Time Twister is an ingenious Lego clock

Here’s an interesting take on a Lego clock, it uses rotating squares to change the orientation of the black and white tiles to display the needed number. As we see one of the digits cycling to the next number in the video after the break, a couple of different things pop into mind. This seems very much like a 1-dimensional Rubik’s Cube, and it also has a hint of a very large ePaper display. Those use magnetic fields to swivel microspheres that are black on one side and white on the other.

The timepiece, which was built by [Hans Andersson], is limited to displaying numbers only. If you think about it, each row is three pixels but you don’t need to have every combination of those pixels available in order to display the digits. Four sides provide enough room for the necessary combinations. This would not be true if you were trying to scale it up to include all alpha-numeric characters.

The tick of this thing certainly sounds interesting, huh?

[Thanks Michael]


  1. Rob says:

    What happens if the transition takes longer than 60 seconds? It looks like that is a possibility.

  2. Stefan says:

    This is amazing, but I’m not sure how useful a clock can be when it takes as much as 40 seconds to update the time every minute.

    • No One says:

      Do you often need better than minute resolution on a clock that only shows hours and minutes?

      Personally, I use the fuzzy clock setting where I can, set to only tell me what quarter hour it is (approximately) so I can totally see why a clock that takes a long time to change the minute would still be useful.

      I would want it to be either faster or quieter though.

      • Alex says:

        The main problem that I see with the long time change is that you cannot read the time during the change. I want to be able to quickly glance at a clock to get the time, not watch it for 40 seconds.

      • Harvie.CZ says:

        Alex: i guess you’ll get used to not look at the watch when you hear it changing the digits :-) You will also probably get better sense of time (because of the loud noise it regularly makes) and you will be very disturbed as next minute gets closer, so you will look at the clock just before it starts to turn :-)

  3. Andrew Smith says:

    no idea what the time is between 54 and 1:35 though. So while while fuzzy clocks are fine ( I use one) this is a hassel.

    Looks awesome, form >function ftw :)

  4. MrSporty says:

    It reminded me of the wheel packs in the combination lock of a safe. The way that it dials in each segment in an alternating clockwise/anticlockwise way .. neat :)

  5. This is really sweet idea and must have taken quite some time to figure out the mechanism to display the digits. GREAT JOB!!!

  6. Emyr says:

    Awsome build!

    I have built another of this guy’s robots, the Tilted Twister 2.0, the Rubiks Cube solving Lego Robot, and it is brilliant. We have two Lego NXT systems, so we will look forward to building this too when build details become available!

    It does not matter that it takes time to update the time, it is a piece of art work, not an accurate time piece which you would use to catch a bus with!

    Congratulations on another clean, simple but effective build!

  7. Jason Chestwick says:

    Are you guys too eggheaded to appreciate art when you see it?

  8. Hirudinea says:

    Just needs a white clock face and a fancy wooden box.

  9. Alex says:

    Brilliant! Now I know what to do with that bank of 6 stepper drivers :-)

  10. aEx155 says:

    You could probably shorten the time it takes to change the time by optimizing the orientation the the layers to reduce the amount of turns necessary to switch digits in incremental order.

    Additionally if the motor can handle it you should be able to reduce the gear reduction so that the turning happens faster. It’s probably that slow to prevent excess motion.

  11. henry99 says:


  12. Jonathan Wilson says:

    I wish I could afford a Mindstorms NXT. I have the original Mindstorms (with the yellow programmable brick) but you cant do all the cool stuff with that one :(

  13. knuckles904 says:

    Probably one of the coolest clocks I’ve seen in a while. Kudos

  14. kiore says:

    Now! That is cool. nice work .

  15. HackJack says:

    I am very impressed.

    Can someone explain to me why it takes so many rotations to reach the desired number?

  16. echodelta says:

    Hyponotic to watch, the buzzy gears no. It should be timed out to take 58 or 59 seconds to change, this is fair in that time ain’t Digital. Thus it can be accurate down to the second.

  17. TomF says:

    Who would have thought that it is still possible to invent new variations of mechanical clocks! Awesome.

  18. Jim says:

    Nice to see a new twist on a clock display. I’d love to see someone else go on to make a non-lego barrel twist clock, see how fast and quiet they can get the digit change.

  19. MrTaco says:

    Kinda like the tumblers on a combination lock. Pretty cool. Now just need to give each layer 8 sides so you can create all possible displays… though I imagine that would take even longer to rotate changes :P

    • Chris says:

      That’s what I thought, like a safe combination! I don’t think more sides would take more time, though, one full rotation of the axel will take the same amount of time, only if you add more layers would it take longer (although you’d need to optimize the patterns for most-used letters). I wonder if one could do it with a fast servo, or a motor and a stopping mechanism?

  20. Matthew ZS says:

    I suspect the builder has other ways to tell the time in his house. This was built cause he could!

  21. Dan says:

    Nice principle. It would, however, work quicker if the motors were to turn the three columns of the digits around a horizontal axis.

  22. shmooshoo says:

    Amazing! My favorite Lego hack so far.
    I have no idea how someone figured that out.

  23. Threeck says:

    “What time is it?”
    >>”Wait it’s still moving.”

    Nice concept though..:D

  24. pooty says:

    This was on ebaums last week…man this site is getting slow.

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