Linear Clock
22 Steps
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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## Step 1: Design considerations and background

Clocks are intriguing. Each one is an intoxicating concoction of machinery, engineering, mathematics, geometry and social programming.  They are complex in theory, yet effortless to interpret, and the various patterns and shapes made up by either the hands or the digits have significances that are personal to all of us.

I like an analogue clock.  For telling the time (I mean, as opposed to seeing how long to boil an egg) I think an analogue face more satisfyingly describes the nature of time.  The experience of time is such an elastic and personal thing, and an analogue face is more open to interpretation.

The are almost always round, however, and for designers, the clock is usually a fairly abstract graphical exercise in styling. I have always been interested in different analogues for time, other than the round face with the sweeping pointers erupting from a central spindle.  I like the idea that time can be measured with another kind of metamorphosis is appealing.  Maybe an object will change shape over the course of a day, or a balloon will be against the ceiling in the morning and gradually sink throughout the day.  Make it fall past a scale drawn on the wall and you have a rather elaborate clock.  Do without the scale on the wall, and the assembly still tells the time, but it is harder to be precise, and what metric exactly the device is showing becomes less obvious.  Sand timers and water clocks are the most common non-conventional clocks.  They suffer from a lack of precision in reading.

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CybergothiChe says: Feb 29, 2012. 1:32 AM
awesome
man456 says: Jan 9, 2012. 5:55 PM
I made ​​a very interesting post from Thailand.
boaslad says: Jun 27, 2011. 4:29 PM
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
Euphy (author) says: Jun 27, 2011. 11:21 PM
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!
boaslad says: Jun 29, 2011. 3:38 PM
Thanks for the reply. I guess I should have read the entire 'ible, huh? I have a bad habit of skimming. LOL.
BootlegWarrior6 says: Jun 29, 2011. 8:24 PM
Ah... VERTICAL Linear Grandfather clock. I think you're on to something here.
BootlegWarrior6 says: Jun 25, 2011. 1:43 PM
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) says: Jun 26, 2011. 10:29 AM
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
tudgeanator says: Jun 8, 2011. 12:33 PM
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) says: Jun 8, 2011. 1:25 PM
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.
tim1986 says: Feb 18, 2011. 4:56 PM
Wow. This is awesome! Nicely done!
Euphy (author) says: Feb 20, 2011. 3:04 PM
Thanks Tim, I'm very pleased with it. Working on a more robust / cheaper version now. Watch this space.
Michael_oz says: Dec 20, 2010. 8:08 PM
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) says: Dec 22, 2010. 6:46 AM
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?
Michael_oz says: Dec 22, 2010. 12:58 PM
"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) says: Jan 14, 2011. 5:16 AM
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_hensel says: Jan 5, 2011. 2:37 PM
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) says: Jan 5, 2011. 3:21 PM
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!
BBB75 says: Jan 5, 2011. 10:22 AM
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) says: Jan 5, 2011. 10:35 AM
minimilk says: Jan 5, 2011. 10:27 AM
I really like this... well done
Dode Delaney says: Jan 5, 2011. 3:48 AM
Looks like a nice idea! Good luck :)
Euphy (author) says: Jan 5, 2011. 10:18 AM
Cheers mate!
gaiatechnician says: Dec 19, 2010. 6:27 PM
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) says: Dec 20, 2010. 11:59 AM
Thanks, I enjoyed your pulser pump stuff!
n1qaw says: Dec 19, 2010. 1:23 PM
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) says: Dec 20, 2010. 6:58 AM
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!
RedBinary says: Dec 19, 2010. 7:57 AM
Very nice! Imma favorite this based solely on your sketches!!!
Euphy (author) says: Dec 20, 2010. 6:47 AM
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_creator says: Dec 19, 2010. 9:43 AM
Freakin' cool! How could you invent such things?
Euphy (author) says: Dec 20, 2010. 6:45 AM
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!
9ale7 says: Dec 18, 2010. 11:28 PM
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) says: Dec 20, 2010. 6:36 AM
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.
Verga says: Dec 19, 2010. 12:17 PM
Very nice. Excellant example of turning theory in to useful application.
gtrachel says: Dec 19, 2010. 9:35 AM
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.
r570sv says: Dec 19, 2010. 7:46 AM
Good job!
Dilong_paradoxus says: Dec 17, 2010. 7:35 PM
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!
Euphy (author) says: Dec 18, 2010. 4:33 AM
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!
Dilong_paradoxus says: Dec 18, 2010. 10:00 AM
I see. Thanks!
Heliosphan says: Dec 17, 2010. 9:06 AM
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!
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