While there’s nothing quite as bad as stepping on a stray LEGO block, a close second is having to sort out the mess of bricks once you (or your kids) are done using them. It’s bad enough finding all of the little buggers, but when you’re a LEGO aficionado who plans on using specific parts for future builds, categorizing LEGOs can be an even bigger pain.
LEGO mastermind Daniel West has gotten tired of sorting LEGOs the old fashioned way. Determined to make manual brick sorting a thing of the past, he recently used his love for toy bricks and artificial intelligence to make his own universal LEGO sorting machine — capable of sorting “every LEGO brick that’s ever been in production”:
West’s Universal LEGO Sorting Machine is itself made up of over 10,000 LEGO blocks, 6 LEGO motors, and 9 servo motors that allow it to segregate the heaps of LEGOs you’ll feed it after a long playtime. You’ll still have to separate each LEGO brick from one another before putting it in the machine, but once you do, Daniel’s invention will sort the LEGO parts into 18 different LEGO containers at a rate of 1 piece per every 2 seconds.
The machine is composed of three main parts:
First, you have the input bucket which consists of two conveyor belts and a vibration feeder. The first two belts slowly push the stack of parts you unceremoniously dumped into the machine so the vibration feeder can release them one brick at a time into the 3D scanner.
Once they get to the scanner, 3D images of the parts are taken and sent to an onboard Raspberry Pi computer. These images are then sent via Wi-Fi to Daniel’s laptop which classifies the LEGO parts and sends the data back to the sorting machine.
Armed with the new information, the universal sorting machine can now drop the part down a series of LEGO gates where it is sorted accordingly. Daniel has created 18 buckets that categorize them according to their part class. Bent connectors can be found in one bucket, straight connectors in another, and so on.
According to Daniel, the machine’s A.I. takes 3D images of the parts it sorts and uses them to classify each particular piece into its own category. The convolutional neural network in the A.I. allows it to learn and store new pieces in its database, including LEGO pieces which were made after the A.I.’s creation.
If you want to learn more about Daniel’s universal LEGO sorting machine, he has made two articles that go more in-depth on the technology he used to create his brick-biased behemoth. For his other LEGO creations (such as a LEGO bolt action rifle with a grenade launcher), be sure to check out his YouTube channel.