Pick & Place Jigsaw Puzzle Aid




Introduction: Pick & Place Jigsaw Puzzle Aid

This product was designed for a disabled person who loves to puzzle but who wasn't able to pick up the small pieces.
An aquarium pump was reversed so it sucks instead of blowing. A tool with a small suction cup was attached to it and a switch was placed between the pump and the plug to temporary interrupt the current towards the pump so the puzzle piece could be released.

Step 1: What Do You Need?

- aquarium pump (EHEIM 200 was used here) > €15 - €30
- flexible aquarium tube, inner diameter 5mm (this should fit on your pump) > €0,60
- flexible small tube, inner diameter 3mm > under €10
- normally-closed switch. After pushing the switch needs to return to his rest position by itself. > €12 - €20
- regular on/off push button > €4 - €7
- electric wire, no ground (minimum 2 metres) > €5
- plug > €3
- small heat shrink > depends on amount and type (maximum €1 per piece)
- Akimichi vacuum pen (order it online: link) > €3
- M3 bolt, M3 nut and roundel > depends on amount (couple of cents per piece)
- 3D-printed tool (straw + ring) > €10 - €20

Step 2: Reverse Aquarium Pump

First of all you need to reverse the aquarium pump. Normally the pump blows air, but you have to open it up and reverse the valves to make it suck.
If you don't know how to do this, you can do it by following this instructable.

Step 3: Cut One of the Two Electric Wires

After reversing the pump you dismantle approximately 7 cm of the cable of the pump. Next you cut one of the two wires and dismantle both sides.

Step 4: Attach the Push Button

Open up the bush putton and attach both parts of the cut wire to the connection part of the button.
Pushing the button will create a connection between the two cut wires (ON: the pump starts). Pushing again will interrupt the connection (OFF: the pump stops).
Put the button back together and test of it works.

Step 5: Cut the Plug Off and Dismantle

Cut the plug off from the cable and dismantle the end (4cm). Dismantle also the wires inside the cable. (0,7 cm)
Take the end of the electric cable and do exactly the same here.

Step 6: Open Up Switch and Poke Holes

Open up the switch. Poke holes in the two opposite sides. There are two soft circle spots on the switch which were created to make these holes into.

Step 7: Insert the Two Cables Through the Holes

On one side you insert the dismantled cable of the pump through the hole.
On the other side you insert the dismantled electric cable through the hole.
Pull them both far enough through the holes. This will make the next step easier.

Step 8: Connect a Wire

Connect one of the wires of each cable to each other.
This can be done by soldering them together and attach a heat shrink.
Here a special heat shrink with glue was used. Each wire needs bo inserted on one side of the heat shrink. Squint the sides together with a pair of pliers and heat the it up till you see glue coming out on each side.
Let it cool down for a couple of minutes. Test if the connection is strong enough by gently pulling it.

Step 9: Connect Other Wire With Switch

Take the connection part of the switch and put the other two wires in it.
Take a good look at the electrical scheme and make sure you put the wires at the right place according to this scheme.
As you can see, when nothing is done the current will flow. If you push the switch the current will be interrupted temporarily. When releasing the switch it'll will return to its original position, letting the current flow again.
So the pump will be constantly sucking. If you push the switch, it'll turn off and stop sucking so the picked up piece will be released then. The pump will start sucking again from the moment you release the switch.

If you want the pump to only suck when the switch is pushed you need to remove the black wire from 1' to 1.

Step 10: Add a Elastic Band to the Switch (optional)

You can add a elastic band to the switch so it can be attached onto something.
There are two holes on the bottom of the switch. Put the band through the holes and simply make a knot on both sides. If the knot is big enough, the band is attached to the switch.

Step 11: Put the Switch Back Together

Put the switch back together and make sure that no dismantled parts of cable can be seen.

Step 12: Add a Plug

Dismantle the other end of the electric cable and put a new plug on it. Attach the two wires to each of two pins of the plug. If you have a plug with a ground, you just don't connect anything to it and ignore it.

Step 13: Test

Test if every switch and button works properly before moving on.

Step 14: Attach Piece of Aquarium Tube to the Pump

Attach the aquarium tube to the pump on one side. Make sure you turn the power of this side at its highest and the other one at its lowest.
You can do this also by adding a T-junction and turn both sides to their highest. However there's no difference between the two options, so putting it only on one side while the other is turned off leaves you with less work.

Step 15: Attach Flexible Tube to Aquarium Tube

The flexible tube was found as a part of baxter that you are used in hospitals.

Here a second tube was used because the aquarium tube was just too little flexible and little bit too heavy to handle.
This is personal so if the aquarium is flexible and light enough for you, you don't need to put an extra smaller tube.

Step 16: 3D-print the Custom Pieces

These are the files that need to be printed (STRAW + RING)
You can choose one of the formats (.igs, .stl, .prt)

It's a custom ring and some kind of straw. The size of the ring and the length of the straw should be adapted to your specific wishes.
After printing, remove the print supports and scour the impurities.

Step 17: Assemble 3D-print Pieces

Connect the straw to the ring with a M3 bolt and nut. (Look at the pictures) Place a roundel between the parts so it still can rotates afterwards.
Cut the bolt to the right length, if it's necessary.

Step 18: Connect the Tube to the Straw

Slide the tube over the right end of the straw.
If you only used the aquarium tube, this should also work.

Step 19: Connect Vacuum Pen Head

Take on of the twisted heads of the vacuum pen and slide it over the other side of the straw. It should fix itself.
Pick one of the two largest suction cups and place it on top of the head.

Step 20: Ready!

The product is finished and ready for use.
Switch on the pump by pushing the push button. Pick a puzzle piece with the suction cup and release it by pushing on the switch.

Step 21: Additional Tool (optional)

You can 3D-print an additional tool if you want to.
This tool lets you flip the puzzle pieces more easily if they're laying upside down.

Be the First to Share


    • Mason Jar Speed Challenge

      Mason Jar Speed Challenge
    • Bikes Challenge

      Bikes Challenge
    • Remix Contest

      Remix Contest

    8 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Cool. With a more powerful compressor this will make a nice manual SMD pick and place tool.

    I've seen similar designs, so here's a quick useful suggestion: if you want quick pickup/release, you'll need to attach your vacuum tweezers to a longer tube (like a pen or anything similar) and then drill a hole around the spot where your index finger goes. This will allow you to drop things without constantly reaching for a switch.

    Same principle is applied to almost all modern vacuum cleaners: there is a latch on the handle which lets you release the thing you've accidentally jammed on the nozzle.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Indeed a very useful suggestion. During the designing of this tool, I've also tried this :)
    The adding of the switch was needed for the person it was designed for, because she hasn't the coordination nor the strength to hold a tube and release it like that.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction


    Anyway, with all the inspiration from your instructable I've decided to make something similar for my home lab.

    Thanks a lot for your hard work!


    5 years ago

    I see. Good idea.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent! I love seeing unique accessibility solutions like this. Very nice work, thank you for sharing this!