Glowing Air-Bubble Clock; Powered by ESP8266

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Introduction: Glowing Air-Bubble Clock; Powered by ESP8266

“glowing air-bubble clock” displays the time and some graphics by illuminated air-bubbles in liquid. Unlike led matrix display, slooowly drifting, glowing air-bubbles give me something to relax.

In early 90’s, I imagined "bubble display”. Unfortunately, the idea was not realized at that time due to my limited skill and time, and similar idea products made by others until now. Now, the right time has come to me to realize my “glowing air-bubble clock”. Starting with some basic and preliminary tests, “glowing air-bubble clock” has displayed the time on my desk, at last.

Step 1: Parts, Materials and Tools

I want to make “glowing air-bubble clock” as minimal as possible using common parts. Some solenoid valves were tested and cheapest also smallest one bought from AliExpress was selected, but I have not confirmed its durability. Based on such preliminary test results, basic dimension is designed that font: 8 bits width, display area: roughly 200mm height x 90mm width.

I bought the proper-size transparent-glass vase, and designed acrylic parts based on the vase and other air handling parts.

1. air handling parts ( purchased parts information at the time I bought, just for reference)

  • solenoid valve: 8pcs
    (AliExpress, 1.79USD/pc, named "DC 5V 6V Electric Mini Micro Solenoid Valve Air Gas Release Exhaust Discouraged 2 Position 3 Way For Gas Air Pump") *1
    *1 (2020-5-7); normal-close 2-way solenoid valve(open when power ON) is better for this usage.
  • air branch pipe; eight outlets with valves
    (Amazon.co.jp, 1556JPY, named "Uxcell Aquarium Air Tube Bifurcation Elbow/8 One-Way Exit Lever Pump")
  • air pump
    Select a proper air pump at your own responsibility. Close all valves for a long time that may cause overheat of the air pump.
  • tubing; ID6-OD8mm, ID4-OD7mm, ID3-OD6mm
  • tube joint; L-shaped , I-shaped
  • acrylic board; transparent; thickness 2mm and 3mm
  • acrylic board; black; thickness 2mm

2. circuit board parts

  • ESP8266
  • OLED display; 0.91” 128x32
  • I/O expander IC; MC23017
  • LED strips; NeoPixel: 8pcs
  • FET; 2SK2412: 8pcs
  • Diode; IN4002: 8pcs
  • AC adapter; 6V-1.8A
  • misc. parts

3. misc.

  • glass vase; OD120mm Height260mm
  • glycerin; purity 99%, 2.5L
  • box casing
  • adhesive

4. tools & etc

  • laser cutter to cut acrylic boards
  • misc. tools to assemble electric circuit board
  • accessible WiFi

Step 2: Cutting Acrylic Parts by Laser Cutter

Using laser cutter, acrylic parts are cut.
Just for your reference, ai ( adobe illustrator ) file *1 is attached. They are designed for the glass vase and other air handling parts which I bought. The glass vase size: inner size 113mm dia, 243 height, outer size 120mm dia, 260mm height.

*1 (2020-3-20); ai file is revised not to overlap each layer drawings. I have tried to upload the same contents saved as .dxf file, but not correctly uploaded, suppose to be something system bug in instructables.com.

*2 (2020-3-27); thickness and color of acrylic board information are added to the caption on the picture above. Click the picture to see the captions.

Step 3: ​Assembling Air-handling Parts

L-shaped transparent tube-joints are used as nozzles, tightened on transparent acrylic part. Acrylic parts are put together. Separaters between each nozzles prevent mutual interference between neighboring bubbles.

nozzles, solenoid valves, air branch pipe and air pump are connected by proper size tubing.

*1 (2020-5-7); on the fifth picture, the not-in-use outlet (open when power OFF) of 3-way-solenoid-valve is sealed. normal-close 2-way solenoid valve (only outlet open when power ON) is better for this usage.

Step 4: ​Assembling Control Circuit

Just for your reference, my design note of circuit diagram is attached, may be hard to read. Some parts are selected in my hand so that not optimized. Photos of assembled control circuit on front and back side are added, not-well-done wiring but if it may be of some help for you.

WiFi connected ESP8266 controls eight solenoid valves via I/O expander; I2C Interface, so that to display correct time on air bubbles also on the OLED display.

Eight NeoPixels are set in line glued on acrylic part (named "NeoPixel support-top") to be located under each air nozzles using "NeoPixel support-side" and "NeoPixel support-top spacer" to illuminate air-bubbles. They are installed in the box casing.

Step 5: Assembling Totally

air handling unit, circuit board and others are assembled totally.

Then, pour glycerin in the vase. The glycerin I bought is purity 99%, 2.0L.

Step 6: Arduino Coding

For your reference, arduino code is referred to here.
https://github.com/ShinodaY/bubble-clock

Please refer to other article regarding to ESP8266 arduino coding and OTA uploading. Sorry for not-smart code and Japanese comments.

Your wifi_ssid and wifi_password need to be input in line:
wifiMulti.addAP("your_wifi_ssid", "your_wifi_password");

Step 7: Tuning and Confirm

Tuning is important for making bubble character shape a better read.

1. tune 8 manual valves to reduce variation of air bubble volumes from each nozzle, rising speed of bubble depends on its volume.

2. On arduino code; main OTA, following parameters define the air bubble volume and vetical gap between air bubbles, set them properly. Depending on the temperature of liquid and air hadling unit specs, these parameters are need to be modified.
・int bubbleDelay = 15; // delay time in m sec to keep solenoid valves open, define the air bubble volume
・int bubbleSeparateDealy = 1000; // delay time in m sec to define the vertical gap beteen air bubbles

    You can modify/add font data on the arduino code what you want to display on your “glowing air-bubble clock”.

    Close all valves for a long time that may cause overheat of the air pump. Confirm the air pump whether continuous operation is available or not at your responsibilty. Also, the durablity of solenoid valve shall be confirmed. It may be critical on your usage.

    Thank you for your interest to my project. Have a nice relaxation time with this clock!

    Please check on the Make It Glow Contest, below entry, too.

    Make it Glow Contest

    Grand Prize in the
    Make it Glow Contest

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      73 Comments

      0
      Jce90
      Jce90

      9 days ago

      Very nice project. If you decide to sell this, I will be the first person to buy them. Please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 9 days ago

      Thank you for your highest compliment for me !
      Yes, I will.

      0
      NoorSK
      NoorSK

      3 months ago

      Looks really nice!
      I was wondering if you maybe have the AliExpress links?

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 2 months ago

      Thank you for your interest to Bubble Clock.
      AilExpress often changes links. I suppose you can search using some of the keywords mentioned on Step 1. Solenoid valve:
      "DC 6V” "Electric Mini Micro Solenoid Valve" “Air" "normal-close 2-way solenoid valve”
      Sorry for delayed reply. I’m looking forward to see your Bubble Clock.

      1
      robot797
      robot797

      1 year ago

      will you make a multi digit version
      because i love this idea but i dont realy like 1 didget clocks

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 1 year ago

      Thank you for your comment. I may make bubble clock with multi digit or synchronized 4 units set in line. Otherwise from a functional perspective as a clock, drifting and glowing air bubbles give me something to relax, unlike led matrix display. I love this minimal unit, too.

      0
      robot797
      robot797

      Reply 1 year ago

      mmmm
      you might be onto something
      (also can you give us the files for the acrylic?)

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 1 year ago

      Acrylic parts design are depending on the size of vase and air-handling parts which are prepared by readers, so that the cutting data file was withheld. At the request of you, one illustrator file for laser cutter is added to Step 2 just for a reference.
      I hope this bubble clock can change in your "really unlike one digit clock" (^_^)v

      0
      robot797
      robot797

      Reply 1 year ago

      thanks
      and for now i will look forward to a multy didget version
      and i know for sure i will build one of those
      and if your never gonna design it then i will have to build one like this XD

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 6 months ago

      I have made bubble clock ver3 which can display four digits at onece with some additional functions. you may be interested in it.
      https://youtu.be/T5LQQ5ZNU9s

      0
      robot797
      robot797

      Reply 6 months ago

      it looks awsome!!!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 6 months ago

      thank you for your continued interest to my bubble clocks !!!
      i look forward to yours : )

      0
      LouwN
      LouwN

      1 year ago

      Brilliant!
      I agree with robot797. A multi display unit would be easier to read and therefore be more functional, not to mention have more possibilities with other character display and functions like current day and temperature.
      In the case of a multi display, a rectangular glycerin tank would probably work better by using less fluid as well as less distortion due to the curvature.
      Great work on this instructable!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 1 year ago

      Thank you so much. Comparing to water used in ver1 model, refractive index of glycerin used for this ver2 is much higher. So that, I searched a rectangular-like glass vase, but suitable size one was not found.
      This minimal bubble clock has only 20cm height x 10width effective display area, its next expansion ether vertical or horizontal or both or multi units or 2D arrayed-nozzles or ... At any rate, watertight and esthetic acrylic tank to achieve maximum display area and minimum glycerin is required, I may try. : )

      0
      LouwN
      LouwN

      Reply 1 year ago

      You may have to cut your own from acrylic like the base unit you made and figure out how to get it airtight. Figuring out glycerin would make for a longer lasting effect that water was a great idea. A hidden feature I just realized is this can be scaled up pretty easily based on the aperture size of the bubble jet. I'm really proud of your creation and love thinking about it, great job once again.

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 6 months ago

      I have made bubble clock ver3 which can display four digits at once with some additional functions. you may be interested in it.
      https://youtu.be/T5LQQ5ZNU9s

      1
      djapipol42
      djapipol42

      11 months ago

      hello !

      I am trying to do this ! you really motivated me...

      I tried to use smaller tubes because I wanted a smaller device, so I used some OD 6mm ID 3 mm acrilyc tubes...

      DO NOT DO IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      I mean it... the bubbles just stick to the tube and don't go up...
      My guess is that with such a small tubing, surface tension is too big and the bubbles can't float freely... I tried it with glycerin, water, and even ethanol... doesn't work at all !

      I thought I HAD to share this failed ewperiment... avoiding "file-drawer effect" is essential !

      Maybe a note inside the instructable will avoid others to do the same error !

      Thanks for this great idea, I will try again! and I will succeed ! I wiiiilllll !!!!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 11 months ago

      Thank you for sharing your experience.
      This bubble clock using glycerin is ver.2 for me. Liquid of ver1 is water, and bubbles are ejected into pipe OD10mm ID 7mm to reduce its rising speed. You can see my ver1 here: https://youtu.be/wpaDbDAH25U
      I've never tried such a thin pipe.
      Rising speed of bubble in high purity glycerin is slow enough to see. So that, my ver2 has no pipe, but divider plates "separater"s are added. You may already tried, how about "separater", not pipe, made from acrylic board 1mm thickness. "separater" set with 5mm spacing can be the same width using OD 6mm pipes.
      I want to see your smaller bubble display.

      0
      Elv1zz
      Elv1zz

      Question 11 months ago

      Found your great bubble clock over at hackaday. I am very impressed and now want to make my own :)
      Currently I am checking if I can gather all required parts (which looks good so far). I also wanted to see the acrylic parts that need to be lasercut. So, thanks for sharing your cut file! But when I try to open it, most parts overlap and intersect (see attached image). I am pretty sure, that's not intended. What tool did you use to create that file? Could you check the file is as expected or maybe post a SVG version of the file? That would be so great :D
      (I know I most likely will have to modify or adapt your parts to my actual parts, but it would be a great start!)

      lasercut.png
      1
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Answer 11 months ago

      Thank you for your interest.
      The attached laser cut data on Step2 is created by adobe illustrator and each parts are drawn on different layers. I have tried to save as SVG file by illustrator, but its not saved as the same size as original on my mac.
      dxf file is correctly saved but unfortunately could not upload it with error message from instructables.com. I have revised the data file not overlap each parts drawings. Some free appli (ex. Inkscape) can import illustrator data file.
      I really look forward to see your bubble clock !