Use Tilt Ball Switch with Raspberry PI and Python

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tilt ball sensor

Tilt ball switch are small and cheap electronic sensors able to detect inclination. While not being as accurate like accelerometers, they are small, inexpensive and easy to use. For this reason tilt ball switches are popular for toys and gadgets.

Tilt ball switch are usually made of an internal cavity with a free conductive mass inside. When this switch is in vertical position, conductive mass goes down and connects terminals. When it is in horizontal position, conductive mass moves from terminals, so resulting in current not passing:

tilt ball switch working picture 2

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use a simple Tilt Ball Switch with your Raspberry PI with a LED detecting sensor position. I’ll use a Raspberry PI Zero W, but this guide applies also to newer Raspberry PI boards. Small resistors (330 Ohm) will be also used to protect from power outage that can damage your Raspberry PI board.

What We Need

Raspberry PI Zero WH board

As usual, I suggest adding from now to your favourite ecommerce shopping chart all needed hardware, so that at the end you will be able to evaluate overall costs and decide if continuing with the project or removing them from shopping chart. So, hardware will be only:

Excluding Raspberry PI with SD and power, I’ve found useful the good Elegoo kit which also packages, beside tilt ball switch and cabling, a number of interesting sensors you can try.

Check hardware prices with following links:

Amazon raspberry pi boards box
Amazon raspberry pi Zero W box
Amazon Micro SD box
Amazon Raspberry PI Power Supply box
Amazon Dupont Wiring box
Amazon Breadboard box
Amazon tilt ball sensor box
Amazon Resistors box

Step-by-Step Procedure

Simple Wiring Configuration

The simplest wiring configuration, without Python programming, implements a circuit where Raspberry PI only powers a LED which lights ON when tilt ball switch is in vertical position. LED will light OFF when tilt ball switch is in horizontal position. This wiring configuration is shown in following picture. Consider that longer PIN need to be connected to positive side.

Raspberry PI tilt switch simple config wiring

You can both wire directly components or use a breadboard to make connections stable. After wiring is complete, simply power on Raspberry PI. As said, no python programming is needed.

Following picture shows what happens when tilt ball sensors is in vertical position:

Raspberry PI simple config tilt vertical led on

Following picture shows what happens when tilt ball sensors is in horizontal position:

Raspberry PI simple config tilt horizontal led off

Inverse Configuration with Python

Following configuration powers on LED when tilt ball sensor is in horizontal position, while leaving LED off when tilt ball switch is in vertical position. This can be achieved both with electronic components (including some addictional resistors and a transistor) or controlling sensor status with Python. I’ll follow second option, also to show how to manage tilt sensor from Python.

Inverse Configuration Wiring Diagram

Following picture shows wiring diagram. Please note that LED longer PIN is connected to protection resistor and the to a configurable PIN. Tilt Sensor has also a protection resistor to avoid a direct circuit closure between 3.3V PIN and our reading PIN:

Raspberry PI tilt switch inverse config wiring

Prepare Operating System

Start preparing your OS by installing Raspberry PI OS lite or Raspberry PI OS Desktop. In first case, you’ll configure your RPI from a remote terminal connection. In second case, you can configure it from a local terminal session.

Make your OS updated:

sudo apt update -y && sudo apt upgrade -y 

Python is already installed on Raspberry PI OS. We need only to add rpi.gpio to manage GPIOs from python:

 sudo apt install rpi.gpio

Prepare Python Program to Manage Tilt Sensor and LED

You can get my python pragram to Raspberry PI with following terminal command:

wget https://peppe8o.com/download/python/tiltballswitch.py

This simple program is explained in following row by row.

First of all, required libraries are imported:

import sys
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO

Then used PINs are associated to variables, in order to make code easier to read. ReadPIN is connected to tilt ball sensor and will be the PIN where we’ll read if tilt is ON ord OFF. triggerPIN is connected to positive LED side. According to last wiring diagram:

readPIN = 19
triggerPIN = 26

Set GPIO pins to Broadcom naming convention (BCM) and set readPIN as input and triggerPIN as output. readPIN will be also configured with pull_up_down setting to down. This gets a stable signal when reading pin is not connected, avoiding an undefined state that can be read from Raspberry PI as unstable state:

GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)
GPIO.setup(triggerPIN,GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(readPIN,GPIO.IN, pull_up_down=GPIO.PUD_DOWN)

Core part of this code is really simple. With next loop, RPI continuously checks readPIN value, which will be 0 (or LOW) when tilt sensor is in horizontal position and 1 (or HIGH) when tilt switch is in vertival position. triggerPIN is set to inverse value with “not” function, so readPIN=0 means triggerPIN=1 and readPIN=1 means triggerPIN=0. LED will be powered on when triggerPIN is set to 1:

try:
  while True:
    GPIO.output(triggerPIN,not(GPIO.input(readPIN)))

Last part will manage script exit (you can exit from script execution with interrupt signal from CTRL+C keyboard pression) and cleans GPIO status before exiting:

except KeyboardInterrupt:
  print('interrupted!')
  GPIO.cleanup()

Running Python Script

Run this script from terminal:

python3 tiltballswitch.py

Tilt sensor vertical position will leave LED off:

Raspberry PI tilt switch inverse config tilt vertical off

Tilt sensor in horizontal position will power on our LED:

Raspberry PI tilt switch inverse config tilt horizontal on

As said, to stop Python script simply press CTRL+C.

Enjoy!

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