A Whole Lot Of Stepper Motors Make The Most Graceful 7-Segment Displays

Over the years we’ve seen many takes on the 7-segment display. Among the most interesting are the mechanical versions of what is most often an LED-based item. This week’s offering is from [John Burd], who published a very odd video showing off the clock he made. But look beyond YouTuber antics and you’ll see the stepper motors he used to turn the segments are dripping with graceful beauty. (Video, embedded below.)

Okay if you want to hear [Charlie Sheen] say “Raspberry P-eye”, this is the video for you. [John] used Cameo to get the (former?) star to talk about what was used to build the clock. Like we said, the video is weird. Let’s embrace that right away and then never talk about it again.

The thing is, the build is such a good idea. [John] went with some stepper motors you can source relatively cheaply from Ali Express and the like. Typically they’re around a buck or two each and have a couple of wings for screw mounting brackets. This builds on the segment displays we’ve seen that use hobby servos by allowing you finer control of how the segments move. Sure, the 90° rotation isn’t all that much to work with, but it will be much smoother and you can get fancy with the kinematics you choose. The only place we see room for improvement is the alignment of the segments when they are turned “off” as you can see the center segment in the video thumbnail below is not quite level. Maybe a linkage mechanism would allow for a hing mechanism that aligns more accurately while hiding the servos themselves behind the mounting plate? It’s in your hands now!

In the demo video you’ll also find some interesting test rigs built to proof out the project. One just endurance tests the mechanism, but the other two envision water-actuated segments. One pumps a hollow, transparent segment with colored liquid. The other tried to use water droplets sprayed in the air to illuminate laser segments. Both are cool and we’d like to see more of the oddball approaches which remind us of the ferrofluid clock.

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Hackaday Podcast 062: Tripping Batteries, Ventilator Design, Stinky Prints, And Simon Says Servos

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys check out the week’s awesome hacks. From the mundane of RC controlled TP to a comprehensive look into JTAG for Hackers, there’s something for everyone. We discuss a great guide on the smelly business of resin printing, and look at the misuse of lithium battery protection circuits. There’s a trainable servo, star-tracking space probes, and a deep dive into why bootstrapped ventilator designs are hard.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

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Beat The Streets With This Text Spraying Robot

In the midst of striking for climate change awareness, you may need some extra hands. That’s what [Anred Zynch] thought when they built Strettexter, the text-spraying writing robot that sprays onto streets.

The machine is loaded with 8 spray cans placed into a wooden box (a stop line with a wooden ledge to prevent the cans from falling out) and is fixed on top of a skateboard. It uses a PWN/Servo shield soldered onto an Arduino Uno connected to 8 servo motors (TowerPro SG90s) to control each of the spray bottles. A table converts every character into 5×8 bit fonts to fit the size of the spraying module. The device also includes a safety switch, as well as an encoder for measuring the horizontal distance traveled.

The Strettexter is activated by pulling on the skateboard once it’s been set up and connected to power (for portability, it uses a 8000mAh power bank). In its current configuration, the words stretch out pretty long, but some additional testing will probably lead to better results depending on the constraints of your canvas. The shorter the words, the more difficult it is for the white text to be legible, since there is significant spacing between printed bits.

We don’t condone public vandalism, so use this hack at your own discretion.

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