The Cyclone: triple lift, triple track marble machine

by mroek, published

The Cyclone: triple lift, triple track marble machine by mroek Feb 15, 2016
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This is a marble machine with a lift that lifts three (or more) marbles simultaneously, and releases them to three separate tracks. Two of those tracks are connected in series, so a marble will therefore alternate between those tracks. The third track loops back onto itself, so to have traffic in all three tracks, you need at least two marbles.

The machine has been designed for 8 mm balls as marbles, and the machine prints completely without supports if you have a well tuned printer. 8 mm steel balls will work fine, but I have also included a printed marble that can be used. The nice thing about printed marbles is that you can print several in different colors, which looks quite cool when running the machine. They also run a little slower than steel balls due to a little more friction against the tracks.

Total amount of plastic to print this will be around 300 grams.

Print Settings










These settings are valid for the machine itself, the screw and the cap.


Step 1

Print the machine itself first. This will be a long print, as it is a large object. I printed mine on a Duplicator i3 with a layer height of 0.25, infill 15% and a speed of 50 mm/s, sliced with S3D. The print time was a bit over 19 hours for the machine alone.

The file that is postfixed with lower_poly has a lower polygon count to allow it to fit into software packages that refuse to read the original file. I haven't printed this file myself, but I guess it should be OK. YMMV, though.

Step 2

Print the screw, the cap and the winder, these can be printed simultaneously, but I'd recommend placing the screw centered on the bed if you have a laterally moving bed. It is a tall print with little surface area, so ensure you have good adhesion to the bed. I'm printing on glass with a glue stick, and had no issues printing it. However, adding a brim might be a good idea if you have issues with the print being knocked down. Just make sure to clean the edge where the brim attaches to the part, as this should be quite sharp to wedge under the marbles at the start of the lift.

The winder could use a little support just under the indentation, but I printed it without. I had to remove a tiny bit of stringing inside the indentation, but that's to be expected with no support.

Step 3

If you don't have steel balls of the correct size, try printing some marbles. Make sure to print them at 100% infill and a very fine resolution (I used 0.1 mm). The marbles are ready to print, and has been designed with built-in support that breaks away quite easily and leaves no scars on the ball. The part of the ball that is at the bottom of the support might need just a little sanding/filing to make the ball as round as possible.

I made a quick video that shows how to assemble and use the machine. Sorry about the not-so-great video, it was just a quick and dirty shoot to show that the machine works quite well.

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Left printing overnight, at 5am I get a shake... 'that machine's making a funny noise'. Checked it out and the little funnel was getting caught on the nozzle. Stop Print. In the morning when I examined it it looked pretty clean, so I measured it (got 58mm several times) and made a new file in Cura by placing the model at 58mm under the base and crossed my fingers. The top half just finished printing and it looks like the important parts will glue together so the machine will function, though the base area of that little funnel is a bit off.
Printing the other bits now....... will add photos when it's done.

Fingers crossed, then! :-)

HaHa! thanks.... screw is nearly done then we'll know. The top of the bottom piece wasn't as clean as I thought, but I'm still hopeful :)

Update: all done and it's working. Posted the pics ... thanks for the assist, can uncross now :)

Hi there! First of all this design is amazing. I printed the machine on my ultimaker 3, i did have a problem with the puck with the arrows. Cant seem to get it to fit on the top. Any suggestings? Should I scale the puck to 105%? Any response would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

If your printer is well tuned you shouldn't really have to do anything. That said, if the problem is that it's too small, you can of course try to reprint it at 105% and see if that fixes it.

Did the screw seem to fit properly?

It's pretty fine tuned. I think the extuder might be too hot on the first layers. I'm running 215 first layers with colorfabb pla. Screw is printing as we speak! I'll send you a pic when I finish it. Thank you so much for your response, your work is absolutely incredible!

Starting a print of this right now at 137.5% to fit 11mm pachinko balls as a torture test for my newly built FT-5 v2

20% infill

Will post a make if it succeeds. 3rd print ever on this machine XD

Cool! That will be the largest version of it (that I know of)!
Looking forward to see (hopefully) your make!

First attempt failed and revealed a binding linear rail. all lubed up for a second attempt. 4 1/2 hours in and all good so far.

Fingers crossed, then! :-)

Success! I will post the make once the second print completes (Part fan test. Printing the screw.) It took 26 hours and I was VERY close to running out of filament.

Printed at 78%. This fits nicely with 6 mm steel balls. It works perfectly with the dropped ball hitting the funnel every time. Took 10 hours with 0.2 mm layers.

Great to hear, feel free to post your make also, always nice to see the prints. :-)

What's the minimum size the printer need to be in to print this? In mm.

The base size is around 193x170 mm, and the height is around 154 mm. Some people have tried scaling it down some, but it's best to print it at full scale.

Well, I've started printing 20h ago and it just reached 50%. The longest print I've ever made. But it's so awesome! I really can't wait to try it! :-D

That was a really long time, are you printing very slowly or with a very high resolution (0.1 mm?).
At 0.2 mm and around 50 mm/s it should take less than 20 hours.

I hope it turns out great for you, please post the make when it is done. :-)

Well, it took 36h, mostly in silent mode, layer height 0.15 :-)

Are you happy with the result? :-)

Sure, my little daughter loves it - I've already put here a "made".

I got that notification right after I had written this. :-)

This is sweet ! Thanks, got it printing now. Did you use 100% infill for the marbles to give them some weight ?

Yes. Print the marbles with 100% infill.

Thanks ! I've got 'em gong..........

Printed 2 times in scale 1:1. First with ABS (extrusion 215, bed 100, chamber 55) and than with PLA (I do not remember params). And the ABS version was much better. It is great toy. I has to design own crank as the hole was not good for small children hands. They had not enough force to turn it. The only cons are that the only 2 races share balls and one is separate. I expected that if I use one ball it will swap all races. And the separate race with quite high probability throw ball out of small funnel. I am using quality new 8 mm bearing balls. I think it gets unexpected speed and it goes over the funnel. Sometimes it lands on the other race! I thought about printing an extension to the funnel but I still did not find the time for it.

I originally meant for all the races to be in series, but I made a mistake during the design, and fixing it was just way too much work at the point I discovered it.

Balls missing or jumping out of the funnel is most likely bound to happen, I think. Of course, a big enough funnel or a smaller drop would have fixed that, but it is how it is.

I've now done three different sizes. At 75%, it fits AirSoft BB's perfectly.

Very nice. Thanks for posting the video. Cool to see three different sizes simultaneously.

I LOVE a challenge, so I'm currently printing this at 50% Balls and everything. So far, it's looking awesome! Creality CR-10 using CraftWare and a layer height of 0.100 and thickness of 0.400.

Interesting. :-)
I doubt you can make it work at that scale, but please report back if you do.

Got it to work at 50%. I had to buy 4mm ball bearings because the plastic marbles did not have enough weight to roll down. Video here:

Really didn't think that would work, but I was wrong. It isn't as smooth as the full size version, but it did work. :-)

Yeah, it's a bit rough in spots, but I was surprised it worked too. Thank you again for the fun test. ;) BTW, the bearings are 5/32", so barely under 4mm. I got them at my local True Value hardware store. The copper BB's were just a bit too big. The more I'm using this, the smoother it is working. The plastic is smoothing out on the rough spots.

Yeah, it'll come down to whether or not things move. The print itself is incredibly clean. I have some copper BB's if the plastic ones don't work.
Also, keep in mind this photo was taken with an iPhone 7 Plus, so the detail is very good. Those blemishes are TINY!


Very nice model.
I scaled mine down to 80% to use it with a couple of 6mm balls I had lying about.

My only Problem is that about 1 in 10 balls miss the small funnel and either drop of the table or fall in the wrong track.

I guess there's always a chance that the balls can miss the funnel, but the problem is probably exacerbated by using smaller balls. They will most likely have a lower speed due to more rolling resistance (larger balls will roll more easily). Printing with a fine resolution will make the tracks smoother, but also takes a lot more time.

Weight of the balls might be a Topic. I am using 6mm steel balls and they roll through the tracks rather smootly.
I Though the Problem might be the spindle. If I turn it fast more balls miss the funnel because the spindle doesn't turn THAT smoothly and I think I might be jerking on the whole machine.

In theory, the spindle/screw shouldn't make that much of a difference, as when the balls start rolling at the top, the spindle is no longer involved. But turning the spindle fast may throw the balls faster onto the track, and thus give them some more initial speed. Not really much to do about this, I guess. You could of course just tape a piece of cardboard to the inside of the funnel to make it bigger, but it wouldn't look very nice. Or design a funnel extension to 3D-print and then glue to the funnel.

Can I scale this down to .564? that is my max printer size

That is a lot of downscaling, I don't think anyone has tried that before. You will probably have to do some extra work where the tolerances are small (for instance on the interface between the screw and the peg in the bottom of the machine), but I can't say for sure whether it will work or not.

You will of course need steel balls (4 mm or so), and most likely you need to print at a rather fine resolution (0.2 mm maybe) so that the slopes are reasonably smooth for those smaller balls.

Ok so i printed this to that scale. It came out and i had to remove a lot of stringing. After I got that done, I tried to use metal BB's. They were running down the track fine but they ended up too big for the gear. Therefore, I broke into a skateboard bearing and used the balls inside. They work good, but occasionally they fall out on the track where it spins twice and goes into that zig-zag track. Overall it works pretty good. thanks for the design. I am off to Tulios V3 machine

Cool, I think that's the smallest version anyone has printed. :-)
When it comes to the stringing, that's more to do with your printer and slicer (and the overall system tuning), and nothing to do with the downscaling.

Yeah I don't exactly know why. My printer is mp select mini and I used the settings that the manual said to put on cura.

You really need to experiment with the settings and do test prints. The manual gives you a good starting point, but all filaments aren't equal, so you need to test with what you got. For stringing, the most important settings are the temperature and the retraction settings.

For those interested, I created a cap that is compatible with a Lego Phillips' rod. This allowed me to use a Lego Mindstorms NXT motor to drive the marble lift:


Cyclone Marble Machine drive cap for Lego Mindstorms

I printed mine at 15% infil and a couple of the columns fell over while printing so I had to stop it and start again. This time I made it 30% infil so hopefully that will take care of the issue and instead of making it .8 top layer, I made it 1mm top layer to help with some of the holes I was experiencing. My big question is, how do you guys get this big of a print off your hotbeds without braking it or cracking it all up? I am printing on an aluminum bed with tape over it. No glass yet.

The columns shouldn't fall over with 15% infill as long as you have enough perimeters. I think I used just 2 on mine, but if you use 3 perimeters you should be fine. 30% infill may also do the trick, though, but keep in mind that you should have your printer well tuned before printing something like this.

Getting it off the bed isn't difficult, at least if you print without any extras (brim/raft). It is pretty strong structurally, so you just start getting it loose at one spot, and then work your way from there.

Thank you for the reply. It is printing great with the settings changed. It may have also been the filament too. I changed filament and it is printing perfectly now. Thank you!

Does anyone know what size I need to scale this up to fit 9.5mm (3/8inch) Steel Balls?

Should be 119%. It was designed for 8 mm balls, so 8 x 1.19 = 9.52. In other words, ever so slightly bigger than required for 9.5 mm balls.

I did mine at 120% and it works great for 3/8" bearings.

The Cyclone: triple lift, triple track marble machine

Very nice, thanks for posting a video also!

Has anyone tried scaling this down? I was thinking of printing it all at 50%

Some people has scaled it down a little bit, but 50% is a lot. It will print, but remember that you will also scale down all tolerances, so at 50% it will most likely be too tight. It might be possible to scale different parts slighly differently and also non-uniformly to work around this, but no guarantees. And also, printing marbles at this scale will be futile, so you will need 4 mm steel balls for marbles.

But if you try, good luck, and please report how it went. :-)

Oh my bad I thought you were the designer of the other machines too! Sorry!

Does this marble fit your other marble machines?


I don't have any other marble machines, at least not yet. :-)

Thanks for this. Do you have the balls without the supports?
Mine won't separate.

Sure, I've just uploaded a version without the integrated support, but then you will need to add supports in your slicer, as printing a sphere without isn't really workable.

I find it a bit odd that you couldn't get it to separate, perhaps you'd need to tune your printer a bit more? Have you printed the rest of the machine and parts? If so, did they come out fine?

Yes the machine came out great. It took me almost 3 full days. LOL I will post it in the makes section soon. It needed sanding for parts to fit. Maybe my printer is extruding to much? don't know how to prevent that but everything is smooth as silk. I printed at .1mm

It is absolutely possible that you are overextruding a bit, best way to test is to print some calibration cubes and measure with calipers.

And I forgot to say THANKS! wonderful model. lots of people enjoying it

You may want to use Blender to make these. You can make a cross section (track) and extrude along a complex spline (including twist/tilt). Make real, Then just extrude the supports to a base.

Yes, I'm sure there are lots of tools that would be better suited to making this, Blender included. However, learning to use them is also a daunting task, and Blender isn't known for it's user-friendliness and ease of learning. In this case I wanted to see if I could get it done with the software I was using, even if it costed me a lot of time and effort.

But thanks anyway, I might still give Blender a shot if I really feel up to it. :-)

This is a really great machine. Did you set up a system that makes it easy to pump out more designs or was this completely made by hand? I'd love to know if there were a system to take some of the "design rules" you have used in this so that I could make more designs myself.

This was completely hand-crafted, and it took a lot of effort due to a lot of workarounds that had to be made in the design software (Onshape). Especially the lack of 3D splines was difficult to live with. They still don't have that specific feature, but they're pumping out improvements all the time, so one day I'm quite sure that we'll have that too.

3Dadicto created a motor for the other popular marble machine.

His motor is here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1617189

I have remixed the cap and winder to fit his motor so it fits the Cyclone and made it available here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1639184

I also remixed the top for a bigger power switch here - http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1633717

Motorised Marble Machine
Motor for Cyclone Marble Machine
by Eddiie
Marble Machine Motor - Bigger Switch Cap
by Eddiie

Hey, that's cool! I never got around to design a motor myself, but I did buy the geared motors (same one as you're using).

Has anyone tried to make this using MatterControl software? When I load the machine I get a warning about the file size and the preview won't render.

I'm not familiar with that software, so I can't say why it doesn't work. Probably it just doesn't handle large files very well. The machine is a really large file, but I am a bit skeptical about uploading a lower-poly version to get a smaller file size.

Yeah the file size seems too large for the z-suite software for the Zortrax. Any chance you can upload a smaller file size as a separate file - I'll let you know how it turns out!

Sure, I can upload a file with a little fewer polygons. Do you know what the maximum file size for the Z-suite is?


I'm not 100%, I'd try to stay around 20-25mb or less if possible. Just cut it to what you think would be good and then I'll let you know.

Can't wait!

Thanks for the smaller file upload. Slice worked and half way through the print now. It still took awhile to slice but I guess Z-Suite can't handle larger files like Cura or S3D can.

Thanks again for the upload, pictures and a post coming soon!

I've uploaded a 17 MB version now. I think it should be good, but as it has a lower polygon count, in theory it is less accurate. I really don't think it will be a problem, though.

Thanks! I'm trying to slice it now and will let you know how it goes. It still does appear to be slow but it hasn't crashed yet!

Hope to start this tomorrow.

Printed great with the small file, thanks again for the fix. Now need to print the rest of the parts!

Nice! Please upload pictures when all is finished. :-)

Of course! Do you have an Instagram acct. to give credit to? Or FB?

No, I'm not big on social media. Just upload it under "I made one" in here. :-)

stupid printer jumped so i gotta start the machine over

i am gonna print this its so cool

im printing the marble machine now

Cool! If you'd put it up under "Makes" afterwards, that'd be great.

my machine is printing round 100 mm/s faster than yours

Do you plan on making some kind of motor mount for this ?perhaps a pancake style motor, A easy to find motor like rf 300E which anyone that has an old cd rom laying around could recycle back to life, and take almost no power to run, a suggestion could be to have a little stand that profiles the bottom of the machine with the motor dead center to the gear shaft and little AAA battery holder on either side of the motor.

Yes, I actually have thought about that. :-)

My plan is to use a motor like this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/DC-6V-30RPM-Micro-Speed-Reduction-Gear-Motor-with-Metal-Gearbox-Wheel-Shaft-/111742307756?hash=item1a045c4dac:g:840AAOSwI-BWOXz2, and create a unit that mounts the motor and some AAA batteries in a self contained unit that can just be placed on top of the machine to replace the current cap and winder. This could look like a spire or a dome or some cool shape.

I have ordered some of these motors, but it will be a few weeks until they arrive, I guess.

Using a motor like the RF300E will be more challenging, since one would have to make a gear reduction for it. Certainly not impossible, but as a self-contained, top mounted unit it wouldn't work, I think.

yes the first Marbles with bb's did rattle a lot so I made a new one that's easier to brake free, here the link http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1347560 the reason why I made one is so I can print on my SLA printer for a nice smooth finish. Like we talk about before, your model would look fantastic with a copper fill or bronze fill and pla marbles wouldn't cut it loll . if you like the marbles and want to add the stl permanently to you files I'll send you the stl.

Add-on Marble for http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1340784
by tibuck

those little RF300E are rather strong for there size and the speed could be easily controlled with a potentiometer or even those little motors you talking about , they are dirt cheap here I think 35 cents and as for Gearing! we have 3d printer Right loll make our own gears to suit the speed that works best. in any case Great model was fun to see it growing on the build plate. I can print little over 200mm and 300mm if you ever do make a bigger I would defiantly print that out loll

I think it will be easier to use those small geared motors that I linked to, and they are probably just as easy to get as RF300E. And very cheap as well. I will get back to that when I receive them, should be very quick to test if they actually work. If so, I will probably design a top-mounted drive unit with motor and batteries for this machine.

u literally need a 200 mm by 200 mm print bed to print it i have one so yay

barly fits my build plate hieght tho its about 2 mm shorter than what i can print

Which printer is that?

reprap mendel 3 tricolor

it max hieght is 155 mm and the machine that im printing is 153 mm

You'd almost think I designed it with that limit in mind, but I didn't. Anyway, good to know it will be printable on that machine, though.

just relized i might have set the limit to 150 mm might have to sclice the top few layers and gluue it on to it

actually Big, because Mroek, cleverly included the balls for it, one in theory, could scale down to fit on once print bed!

Yes, that's correct. That is a common size bed, and this was designed to fit that size, with just a little space to spare.