#432: Untangler

Anything which is string-like, and which has an untethered end, can get itself into a tangle. Whether it’s an electrical cable, a headphone wire or a mountaineering rope, these tangles can be costly and even dangerous.

Today’s invention is a system for automated untangling of such strings (although it won’t cope with tight knots). This could be built into the end of many ‘stringy’ components and automatically activated periodically to ensure tangle-free operation.


The free end of each tangled cable is looped around and attaches to itself using a profiled ‘nose’. This nose is then driven slowly along the cable, pulling the free end with it. The nose thus passes through all the loops and loose knots until it reaches the other end of the cable, leaving a single U-shaped loop behind it.

The driving force for the nose is generated by successively adding C-shaped beads to the string behind it. This mechanism might be used as a drive for other small tethered ‘vehicles’ which need to progress along a complex, curving track (eg curtains, or zips).

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