Introduction: Tilt Activated Switch

Picture of Tilt Activated Switch

It's a 3 position SPDT switch that closes (on) when tilted. Made with 3 pieces of plastic, a washer, and three machine screws + nuts. I made this switch as a hack for a cheap r/c car controller, inspired by the wiimote controlled car.

I just realized, this can also double as a pedometer or a shake sensor

See the Hand Motion Controlled R/C Car Instructable

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

two #8-32 machine screw, 3/4" long
four #8-32 machine screw nuts
one #10-32 machine screw, 3/4" long
two #10-32 machine screw nuts
a sheet of 1/8" thick TRANSPARENT plastic, lexan or acrylic can be found in home depot
a washer, 5/8" wide on the outside, with a 3/8" hole in the middle

a 1-1/2" doorknob hole saw (it's a special drill bit, see picture)
a 1" forstner drill bit (or flat wood bit but i am not sure if it works)
a drill, drill press is best, and some standard drill bits
metal files, a thin round one and a larger flat one

Step 2: Prepare the Washer

Picture of Prepare the Washer

Take the washer, and roughen up the inside and outside edges. This will make a good electrical connection.

Step 3: Plastic Disk

Picture of Plastic Disk

You need to make two plastic disks. Do this by using the drill with the doorknob saw bit.

Step 4: Plastic Ring

Picture of Plastic Ring

Make two more disks, but before you do so, use the forstner bit to make a large hole.

Step 5: Final

Picture of Final

The nice thing about making it this way is that you can let it activate at a specific angle. Another way to make a tilt switch like this is using a ball bearing inside a tube, which is very sensitive.

Since you are making a SPDP (actually SPCO according to wikipedia, since it has a "all off" position) switch, you need to put it together and see where you need to drill holes for the contacts. Stack the disks and ring with the ring and washer as the middle layer (bolded for those who do not understand). Put the #10-32 screw through the center and tighten it. Now you can rotate it and see where you should drill your holes for the contact screws (this might actually take some CAD work if you want ultimate precision).

Drill the holes with the drill bit, and screw in the #8-32 machine screws. Tighten everything with a nut, connect some wires to the three screws, and secure each wire with another nut.

To assemble it, stack it in this order
washer (inside the ring)
tighten with screws

You can drill more holes so you can choose the angle later

Test it with a multimeter

You are done, now you can connect the wires to a R/C car controller


unique1510 (author)2014-11-17

hey frank!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! can u plzzzzzzzzzzzzz............... tell it is only a circular thing with holes in it?????????????

wazalac18 (author)2013-04-25

i think he used 3 screws so he can switch it anyway he tilt it. (may it be counter/clockwise)

diy_bloke (author)2012-05-02

great idea. Not entirely sure why you need 3 screws rather than 2.

you could make it more versatile by just using 1 through screw and one bolt that has it's head in the space between the discs. You then would not need to dril additional holes for various switching positions. Just put it in th eright position and tigthen the center screw

dkalaichelvan (author)2011-11-05

so basically it works like a normal switch excepy like a see saw.....i want to make one for a project

frank26080115 (author)2011-10-18

LOL this Instructable got featured today but it was published back in 2007!

homestarrunner247 (author)2007-03-03

so... would it be possible to make a wireless "in-air" kind of mouse with this? that'd be cool! or hang this from a string with a pulley connected to the ceiling for a really unique switch!

this kind of switch would make a very crude and jerky mouse(it only has on or off) a better idea for a tilt controlled mouse would be the tube with a ball bearing and a strip of resistive material(like a slider pot). that way it moves faster the more you tilt it.

Me and my friend are experimenting with a resistor consisting of two strips of paper covered in pencil, the paper will be rolled up and there will be a conductive roller inside, this is to make a crude accelerometer

Johenix (author)frank260801152011-10-18

How about this: Take a round plastic box, like a snuff box, put a metal disk on the bottom so that it not quite touches the edges, securing it with an electrical contact screw in the center of the box and the disk. Take a piece of electricaly conductive plastic foam (Anti static foam used for shipping ICs etc.) and cut a strip that fits around the inside wall of the snuff box. Secure the foam with two electrical contact screws, leaving a small gap between the ends of the foam. Drop in a marble sized steel ball bearing and allow it to roll around making contact between the disk and the foam making a tilt sensing pot or resistor.

ill work on somthing that would do that ok..

that'd be tight!

NyXx (author)homestarrunner2472007-05-18

I have had some luck creating a very crude and simple in air mouse using a joystick (this one actually has a builtin tilt sensor) and using a software driver which enables you to use a joystick to controll your mouse functions. I guess doing something like this is easier than learning how to program a microcontroller. Though I guess code for this must be easily findable on the net.

connorbu (author)NyXx2008-01-13

Whats the driver? I've been looking for something like that forever.

NyXx (author)connorbu2008-01-14

look for something called joystick2mouse:

connorbu (author)NyXx2008-01-14


why did you make 2 rings in step 4? i only see one being used... maybe i'm not understanding something.

i made two switches, you only need 1 ring per switch

apple is making a mouse that uses accelerometers.

if somebody can program a microcontroller to out put data like a mouse, i guess it can be done.

Amit Tulshyan (author)2010-11-27

I dont understand wats the use of the ring can anyone explain it to me

icsnerdics (author)Amit Tulshyan2011-10-18

you tilt the thing, the ring touch the center screw and one of the side screws, that's it, you have a tilt sensor.

Jedrokivich (author)2011-05-31

Clever! Almost as good as a mercury tilt switch, and can be modified to suit your needs.

bertus52x11 (author)2011-02-16

This is very smart!

Neodudeman (author)2007-12-05

It's the same table he uses to chop up his murder victims.

homepago (author)Neodudeman2010-09-05


robot797 (author)Neodudeman2009-05-14

i see it is blood

Koil_1 (author)Neodudeman2008-11-17 a word... WOW!

astro boy (author)2009-12-19

 man this is awesome just what i needed thanks. : D

anakuron (author)2009-07-03

super! what a great idea! and what's best, really cheap. thanks for sharing

vlad_tepesch (author)2009-06-12

nice idea, thanks

dean-101 (author)2008-03-25

does this mean the washer will always be hitting one of the other screws or if you tilt it enough will it be out of contact with both screws

casey321b (author)dean-1012008-10-19

frank didnt quite seem to understand what you were talking about and no as long as you use a washer that is not as wide as the screws are apart it wont touch and even if it would that would mean you did it wrong and they would always touch from then on

frank26080115 (author)dean-1012008-03-25

there will be moments when the washer is disconnected due to vibration, but for purposes that does not require precision, this is ok.

QwertyuioLP (author)2008-02-06

can u do it wirelessly?

casey321b (author)QwertyuioLP2008-10-19

what do you mean by wirelessly?

casey321b (author)2008-10-19

doesnt seem like too much work. i dont see what the deal is with the other guys but i was wondering could i do this with cardboard instead of plastic? ill probly stick with plastic but i was planning on using nails instead of screws and just some how fastening them on the other side

ootsae (author)2008-09-18

Seems like a lot work but, no mercury and it looks great.

Kydoes (author)2008-09-15

Sorry but the solution for all this hard work was created long ago. It's called a mercury switch. ;)

hondagofast (author)2007-11-22

Is that blood or a stain on the table?

yes, and my body is made of wood see if you get that joke

HaHa That means its a stain?

budsiskos (author)2008-01-09

what home depot are you shopping at? i cant find plastic any where except from big manufacturers

frank26080115 (author)budsiskos2008-01-09

it's in the window glass section

Liquidhypnotic (author)2007-06-27

I'm sorry; I think the last step needs a lot more clarification. As I understand it, the center screw is one pole while either outer screw is the outer pole? And then the washer hangs off the central screw a little bit, and so when the thing tilts to either side a certain amount, then the washer hits one of the side screws, and then the current is conducted through the outer screw, the washer, and the central screw. Is this all correct? Ah, I think I get it. That's pretty damn ingenious! ...I do have it right, yeah?

Why do you make two rings?

yea, you got it

Neodudeman (author)frank260801152007-12-05

Oh thanks. I didn't get it. lol.

hondagofast (author)2007-11-22

This would be great if I could get a new arduino! My old NG fried when I bought a bad 12V motor controller shield.. :\ I wanna get the new diciemilia.

actually if you want to save a bit of money, the new freeduino boards look awesome, there is even a kit (surface mount chip already done for you), and the PCB is red, very badass

and this one is prebuilt with SMT parts

yeah, but for ten dollars more, i could get a fully assembled diecimilia here:

there is a preassembed one for 27 in the 2nd link i posted

About This Instructable




Bio: I am an electrical engineer. I graduated from U of Waterloo. I used to work for Adafruit Industries as an EE. Now I work for ... More »
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