With little more than four economical stepper motors, a Raspberry Pi Zero, and a 3D printer, [Thomas Barlow] made himself an awfully slick Smart Flip Clock that can display not only the time, but also weather data as well. This is done by adding a few extra graphics to some of the split-flaps, so numbers can also be used to indicate temperature and weather conditions succinctly. Displaying the time has to do without a colon (so 5:18 displays as 518), but being able to show temperature and weather conditions more than makes up for it.
According to the project’s GitHub repository, it looks as though each split-flap has thirteen unique positions. The first ten are for numerals 0 through 9, and the rest are either blank, or used to make up a few different weather icons with different combinations. A Python script runs on the Raspberry Pi and retrieves weather data from OpenWeather, and the GPIO header drives the display via four geared stepper motors and driver boards. The rest of the hardware is 3D printed, and [Thomas] helpfully provides CAD models in STEP format alongside the STL files.
GPS technology is a marvel of the modern world. Not only can we reliably locate positions on the planet with remarkable accuracy and relatively inexpensive hardware, but plenty of non-location-based features of the technology are available for other uses as well. GPS can be used for things like time servers, since the satellites require precise timing in order to triangulate a position, and as a result they can also be used for things like this incredibly accurate frequency reference.
This project is what’s known as a GPSDO, or GPS-disciplined oscillator. Typically they use a normal oscillator, like a crystal, and improve its accuracy by pairing it with the timing signal from a GPS satellite. This one is a standalone model built by [Szabolcs Szigeti] who based the build around an STM32 board. The goal of the project was purely educational, as GPSDOs of various types are widely available, but [Szabolcs] was able to build exactly what he wanted into this one including a custom power supply, simple standalone UI, and no distribution amplifier.
The build goes into a good bit of detail on the design and operation of the device, and all of the PCB schematics and source code are available on the projects GitHub page if you want to build your own. There are plenty of other projects out there that make use of GPS-based time for its high accuracy, too, like this one which ties a GPS time standard directly to a Raspberry Pi.
There are a lot of ways to tell time, but pretty much all of them involve some sort of sequential scale — the hands sweeping across the face of an analog clock comes to mind, as does the incremental changes of a digital clock. Clocks are predictable by their very nature, and therefore somewhat boring.
This nonsequential gear clock aims to break that predictability and make for a timepiece that’s just a little bit different. It’s the work of [Tony Goacher], who clearly put a lot of work into it and pulled out nearly every tool in the shop while doing it. He started with a laser-cut plywood prototype to get the basics worked out — a pair of nested rings with internal gear teeth, each hanging on a stepper-driven pinion. The inner ring represents hours and the outer minutes, with the numbers on each randomly distributed — more or less, since no two sequential numbers are positioned more than five seconds of rotation apart.
The finished version of the clock is rendered in brass, acrylic, hardwood, and a smattering of aluminum, with a case reminiscent of the cathedral radios of yore. There are some really nice touches, like custom-made brass screws, a CNC-engraved brass faceplate with traditional clock art, and a Latin inscription on the drive cog for the hours ring that translates roughly to “Time rules all.” When we looked that up we found that “tempus rerum imperator” is the motto of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the very existence of which we find pleasing in the extreme.
The clock runs through its initialization routine in the brief video below. We’re not sure we’d want this on our nightstand, but it’s certainly a unique and enjoyable way to show the passage of time. It sort of reminds us of this three-ringed perpetual calendar, but just a bit more stochastic.
When it comes to building quirky clocks that also double up as beautiful animated sculptures, [Ekaggrat Singh Kalsi] is a master par excellence. His latest offering is the Getula, a time piece inspired by an old, discarded bicycle chain, while the name seems inspired by the chain kingsnake — Lampropeltis getula – due to its snake like movements. Getula shows time by manipulating eight short pieces of chain to show four digits representing hours and minutes. But wrangling a flexible piece of chain to morph in to numerals turned out to be a far more complex endeavour than he bargained for, and he had to settle for a few compromises along the way.
He could not use real bicycle chains because they are too flexible and heavy, which made it impossible for them to hold the shapes he desired. Instead, he designed custom 3D printed chains similar to drag link chains used for cable management. For rigidity, he added O-rings in the chain joints to increase friction. But even this was not sufficient to completely form each digit using a single piece of chain.
The compromise was to use two pieces of chain per digit, which results in a more artistic expression of time keeping. Each piece of chain is pushed or pulled using stepper motors, and bent in to shape using servos. The end result is a mesmerising dance of chain links, steppers and servos every minute, around the clock.
Designing the clock was no trivial exercise, so [Ekaggrat] improved it over a couple of iterations. There are four modular blocks working in synchronism — each consisting of an Arduino Nano, two stepper motor drives with motors and two servos. Each chain has an embedded magnet at its start, which is sensed by a hall sensor to initialise the chain to a known position. A DS1307 RTC module provides timekeeping. The project is still work in progress, and [Ekaggrat] has managed to finish off just one module out of four — giving us a tantalizing glimpse of Getula welcoming 2021.
Specifically, [Andy] has a long string of programmable RGB LED lights to wrap around a Christmas tree, but didn’t want to spend time manually mapping out each light’s location. So he used OpenCV to register the locations of the LEDs from three different camera angles, and then used a Python script to calculate their position in the 3D space. This means that he will easily be able to take the LEDs down at the end of the holidays and string them back up next year without having to do the tedious manual mapping ever again.
While [Andy] notes that he may have spent more time writing the software to map out the LEDs than manually doing it himself, but year-after-year it may save him a lot of time and effort, not to mention the benefits of a challenge like writing this software in the first place. If you want to get started on your own display this year, all you really need is some lights and a MIDI controller.
We’re really impressed by the polish and design effort put into this project, and it’s no surprise that it’s a finalist in the 2019 Hackaday Prize. Bobble-Bot is a top heavy bot sitting on two BLDC motors. The brains of the operation is a Raspberry Pi running real-time Linux and ROS. This allows the robot to respond in a predictable manner to its inputs, and also allows for more control over thread priority than a regular kernel. In the past we’ve seen these inverted pendulum bots mostly being run on micro-controllers for just this reason, so it’s cool to see it make the jump to Linux.
Mechanically the bot can be printed on any consumer grade printer and assembled. We really appreciate the small details like making sure one screw size could be used to assemble the entire bot, eliminating the need for multiple tools.
They also have a simulator, and the bot’s software was built inside of that. It was a big moment when the real-world behavior finally matched the simulated performance. In fact, if you’re interested in the Bobble-Bot, you can try it out in simulation before committing to building the whole thing.
This project seems like a fun build for any hacker. We would have loved to have a project as polished and up-to-date as this one when we were learning controls in university. Video introducing it after the break.
If you mention a clock that receives its time via radio, most people will think of one taking a long wave signal from a station such as WWVB, MSF, or DCF77. A more recent trend however has been for clocks that set themselves from orbiting navigation satellites, and an example comes to us from [KK99]. It’s a relatively simple hardware build in that it is simply an Arduino Nano, GPS module, and e-ink display module wired together, but it provides an interesting exercise in running through the code required for a GPS clock.
It does however give us a chance to remember the story from last year surrounding WWVB, as a budget proposal last year mooted the prospect of the closure of the Fort-Collins-based time signal transmitter. Were that to happen an estimated 50 million American clocks would lose their reference, and while their owners could always update them manually, there will always be time-based systems to which that won’t be applied for whatever reason. Europeans meanwhile are safe in their time transmissions for now , but in case they think they have their mains grid to fall back on it’s worth remembering the time they lost six seconds.