DAZLR uses the Zamor sphere launchers from the new(er) LEGO Piraka sets, and I was asked how I attach & power them. A Zamor sphere (the gold ball) sits in a three-fingered cup, and an axle (red) pushes it from behind. The bottom finger is flat, but the side fingers have a slightly in-turned tip, making the opening just slightly smaller than the sphere. As the sphere is shoved forward, the side arms are forced out, until the sphere is squeezed between the fingers. The stressed plastic arms then push on the curved rear of the sphere, launching it forward at about 4.9 m/s (the range, at 45°, is around 2.4 m). The NXT motors are powerful enough to directly drive an axle like a piston to push spheres out of the launcher; the problem then becomes in how to secure the launcher to the motor! In the 2nd launcher the mounting points are all shown by blue axle pins for reference.
Simply pinning the launcher to a beam doesn’t work: the problem is that as the drive axle pushes forward, it pushes the entire launcher forward, away from anything it might be attached to behind it... and those NXT motors have some torque! The middle-top attachment point would be good, but it is difficult to use without interfering with balls feeding in from the top. So what to do?
Here are two solutions that you might try at first (These are side-views. I’ve used slightly too-long red axles here for clarity, but the driving axle is not shown; if shown, it would be parallel to the other red axles in the images). In the top case, the forces would slide the launcher forward on the red axle, right off the structure. The second would seem better: because that yellow cross-block is in front of the launcher where it attaches, the launcher can’t just slide forward, and the friction pin holding the cross-block to the beam could only come out if pulled sideways. But if you try this a new problems crops up, as the force pushing on the launcher tends to tip or rotate the attachment around the friction pin, usually bending (!) the driving axle. The force required to launch the spheres is more than enough to warp or rip apart a lot of structures.
Here are some better ways to secure it. If I can lock the red axle into place both ahead & behind, or just ahead but with a piece that doesn't permit rotation, I’ve solved both problems. In practice, actually, the lower solution is still not stiff enough, and the structure tends to bend and bind up on the driving axle. There is a lot of force in launching the spheres! Now all I need to do is secure this to a motor, add a “piston” of an axle, and let the spheres fly!
The final image is a step from the assembly of DAZLR, showing one side of the dual launcher assembled, and the other side partially disassembled. Can you see how I attached the launchers (it's slightly different here than the examples)? And how the “pistons” work? Two challenges: can you understand why the two launchers should alternate? And for bonus points, which way does the motor in this picture turn, and why? Yes, there’s a “best way” to turn the motor here…