Rolling ball sculpture

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People watching George Rhoads' rolling ball sculpture 42nd Street Ballroom (1983) in the North Wing of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan, New York City

A rolling ball sculpture (sometimes referred to as a marble run, ball run, gravitram, kugelbahn, or rolling ball machine) is a form of kinetic art – an art form that contains moving pieces – that specifically involves one or more rolling balls. A version where marbles compete in a race to win is a called a marble race.


Rolling ball sculpture art typically includes rails or tracks made of metal, wood, plastic, or other material, and one or more balls or marbles that travel down the tracks. Ball types include, but are not limited to, steel, acrylic, wood and glass. More modern versions may be digitally made in physics software. Rolling ball sculptures are often described as being both busy and soothing at the same time.[citation needed] They are an artistic form of mechanical motion.

Rolling ball sculptures rarely use circular-cross-sectioned tubes for the runs; tubes can induce balls to oscillate in ways that can introduce unpredictable delays; because of this, most sculptures use parallel guide rails on either side of the ball.[1][dead link][citation needed]

The tallest rolling ball sculpture in the world, at 22 metres (72 ft) tall, named the Energy Machine, located in the Hong Kong Science Museum in Hong Kong.[2][1][citation needed]

Toys and kits[edit]

A simple marble run

Rolling ball sculptures, typically marketed as "marble runs" are commonly sold as children's toys worldwide. Unlike professional kinetic sculptures, however, their commercial counterparts are typically made of wood or plastic and feature small, interlocking pieces that can generate a large number of track configurations. More complicated add-ons, such as jumps, loops, trampolines, xylophone ramps and electronic triggers are also typical with more complex sets.

There are also programs that allow people to make marble runs for free. They can either be physics software, or dedicated marble race programs. Notable examples of software include:

Examples of commercial rolling ball sculptures include Spacewarp from Bandai, Techno Ball, and Chaos Machine. Some hobbyists and artists also enjoy making the sculptures themselves using wood, metal, paper or plastic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "MythBuster Adam Savage's Colossal Failures: Failure 1: The Pitching Baseball Window Display". Maker Faire Bay Area 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  2. ^ Knikkers, Jelle (October 28, 2015) "Marble Run Records" Jelle's Marble Runs Accessed:December 31, 2019

External links[edit]