Instructables
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This is a basic tilt sensor inspired by ball-and-cage style sensors, but 2d instead of 3d. A captured nickle connects pairs of wires depending on the sensor orientation. These are quick to build, and pretty cheap; I came up with them for a project where I wanted to know which face of a cube was pointing up (a task for which you only need two -- I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader).

The nickle does sometimes catch a bit on the perfboard; gluing something a bit slipperier onto the board, or lightly sanding it, might help.
 
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Step 1: Break the Perfboard

Figure out how many holes apart you will need each pin in the cage to be -- you'd like it to be the case that the nickle only touches two at once, but too much play will waste board. I left six holes between pins, axis-aligned. This was a bit looser than I would have liked. Having the cage slightly diagonally oriented might allow a better fit.

After doing the layout, score and break the board. I score a few times on each side with a box knife and break over the corner of a table. In these pictures I'm making two sensors, so I've made four plates -- a top and a bottom for each. The little bit of extra board was useful elsewhere in the project.

Step 2: Build the cage

To build the cage, cut and strip some solid-core wire (I happened to have copper around), and solder into one of the boards to create corner posts. Shore up the cage by gluing shims at each corner beside the posts. These are cut from popsicle stick, because popsicle stick plus hot-melt glue was just think enough that the nickle could slide freely.

Step 3: Top it off.

Finally, glue the top down. With hot-melt, I could only manage to get two corners glued (any more and the glue would cool before I could thread the pins through the top board). I squished some extra in from the sides on the other corners.
Bigev5 years ago
I wonder, could you thread the pins, then squirt in the glue? That way you could just drop the board on top, no hurry!
diy_bloke Bigev2 years ago
my thought exactly :-)
toelle5 years ago
Nice Instructable, no offence but i built a better tilt sensor .
show us. don't feel like I am calling you out or something but if you think it is better prove it and show us the product or how to do it. I'm getting some components in hand for a project but i want the best/ cheapest. so far this is a good option but if yours is better, show me.
Okay, kind of hard to explain in the comments. I'll make an instructable. I'll pm you when its finished
Aplonis toelle3 years ago
I'd be interested in this...except that I see the promised instructable is now two years, nine months old without result. Here's hoping to see it soon?
toelle Aplonis3 years ago
I forgot about this comment at the time, so I never got around to creating this. So I'm not sure if it'll be done or if it's even relevant anymore?
Goodhart toelle5 years ago
Let us all know :-)
cool i look forward to it.
This is meant to be a quick and cheap sensor. So yeah, we all can build better tilt sensors and we all can spend lots of money and get really nice ones. Please don't try to put down this instructable. What makes this site great is all the different ways to do things. We don't just want one instructable for each idea, we want as many creative ways we can get! So please don't try to make yourself better by putting down others.
It was never meant to "put down" anyone or "make myself better" at all. I was actually going to create an instructable about how I think it could've been done better, but never got around to doing it. And as you say, we want as many ideas as we can get. However, please note that the original comment is now almost 3 years old.
frollard5 years ago
My favourite toy from years past: Brain Warp uses a ball bearing sensor, similar to this, its inside an octahedron shape, where each corner has a set of connectors. This is a great instructable! (and good job getting tagged on hackaday!)
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eeejae frollard3 years ago
YES! and our favorite family toytoo. It came apart when changeing the batteries. Now it only says, "game ready..." and does nothing else. Please share the schematic so we can put it back to working order. Thanks.
oh man, I LOVED Brain Warp, but I left it with my parents when I moved out for college. Now I have rubiks revolution, which is similiar, but not as good.
Unit0425 years ago
This, while a simple proof of concept, using a single coin instead of a ball and cage, is an awesome idea. I'm gonna recommend this to my friends, and possibly build one in the near future.
I'm trying to find a way to use fewer microcontroller pins to check the sensor's state, by not having any power sent to the coin itself. (coin acts as a multi-pole relay, only touching two together, not supplying power to any pins, just connecting them together)

Hint: More pins around the nickel = higher resolution (accuracy)

The maker of this 'ible has brought an intermediate-cost sensor, and brought it to the hobbyist level!
This gets five stars, favorited, and user-subscribed!
Unit042 Unit0425 years ago
Aha! I found an interface method using two wires to monitor the standard four wire model shown. (Schematic can be drawn and posted if requested.) PS: I wonder what uses a three-wire cage would have?
eranox Unit0424 years ago
Couldn't you use resistors of different values for each wire, and then use an analog pin on your microcontroller (or an array of comparators connected to a digital pin perhaps) to sense which wire/s were being contacted? I think numeric keypads use a similar technology, which allows one lead to be connected to ground and the other to be connected to a single pin on the microcontroller. Pressing each button gives a different resistance, and that's how the microcontroller knows which button is pressed. This would let you have a virtually unlimited number of wires and use only one pin on your microcontroller.

I know I'm about a year late to jump in on this, but maybe it's still a help. :p
Unit042 eranox4 years ago
Interesting idea. It would be difficult to organize the resistors into a coherent circle-arrangement, as one resistor set would be sharing a side with two other potential contacts....
I'll have to break out my circuit simulator for this idea....
skabonner5 years ago
i saw a detonator in an old vietnam improvised munitions handbook. but they used a ball bearing
we used mercury switches.
nah, just pull ring and throw. better, failproof.
NXTwiz5 years ago
now would u be able to connect the four wires to the 4 connectors on the psp circuit where the anolouge stick goes? that way u'd have a motion sensor?
NXTwiz NXTwiz5 years ago
srry i meant a tilt sensor?
I don't think so. the psp measures values of x and y and returns them through the four connectors. the analog stick acts as a variable resistor and tells the psp how far along the x and y axis the joystick is.
ya i realized that after a while. k thx anyway
geeklord5 years ago
Well, you beat Digi-Key price wise. Good job, I think I'll make one.
mathman475 years ago
The KISS method. And a real thought started. I linked to this from a self-balancing robot Instructable and this sure beats a microswitch with a weight. What ever happened to toelle's sensor?
game165 years ago
How would you use it? I'm a beginner, sorry but how do you use this sensor?
connect gnd to the nickel and +5V to each pin, when the two touch it will register 'high' on the microcontroller.
jimmy dean5 years ago
Wouldn't it be more useful if wired positive to the nickel, negative to the nickel with a 10k resistor in between the nickel and negative, and then had each pin going to a digital in?
PKTraceur5 years ago
Wouldnt a penny work better? I thought that copper had better conductivity, and would be cheaper. Thanks, you project has inspired me to make an awesome flashlight. -RoAr
magicentral5 years ago
How about a BB Instead of a ball bearing or nickel? You could make a lot of tiny sensors for fairly cheap. One carton of BBs has a lot in it and you only need a 2x2 perf board or a smaller custom one. It would be much smaller and more sensitive.
but the BB's could hang in the perf board's holes. a sheet of copper maybe a better rolling surface.
but a copper sheet is completely conductive
Indeed. You would have to insulate the pins with plastic or rubber grommets, or something (just where they entered the copper sheet).
if you just drilled holes in a sheet of plastic for the pins then that would work without insulation
as long as the metal ball or BB closed two contacts (completed a circuit) near the pin.
but if we are going for small, and rolling is not good because it is too sesitive, then why haven't we cosidered, pennies, dimes, or even small washers?
By the way, "BB" is short for "Ball Bearing."
No, it isn't. US standard shot sizes are 12, 9, 8, 7-1/2, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, B, BB, BBB, and T. Nothing whatever to do with ball bearings. BBs are generally a little irregular anyway, which would have a negative effect on sensitivity. A stainless ball bearing would work well, I think.
jeff-o5 years ago
I suppose you could also use a ball bearing, though there's a chance it would roll around *too* much...
I agree. I think a small flat, and round object would e better. A BB would roll around at the slightest provocation.
I suppose it depends on how sensitive you want the switch to be.
Goodhart jeff-o5 years ago
or, depending on the size of the ball, hang in some of the holes....
landru5 years ago
sorry to be a pain but I can't resist pointing out that it's "nickel" not "nickle." My daughter placed 2nd in a spelling bee, instead of winning, for that mistake :) nice instructable & a cool idea, though.
stone34085 years ago
Great instructable! Very simple and easy to adapt to many different problems with a wide range of materials. Thanks for sharing.
Sandisk1duo5 years ago
Cool! better then getting a $20 gyroscope and programing it! quick and dirty
AtomSoft5 years ago
Pref boards are about $2 small and $5 large.... I like this... one could save the nickle and just find or get a old motherboard from a PC and take out the old coin cell battery and use that. Or if doing the ball bearing type way make sure you make a small hole/notch for the ball to slip into so it wont move on a vibration.
Plasmana5 years ago
That is a clever idea!
Learndy5 years ago
Great! Simple and effective. That's how I like it.

One idea regarding cage-building and glue: How about stacking paper that it is just a little thicker than the nickle and then putting the hot glue besides the paper stacks? Or no glue at all but bind the boards with a thread or fishing line or some thin wire? Or even replace one or two of the cage-boards with (thick) paper? An endless number of ideas, possibilites, options... ;-)
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rickyd!5 years ago
what a great instructable...i wish i war as resourceful as you
Arbitror5 years ago
Super Idea! Very unique!
ste54425 years ago
Thanks for the instructable - very novel.
How about trying an accelerometer made out of a nickel and a strain gauge!
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amando965 years ago
pretty cool! whenever i need one i will most ceratanly build one of those, although perf board is impossible to buy here... but yea good instructable
br3ttb5 years ago
Great idea! I'm a big fan of cheap DIY solutions. It seems as though this design could be expanded upon as well. If you used 8 wires in an octagon for example, you could get twice the tilt resolution. Not really necessary for your cube project though.
zomfibame5 years ago
nice
This is a very simple, but effective solution. I enjoy instructables like this that present easier ways of doing things, but also have room for additional creativity. For istance, if you don't have perfboard, you could always use balsa, plexiglas or in a pinch cardboard, though it would involve a drill. You could use washers instead of nickels to allow different sized sensors (if weight was an issue, for instance). Thanks for sharing this 'ible. And BTW, welcome to Instructables! Looking forward to seeing more from you.
ix (author)  inventorjack5 years ago
Thank you. Regarding materials: my first version was made out of foam-core; it's a bit squishy to use for the spacers, but otherwise performed quite well. It was easy to position the pins using just a dental pick to poke holes.
8bit5 years ago
How much was the perf board?