Flip-Segment Digital Clock Is A Miniature Mechanical Marvel

Clocks are such mundane objects that it’s sometimes hard for them to grab your attention. They’re there when you need them, but they don’t exactly invite you to watch them work. Unless, of course, you build something like this mechanical flip-segment clock with a captivating exposed mechanism

“Eptaora” is the name of this clock, according to its inventor [ekaggrat singh kalsi]. The goal here was to make a mechanical flip-segment display as small as possible, which meant starting with the smallest possible printable screw hole and scaling the design up from there. Each segment is controlled by a multi-lobed cam which bears on a spring-loaded cam follower. When the cam rotates against the follower, a segment is flipped up from the horizontal rest position to the vertical display position. A carryover mechanism connects two adjacent displays so that each pair of digits can be powered by a single stepper, and the finished clock is quite small — a little bit larger than the palm of a hand. The operation seems quite smooth, too, which is always a bonus with clocks such as these. Check out the mesmerizing mechanism in the video below.

We’d have sworn we covered a similar clock before — indeed [ekaggrat] says the inspiration for this clock came from one with a similar mechanism — but we couldn’t find it in the back catalog. Oh sure, there are flip-up digital clocks and all manner of mechanical seven-segment displays, but this one seems to be quite unique, and very pleasing.

35 thoughts on “Flip-Segment Digital Clock Is A Miniature Mechanical Marvel

    1. Maybe . but that is not the point of failure i am afraid of. What might fail is the tip of the follower wearing out over time . Lets see. I have it running now. So time will tell

  1. Would look better with the support “wires” painted flat black. With the right lighting the effect would look like magic, but for detail of the build the whiteness shows how it works. Magic 8 ball effect.

  2. I would put what inside a dark enclosure with a glass, blacklight LEDs and UV reactive paint on the digits so they stand out and everything else remains almost invisible.

    I’m wondering if there’s a way to even limit light coming in through the glass while letting the digit light out so that the mechanism is even less visible from external light…

  3. You could enhance it by somehow making the segments brighter or more distinct when they reach their final position I think.
    Perhaps by making them contact something that guides light to them? Either mechanically or electrical would be feasible.
    As it is now I think it’s a bit confusing when it changes fast, like the right-most digits do.

  4. Super cool, perhaps worth an experiment is to delay the drop down of the segments just a tiny bit, so it visually happens more at the same time when a segment moves in place. With the intention the make the time a “nonsense” value is shown.

  5. Super cool. I wonder how it would work to come up with a mini solenoid arrangement, one per segment, so you’d be able to spell anything. A “toggle over center” design would require no power for steady state.

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