Digital Zoetrope




Introduction: Digital Zoetrope

A zoetrope is a mechanical device that animates a series of pictures by spinning them fast enough that the images appear to merge together and move, My digital zoetrope works on a similar principal, by flashing the LEDs while they are spinning it is possible to display text, patterns and possible even simple animations. My design uses an Arduino Pro mini powered by a system of brushes and a magnet and hall effect sensor for position detection.

Step 1: Materials

I used an Arduino Pro Mini from Sparkfun as the projects controller, the motor is just a small hobby motor which can be bought cheaply or salvaged for free. You'll need 7 LEDs and resistors for them, use resistor values slightly lower than those specified for your LED type, the LEDs will be switching on and off very quickly so they're not at as much risk of being damaged by the current, The resistors I used where too high so the LEDs arn't as bright as they normally would be when it is spinning.

The Hall Effect sensor was bought several years ago so I'm missing its actual parts number but it has an analog output on its middle pin that gives a reading that is proportional to the magnetic field strength on the sensor. I also used a small neodymium magnet to trigger the sensor.

I used two tins to create the base of the zoetrope, the square tin just acts like a case but the round tin lid on top must be conductive as it will be the Arduinos negative supply..

Step 2: Electronic Circuitry

The 7 LEDs are soldered to a piece of stripboard, with their positive leads connected together each with an individual resistor, I connected the negative LED leads to pins 3 to 9 on the arduino pro mini, see the 2nd picture to see how I wired it up in more detail.

I power the circuit through 4 AA batteries which give an output of 6v theoretically but in reality it is slightly less, although it is sufficient to power the Arduino and motor. A battery clip is connected to the motor via a switch, the negative lead is soldered to the lid of the tin for the brush to connect the Arduino to ground. The positive lead comes from the switch to one input of the motor and I soldered a small piece of wire from the positive motor input to the motors metal housing.

Step 3: Arduino Power Brushes

To power the Arduino while it is spinning there are two brushes, The barrell of the motor is connected to the positive lead to the battery, I used a piece of copper wire to act as a brush to make a contact while the device is spinning, thew other end connects to the stripboard which is connected to the positive LED legs and the Arduino VCC pin.. I used an elastic band wrapped around the Arduino body and hooked onto the brush to hold the brush to the motor casing tight.

In the last step I showed how the negative lead from the battery connector is connected to the lid of the tin. To make the negative brush I used a dremel to cut the middle out of a circular tin lid, after using a multimeter to check its conductivity, I then soldered the circular tin lid to the top of the square tin lid and used a piece of bent paperclip soldered to a GND pin and bent into shape so the curved end fits in the rim made by the tin lid.

Step 4: Construction

The construction of the device is pretty straight forward, I used a dremel to cut a hole through the square tins lid which I hot glued the motor into, make sure the glue goes all the way around and be careful that the metal of the tin lid doesn't touch the motor casing or it will short circuit.The magnet is strong enough

To attach the stipbooard to the pulley on the motor I used a Mechano bracket and superglue, to prevent as much vibration as possible I bent a piece of wire to a right angle, I then used this piece of wire to find the centre of gravitiy of the stripboard by hanging the board through the holes until it balanced. I then put this centre of balance over the motors axle as close as i could by eye.

Step 5: Hall Effect Sensor

To detect the position of the Arduino and to synchronize its output when rotating I used a Hall Effect sensor going from pin A0 on the Arduino. I connected the sensors negative pin straight to the paperclip that acts as the negative brush and used a piece of wire to attach the positive pin to VCC. The stiffness of the wires allow it to be positioned over the magnet but they are stiff enough to keep their shape when the device is rotating.

When programming the Arduino the USB power can go down the brushes back into the motor, This can damage the USB port if the motor draws too much current so I added a small switch made from some header pins and a connector from a speaker.It would be better to use an actual switch but I didn't have any small enough, a diode would also work nicely although I tried and due to the 0.7 volt drop it was unable to power the Arduino but if you have a better power supply a diode would be a much more elegant solution.

Step 6: Coding

The first piece of code displays numbers on the zoetrope, I created a subroutine for each number so to write a number on the display you only need to call the relevant subroutine. Its worth remembering that the LEDs have a common anode so to make one light up its relevant digital pin must be set LOW. It may take some time fiddling with the length of the delay depending on the speed of your motor,I will update this instructable with more code as i write it, I want to use the Hall Effect sensor to calculate the frequency of the motor then use this to determine the length of the digits being displayed.

The second just lights each LED in order up then down, this produces an interesting pattern and it useful for testing the zoetrope.

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    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice Kris, I didn't know they made these. Thanks for passing on the info.

    Kris Jacobs
    Kris Jacobs

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You're welcome!

    Some extra mechanical connectivity would have to be figured out, to connect the motor shaft to the 3-holed flange - but it would certainly make the electrical connections easier I think.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool! Also, I like how you cleaned up the shop... :-) HAAHAAA.

    I had to look at this just because I didn't know what a Zoetrope was and it sounds like a cool word.