLE4Yjub_g

But that is most likely a LONG way off.

Thanks for the feedback!

You might look into the old IBM card sorting machines for ways to feed, move, transport your cards. Sure, yours don't have punch holes but that would be a matter of changing the sensing parts.

If there's any money to this then get yourself a fabrication shop foreman and an accomplished electronics hobbyist/tinkerer, both with real experience.