Introduction: Building a POV, Propeller Clock Motor

Picture of Building a POV, Propeller Clock Motor

Meanwhile the Propeller Clock of Bob Blick is known quiet well in the DIY communities .
Some people do crazy things .

One problem building such a clock is to find a motor. The motor has to be silent, it has to make more than 25 turns per second and the power for the clock circuit has to be transfered somehow to the pov pcb that is mounted on the turning spindle of the motor.

Bob used a motor from an old floppy disk drive in his project. He modified the motor to use an extra coil as a generator for powering of the circuit. The motor that bob used was a non regulated one from a very old floppy disc drive. These are hard to find nowadays and the speed is not very stable.
Daryl bender also modified a motor. Other people transferred the power using brushes. Brushes make noise, give bad contact and are ugly ...
One can also mount a battery onto the moving part , but this battery need to be replaced now and then.
Phillip used a fan as a motor and build his own generator .
Here are many links to different solutions and pictures of clocks that use brushes to transfer the power to the pcb.

I decided to solve most of the problems by using motors of old 5 1/4 inches floppy disc drives. These motors are brushless dc motors that are very silent while running. They are cheap. The build rather big mounting platforms. The speed of the motors is rather constant because it is regulated. The motors should be found rather easy in surplus stores for a small amount of money.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

- two motors with working circuit boards
- one voltage regulator 7805
- one variable resistor (values depend on the circuit board. mine was 50k Ohms)
- one capacitor (value depends on the circuit board, mine was 10nF)
- glue, best use is epoxy based
- some material to fill "space! (I used broken experimental pcb boards)

- a soldering iron
- pliers
- solder
- screwdriver
- dremel tool
- ... the standard stuff ... ;-)

Step 2: Working Principle

Picture of Working Principle

The idea is to use one of the motors to make the pov circuit spin around and the parts of the other motor to work as a generator for electricity.

The driving motor part is basically untouched. The speed of a floppy disc drive is to slow. Therefore the motor driver need to be modified to make the motor turn faster.

Parts of the other motor can be used to build a generator. Using a dc brushless motor we get three phase current, see . The three phases are rectified with three diodes and the resulting voltage can be used to power the pov circuit.

The coils of the generator need to spin with the pov pcb. Therefore the magnets need to be mounted onto the static pcb of the motor and the star with the coils onto the spindle of the motor.

Step 3: Preparation

Picture of Preparation

One disc need not to be torn apart, put it aside for later.
Take the other and remove the motor disc. There is a star build of coils that we are interested in. This star is the heart of the brushless dc motor. It contains 3 windings that form a 3-pase motor. The three windings are connected together in single point, that is the common connection.
See how it works on wikipedia . We have the star version here.
The moving part of the motor need to be mounted fix on the chassis of the other motor. The spindle of the other motor needs to go through this part. We need to make the mounting hole bigger. Use a dremel tool to cut a really big hole into the disc of the motor.
The other motor that we try to use as the basis chassis has some mounting holes that we do not need anymore. Just cut them of with the dremel tool.

Step 4: Mounting

Picture of Mounting

Mounting the two motors is not an easy job. There need to be taken care of the small gaps between the moving star and the outer magnets. While putting the star into the magnet disc the magnets pull the star to the wall ... not good.
The base chassis and the disc cannot be mounted flat to each other, there is some space that need to be filled.
Take the broken pcb parts and cut them so that they fit into the space.
To prevent the star form touching the magnets, cut some pieces of paper and wrap them around the star. Try to fill the gap completely on all sites. Be exact here!
Now glue all these things together using the epoxy glue.
Also here you need to very exact! Try to exactly the middle. The star need to turn as exactly in the center as possible.

Step 5: Modify the Basis Motor Circuit

Picture of Modify the Basis Motor Circuit

The floppy disc drives I used need two different voltages to work. The drives need 12V and 5V. Luckily the voltages on the pcb are connected in a way that makes it possible to place a voltage regulator on it and get the 5V out of the 12V. Just solder the regulator to the holes. There is a motor enable pin that need to be shortened to ground to make the motor turn, do so.

Old floppy disc drives spin the storage medium with 300 turns per minute. This is too slow to build a POV. The repeat rate is only 5 turns per second and the display will flicker. The motor needs to be tuned a little bit to turn faster. An other reason for faster turning is that using the original speed we get only about 2,5V for the circuit. To drive a small micro processor we need a minimum of 3V, 8V would be fine to get regulated 5V.
To make the motor turn faster remove the capacitor that is responsible for the frequency and put a smaller in. I changed the 22nF to a 10nF. To have a greater band of speed adjustment I removed the 22k Ohm variable resistor and put in a 50k Ohm instead.

Step 6: Testing

Picture of Testing
Mount a small pcb on top of the platform for testing Solder some rectifier diodes onto the pcb, add a capacitor a white led and a resistor. The video shows the test run and demonstrates the adjustment of the motor speed to get a good, non flickering display.

Tests showed that the construction generates about 7V easily. That should be enough to feed the pov circuit.

The motor is rather loud during testing. The reason for that is that the parts on the pcb are not mounted exactly and that the whole construction is out of balance and vibrating. After mounting the pov circuit this need to be fine tuned. An other source for unwanted noise is that I did not glue the motor exact and that some insulating plastics are sliding on the wall of the disc. I need to remove the plate ones more and cut the plastic of.


dumfart (author)2011-08-13

Hmm, anybody tried this using cdrom drive motors?

cmonaco3 (author)2010-05-26

Hey, I know this may be a stupid question, but what are you grounding to here?

frickelkram (author)cmonaco32010-05-26

Ahhhhh, philosophic question ;-)
There is no ground in free air ... is it?

I use the sign that you see on the picture as a common signal. If I would have drawn a real ground, in terms of an "earth" connection, I would have used this symbol;,_horizontal%29.svg&filetimestamp=20060626175918

Does a Wikipedia page for this, exist for the US also?

cmonaco3 (author)frickelkram2010-05-27

Ok, so let me get this straight, in the physical system there is no "ground" ? I'm just wondering what the actual wire connects to. After powering the LED, the negative end goes where?

ls00181 (author)cmonaco32011-01-10

it connects just before the capacitor (ie to the common end of the coils)

The ed (author)2009-05-12

must the motor have specific rpm or something like that? Can I just buy a motor from any electronic shop?

Algag (author)The ed2010-02-09

he said it must make at least 25 turns per second so you would need 
25*60= minimum RPMs or 1500 RPM

The ed (author)Algag2010-02-12

ok, thanks. So can I just buy a motor with 1500RPM and make it the motor to turn the clock?

Algag (author)The ed2010-02-16

 yes that should be fine

The ed (author)Algag2010-03-04

Great, thanks a lot

Algag (author)The ed2010-03-09


aqil (author)2009-03-26


emdarcher (author)2009-02-22

that looks like the inside of the motor I took out of a cd-rom drive that I cant get to work. how do you get those motors to work?

killerjackalope (author)2008-01-21

Just had an idea of how to power a generator from the motor, has a mounted cog spinning around a toothed ring, the cog spin the motor, does that make sense?

Sorry, but I don't understand what you mean. Could post a small sketch of you idea?

There's an overhead view, hope that helps explain...

OK, I see. Basically this setup generates some electrical energy. Having only one small magnet and one coil the setup will generate energy pulses and not a sinus curve of ac current. You can store this energy in a capacitor to store it while there are no pulses. Basically I believe that this setup is not very efficient. It would be ok for the detection of zero crossing but I am pretty sure that you don't get the energy out of it that you need for powering of the pov electronic. You could increase the energy pulses using very, very strong magnets and a coil with many, many windings. Also the airgap between the magnet and the coil should be very, very small. At least you can make the motor turn fast to have a high pulse rate. Also keep in mind that the motor should not turn too fast. If you have high rpm rate of the motor it will get louder, the microprocessor needs to be faster and the led's need to have high light emitting rates, because they will be lit only for a very short time. Things are easier if you let the motor turn rather slow, just over the 50 turns per second rate is ideal. This is the rate where the human eye does not realize a flickering of the display. Most pov displays turn slower than that ...

gizmohigh69 (author)frickelkram2008-07-05

OK I have a question aim a lazy person but I love electricity and my license is suspended and I can't drive so aim trying to figure out a way to hook up my bike to a motor and run off the motor but the thing I want to do is charge it using a magnetic coil when I petal the bike that spins the coil and charges it so what I need to figure out is how to make a coil that will spin and charge and make enough power to pull me and the bike and I can add capacitors to it but I don't really have a good idea maybe you can help

just an idea becasue people seem very reluctant to try and generate the power through fields... The main problem with this is noise however four small motors on counterbalancing eachother would just about make the power requirements.

Derin (author)2008-06-01

i found 7805 in an ups woot

mcdonn123 (author)2008-04-26

I've got one just like that, only smaller. And I can't wire it very easily because it connects to one of those flexible copper colored things.

heavy.metal.nguyen (author)2008-04-02

I've always wondered what those do. I found two of them in a VCR and I just like the look of them.

TheMadScientist (author)2008-03-30

hell yeah, FINALLY a use for those damn old disk motors... they Looked useful, but I just hadn't found a use for em yet...

codydean (author)2008-03-10

im 13 and ive been doin stuff like that

ReKa (author)2008-01-03

Happy New Year! Looking on an old 3,5 inch disk drive I saw a little magnet and a sensor which are doing revolution detection there. Perhaps its a usable hint for you?

Heliosphan (author)2007-12-22

That is ingenious! I myself tried building a POV device using a PIC chip and a long line of LEDs, but I used an onboard battery. As you can expect, the results weren't to my satisfaction. So I hit a brick wall because all the solutions I've seen, as you say, involve xferring power thru contacts in or around the motor. This solution is a great way of doing it, I'd imagine its quite efficient too, you end up losing a bit of efficiency by having to haul the generator round and round but it is truly a wireless power source - Electric fields do it instead! I'm amazed, thanks a lot for this but hacking motors is a bit out of my league really and I'd imagine out of a lot of peoples league. On a side note, how do you implement full revolution detection for the microcontroller? I'd imagine a hall effect sensor? I actually tried using a bike computer sensor myself. It worked well but the sensor housing was too big for my design. A hall effect sensor is surprisingly elusive here in Blighty so I packed the whole project in - too dejected with all the failures. Thanks, a great instructable - difficult to describe thoroughly.

frickelkram (author)Heliosphan2007-12-23

Hi Heliosphan, thank's for the flowers ... One of the main points to do exactly this modification was that I think it is too difficult to open a motor and modify that motor like bob did. The design I used here is rather easy. Takinf the motors apart is no problem. The only thing that is a little difficult is the exact mounting of the generator. Just give it a try if you find some of those old 5 1/4 inch drives ... The full revolution detection is still in the design phase. It is not possible to take that signal from the coils that give the power because thsi information is not aboslute. It can only used to measure the revolutions per second. I counted 30 poles on my "generator". Taking one coil that means 10 impulses per full revolution. There more than one solution for the "zero crossing" detection. I experimented with a small photo electric sensor from an old ball mouse. It works well but it does not look nice ... ;-) Next try will be with the hall sensors I kept from the motor that I used as a generator. They are pretty small. On the picture you can see the three small chops with the four pins on the right edge of the picture, mounted in a curve. These hall sensors where used to measure the rotation speed. There are other possible solutions for sensors but I don't like to buy parts for that. I love to reuse old parts as much as possible ... :-)

burningsuntech (author)2007-12-22

Nothing like a simple answer to a complex problem. Nice job! I'm building one. Keep up the good work.

frickelkram (author)2007-12-18

Thank you for all the nice comments ... I'll keep on going ... I am trying to find a good solution to put the spinnig disct into balance. Does any one have a good idea about that? I am looking for a really simple and cheap method. At the moment I am thinking of construction where the complete part is mounted on a podest that allows it to swing. I try to make a video of that. While watching the video in slow motion, or even looking a single frames of it I try to find out where the maximum of the motion is. When I find this I try to find out what position the disc has by looking at the marker point. I already build this. I am using the led as a marker. I simply moved it from the center to the edge of the disc. As a cam I use a web-cam ... there is actually my problem. The cam can only handle about 15 fps. That is not fast enough to get clear pictures of the turning disc. Any ideas? Or is this idea much to complicated and one of you can give me a very simple one intead?

Da_Fudge (author)2007-12-17

cool! I want one!

frickelkram (author)Da_Fudge2007-12-18

Just build one ... :-)

alfonso (author)2007-12-18

That will be awesome with the POV clock!

T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-12-17

Sweet! I can't wait for the POV/clock on it either!

Bongmaster (author)2007-12-17

looks good so far :)

zachninme (author)2007-12-17

Thats awesome! Can't wait to see the POV on it!

GorillazMiko (author)2007-12-17

i agree with lebowski, nice job!

lebowski (author)2007-12-17

Nice job!

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