The design is simple. It consists of a motor which is run from a battery. The two components are installed in a 3D printed housing with a magnet on the bottom. When the device is attached to a metal surface, a switch is activated which turns the motor on. The motor is attached to a large printed “winding key” that would be familiar to anyone who has used a clockwork toy or timepiece before. If the magnetic manner of activation is familiar, you might recall it from [Kousuke Saito’s] chirping cicada project.
It’s a silly build, to be sure. Regardless, when placed on certain appliances, like a simple fan, the motion really does imply that the clockwork winder is connected to the mechanism inside. It’s a falsehood, of course, but a joyous one.
Three years ago, [Enza3D] put together a 3D printed version of the Eye of Agamotto as seen in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. It was a good looking prop, but there was definitely some room for improvement in terms of screen accuracy and scale. With a new Strange film now in theaters, it seemed a good a time as any to revisit the design and tighten up some loose ends.
As you might expect for something that’s supposed to be magic, the internal mechanism required to get all of the moving parts going is quite complex. Not only does the iris need to open and close, but the rings need to spin at different speeds to recreate the effect seen in the film. Impressively, there’s not a single line of code or a microcontroller to be seen here — everything is done with a carefully designed set of a gears and a single N20 motor.
[Enza3D] tried to simplify the construction of the clockwork-like mechanism as much as possible compared to the earlier version, and made some nice improvements like unifying the size of the screws and shafts used in the assembly so there’s no danger of using the wrong part. Despite their size and fine pitch, all of the gears can be printed on a standard FDM desktop printer, in this case a Prusa Mini.
That said, [Enza3D] did switch over to resin prints for the outside of the prop. Incidentally, in another clever design decision, the outer ornamental case is completely separate from the internal powered mechanism. That lets you easily take the unit apart for maintenance or repairs without risking damage to your finish work. Check out the video after the break for a breakdown of how the device is assembled, as well as some tips on how to make shiny pieces of plastic look like aged metal.
If you’re anything like us you’ve been keeping a close eye on the development of RISC-V: an open standard instruction set architecture (ISA) that’s been threatening to change the computing status quo for what seems like forever. From its humble beginnings as a teaching tool in Berkeley’s Parallel Computing Lab in 2010, it’s popped up in various development boards and gadgets from time to time. It even showed up in the 2019 Hackaday Supercon badge, albeit in FPGA form. But getting your hands on an actual RISC-V computer has been another story entirely. Until now, that is.
Clockwork has recently announced the availability of the DevTerm R-01, a variant of their existing portable computer that’s powered by a RISC-V module rather than the ARM chips featured in the earlier A04 and A06 models. Interestingly the newest member of the family is actually the cheapest at $239 USD, though it’s worth mentioning that not only does this new model only include 1 GB of RAM, but the product page makes it clear that the RISC-V version is intended for experienced penguin wranglers who aren’t afraid of the occasional bug.
Beyond the RISC-V CPU and slimmed down main memory, this is the same DevTerm that our very own [Donald Papp] reviewed earlier this month. Thanks to the modular nature of the portable machine, this sort of component swapping is a breeze, though frankly we’re impressed that the Clockwork team is willing to go out on such a limb this early in the product’s life. In our first look at the device we figured at best they would release an updated CPU board to accommodate the Raspberry Pi 4 Compute Module, but supporting a whole new architecture is a considerably bolder move. One wonders that other plans they may have for the retro-futuristic machine. Perhaps a low-power x86 chip isn’t out of the question?
The concept of a time lock is an old one, and here you can see an example of the clockwork and gears version that kept vaults sealed against unauthorized openings. Even if the correct combination was known, these devices prevented opening until a pre-arranged amount of time had passed. The fine folks at [Industrial Alchemy] got a copy of a Yale Triple L mechanical time lock, and like other devices of its kind it required manual winding to function. Since the device as a whole was sealed against tampering, winding and setting was done with a key via the small holes in the front.
These devices were mounted on the inside of a vault door, and worked by mechanically interfacing with the lock mechanism in a variety of different ways depending on make and model. While the time lock was engaged, opening the door was prevented even if the correct combination was used. You may notice the multiple movements; this was for redundancy. The movements were interfaced in a mechanical OR arrangement, meaning that the first one to count down to zero would disengage the time lock. In the case of a malfunction, the backup movements would be responsible for preventing a total lockout — a condition as inconvenient and embarrassing as it would be costly.
[Scott] doesn’t have any kids, but he’s the sort of type that likes to get ahead of the game. Of course this means spending time in his garage to build a rocking cradle. Usually, these are acquired from a baby shower and are powered by batteries. Terribly uncool, considering a mechanism to keep a pendulum swinging has existed for hundreds of years now. His latest project is the escapement cradle – a cradle (or hammock) that keeps rocking with the help of falling weights.
The first video in this series goes over the inspiration and the math behind determining how much energy it will take to maintain a swinging pendulum. The second video goes over a very rough prototype for the escapement mechanism with some woodworking that looks dangerous but is kept well under control. The third video puts everything together, rocking a cradle for about 10 minutes for every time the weight is lifted to the top.
Made sometime in the 1790s or 1800s London, the Maillardet Automaton has a long and storied history. It was exhibited around England for several decades, brought over the Atlantic by [P.T. Barnum], nearly destroyed in a fire, and donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in the 1920s. From there, this amazingly complex amalgam of cogs, cams, and linkages eventually became the inspiration for the book – and movie – Hugo. Time hasn’t exactly been kind to this marvel of the clockmaker’s art; it has been repaired four times before receiving a complete overhaul in 2007 by [Andrew Baron].
[Fran], one of Hackaday’s sources for awesome projects, recently visited the Franklin Institute and posted a series of videos on the reverse engineering of the Maillardet Automaton. Being nearly destroyed and repaired so many times didn’t make this an easy job; it’s extremely possible no one alive has ever seen the eyes of the Automaton move as originally designed.
Even though the Maillardet Automaton has one of the largest series of cams of any mechanical draftsman, that doesn’t mean it’s simply an enlargement of an earlier machine. The automaton’s pen is like no other writing device on Earth, with a stylus acting as a valve to dispense ink whenever the tip touches paper. The eyes have linkages to follow the pen as it traces a drawing. In 1800, this automaton would have been a singularity in the uncanny valley, and watching it put pen to paper is still a little creepy today.
For a moment, suspend your worldview and adopt Descartes’s mechanistic interpretation that living beings are essentially complex machines: a collection of inherently unrelated parts that move and collide. Automata, then, represented the pinnacle of accomplishment in a mechanistic universe, requiring considerable skill to construct. Most of their inventors, such as Pierre Jaquet-Droz, were clockmakers or watchmakers, and automata like the 240-year-old boy writer are packed with moving parts to automate motion.
Jaquet-Droz’s writer is particularly impressive considering all its moving parts—nearly six thousand of them—fit entirely within the boy’s body, and that one can “program” the text that the boy composes. It may sound like a bit of a stretch to claim that these clockwork amusements were precursors to the computer, but they influenced inventors and engineers for centuries.
You’ve likely heard of the other famous automaton: The Turk, (which was actually a hoax, housing an operator inside its base). The Turk, however, managed to inspire Charles Babbage to pursue building a mechanical device capable of performing mathematical functions: the Difference Engine.
Watch some of Jaquet-Droz’s other clockwork masterpieces in a video after the break. Magicians like Robert-Houdin were responsible for building a number of automata, so we recommend you keep the mystical atmosphere flowing by checking out another magician’s performance oddities.