Picture of Digital/Analog Clock - Arduino + PaperCraft
In this instructable we will be recreating a clock inspired by Alvin Aronson's original design. When I first saw this clock I was very impressed by how clean an elegant the design was I immediately wanted to recreate this effect.

Alvin Aronson's original design (made with corian and wood):

I hope some of you feel the same and use this as a guide to be one-step closer to having one of your own

Essentially, we have a seven segment clock where instead of LED's we have digits moving in and out of the pane, the shadow created by these digits will allow the user to read the time against the white on white digits. By using 28 servos, we can use a arduino to first process the current time and then push the digits out accordingly through the motor controller. more will be explained in the later pages.

I've tried to keep the parts as simple as possible, using readily available parts without a deep knowledge of electronics one can begin to explore creating their own clock. I do not have 3D printer so construction will be done by way of papercrafting.

Step 1: Gather your materials

Picture of Gather your materials
Here are the things you'll need. I intended to fit this in the "kit contest" category so i've limited the build to simple parts without need for soldering. Alternatively. Arduino Uno and motor-controller can be replaces with Arduino Mega which wall allow direct control of up to 64 servos. The build costs cost me around $130 in parts. Keep in mind you can reuses the parts to create other great projects like a Hexapod!

The Electronics Kit :
Arduino Uno
DS1307 or RTC clock breakout- keeps track of time
Servo motor controller - controls servo motors
28 Servos - they rotate 180 degrees

Hobby aluminum tubing* - To allow digits to slide smoothly ; need a inner and outer tube
Double sided tape
Sticky Pads
Paper Clip

*Or use a pack of cheap lead pencils

Papercutter - Shiloutte Portrait (optional)
Glue Gun
Dremel - to cut tubing (optional)
Knife (optional)

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SteveS272 months ago

Simply WOWWW

nuelma3 months ago

is the best invention that I have seen in my entire cavity really thank you for sharing

DeweyGerardo4 months ago

excellent, it looks so caaooll as well.

SaralynW5 months ago

Is there anyone who makes these that I can buy one from? I don't know how to do anything of this stuff but I want one!

goldenshuttle6 months ago

magnificent work. I raise my hat.

Tymcode6 months ago

Can you post the Silhouette files?

There is a mistake in Line 47: you named it

datePast.minute() == dateNow.hour() the right definition is:

if(!(datePast.hour() == dateNow.hour() && datePast.minute() == dateNow.minute() ))

That´s all

That is an insane amount of very small servos. Nicely done.

ddobier12 months ago

this is awesome. Can you tell me how loud the servos are when the time changes? Is love to put in my living room but would need it to be very quiet. Thx!

maxiuck1 year ago



Hi alstroemeria,
Is there any chance of getting the complete code? I am not so proficient in writing arduino sketches, so it would be a great help. Currently, I cannot see how all the 28 servos are controlled. Before I start to buy all the necessary parts, I want to be sure that everything will work efficiently.
Thanks for your help in advance!

i beleve the code here is the complete code

the servo's are moved by setting the position in the setup (90 in and 110 out)

and then calling it in the switch (numberToDisplay){

i beleve the code here is the complete code

the servo's are moved by setting the position in the setup (90 in and 110 out)

and then calling it in the switch (numberToDisplay){

paulsquitt1 year ago
Hi alstroemeria

is there a way to have this dispaly 12 hour tme instead of 24 hour. Im not very good with the programing end of things so i was wondering if it is even possible to do this but i was thinking of putting a dot in the upper right hand corner that move in and out to show the differents between AM and PM.
jgoodband1 year ago
Love this instructable, definitely my personal favourite. I'd still be really interested to get the code you used to make this clock - or maybe just some guidance on good sites to learn how to recreate the code required? Thanks
masonson1 year ago
非常有创意 惊叹了
anachum1 year ago
what do you do with the serial connection on the SSC board? how does it connect to the arduino?
anachum1 year ago
Hi, this is awesome! can you send the completed code please? tnx
ASCAS1 year ago
That's a really cool clock! Have you considered adding magnetic coils & neodymium magnets.
Wo0kiE1 year ago
I think the pic says it all
Arghus2 years ago
i would love to see one made of wood..
thanks for sharing
yaly2 years ago
I'll be using stationary magnets and coils on the back of the segments as servos will be noisy and here in Egypt the cheapest servo is 80 pounds (around 13 USD) that is alot when 28 servos.
mcadet2 years ago
I really love this idea... I've kinda been stalking this instructable since you posted it... All the comments and ideas are great...
Great work... Looking forward to future improvements while I start on mine
DillyDog2 years ago
Hi Again
Is there any chance of posting the code?
alstroemeria (author)  DillyDog2 years ago
Sorry didn't see this. I've been quite busy with work but i'll definitely be putting up the refined code and other updates late August if not, early September before school starts.

If you have any questions before then just message me
Thanks very much, I look forward to it.
Henkie2 years ago
Hello alstroemeria,

You describe here the programming steps but not the actual code.
I'm not much as a programmer, can jou upload the code?


alstroemeria (author)  Henkie2 years ago
Sorry didn't see this. I've been quite busy with work but i'll definitely be putting up the refined code and other updates late August if not, early September before school starts.

If you have any questions before then just message me.
Hello alstroemeria,

Thanks for the reply, I will check your instructable again in september.
I'm looking foreward to it.


BrenBren2 years ago
Alderin, If the solenoids are small enough, I imagine you could just use a basic transistor for each one, like a pn2222 or something? I know that's enough to protect an Arduino from the inductive load of a toy motor or 5v relay. At ~$0.15 each, it would definitely be affordable...
Douwe 662 years ago
This is what I thought of with two coils for a solenoid. What do you think?
If the magnet is limited in travel to half the length of the coil, only one reversible coil is needed: The magnet will seek either the center of the coil when the coil matches the polarity of the magnet, or the end when the coil polarity is opposite. Forcing the magnet to stop before passing the center of the coil, with a plug of some sort, will ensure it moves one direction when moving to the end of the coil.

Your design reminds me of a multi-coil solenoid design I pondered that made the solenoid multi-positional: If a stack of coils are energized in the same direction, they magnetically act as one coil, so energizing two sets opposite each-other, the magnet will seek the spot between the opposing sets of coils. That's the theory anyway, and would allow for as many positions as coils in the stack. Combined with a decoder-driver and some kind of positional feedback, it could act like a linear servo (without all the gear noise). Drawbacks: it would take a lot of power compared to a servo, and it would be very electrically noisy instead of audibly noisy.
SDX42 Alderin2 years ago
What you want and attempt to do there is called a bistable solenoid.

These exist in two different types:
- You have one coil, that has a gap at some point in the middle. This cap is filled with a constant magnet. The polarity decides the direction then.

- You divide it into two coils, with a gap in the middle for a constant magnet. This design is _very_ practical since it doesn't require a H-bridge in order to control it in both directions.

Both designs are used the following way: you apply power and the plunger moves into the desired direction. Once the power is off, the solenoid will keep the position! Hooray, this is what we need.
Winding solenoids isn't as hard as many might expect, I'm about to write a Instructable which also goes through the different designs.
SDX42 SDX422 years ago
I couldn't find a good picture except this one. It's german, but you should understand it in combination with my description above:
Alderin SDX422 years ago
Very nice! Metal plunger instead of a magnet plunger, a toroid magnet for the center, and a metal tube for plunger limit. The limit part might be a little difficult to scale down, but the single-direction ability of the coils greatly reduces driver complexity.

And I quite agree that winding solenoids is pretty easy to make it functional. I make things hard for myself by also trying hard to make it look smooth and uniform. While this can improve efficiency somewhat, the added time and effort is well beyond the improvement percentile. I just get OCD about my coils. :-)
Krayzi992 years ago
Very neat! Reminds me of those piston-based minecraft digital clocks.
Douwe 662 years ago
@ Alderin

This way you would need 5 H-bridges to control 25 coils ;)
Douwe 662 years ago
I think that it will be more expensive to make and populate all the circuit boards than buying the servo's.
Another solution might be to use two coils, one for backward motion and one for forward motion, but then you need 56 coils...

I have also been thinking for some time now to find a less-servo-ish approach. What came to my mind was a solution where one only would need 5 servo's. By using "encoder wheels" with 10 places that set the 7-segments on/off for every digit.
I'm working on a design for that at the moment. It will be more challenging because of the mechanics, but I think I like this approach.
I'm not quite sure how you'd get 5 servos to make this happen, but I'd love to see the design. I hadn't considered mechanical encoding, but it led me to wonder if I could use simple selection circuitry to drive more than one coil with an h-bridge. This would drop the cost considerably, and a "7 segment h-bridge" might be good for other projects.
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