Tilt Activated Switch




About: 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 Sony PlayStation as a EE.

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

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Step 1: 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

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

Step 3: Plastic Disk

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

Step 4: Plastic Ring

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

Step 5: 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

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    79 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

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


    6 years ago on Introduction

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


    7 years ago on Step 5

    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


    7 years ago on Step 5

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


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


    12 years ago

    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!

    12 replies

    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


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 12 years ago

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

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