# Linear Clock

Round clocks are so 20th century! Here's something a bit more post modern and obtuse.

I'll be showing you here another full design project, from idea to design to prototype. The object of our desire today is a linear clock, that is, one that has numerals arranged in a line rather than in a circle, and it'll fit very nicely into many homes and workplaces.

This is a working design process and this instructable will document the whole of it from beginning to end. I hope one day to market and produce the clock, but all the plans and parts are available to download or take from here, in case you'd prefer to do it yourself, or you can make an improved version.

The actual build (starting at step 3) shows an easy to make version, that uses a set of simple parts, and this is my prototype clock. It's the clock I assembled as a proof of concept. It's simple enough that you can probably put it together in an evening if you have the right bits, and substantial and useful enough to be worth spending time on. It uses easy to find parts, doesn't destroy them in the process, and doesn't require anything that's special. It is also forgiving of sloppy production.

Step 15 introduces a few experiments with refinements, and settles on a design.  This is really an instructable about design and prototyping.  I think that's interesting, so maybe you do too!

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industriald1 year ago
I absolutely love it mate, great work!
CybergothiChe2 years ago
awesome
man4562 years ago
I made ​​a very interesting post from Thailand.
I love the linear design. Very unique. Have you ever tried running it vertically? Horizontal mounting seems like it would take up a lot of wall space. If it was mounted vertical it might fit into a design scheme a little easier. Vertical mounting would allow for a "grandfather" type enclosure, too.

keep up the "out of the circle" thinking. I love your brain. LOL
The instructable includes a brief discussion of running it vertically, and in fact it was always designed to be run vertically, with a gravity drive. But I eventually turned it horizontal for the same reason as you suggest for turning it vertical! I struggled to think of many spaces, domestic spaces, that were tall and thin, and there's loads that are short and wide (mantelpieces, shelves), and I didn't want to have the bottom half of it behind a sofa or something. It can go either way though! just change the orientation of the numbers!
3 years ago
Thanks for the reply. I guess I should have read the entire 'ible, huh? I have a bad habit of skimming. LOL.
3 years ago
Ah... VERTICAL Linear Grandfather clock. I think you're on to something here.
BootlegWarrior63 years ago
Unbelievable! I know you've been told this a million times, but you should really look into mass production of this item! It's so futuristic-y... I love the fact that you took something that's been around for thousands of years (sun-dials count, right?), and revolutionized it. It's cooler than digital. and I can see it hanging on the wall in living rooms, behind couches and over mantles. Much cooler than the old boring circles.
You have a strange and invest-able idea here. It could go a long way.

But one must ask... What would a Grand-daddy Linear Clock look like? :)

Perfect instructable.
Euphy (author)  BootlegWarrior63 years ago
Hey thank you - so good of you to say so! I dismantled this one to try and make a "cheaper" version with more discrete parts and less pre-made bits, but really, electronics is not my strength, and I'm going to need some help with that.

So anyway it sat not working very well and I packed it all away to work on other things for a bit (because it's a bit depressing to be surrounded by non-working projects all the time), but I'm going to dig it out again and made a more robust version using the same mechanism as I've shown here. Because it's better to have something _working_ and not perfect, than have it not working at all!

I think a granddaddy linear clock would have to be like a huge T shape. Except that would look somewhat like a lifesize crucifix... so maybe not such a winner in the domestic environment. Have to do some work on that.

Thanks again!

Sandy
tudgeanator3 years ago
Super awesome idea. But is accuracy not a problem? Would it not lose a couple of seconds every time it has to reset back to 00:00? Or have you allowed for this time in your programming of the arduino?
Euphy (author)  tudgeanator3 years ago
Hi, thanks! The accuracy is a problem, but that's because the native accuracy of the arduino isn't very good over the very long term, rather than because of the rewind.

Like you say though, the code itself takes the rewind into account, because the time counter runs in the background even while the motors are doing stuff - they are always told to just display the current time.
tim19863 years ago
Wow. This is awesome! Nicely done!
Euphy (author)  tim19863 years ago
Thanks Tim, I'm very pleased with it. Working on a more robust / cheaper version now. Watch this space.
Michael_oz4 years ago
Nice 'ible Euphy,

I think you should add Seconds too, it would be zipping all over the place.

You should fix the filename of the sketch at step 12.
Euphy (author)  Michael_oz4 years ago
Thanks - the video near the end is running in seconds and minutes rather than minutes and hours... It's a bit of a boring video otherwise! Main reason for not doing seconds as well (apart from extra complexity and power considerations) is the rewinding noise every minute!

I'm not sure I can fix the filename of the .pde in step 12 - unless I'm missing something?
4 years ago
"unless I'm missing something?"

Sorry I've yet to do an Instructable, so no idea how to rename it, the .tmp is annoying though.

Perhaps others know how? Anyone?

Euphy (author)  Michael_oz3 years ago
I ended up just modifying the filename to a filename.pde.txt so at least instructables knew how to present it, and it's easier to take the .txt off than to change the whole name.
russ_hensel3 years ago
Very nice, I have been thinking about something similar, but have not gone beyond thinking.

My idea, which you are welcome to is to: use a threaded rod with a captive nut to advance the pointer. It is easy to get rod up to about 3 feet, perhaps longer somewhere. It is also available in nylon. Just support it at both ends and put the nut on the indicator. The motor turns the rod. This gives potentially great force, but at low speed. No problems with layers of drive cord.
Euphy (author)  russ_hensel3 years ago
Thanks Russ, that was my initial plan idea actually, it's so obvious and would be so simple. I think the reason I decided against it eventually was that I thought it would be quite hard to get just tuned right, so there wasn't any binding or anything, and make it tolerant of haphazard construction. And because I wanted to use these cheap little motors without much torque, they'd have to be geared to drive the screw, and that'd make it hard to do the rewind fast.

In this case it probably doesn't matter too much, since as long as it takes less than a minute, it's ok, and it might be nice to have a serene slow rewind.

A development of that was the idea of using a lead screw like you say to drive the indicator forward, but have a spring-latch that disengages it from the screw when it's finished moving, and another spring or counterweight that quickly pulls it right back to the beginning. I was focussing on that kind of mechanism when I had a vertical clock in my head.

That kind of system would be especially suitable for a mains powered clock, like one that runs on the AC cycle. I love the idea of it slowly grinding away .. Almost like an electricity meter!
BBB753 years ago
I might be your wife .. but I concur that this is very good indeed and its not been annoying at all to have you make this in our living room!
Euphy (author)  BBB753 years ago
minimilk3 years ago
I really like this... well done
Dode Delaney3 years ago
Looks like a nice idea! Good luck :)
Euphy (author)  Dode Delaney3 years ago
Cheers mate!
gaiatechnician4 years ago
Something linear based on this could work clock based dripper trackers or the liquid piston tracker. (For solar tracking on equatorial mount).
Thank you for this instructable.
Euphy (author)  gaiatechnician4 years ago
Thanks, I enjoyed your pulser pump stuff!
n1qaw4 years ago
I can see how its done, but I would be more inclined to buy a kit when and if it ever becomes available. Its a wonderfully elegant design.
Euphy (author)  n1qaw4 years ago
Thanks - I actually intended this version (with the arduino and the steppers) to be the "quick and dirty" version, and a lower-energy, more mechanical version would be the elegant "production" version. But actually, after making this prototype, and then starting to make my finished version, it's been made clear that this design, with the fewest discrete parts as possible is by far the most simple way to do it.

The aesthetic of it works regardless of how it's powered I guess. I don't like the idea of having a wire hanging out the bottom, which it would have to have if it was powered with the arduino - batteries aren't enough, or at least they wouldn't last for long. I could use those flat white cables and it might look ok, or a nice woven braided cable for an olde telephony or radiogram look. Actually that's a really good idea!
RedBinary4 years ago
Very nice! Imma favorite this based solely on your sketches!!!
Euphy (author)  RedBinary4 years ago
thanks RedBinary, I know the sketch interlude is a bit self indulgent, but I know I love looking through other peoples sketchbooks when I can, so maybe other people do too!
zsu_the_creator4 years ago
Freakin' cool! How could you invent such things?
Euphy (author)  zsu_the_creator4 years ago
Ha ha thanks! Just tinkering! Don't forget ideas are cheap - if you look around in your head there's hundreds just waiting to be picked. But it's very easy to dismiss them. It's good to have a reason to try and develop them (like this contest!) and show off!
9ale74 years ago
LOOOOOVE IT !
always wanted to do one, especially linear !!

so for a noobie can i buy everything i need from what is mentioned in the comments?
and i see you used a stepping motor board and Arduino + stopper motors ..

and still under \$40 ??

thanks
Euphy (author)  9ale74 years ago
Thanks! The stepper driver board I used is a general-purpose motor shield and it's really good (adafruit motorshield - http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=81) and I paid about \$20 for it.  It does everything you'd want in a motor project.  But it's possible to make a more simple circuit that would do the same thing (drive two steppers) more cheaply, and that's what I've costed in the comment I left.  It would be something like http://www.tigoe.net/pcomp/code/circuits/motors/stepper-motors - scroll down to the "bipolar stepper two-wire circuit".  The expensive bit of the circuit are thet two L293D chips (~\$3.50 each). The listing in the comments field was to show how cheap the whole thing could be if you wanted to pinch pennies, or if you were doing it for profit rather than pleasure - it'd be nowhere near as easy as the version I made, with the standard arduino and the motorshield, but it's certainly possible, and would be cheaper ... provided I didn't mess it up and have to do it all again!

All in, I paid \$30 for my arduino, and then \$20 for the shield.
Verga4 years ago
Very nice. Excellant example of turning theory in to useful application.
gtrachel4 years ago
You need to produce this. It's beyond my DIY domain (I'm in the sewing and baking department) and I would definitely buy it. It's sleek and elegant without having that trendy, won't-be-cool-next-year look. Lovely idea.
r570sv4 years ago
Good job!
How does it go back to zero? With a circular clock it just goes around, but this reaches the end of the line.

Anyway, awesome concept. I would totally buy one of these!
Aha! Well that's the rub isn't it - http://www.instructables.com/id/Linear-Clock/step14/Prototype-clock-indicators-and-faces-and-finish/ has a video that show the return action.  I think that's the interesting bit about the clock - it's the question that immediately springs to mind.

Cheers!
4 years ago
I see. Thanks!
Heliosphan4 years ago
Thats really great, a wonderful example of mechanical engineering and innovative product design, I salute you.
I must admit though that before I saw the video I assumed the 'tape measure' would move and the needles would remain stationary, I only thought later about how you wont be able to represent three numbers for hours minutes and seconds with one rolling tape.
However the idea might still hold some merit, perhaps you might want to consider something like a moving tape reel for v2? It would be kind of like looking at one of those aeroplane compass displays!
Euphy (author)  Heliosphan4 years ago
Hi, thanks for your comments - I've seen a few examples of a moving ribbon type clock - there seems to be a few software versions of it (http://centaur.maths.qmw.ac.uk/Comp_Prob_Solving/Linear%20Clock.html is nice), and there's a tube station in London that has a linear ribbon type clock combines with a world map for showing world times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Picadillycircuslinearclock.jpg).

A variation is something like http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rotating-Pyramid-Design-Novelty-Clock/dp/B0047CM2QM

Having the needle still and the digits scroll by is neat, and like you say, I think if it were styled right (aviation style or something) it would look extra neat - but the odd proportions of it becomes unnecessary and I admit that's the interesting bit for me.

It wouldn't much different to a digital clock - you'd still need to read the numbers. Whereas the nice thing about an analogue face is that the positions of the hands mean something, even if there are no digits. They can be happy or sad, or neat, or untidy - the overall impression that you get from looking at the shape of the pointers on the whole face means something.

Maybe version 3!

Cheers!
Honus4 years ago
Awesome- love it. I really like seeing the entire design process and the sketches are fantastic.
danmandle4 years ago
So how much would it cost to get one of these? Are you planning on making/selling them?
Euphy (author)  danmandle4 years ago
I replied to the wrong question (below) by saying how much it would cost to make one!

To answer your question: For potential retail, I've been working on the basis of a retail price of around maybe £100-£120 (\$140-\$180 ish).

That means wholesale price is between \$65-\$90, and so absolute cost to make needs to be about \$30-\$45.

A kit or something could be a lot cheaper since it's just about assembling packages and there's much less worry about guarantees and returns and things.
Euphy (author)  danmandle4 years ago
I hope, once I've finished developing the production model, that I can do a bit of work on getting a quick / easy build process designed and then I'd love to sell them.

The cost in parts of the prototype version was high because that's the nature of one-offs. The arduino side of it is the expensive bit, but the same circuit could be made up with an ardiuino clone and some bits, and a bit of chopping the code (which I've also realised I've forgotten to actually publish - will do that later).

Ardweeny: \$9.99 (http://www.solarbotics.com/products/kardw/)

Motor driver circuit
2x L293s: \$7.00 (http://www.solarbotics.com/products/l293d/)
2x NPN transistors: \$0.30

Motors:
2x steppers: \$1 (http://ryanschenk.com/2010/03/driving-a-040-stepper-with-arduino/)

Hardware
PVC curtain rail: \$10
Sewing machine bobbins: \$4
Foamcore board: \$6

Total: \$40 ish. All of these things (except maybe the motors I guess) could be got cheaper in quantity. Of course that doesn't include labour, case, packaging, all the other stuff that's required for a product, but it's a start. The motor driver and the microcontroller are comparatively expensive, and somewhat over-complicated and over-powerful for what it's being used for, so I'm sure a simpler (less general purpose) circuit could bring the cost down another \$10.

Oh also forgot a power supply.
wow. very impressive. Its a little above my head, i must admit, but I love the thought that was poured into this 'structible. The idea of a linear clock has always fascinated me. Please let me know if you do, in fact, produce these for sale.
Great job.
Carleyy4 years ago
This is so awesome!
sonogo4 years ago
I like it.

Thank you for the good job.
suzanmitchel4 years ago
I would never think of such an idea! Well done!
LeumasYrrep4 years ago
In a past issue of The Home Shop Machinist there was a project involving a type of linear clock. Since this was an older issue and hobby micro controllers where not widely available this was all done mechanically with a geared motor that would have and output or 1 rpm. The hour hand would then progress throughout the day. I believe this one only showed the hours and the pointer would change direction once reaching the end of the time scale.

Anyways your clock is great looking.
Euphy (author)  LeumasYrrep4 years ago
Thanks for the comments folks. Perry I am absolutely positive that I have seen a linear clock before, but like you say, I think it only had an hour hand too. Part of the problem I've had here is that it's very simple to make a version that is almost perfect, and an endless belt with two indicators on it, so that the second pointer appears at the beginning as the first one disappears behind is the easiest way of doing it.

But then there's some little non-linear portions at both ends (as the belt bends round the pulley), so an hour in the middle of the clock would be two inches long, but at the end it'll shrink to nothing! And that's where the complications start! Using a microprocessor nicely decouples the whole thing from it's physical size.
bertus52x114 years ago
Nice idea and very well illustrated!
CrLz4 years ago
Sweet engineering work.
randofo4 years ago
This is nice. I like the use of the ruler as the clock face.