The one thing that JK Brickworks does well is to combine LEGO bricks and motion. Well, okay, there’s more to their builds than that. There’s also the stellar look to their creations. And the great photos they take of them. And…well, look, we’re dangerously close to just doing a Spanish Inquisition tribute here. Let’s just say they’re a master at their craft and move on. Because JK Brickworks has finally entered the realm of the GBC, and it’s a wonder to behold. (That’s a “Great Ball Contraption” for those of you who haven’t encountered them yet.)
In Robot Dreams a quartet of workers rhythmically and endlessly pass tiny LEGO basketballs to each other. Each one has unique coloring and characteristics, but otherwise they’re just extremely decorative cogs in a machine. There’s an old saying about sled dogs – unless you’re in the lead, the view never really changes. Kinda makes you feel bad for at least three of these robots.
But words don’t really do this one justice. You need to see it in action. And, thankfully, there’s a video that not only shows this one in motion, but also gives some great looks at the Technic gearing and methodology that brought these robots to life.
Of all the incredibly impressive Great Ball Contraptions out there, you don’t see too many that mime regular objects. Intro Berthil van Beek’s roulette wheel. This expertly engineered marvel is a real treat to watch!
Builder Berthil van Beek takes the easy and makes it complex, simply because he can! What you see here is a LEGO ball counter. Yes, you have that right. It’s a ball counter that actually displays a moving tally as the balls pass through.
Dropping the balls at one end of the contraption allows the LEGO balls to run through a Technic turnstile and end up in the container at the far end.
This railway contraption by Akiyuki seems to have a single objective: mesmerizing viewers with an incredible orchestration of moving trains while appearing to be doing something relatively productive.
Its only function is a closed looped system that transports LEGO balls. This type of machine is commonly known by LEGO fans as a Great Ball Contraption. Here, the machine consists of a circuit of tracks and seems to perform a crucial task, and that appearance is itself quite a major feat of design and ingenuity. For me, I’d prefer to call it out as an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) machine—which is a fancy way of saying it gives me the shivers—and it makes me want to stare at it continuously.
Consisting of several modules and utilising four carriages to transport the balls from section to section, let’s take a look at the various modules that make this thingamajig tick.
Japanese builder akiyuki applies the concept of strain wave gearing to Great Ball Contraptions, a popular LEGO fan convention theme in which hundreds of balls are passed through complex machinery. From both an engineering and a visual standpoint, the module is mesmerizing to watch. See the module in action in the following 2 minute video.
A fascinating read detailing the design process and engineering challenges faced by the builder can be found on akiyuki’s blog.
Great Ball Contraptions are a mainstay of LEGO conventions, consisting of short sections of machinery which transport LEGO soccer balls from one side to another. Each builder’s machine can be connected to the next, to transport a dizzying number of balls around a display. Many builders focus on the all-important task of getting the fundamental mechanics working smoothly, but we’re seeing more and more builders take some time for the aesthetics as well. One such example is this enthralling contraption bychumuhou (楚沐猴), which has a fantastic steam-age industrial vibe. Check out the video to see it in action, too!