Introduction: Build a Mini Atomium

In this Instructable, I will explain you how to build your own mini Atomium. For those who don't know what the Atomium is, it is a huge monument in the Brussels, the capital of Belgium. The Atomium was build in 1958 for the Brussels World's Fair and engineered by André Waterkeyn. It is 102m tall. It is a engineering prowess! Here is the wikipedia link :

It looks very impressive doesn't it! Now, there is a secret to it. The whole monument is actually a simple cube lying on a one of its corners. Once we have realise this, the building will be a whole lot easier.

Making your own is very easy. Follow this simple step by step Instructable and don't forget to vote for me in the Metal Contest ;)

Step 1: Let's Do Some Plans and Organise Ourself!

The building is going to be very easy. First, we are going to understand the structure of the Atomium. As I said, it is basically a cube sitting on one of its corner. At each corner of the cube, there is a sphere.The cube has also one sphere in its center linked to the 8 balls that are at the corner of the cube.

Here is a nice 3d model of it. Enjoy playing with it and get excited to build one for yourself!

The main challenge that I found building this project was positioning the center sphere at the center of the cube as it is in 3 dimensions. I found a nice way to overcome this issue. We are going to easily place it a "2 dimensions" face made by 4 opposite sphere of the cube and the center sphere. It is a rectangle made by 4 spheres and the center sphere in the center.

Let's have a look at the inside face of the Atomium made by 4 opposite sphere of the cube and the center ball as this will be our start of our building!

In the next step, we are going to build a welding jig for this face.

Step 2: What You Will Need, the Inventory :

Ok, so what you will need to build your mini Atomium can easily be found in your local hardware shop.

Here is the inventory list :

Material :

  • 9x stainless steel ball bearings with a 40 mm diameter
  • 12x stainless steel 70.8 mm rod of 8mm diameter
  • 8x stainless steel 56.4 mm rod of 8mm diameter
  • a small stainless steel 20mm rod of 8mm diameter
  • a metal plate of 360 mm by 205 mm and minimum 5 mm of depth
  • a piece of wood of 40 mm by 48 mm by 20 mm
  • another piece of nice wood of 235 mm by 100 mm by 45 mm

Tools :

  • tig welding machine (or mig welding, I used tig) and welding clamp + safety gear
  • a drill (drill bits....) + safety gear
  • a milling machine (optional) to mill the piece of wood) + safety gear
  • a ruler

Now that we have got everything, let's get excited and build an Atomium!

Step 3: Let's Build a Welding Jig Part 1

Here we go. We want to have an Atomium that is nice and strait with the right angles. Therefor we are going to build a welding jig that is going to hold the ball bearings into places while we are welding the 8mm rods that links them together.

I found a great idea to do this. We are going to start welding the face that contains the center ball. For that, let's take a steel plate and drill holes where the balls are going to sit while we are going weld the sticks to them. We are going also to drill 2 other holes that are the same distance apart and form a square for the sides of the cube.

I drilled 15mm holes. The distance between the centre of the holes that forms the square is 110mm. The distance between the centre of the holes that form the rectangle of the longer side of the rectangle is 155mm. And the hole in the middle of the rectangle has been placed on the intersection of the 2 diagonals of the rectangle.

Here is the plan!

With this jig, it will be easy to hold the ball at the right place while welding. The next step is to make a jig2 that holds the sticks!

Step 4: Let's Build a Welding Jig Part 2

We have got the balls in place, now we are going to hold the stick in place for safe and easy welding. We are going to use a piece of wood to hold the stick in a slot. Use the piece of wood of 40 mm by 48 mm by 20 mm. On the 40x48mm face, mill a 8mm wide, 5mm deep slot in the long middle of the face ( parallel to the 48mm side).

Enjoy the 3d model and the plan & dimensions!

Step 5: Weld It!

Ok, let's go! Place the balls into their holes and then align the stick in its wooden support between the balls. Start with the face that contains the center ball and work your way to the side faces using the jig1 and jig2 as much as you want!

Tip : try to not weld for too long as the wood will go on fire.

Step 6: Make It Nice :

You can build a stand for it. I simply welded a little piece of stick on the bottom ball to sit the sculpture into a drilled hole in the middle of a nice square piece of nice wood of 235 mm by 100 mm by 45 mm.

To keep your sculpture nice and shiny, try to clean the dark orange from the weld and use a nice polish to keep the ball bearings from rusting. I used Autosol polish and cleaner solvents.

Enjoy your mini Atomium!

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