Intentionally Overly-Complex Clock Is Off To A Good Start

[Kelton] from Build Some Stuff decided to create a clock that not only had kinetic elements, but a healthy dose of Rube Goldberg inspiration. The result is a work in progress, but one that looks awfully promising.

The main elements of the design are rotating pieces that indicate the hours and minutes, but each hour is advanced solely by the satisfying physical culmination of multiple interacting systems. Those systems also completely reset themselves every hour.

Each hour, a marble run kicks off a short chain reaction that culminates in advancing the hour.

At the top of the hour, a marble starts down a track and eventually tips over a series of hinged “dominoes”, which culminate in triggering a spring-loaded ratchet that advances the hour. The marble then gets carried back to the top of the device, ready for next time. Meanwhile, the domino slats and spring-loaded ratchets all get reset by a pulley system.

There’s still some work to do in mounting the motor, pulley system, and marble run. Also, a few bugs have surfaced, like a slight overshoot in the hour display. All par for the course for a device with such a large number of moving parts, we suppose.

[Kelton] has a pretty good sense how it will all work in the end, and it looks promising. We can’t wait to see it in its final form, but the tour of clock so far is pretty neat. Check it out in the video, embedded just under the page break.

As for the clock’s inspiration, Rube Goldberg’s cultural impact is hard to overstate and our own Kristina Panos has an excellent article about the man that might just teach you something you didn’t know.

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Using The Moiré Effect For Unique Clock Face

If you’ve ever seen artifacts on a digital picture of a computer monitor, or noticed an unsettling shifting pattern on a TV displaying someone’s clothes which have stripes, you’ve seen what’s called a Moiré pattern where slight differences in striping of two layers create an emergent pattern. They’re not always minor annoyances though; in fact they can be put to use in all kinds of areas from art to anti-counterfeiting measures. [Moritz] decided to put a few together to build one of the more unique clock displays we’ve seen.

The clock itself is made of four separate Moiré patterns. The first displays the hours with a stretching pattern, the second and third display the minutes with a circular pattern, and the seconds are displayed with a a spiral type. The “hands” for the clock are 3D printed with being driven by separate stepper motors with hall effect sensors for calibration so that the precise orientation of the patterns can be made. A pair of Arduinos control the clock with the high-accuracy DS3231 module keeping track of time, and [Moritz] built a light box to house the electronics and provide diffuse illumination to the display.

Moiré patterns can be used for a number of other interesting use cases we’ve seen throughout the years as well. A while back we saw one that helps ships navigate without active animations or moving parts and on a much smaller scale they can also be used for extremely precise calipers.

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A Look Inside The Geochron Clock

There are plenty of cool clocks out there, and maps by their very essence are cool, too. But a map that’s also a clock — or is it a clock that’s also a map? — has to be the coolest thing ever.

Of course we’re talking about the Geochron, a world clock that makes the relationship between the Earth and the Sun clear and has graced the offices of executives who want to impress visitors with the global nature of their importance for decades. [Attoparsec] has long coveted one of these electromechanical beauties, and when a used one popped up online for a pittance, at least compared to what they cost new, he jumped at the chance.

The Geochron he ended up with was in need of some TLC, but surprisingly little considering its mid-1980s vintage. The real treat in the video below is getting to see how these wonderful devices work. They’re basically simple slide projectors. While we here in the future would simply do everything in software on a nice flat-screen display, the base map, night-day terminators, and calendar are all contained on transparent elements that move under the power of a synchronous motor across a lighted platen. The analemma display is particularly cool; an indicator tracks the Sun’s position over the Earth with a cam that encodes the equation of time in its shape, moving through its familiar bi-lobed loop as the seasons progress.

Any clock that comes with a set of blueprints for installation purposes is alright in our book, and kudos to [Attoparsec] for landing this prize and getting it back in shape. His description of it as “the greatest clock of all time” is apt, but perhaps with a little competition. Or maybe a lot.

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Tell Time And Predict The Heavens With This Astronomical Timepiece

Looking for a new project, or just want to admire some serious mechanical intricacy? Check out [illusionmanager]’s Astronomical Clock which not only tells time, but shows the the positions of the planets in our solar system, the times of sunrise and sunset, the phases of the moon, and more — including solar and lunar eclipses.

One might assume that the inside of the Astronomical Clock is stuffed with a considerable number of custom gears, but this is not so. The clock’s workings rely on a series of tabs on movable rings that interact with each other to allow careful positioning of each element. After all, intricate results don’t necessarily require complex gearing. The astrolabe, for example, did its work with only a few moving parts.

The Astronomical Clock’s mechanical elements are driven by a single stepper motor, and the only gear is the one that interfaces the motor shaft to the rest of the device. An ESP32-C3 microcontroller takes care of everything else, and every day it updates the position of each element as well as displaying the correct time on the large dial on the base.

The video below shows the clock in operation. Curious its inner workings? You can see the entire construction process from beginning to end, too.

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Noodles Time Themselves While Cooking

Despite the name, so-called “instant” noodles still need to sit for a few minutes before they’re actually ready to eat. Most people would likely use a simple kitchen timer to let them know when it’s time to chow down, but this unique mechanical timer uses the weight of the noodles themselves to power a timing mechanism.

The timer acts in much the same way that a pendulum clock would, in that a weight provides the energy to drive the clock’s mechanism which releases that energy in discrete steps. Besides a few metal parts and some magnets, the majority of the clock is 3D printed with a small platform on the side where the noodles rest. As the platform falls the weight drives the clock mechanism which will finally alert the user when they finish their descent three minutes later with the help of a small bell. There’s even an analog display which shows the number of minutes remaining before the noodles are ready to eat.

As far as single-purpose kitchen appliances go, this is one that we might find ourselves sacrificing some counter space for not only for the usefulness but also for the aesthetic appeal of the visible clock movements and high-quality design. It could even go beside the automatic ramen cooker for when we’re too busy (or lazy) to even boil the water for instant noodles ourselves.

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Clock Mixes Analog, Digital, Retrograde Displays

Unique clocks are a mainstay around here, and while plenty are “human readable” without any instruction, there are a few that take a bit of practice before someone can glean the current time from them. Word clocks are perhaps on the easier side of non-traditional displays but at the other end are binary clocks or even things like QR code clocks. To get the best of both worlds, though, multiple clock faces can be combined into one large display like this clock build from [imitche3].

The clock is actually three clocks in one. The first was inspired by a binary clock originally found in a kit, which has separate binary “digits” for hour, minute, and second and retains the MAX 7219 LED controller driving the display. A standard analog clock rests at the top, and a third clock called a retrograde clock sits at the bottom with three voltmeters that read out the time in steps. Everything is controlled by an Arduino Nano with the reliable DS3231 keeping track of time. The case can be laser-cut or 3D printed and [imitche3] has provided schematics for both options.

As far as clocks builds go, we always appreciate something which can be used to tell the time without needing any legends, codes, or specialized knowledge. Of course, if you want to take a more complex or difficult clock face some of the ones we’re partial to are this QR code clock which needs a piece of hardware to tell the time that probably already has its own clock on it.

Homebrew Computer From The Ground Up

Building a retro computer of some sort is a rite of passage for many of us, with some building replicas or restorations of old Commodores, Ataris, and other machines from decades past. Others go even further back, to the time of the Intel 8008 or earlier, and a dedicated few will build something completely novel. This project from [3DSage] falls squarely in the latter category, with his completely DIY computer built component by component from scratch, including the machine code needed to run it.

[3DSage] starts with the backbone of every computer: the clock. He first demonstrates how a pair of NOT gates with a set of capacitors can be used as a rudimentary clock pulse, then builds a more refined version with a 555 timer and potentiometer for adjustable rates. Then, it’s on to creating a binary counter, which is a fundamental part of the memory system for this small computer, and finally, allows this circuitry to behave like a normal computer. Using a set of switches to store values in memory and stepping through them with the clock, the computer can be programmed to do plenty of tasks just like a modern microcontroller.

[3DSage] built this project a few years ago and has used it for real-world applications such as controlling servos, LED arrays, playing music, and other tasks. Although he has to program it using his own machine code by hand, it’s a usable computer in many ways. If you want to eschew modernity and build a retro computer in the style of the 1960s, though, this piece goes through what it would have been like to build a similar system in the era when these computers were more common. If you have a switch fetish, you might like to see how real computers worked back then, too.

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