Thursday, January 06, 2011

M&M (un)Mixing Machine

I thought since it was M this week, the Marvelous Martijn would be a great guest poster. Enjoy!


Mr. Jummy insisted I should write about "Mistress Mub, Mischievous & Mean Mugger of Marvellous & Mouthwatering Muffins" - he feels like he missed out on them for some strange reason - but considering I'm your friendly neighbourhood guest-writer (and considering that I'd like to remain married), I think I'll pass.

Instead, I'll talk a bit about a pet project from work. I'm working for a small company that writes (among other things) software for fruit and vegetable grading machines like this one (links to a video by one of our customers, and it's a bit long and windy. Feel free to skip through it - "our stuff" starts at about 2:20). We do the "machine vision" part of it - where produce on a conveyor belt passes camera's. A computer then takes images, and grades them on things like size, colour, weight and quality. The 3D-model is one of my creations.

Anyway, as you can see, these machines are far from dainty. Plus they're LOUD. This creates a bit of a problem for trade shows. You can't really put one of these machines on a stand; it'd be impractical at the very least. For a few years, we've been jokingly saying that we need a small scale model of a grading machine, sorting something small like M&M's. Being the geeks we really are, it would be awesome if it'd be made out of Lego. So, a few years ago, I went on a research trip to the M&M factory in Las Vegas.

Market Research

In the mean time, one of my coworkers figured out exactly which Lego kits to buy, and started working on a prototype. After more hours than I'd like to admit, we finally finished it. (Yes, we're being paid to play around with Legos. Yay us!)

It actually works - and runs essentially the same software as that big machine of the youtube movie linked above. You can see it (and me and my coworkers) in action:

(If that doesn't work, try here.)

P.S.: I do need to point out that while I'm getting paid to eat M&M's and play with legos, the beverages aren't commonly part of the deal. Only sometimes...


This week M is for M & M (un)Mixing Machine! Make sure to go check out the other participants by clicking on the picture below!

Jenny Matlock

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