Introduction: Bubble Machine

Picture of Bubble Machine

Making your own bubble machine is a really easy and fun project. It can be made from almost anything, glued and screwed together with an end result which will keep kids (and adults!) amused for hours.

With basic electronics of just a fan and a motor, a bubble machine is also a really easy first electronics project. This one I threw together with spare minutes here and there across the period of a week. The longest part was waiting for the centrifugal fan to arrive from Amazon, the best part was making a lot of mess in the Instructables office before realising that the shower would be a better place to blow bubbles while testing.

My bubble machine was made to keep my friends' toddler amused. She loves bubbles but is at an age where blowing them herself is rather hit or miss (not to mention messy). She spent a VERY happy 15 minutes running through and around them in the street outside, afterwhich the adults stepped in to play with heating the bubbles to see if they'd go higher, or experimenting with different bubble mixes to see if any where noticably better.

Earn 3 months pro membership: Anyone who makes their own bubble machine and posts a photo in the comments will get a code for 3 months of pro membership from me.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

These are the tools and materials that I used for my bubble machine. Yours will differ greatly depending on what you have available. This is a great project to do with scraps, and odds and ends all hacked together. It doesn't have to look amazing to be a lot of fun, it just has to work.

To make it easier for others to reproduce this, I've done away with my normal format of exactly what to use and instead broken it down into the five main components the machine's made from. The 5 steps after this talk about what alternatives you could use and what each has to do to make a great bubble machine. I then give details on how to assemble it if you did it exactly like mine.

Trough: To hold the bubble solution. It needs to be waterproof and not too shallow, that's it.

Bubble Ring: A ring of holes that will spin slowly through the trough picking up the bubble solution. As it lifts out of the trough the holes pass before a blower to form the bubbles.

Motion: A slowly moving motor to spin the bubble ring. A continuous servo is perfect for this.

Blower: Something with a bit of puff. Will force the bubble liquid out of the holes in the ring, forming BUBBLES! I used this 12V centrifugal server fan from Amazon.

Power: A power source or two for the blower and spinner.

You'll also need nuts, bolts, hot glue or superglue to hold everything together.

The files I used for laser cutting are included in this step.

Step 2: Trough

Picture of Trough

This component could be a cut down milk carton, a tupperware food storage box, some plastic food packaging or an over-engineered, laser cut,  orange acrylic, finger jointed trough. I went this road as I enjoy using CAD and the laser cutter, tools a lot of people don't have.

All that matters is that it'll hold the liquid and you can mount your motor of choice onto it.

Mine was drawn in Alibre Design then the tabs were adding using a beta version of 123d plate which will hopefully soon be available as part of 123d. I then laser cut it in 1/8" acrylic and used super glue to hold it together. To waterproof the joints I ran a line of clear packing tape down the outside. I also included in the design some slots raised above the trough on which to mount my servo. Hot glue would have worked equally well!

Step 3: Bubble Ring

Picture of Bubble Ring

Next you'll need something that will rotate through the trough to pick up the bubble liquid. Taking the wands out of a bumper pack of bubbles would be a great idea, then glueing them in a circle and mounting the motor at the middle. Of course.... I didn't do that, it had to be laser cut to make use of a tool I had but didn't need.

Mine's cut from 1\8" acrylic with 16 holes around a 6" perimeter. Each hole has slots cut into it so that it'll hold more liquid. There are holes cut in the middle to mount it to a standard servo arm with self tapping screws.

Step 4: Motion

Picture of Motion

Next, spinning your bubble ring in the trough. You'll need a motor that you can screw or glue your bubble ring to.

I went for a modified servo, it has a nice slow rotation and requires just two AA batteries. This tutorial by robomaniac  shows you how to modify a servo to not require the control signal. You could also use any geared motor from an electronics store or even a standard K'nex or Lego one.

Step 5: Blower

Picture of Blower

I chose to use a $5 centrifugal fan from Amazon. It runs on 12V and has an air flow similar to a standard PC fan but over a much smaller area. Running at 9V it wasn't strong enough, but on 12V it was perfect.

You could also use a hair dryer, heat gun on its cold setting, a small desk fan with a cone on it. I don't recommend reversing a vacuum cleaner, it made a lot of mess in the Instructables office!

Step 6: Power

The power you'll need for your bubble machine will depend on the motor and blower you choose. I used 2 AA batteries for the servo motor and a 12V drill battery for the blower.

What motors you choose to run will determine what battery or adaptor you need.

Step 7: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

And here's how mine went together:

Photo 1: The servo is bolted to the trough with two M4 machine screws and nuts. The AA battery holder is hot glued to the trough and wires to the servo are soldered and insulated.

Photo 2: The bubble ring is screwed on to the servo with 4 self tapping screws. Note how close to the bottom of the trough the ring must go so that it picks up every last bit of bubble liquid.

Photo 3: A rear view of the ring on the servo.

Photo 4: A centrifugal fan is glued onto the back, pointing at the holes in the ring. Test where it has to point before glueing it, see where you get the best bubbles. I found that with it pointing there the bubbles shot up as well as out. For testing I used a bench top power supply, outside I switched to a 12V cordless drill battery.

Step 8: Operation

Picture of Operation

So as you can see, I had a lot of fun building and playing with my bubble machine. It started out as a project to amuse a toddler and ended up also amusing a lot of business men/women in downtown San Francisco as we blew bubbles off the Instructables fire escape.

A 12V cordless drill battery made a great portable power supply for the bubble machine, they're easily available and easily rechargable and much more convenient than trailing wires from a benchtop supply.

The bubble solution I used was 1/2 dish washing liquid and 1/2 water as I soon ran out of the original bottle of miracle bubbles. This 50:50 mix worked really well, though some people also recommend a spoon full of glycerine thrown in too.

Once whatever kid that the machine was intended for has grown bored and moved over, the adults get to play! It turns out that pre-heating the air with a hair drier or blasting it high speed with a reversed shop vac is a lot of fun, though I'll leave you to find out why.

Comments

Liv123456789123456789 made it! (author)2017-03-20

I took inspiration from this and adapted it as part of my final design for my coursework. It's awesome I admit. I kinda took the idea to the extrme. I had the idea to have a rotating bubble machine anyway but your design was the one I took inspiration from to make the bubble bit.

CreativeBlossom (author)2016-11-19

This is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;D ;D ;D

SWJTUyuhui (author)2016-08-24

So interesting,I love it.Thank you for sharing.

TweekyThingz (author)2015-10-11

Works great :)

PratheeshP2 made it! (author)2015-10-06

taking inspiration from your design, i have designed a bubble machine which can be 3D printed. This also includes the centrifugal fan. all you require is one geared toy motor and a standard toy motor.

Antzy Carmasaic (author)2012-04-13

I'm making one but I don't have a laser cutter. I'm cutting the circles out of about 1mm thick sheet of plastic. The problem is I'm using a cutter and even the most careful cutting sometimes leaves miniscule sharp points. This doesnt let the bubble form.
Anyone got any ideas how to cut out perfect circles sans a laser cutter?

I made a bubble machine and purchased the 'old fashioned' bubble wands (the 'stick' with the round ring at the end - the kind that came one to a small bottle of bubble solution) and added them to my wheel.

That's a neat and simple but slightly expensive option.

If you were to use acrylic sheet or Plexiglas, a spade drill bit does a surprisingly good job of making holes. Sand the edges a bit, and you're good to go.

This comment is 2 years late, but it got my gears spinning... I tried the build then but failed because the material was too flimsy and circles imperfect. Maybe I'll give it another go...

anteino (author)Antzy Carmasaic2015-06-05

You were using plastic, why didn't you use a lighter to carefully melt the sharp edges?

Antzy Carmasaic (author)anteino2015-06-05

I did. They came out oddly shaped and slightly better at making bubbles but still not good enough.
Laser cutting is much more accessible and cheaper now than when I posted this comment. That is probably the best way to go about making this.

anteino (author)Antzy Carmasaic2015-06-07

You're probably right. I know that is true for 3d printing. If you'd like to print some parts you should check out 3dhubs.com something similar for laser cutting might also exist. It would at least be way cheaper than having it made by a professional company.

cameraeyes (author)2015-01-08

I love the design. As simple as can be.
One question: do you have a problem, or foresee the problem with all-day use, with bubble solution dripping onto the servo or the shaft, and gumming everything up? Or causing a short? Offsetting the disc from the servo with a spacer might fix this, but have you seen the need?

Bowtie41 (author)2014-12-31

I'm wondering what effect making a nozzle from the fan outlet tapering to a round shape the same diameter as the holes and fitting close to the disc would make?I'm guessing it would be way more efficient.

CurtR (author)2014-12-30

Why not attach a fan/pinwheel blade to the soap wheel between the fan and soap wheel. That way you won't need a servo motor to turn the soap wheel.

chipnut (author)2014-12-30

Why not just spin it with the drill on very low speed? Spinning it by hand is just as effective. Mount the wheel on an axle attached to the basin. A Dremel or drill with a rubber tip can spin the wheel. or buy a servo with a wheel and drill the holes. https://www.servocity.com/html/precision_disk_wheels.html

mslee made it! (author)2014-04-24

Love this project!!! Made it two versions awhile ago and wanted to share them. Version 1.0 leaked a bunch so 2.0 was 3D printed. I also didn't have much luck with my fan blowing actual bubbles... I got a few different ones and they weren't strong enough or the angle wasn't right. But I actually preferred the foam cluster masses it developed. These were early prototypes for my MFA thesis work: http://biobubbles.tumblr.com/tagged/process ... such a great intro into making for fun :)

Version 2.0: 3D printed trough and bubble ring, then painted white and assembled with motor and used external fan.


Verison 1.0: Lasercut and assembled the red acrylic bubble ring and trough, with Ardunio controlled 360 servo motor, DC 12V fan and AC Adapter.


Lukaszkos (author)2014-02-14

and here is a movie-first tests:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIlqhNpUyng

Jayefuu (author)Lukaszkos2014-02-14

Brilliant! I wonder if you used a hair drier instead the heat would make the bubbles rise better rather than dropping to the floor.

Lukaszkos made it! (author)2014-02-14

Ty for this instructable made my own version.

Jayefuu (author)Lukaszkos2014-02-14

Awesome! Nice build.

FlipFlop (author)2013-12-02

I cannot download the .dxf file provided by you? Can you please check and see what's wrong? Or can you upload it again maybe in a zip file?
Thank you very much

lheeyoung (author)2013-12-02

It is a good invention. pc cooler is the most I love it! Great idea!
You are a good person. Thank haejusyeoseo information sharing.

spark27 (author)2013-11-23

Very nice!
I want download a bubble ring dxf file but, it wasn't .
How can i download this file?
Would you send me a mail this file?

Partybot (author)2013-11-05

Great build. I especially like the use of batteries from the hand tools. Very clever use of existing materials any Maker would already have. Now to try and mod it to be travel friendly on a Halloween Costume without soaking me in soapy water. It should definitely add some X-Factor.

arzola1 (author)2013-06-23

Thank you, thank you, thankUthankUthankU

csherry (author)2013-05-28

could u plz list your sources for the materials you used..... i would love to make something like this with my nephew. thanks

agis68 (author)2013-03-24

pretty cool...amazing fun. thanks for sharing

rlarios (author)2013-02-26

Hi Jayefuu, nice idea. How did you come up with the idea?

By the way, thanks for the following.

Jayefuu (author)rlarios2013-02-27

If I remember rightly, when I stayed in San Francisco, Christy and Eric's daughter loved bubbles and kept asking us to blow them for her. So I made a machine to do it for us rather than go out and buy a machine.

rimar2000 (author)2012-05-30

That beautiful girl/child in step 8, is yours?

canida (author)rimar20002012-05-31

That one's mine. Thank you! :)

Jayefuu (author)rimar20002012-05-31

Afraid not! That's Eric and Christy's kid, Corvidae.

J

msaleiro (author)2012-05-29

Really cool project! :) I've been slowly helping my girlfriend doing something similar but it's not finished yet. Yours looks really clean and simple! Congrats!

Samuel Bernier (author)2012-04-08

This little girl is more present on internet than Lady Gaga!

alitia (author)2012-04-08

Has anyone seen the "bubble mobile" at Madison, Wisconsin's Willy St Fair?

http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=3673067

The guy made it just for this one day every year, and does it just to make people happy.
We love the bubble guy!

swodzins (author)2012-04-02

What kind of laser cutter do you own?

Jayefuu (author)swodzins2012-04-03

This particular project was cut on an Epilog 75W laser cutter.

sourabh882008 (author)2012-03-31

Very nice :-D
Loved it :-D
&
Thanks :-D

BytePilot (author)2012-03-25

I've made one passing similar using something out of my junk box.
A centrifugal fan driven bya motor with a back spindle to which a gearbox was attached.
Laser cut disk much the same as yours, but I extended the crinkle cut edges with engraved slots to hold even more bubble mix.

At 6volts It eats through 3.4 of a pot of bubble mixture in 10 minutes....
Nom nom nom...

Jayefuu (author)BytePilot2012-03-25

Nice! How long did that take you, and when did you make it?

BytePilot (author)Jayefuu2012-03-25

Oops, sorry, missed a bit. Made it about 2pm today.

BytePilot (author)Jayefuu2012-03-25

Thank you. It works rather well...
Took about (thinx) an hour to prep DXF files, half an hour cutting and assembling, and another hour for glue to set.

Alas it's back in the workshop right at this moment, getting another round of epoxy resin. Wee Lad was so exited he dragged it off the table and cracked the box off the mounting.

I've attached the DXF files here, they may not be a lot of use to anyone else alas, since they were made to fit the junk fan I had available.

ilpug (author)2012-03-22

I like it! I really need to get some time on a laser cutter... I like how this is a finished design build. Most things like this on the site are a bit cobbled together, but this is fully realized! That said, it could also be easily reverse engineered with some pretty basic materials.

Jayefuu (author)ilpug2012-03-22

Thanks. If I made another I'd design in a mount for the fan so that I didn't need any hot glue at all. It'd make an ideal kit then.

ilpug (author)Jayefuu2012-03-22

Yeah, that could be done. If I ever make one of these it will probably be a very rigged one.

dreamberry (author)2012-03-22

Hero status for you, sir.

hertzgamma (author)2012-03-22

Amazing!

Lindie (author)2012-03-22

Love it! Please tell Randy to make me one! Thanks. :-)

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