Joe Groele of Allegany, N.Y., took a flash camera, added a few electronic components and turned it into a coin-tossing gadget. He converted the flash into a strobe, then he ran the electricity through a coil to create a magnetic field. “The changing magnetic field causes an electric current in the coin, called an eddy current, which produces an opposite magnetic field,” says Groele. The nifty current makes the coin repel off the coil and into the air, thus tossing the coin.
The process of turning a camera into a coin flipper came with a few blips. Groele ran a few bumpy tests before a slight nudging of the coin turned into a full toss. Most notably, he discovered that working with high voltages “can be painful.” He also says he should have been “more careful drilling holes in fragile plastic.” Lastly, he found out he didn’t have to destroy nearly as many cameras as he expected. But after numerous trials, he hit pay dirt: a contraption that routinely flips a coin.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.