How to Make a Magnetic Floating Display
Magnetic floating displays are a novel invention. Surely, you must have seen decor items such as levitating magnetic lamps and wondered: “how is it doing that?”
Luckily, you’ve come to just the right place to learn how these modernistic decorations work.
This article is a step-by-step guide to make your own magnetic levitating display from scratch. It assumes no prior knowledge of physics or engineering, so you should be able to keep up easily.
How Does It Work?
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of making a magnetic-floating display, it’s important to understand how this system even works.
That way, if any problems arise and you have to improvise, at least you'll know what you're doing.
The Physics Behind The Levitating Display
Let’s look at the physical phenomenon behind the magnetic floating display. As you may have already guessed, the system relies on one of the most basic properties of magnets.
If you’ve taken elementary level science, you know that two magnets can repel each other. Based on this idea, you would think that you can arrange magnets in a particular way to produce a levitating effect.
Picture this: a circular magnetic disc is lying flat down on a surface, with the north pole facing upwards. Then, another smaller circular magnet is placed on top of it, with its north pole facing downwards.
Since similar magnetic poles repel each other, the magnet on top should remain suspended in the air, right?
Well, you’re on the right track. Theoretically, magnets that are constantly repelling each other should induce perpetual levitation.
It turns out, it’s not as simple as that.
So What’s the Problem?
According to Earnshaw’s theorem, this arrangement of permanent magnets is a non-stable system. Basically, if you try to hover a magnet on top of another magnet, it will always collapse.
This is because, in the real world, the magnetic field is constantly in flux.
While there are forces of repulsion pushing the two magnets away, there are equal forces of attraction between opposite poles. So, the smaller floating magnet will end up flipping itself and collapse onto the base magnet.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. You just need to make a few tweaks to ensure that the smaller magnet does not invert itself.
Bypassing the Problem
It appears that the main issue here is that the magnetic field is constantly changing. If there was some way to keep correcting this flux as it happens, then you should be able to create a stable system.
Two things need to happen here. First, the system must immediately detect when the floating disc starts to tip over.
Next, it needs to correct this movement by temporarily inducing just the right amount of opposing magnetic force.
Are you with us so far?
Good, because this is where it gets creative.
First of all, we use specialized sensors to detect the smallest changes in the floating disc’s orientation. When the disc starts to tip over, the sensors immediately detect this movement and send a signal to an arrangement of electromagnets.
What are electromagnets, you may ask?
Basically, these are temporary magnets that are created using electricity. The moment that the electricity is switched off, they stop being magnets.
This is useful because we only need small bursts of magnetic force to correct the motion of the floating disc. As we saw earlier, permanent magnets can not accomplish this effect.
Once the electromagnets are turned on, they induce an opposing magnetic force to readjust the tipping floating disc. Since this keeps happening hundreds of times in a second, the floating disk remains suspended.
The Two Main Components
There are two major components to this system: the electromagnetic base and the floating platform.
The Floating Disc
This is the smaller levitating disc that hovers in the air. In most magnetic floating displays, the floating disc acts as a platform.
You can place almost anything on this platform, from plants and lights to any other decorative item. Store owners can even use this hovering platform to display their products.
The amount of weight that it can hold up depends mostly on the strength of the system's magnets. If you're building your own system from scratch, you will be able to customize this strength.
For the most part, it should be able to hold up small items with ease. If you want to be safe, you can test your platform's maximum weight threshold by using various objects and seeing if it holds.
The Electromagnetic Base
If you’ve seen the multiple levitating displays designed by Floately, you’ll notice a common feature - all products come with a base. This base is where the magic happens.
The Electromagnetic base holds this whole system together. It comprises four different components to ensure that the floating platform stays stable.
Firstly, a circular arrangement of permanent magnets provides the main repulsive force. These magnets repel the floating disc away from themselves.
Secondly, sensors around these permanent magnets record the position and orientation of the floating disc.
Most bases use a triad of ratiometric linear Hall-effect sensors. These sensors will accurately detect the tiniest changes in the magnetic field caused by the floating platform’s movement.
Accordingly, they supply a voltage that corresponds to the change in the magnetic field. This voltage will supply power to the electromagnets in the system.
An arrangement of electromagnets is placed inside the ring of permanent magnets. The sensors will know which electromagnets to turn on to generate just the right corrective magnetic force.
Lastly, there needs to be some barrier between the base and the floating disc. Should the floating disc fall while you’re setting it up, the barrier protects the electromagnetic base from any damage. This is very important since the smallest dent or nick in any magnet can cause the entire system to fail.
Usually, the entire base structure is enclosed in a box. So, the barrier is already there by default.
How to Build the Magnetic Floating Display Using a Pre-Built Base
All that’s left now is to build your own magnetic floating display. Now that you know the workings of the system, the process should be pretty straightforward.
The cool thing about making your own magnetic floating displays is that you can customize your display's entire aesthetic.
If you're at a loss for inspiration, check out some of Floately’s creative displays for ideas.
Now, you could make the whole thing from scratch. Building the entire electromagnetic base shouldn't be difficult if you have a working knowledge of physics and engineering.
In doing so, you can make it as large and strong as you want, meaning that you can hold up larger items on the floating platform.
However, if you’re a rookie looking for a quick project, it’s better to get a pre-built electromagnetic base.
Things You Need
Here is a list of all the things that you will need to make your own magnetic floating display:
- An Electromagnetic Base. You can easily get this hardware from Amazon or Alibaba.
- A floating disc. This comes with the electromagnetic base.
- A wooden box that is big enough to hold the electromagnetic base. This is where you can let your creativity take over. Try painting over an old box you might have lying around, or go thrifting to find a more retro design.
- A drill
- An object to display.
Step 1- Drill a Hole and Place the Base Inside the Box
Considering that you have your box all ready, the only thing you need to do is place the electromagnetic base inside the box.
- Drill a hole that measures a half-inch in diameter. This hole will allow room for the power cable to pass through. Make sure that the hole is on the side that is hidden from sight, so it doesn’t look unappealing.
- Then, place the base inside the box and guide the power supply through the hole.
- Finally, make sure you close the box. If your box does not have a lid, then fashion a makeshift one from anything other than metal.
Step 2- Find the Sweet Spot
This part is a little tricky. It might take you a few tries before you can get the hang of it.
- Make sure that the base is plugged in.
- Make sure that there are no other metal objects nearby.
- Place the disc around six inches on top of the box. Very slowly, start lowering it.
- Stop when you feel a repulsion.
- Slowly let go of the disc.
- If it falls, just repeat the process until you can find that sweet spot.
Step 3 - Check for The Height
If your floating disc keeps falling no matter what you do, then there might be another problem.
The electromagnetic base and the floating disc need to be at just the right distance from each other.
So, if your box is too tall, then you might need to mount the electromagnetic base on another platform placed inside the box. This is purely trial and error until you find the right height.
Step 4 - Place Your Object on the Floating Platform and Enjoy
All that’s left to do now is to place a decorative object on top of the floating platform.
Remember to do this very slowly to make sure it’s not too weighty.
And you’re done!
Making your own magnetic floating displays is a very nifty way to DIY your interior decor.
There are many products out there that you can easily purchase, such as floating magnetic lamps and levitating plants.
However, it’s fun to be able to customize your own design to match your aesthetic.
Now that you know how to build it yourself, let your creative juices flow and play around with as many designs as you want.