Introduction: Arduino Powered Dixie Cup Crusher

This instructable was created in fulfillment of the project requirement of the Makecourse at the University of South Florida (

This instructable is going to explain how to build an Arduino Powered Dixie Cup Crusher.

Equipment needed for this project:

  • Computer with Solidworks software
  • 3D Printer (Makerbot model was used for this project)
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Set of wrenches
  • Drill and jobbers drill-bits
  • Hack Saw
  • Miter Saw (optional for square cuts) or handsaw
  • Table Saw (used to cut plywood to size)
  • Welder (used to weld nuts to metal plate)
  • Drill-press with proper bits to cut steel plate
  • Spray paint (used for cosmetic reasons)

Material Used for this project:

  • Arduino Uno & Breadboard
  • The black box included in our Makecourse kit (optional)
  • 9 volt reversible DC motor
  • Male to male jumper wires
  • Female to female jumper wires
  • H-Bridge for Arduino
  • Push button (used on breadboard)
  • 3D printed gears
  • gorilla glue
  • 1/2" HSS drill bit (used to drill holes in steel plate)
  • 5/16" HSS drill bit (used to drill additional holes in steel plate)
  • Set of Alan keys
  • (2) 1/4" circular metal rods cut to 11"
  • (2) 1/4" circular all-thread rods cut to 16"
  • (1) 1/2" circular all-thread rod cut to 19"
  • (4) 1/2"-20 hex nuts
  • (8) 1/4"-20 hex nuts
  • (2) 1/2" plain washers
  • (8) 1/4" plain washers
  • (2) 1/2" split/lock washers
  • (2) 1/2" shaft collars equipped with set screws
  • (2) 1/2" shaft bearings
  • (1) 1/8" x 1/8" square rod cut to 3/4" (going to be used as shaft key)
  • (7) Drywall screws
  • (6) #8 x 1" sheet metal screws
  • (1) sheet of plywood cut to 24" x 14" x 1/8"
  • (2) 2" x 4" cut to 10"
  • (1) 4" x 4" cut to 8"
  • (1) 9 volt DC power source adapter
  • (1) 1 AC/DC wall adapter to power Arduino
  • (1) 3.5" x 4" x 1/8" steel plate

Step 1: Step 1: 3D Printing the Gears

These files included below will provide you with the gears I used for this project. The printers on campus required us to save them as .STL files, you may probably have to do the same thing. The gears in this project play a crucial role in which they transmit the torque of the motor to the rod which causes the cup to get crushed.

Here are the gear files:

Step 2: Step 2: Setting Up the Circuit

The image provided will show you how I set up my circuit. Warning: If the circuit is not set up as shown above, the sketch I provide will NOT work.

Step 3: Step 3: Uploading the Sketch to the Arduino

Here is the sketch I used to fully control the motor. The amount of time the motor travels in a direction can be altered by modifying the "time" variable. For this project, I used 32 seconds.

Step 4: Step 4: Dixie Cup Crusher Assembly

The photo above shows the Dixie Cup Crusher fully assembled. I've also included a movie below if you want to see the crusher in action. Below are the steps I used to create this masterpiece.

1. We need to prepare the pieces of lumber and steel plate for assembly. See above photos for dimensional reference (2x4 Schematic and Steel plate Schematic).

2. Next we need to Weld the 1/2' nuts to the plate at the 1/2" hole. Insert the 1/2" rod into the 1/2" hole and secure it with the 1/2" nuts. Make sure the rod is at 90 degrees to the piece of steel. Now, weld the nuts to the piece of steel.

3. We must build the crushing assembly before we can mount anything to the piece of plywood. Make sure the 2 pieces of 2" x 4" pieces of wood have the blind holes facing each other. Take your 1/2" rod, with steel plate located somewhere in the middle of the rod, slip on the shaft bearing so that they are confined in between the 2" x 4"s and put each end of the rod through the 2 pieces of wood where the 1/2" holes were drilled. Leave yourself about 2" of rod at one end, and 3" of rod at the other.

4. Now take the two pieces of the 1/4" non-threaded rod and place them into the 5/16" blind holes at the bottom of each piece of wood. This will act as a guide for the crushing ram, and also prevent the steel plate from spinning. The reasoning for the 5/16" drilled holes for a 1/4" rod is that it makes the rods "self-adjustable" and able to move if the holes aren't perfectly concentric.

5. Now we need to make sure that the 1/2" all thread rod stays stationary. Add a washer and a shaft collar to each end of the wood, and lock it down with the set screw. (These shaft collars and washers should be located on the outsides of the 2" x 4"s.)

6. Now we need to lock this assembly down with the 1/4" all thread rod. Stick one end of the rod through one of the top holes, add, in this order, a 1/4" washer, 1/4" nut, 1/4" nut, and 1/4" washer. now feed the same end of the rod though the other side 2" x 4". Make sure the rod has about the same amount of thread coming out of each side of the 2" x 4"s. Tighten the inside washers/nuts, and now add a washer and a nut to each piece of rod on the outside of the 2" x 4"s. Repeat this process for the other side. Make sure this assembly is as square as possible. you can adjust as needed.

7. Glue the bearings into the piece of wood using Gorilla Glue so they remain stationary. Use caution not to get the glue over the part that spins. This would lock up the bearing, defeating the whole purpose for having them.

8. Now we need to put the small gear on the rod. Add a 1/2" nut and a 1/2" lock washer to the end of the 1/2" rod where u have about 3" of 1/2" rod. Place the small gear on the same part of the rod, and add a 1/2" lock washer, and 1/2" nut to the other side of the gear. Make sure the gear is about 1" from the end of the rod. Now tighten this up with a set of wrenches. This will keep the gear stationary without the use of a set screw or shaft key.

9. Now, use your best judgement on where to place this assembly on the piece of plywood. I first used a pilot hole through the plywood and the bottom of the 2" x 4", screwed it in with a drywall screw then made sure it was straight before I put the second screw in to prevent it from moving. You must repeat this process till each 2" x 4" has 2 screws in the bottom of each. Keep in mind, that you still have to add the piece of 4" x 4" with motor/gear assembly, so give yourself enough room to mount the 4" x 4".

10. We then need to mount the motor to the 4" x 4". My motor came with a motor mount, so I first added the mount to the motor. I then centered it on the top of the 4" x 4" at one edge, then screwed it in using (4) #8 x 1" sheet metal screws

11. Add the big gear to the shaft of the motor, and place the 1/8" square shaft key in the key hole and flat spot of shaft to prevent this gear from spinning on the shaft.

12. With this assembly created, find the correct placement on the 4" x 4" so that the gears mesh perfectly. Mount it to the plywood using the pilot hole/drywall screw process i mentioned before. I used 3 screws in a diagonal pattern.

13. Add the electronics. Our Makecourse kit came with a Black box that I modified that way all the electronics were housed very neatly for my project. I screwed the Arduino to the bottom of the box, into the plywood so that the box was square, and also confined to one space.

14. You're all finished, grab some Dixie Cups, and let the crushing begin!