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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Marble Machine Goes Modular - Testing

Today started the testing process. I didn't feel well at all, but figured that I could handle just testing, as I didn't foresee any problems, so off to the shop I went. I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong. There was a problem, a huge one. While building up tracks, nothing lined up as it should.
After doing some measuring and double, and triple checking, I found the problem. I had made a gigantic mistake. I'm not talking about a little boo-boo. I'm talking a mistake of epic proportions. This is my worst fear when building something like this. Some problems don't present themselves until everything else is done and you are down to final testing.
The problem was the feed trough. You may recall how much I keep harping on keeping that same 3.2cm spacing grid pattern through out the machine? In order to do so, the feed trough that runs through the middle of the two base plates was supposed to be 3.2cm wide, with the middle section being 1.8cm and the two sides being 0.7cm. Well apparently I had one of those brain farts I am so famous for. I somehow, in my head, added those two side measurements together and came up with two 1.4cm sides. That made the trough 4.6cm wide and threw everything off the grid by 1.4cm. That just wasn't going to do.
So I done some head scratching trying to figure out a way to correct this situation without rebuilding the whole base unit.
I tried offsetting holes in the block that is up high on the elevator column. That worked, unless you tried running track across the feed trough and back. So that still wouldn't work. There was just no way around it. At the very least I was going to have to rebuild the feed trough.
After rebuilding the feed trough I had to enlarge the notches on the base plates to bring them over to the new, narrower trough. This left a 0.7cm gap on the sides. I was out of suitable plywood to redo the base plates, and that material isn't exactly cheap, so I made and glued in filler strips on each side of the base.
Then it was back to testing. After making the modifications to the trough and plates, all was lining up ok now. However, I am not happy with the building of the tracks at all. You see, there are plenty of track elements to build any kind of configuration you can think of. The problem is that it is a puzzle to get it all supported high enough without running out of riser blocks. There are plenty of blocks to tie things together, but not enough of the taller blocks to build upwards. In fact, it is too much of a puzzle in my opinion. The idea is supposed to be to be able to build whatever you like, not to have to solve puzzles to do so. So I am going to make more of the tall square blocks.
Another thing I noticed was that, while building all of this, and tying it all together using marbles, the marbles I have are running out quickly. I need to go buy some more marbles. You see, the marbles come fifty to a bag. However, of the bags I've bought so far, less than half of them are five eighths inch or smaller so they'll work with this grid design. It's alright though. At a dollar a bag, I figure I'll buy five or six more bags, weed out the oversized ones, and have enough to get the task done without further issues.
So, I only thought I was done except for the testing. I need more blocks and marbles. That is next on the agenda. 

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