About 10 years hacker-artist Karl Lautman set out to build an M&M sorting machine. While he tried a few ideas for separating these candies out into individual pieces, he found this difficult to do consistently. Even contacting others that had displayed their builds on the Internet yielded the same results — their designs did work, but weren’t capable of consistent separation.
After working on the idea off and on he was finally inspired by another machine that can separate out and count nuts, similar in shape to the M&Ms he’d been trying to conquer. This led him to make hand-driven M&M separator out of what appears to be a clear plastic material, proving out the concept for his color sorting machine.
The final build uses an Adafruit Pro Trinket for control, and after separation out by this type of wheel mechanism, the single M&M’s color is determined via a sensor module. The sensor assembly is then moved out of the way via a servo motor, and drops down to the correct flask via a tube, controlled via another servo motor. The result is a machine — El Jefe de M&Ms — that not only looks good in the video below, but can be counted on to keep sorting without constant attention.