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.

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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. Based on such preliminary test results, basic dimension is designed that font: 8 bits widht, 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")
  • 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 file 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.

Step 3: ​Assembling Air-handling Parts

L-shaped transparent tube-joints are used for the 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.

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.

    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

    This is an entry in the
    Make it Glow Contest

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      49 Discussions

      0
      jamesg96
      jamesg96

      20 days ago

      Nice job! I have seen this idea years ago done in a very large scale by Bruce Shapiro, The Art Of Motion Control (TAOMC.com). Great to see it miniaturized.

      0
      ravijag
      ravijag

      24 days ago

      Just voted for your creation..Absolutely marvelous idea and executed perfectly!!
      Great work of art indeed.

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 24 days ago

      Thank you for your glowing review and vote !

      0
      legolt
      legolt

      4 weeks ago

      Amazing job! Its very cool to see this type of liquid interfaces.
      I have a question. Is the air pump always on? I was wondering if there is no problem when all valves are closed for a long time. I mean because of the air pressure.

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 4 weeks ago

      Thank you for your inquiry. Yes, the air pump is always On. As you indicated, no opened valves for a long time supposed to affect the life-time of the pump. The pump is still operating, but additional solenoid-valve to purge air may be required as a result of further investigations.

      0
      OculumForamen
      OculumForamen

      5 weeks ago

      What a fantastic concept! I've seen things somewhat similar but doing it in a vase is really cool. I wish you had included more picture of the assembly process as I'm not literate in electronics enough to use your circuit diagram as the sole source for assembly. I think you just started the latest fad for all the DIYers frequenting Instructables.com!!! Way to go my friend! excellevt work! and excellent idea!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      Thank you !!
      Photos of assembled control circuit on front and back side are added in Step 4. They were kept on hold, because not-well-done wiring :) They may be of some help for you, but I suppose this circuit diagram is a little hard for a starter at electronics. I wish you could make your bubble clock with your experienced friends.

      1
      robert.d.swain
      robert.d.swain

      Question 6 weeks ago on Introduction

      I see you used clear dividers between the bubble columns. Is that really needed? Does the bubble flow interfere with the column next door without the dividers?
      Great project clock - I'm building one using a RPi and more digits in a rectangular tank. I'm thinking maybe a fish tank divided in half, side to side so I'll have the entire back for a bubble screen in glycerin (maybe 30 columns = 6 digits) and the entire front for fish to swim by (in water of course). Great job!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Answer 5 weeks ago

      Thank you for your inquiry. Depending on the size of bubble comparing to the pitch of nozzles,and the height(depth) of the effective display area, the deviders may not be needed.
      I really look forward to see your project. Please share it with us.

      0
      robert.d.swain
      robert.d.swain

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      Still pondering the dividers - My pitch would be very similar to yours. Did you add the dividers because of interference?

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      This Bubble Clock on this site is ver2 proto for me. Prior to this, I made ver1. you can see here:
      https://youtu.be/wpaDbDAH25U
      Its liquid was water, not glyceline. To achieve slow rising speed, pipes were added and air is ejected into the bottom of the pipe. Before the final spec of ver1, its experience without pipes, without dividers, told me that dividers are necessary.
      At the early test of ver2, diameter of bubble was larger than now. Its bubbles were not spherical, becouse of the interference of the dividers. It was clear that bubbles were interfered with the dividers.
      Diameter of bubble is much reduced later, as you see now, so that, at this moment, the deviders may not be needed, as I said on the prior reply.
      If presence or absence of devider is critical for your design, how about test your design preliminarily with and without deviders ?
      I really look forward to see your project !

      0
      robert.d.swain
      robert.d.swain

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      Sorry for the second round of questions. I hung up on this part of the design. Now I follow why and how the dividers got there in the first place. Thank you for the longer explanation! I REALLY don't want to build the dividers, so I was working out how to stagger the nozzles front and back or use different nozzles, etc. This really helps. I'll post my results.

      0
      jeanniel1
      jeanniel1

      5 weeks ago

      When I was in Japan, I saw some water falls that used gravity (opposite of the floating bubbles!) and absence of water to make symbols and designs. It was amazing! I love that this could be done on a much smaller scale! Thank you for putting this together!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      Thank you for your interest to my project. Yes, my bubble clock is designed minimal to operate on my desktop.
      The water falls may be the "Osaka Station City Water Fountain Clock | 水の時計". Unfortunately, I've never seen it. I do not know it is still operating or not, but I really want to watch this so dynamic display!

      0
      jeanniel1
      jeanniel1

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      Yes, I saw that, and I believe there is one similar in Tokyo. Thanks for sharing the videos!

      0
      indoorgeek
      indoorgeek

      5 weeks ago

      So mesmerizing. Great work!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Reply 5 weeks ago

      Thank you so much !

      0
      JamesF84
      JamesF84

      Question 6 weeks ago on Step 7

      I love it! You should definitely post a video!

      0
      ShinodaY
      ShinodaY

      Answer 5 weeks ago

      Is your advice additional video on step 7 required ?
      On step7, tuning 8 manual valves to reduce variation of air bubbles is very simple but require steady efforts, also tuning air bubble size and gap parameters.
      Please tell me if you have other questions.