Magnetic Levitation

Visual Levitation Kit

Do you want to levitate something in particular, such as for a trade show? Do you want to save money by building your own display stand? Do you want the levitator that holds the most weight with the best stability and largest gap at a reasonable price?

Update: This product is no longer available, and all the manufacturer's web sites have been removed. Let me know if you find a vendor or a new web site, it's a great device! You can try the original site but the web site does not respond. There is a newer site by Aussie Magnets, but their catalog no longer contains any levitators.

Visual Levitation Kit

Photo of flying software box I ordered this from Visual Levitation on the Isle of Man in England. It arrived in Seattle only a week later, safely packed in a large box. The price was in GPB (British pounds) so I charged it to my credit card and the monetary conversion was handled automatically.

Photo of parts in the levitation kitKit Parts: The kit includes everything you need, and the parts are top-notch. The permanent magnet is one of the strongest I've ever held, and it comes safely packed in its own cardboard isolation chamber. The kit even has a few extra parts -- a small screwdriver, ferrous pennies in mint condition, and a short steel bar for checkout and calibration.

The control electronics are housed in a sturdy plastic frame for simple installation. It is small, but it's not simple. The double-sided PCB carries surface-mount components on one side, and regular feed-through parts like small power transistors on the other. Curiously, all the chip's part numbers had been erased.

Construction: My goal was to levitate a box of software. So I designed a display stand of just the right size, and built it from 3/4" (20mm) pine shelving. I'm not a woodsmith, but a little work with a jigsaw and a lot of sanding eventually yielded a presentable stand. A sanding drum attachment for my hand drill made the inside curves much easier. The lifting coil is housed in a 2-1/2" diameter (64mm) plastic cylinder, so I carved a matching curve in the support arm using the sanding drum. A white zip-tie holds the coil in place. Luckily the software box is just wide enough to accomodate the 1-1/2" diameter (38mm) permanent magnet, held in place with ordinary cello tape.

Calibration: When assembled, the system worked the first time, and did not require any adjustment. It was a nice touch to include a steel rod for setup and testing. There is a recessed control for adjustment but I've never had to touch it.

Flight: The design engineer did a marvelous job at making it stable and strong with a good flying height and a neat presentation. It was a clever idea to shock-mount the coil with a rubber mount to help damp out unwanted motions. This box has been continuously flying for a couple weeks without falling or heat build-up. It rides out most of the wild flips given by passing kids.

When the power is turned off, the box jumps up to the coil. Here's where I have to be careful - just pulling the box can rip the cardboard apart. The magnet is powerful. A smooth prying motion removes it safely.

Conclusions: I built this to levitate a box of our company's software, and set it up by the hallway near my office door. Everyone stops to admire and marvels at how nicely it works. Most people mention how good it would look in the company's lobby, or at a trade show.

It would be nice if the software box slowly rotated for display. My box will eventually stop in one preferred orientation. They have an inexpensive add-on to make it turn, available at a nominal price.

It would be nice if the device automatically reset itself when power turns on. This is feature is part of the pre-built levitator, and by design it was left out of the "do it yourself" kit for experimenters.

It would be nice if the lifting coil and the controller were the same color. This would make it easier to color-coordinate the display. The photo above shows all black parts, but my control box is white. (Gee, this is about the only thing I could find to criticize about the whole kit!)

Anyway, these guys have thought of everything! I have no connection or financial interest in this company -- I just really like their product.

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