Ball-Packing Machine

Written by fionagan July 4th, 2013

A sports company needs to package two colours of Ping-Pong balls in organizer boxes in various mixed combinations

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AER201 : Ball-Packing Machine


A 4-month long Engineering Design project that involves responding to a Request For Proposal (RFP) and building a fully autonomous machine from scratch.

Group Members: Fionna Gan (Electro-Mechanical subsystem), Silvia Gong (Microcontroller subsystem) and Chastina Li (Circuits subsystem).

Photo and Video Collections:

To view complete written documents of this project (Design proposal & Final report), please visit this post.


Course information:

AER201S Course



Project Description: The Ball-Packer Machine

AER201S Projects


Final Design:

[fsg_gallery id=”2″]

Front View


Side View


Two Reservoirs, made using PVC pipes of various sizes and angles, and two funnels

2013-04-05 16.05.14

The top shelve is for mounting the two reservoirs and the stepper motor; the bottom shelve carries the rotating semi-circular slip (controlled by a DC motor)

2013-04-05 16.42.19

The bottom plate with 6 holes drilled out

2013-04-05 16.41.56

Ramp and roller for outputting the box while snapping the lid


Reference Designs:

Test run for wheel ball lifter - motor gear

DC Gear system

Sprial tubes for reservoir tubing

Spiral tubes for reservoirs

Rotating disk - hollow

Rotating plate for ball selection mechanism



Initial detailed sketch of prototype with dimensions


Reservoir idea #1: a rectangular box with 3 columns such that it dispenses 3 balls at once


Idea 2 for reservoir design: use solenoids to push the balls out

[AER201] Proposal - overall sketch
[AER201] Proposal - overall sketch back

Google Sketch drawings of the dispensing unit plates



Cheap Foam board to test the feasibility of Reservoir idea #1


Back view


Side view; the sprout is for inputting ping-pong balls


Top View; there are 3 columns inside

Photo 2013-02-02 1 46 55 PM

Gear system involving a Stepper motor and the rotating plate


Ball dispensing plate arrangement


Zig zag  (space-saving) shape of the reservoir


Gantt chart detailing the proposed work schedule of each team member, including important milestones
GANTT - Jan, Feb, Mar



Reflections / Final thoughts:

This was one of the most challenging yet enjoyable course that I have ever had in University. It is notoriously known as the “time-vampire” among all Engineering Science students for over 20 years. With no experience in robotics or mechanics going in, I was fascinated by the opportunity to design and build a robot from scratch with guidance from a team of experience Teaching assistants and professors. I took on the of Electro-mechanical subsystems because I thought I was good with crafts and building things with my hand.  However, it was much more than what I have expected. The course is completely hands on and there are workshops (wood, metal, work space) dedicated for this course and I was able to learn and use many machinery and tools that I have never used before. With weekly trips to the Home Deport, I am proud to say that I understand the numbering/sizing system on nails, screws, aluminum angles and wooden pieces! Designing something in my head, drawing it on paper and actually building a prototype are quite different processes, and there are many (often unexpected) factors to consider in each step, guaranteed. Building the machine from scratch is not as difficult as coming up with a feasible design, but making it to function as proposed is one of the hardest task of the project. Many times when we could not find the perfect piece for the job, we had to modify the design or even change it completely to meet the need and physical constraints, which would involve a change in material, code, circuitry or even the entire framework.

I recall hearing the noise of power tool every weekend at home, start building from the main frame, to mounting the motors and finally the power switch that brings life to the robot. It was a totally hands-on project for us to explore, make mistakes and obtain knowledge in every aspect. One of the most important aspect has to be team work. The 3 of us worked as a team for 4 months, from brainstorming, proposal writing to building and operating the robot from the ground up, communication was key. There were many nights where just the 3 of us worked together and helped each other out on their subsystem;  we shared stories, jokes and got to know each other on a personal level.

Thank you for reading this long post and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents for enduring my messy rooms and loud noises, Professor Emami for his valuable opinions not just on robotics, and our Teaching Assistant Mina Mitry for his guidance throughout the entire project.

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