Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle (prototype no.2)

A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version.
Demonstration

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Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle (1st attempt on left with 48 balls instead of 36)
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle (2nd attempt)
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle protype used to try out various colouring techniques.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle.
A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version. A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle, the painted red parts looks pretty bad.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle
A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version. A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version.
A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version. A regular factory made Astrolabacus with Tony Fisher's mini version.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus puzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus puzzle.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle on the world's largest 4x4x4.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle.
Tony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus PuzzleTony Fisher's Mini Astrolabacus Puzzle.
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Final design (mini)

Prototype finished (mini)

Revealed

Original concept

New CAD work by

Made by


Dimensions

 

September 2014

10th October 2014

26th October 2014

John D. Harris

Tony Fisher

A Shapeways selective laser sintering machine

3.8 cm / 1.5 inch length  

 

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Please note: The dreadful looking Astrolabacus shown here is just a tatty prototype. Hopefully one day I will finish the project.
The Astrolabacus was invented by John D. Harris and sold in small quantities during the nineties. After he stopped selling them the puzzle quickly became one of the rarest and most sought after twisty puzzles of all time.
In recent years there has been rumours of new ones but these have not materialised or turned out to be scams. Please do not pre-order puzzles from sites without a proven track record.
In early 2014 I started to think about ways to make an Astrolabacus varaition. I felt it was possible to do by hand but wasn't totally sure and put the project on hold. Later in 2014 I was working on another puzzle and needed two 3D printed parts for it which I couldn't make accurately by hand. I generally do not find CAD and 3D printing very satisfying so I avoid it most of the time. This time though it was required and I roughly learnt how to use Google Sketchup in order to get the parts printed at Shapeways. The parts came out exactly as intended and I soon started thinking about the Astrolabacus again. I didn't really want to make an exact copy so thought about other variations. More balls, less balls, more rows, one row etc.
My first attempt was for more balls. Using two channels like the original I put 48 balls into the puzzle instead of 36. Shapeways price things on volume (pre 7th Oct 2014) so I got a mini version printed. I love smaller and larger than normal puzzles so the size was certainly not going to be a bad thing. The parts arrived and I quickly realised I had made some errors and a 48 ball version might not even be possible. I had not understood the angles required to allow movement of the balls from one part to another amongst other things. One very positive thing though was that the parts (excluding the balls) all fitted together and movement was very good (shown in the video). This spurred me on to try again. After looking more closely at what other versions were possible I decided it might be best just to make a mini version of a regular one. Remember this was my first ever puzzle project where I would only be using CAD so I am a total novice.
My second attempt was much better though the balls fitted too tightly. Google Sketchup breaks curves into segments so this may have been causing the problems. I physically made the channels bigger but then realised the balls were too loose laterally. Meaning that although the balls fitted the channels there was a gap nearly the size of a ball when the channels are lined up for the 'rotation' of a group of 18 balls. One positive thing though was the angles were now correct to allow the balls to move from part to part without others falling out. Around the same time I started experimenting with dyes and that also proved tricky. The ones recommended were expensive and not available in the UK. When they came I found them very unreliable so spent sometime experimenting with colouring techniques. Since I had written off the second prototype I used it to do my experimenting. That's why the puzzle on this page looks awful.
My third attempt is where things got put on hold. I won't go into details here but Shapeways really pissed me off and I feel reluctant to use them again. I guess I will though so perhaps this page will get updated sometime. In the mean time I can only show the messy barely working 2nd prototype. It does work though and that makes it the smallest Astrolabacus in the world!
February 2015 Update: I have now finished a much better version. See my new video.


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