This incredible word clock is controlled by 114 servos
April 8th, 2019—
Word clocks normally use an array of lights to show the time, and although this project does use lights, how it works is much different than others.
LEDs for the device are hidden behind a thin layer of PVC, while 114 tiny SG90 servos move the lights and their 3D-printed frames back and forth. The result is a stunning display where the time is spelled out by the appropriate characters. These progressively come into focus, setting them apart from inactive letters which appear to fade into the background.
An Arduino Nano drives the assembly, along with an infrared controller setup and an RTC module for accurate timekeeping. A demo can be seen in the first video below, and the very involved build process is highlighted in the second clip.
What has 114 LEDs and is always running? As you may know the answer is a word clock. What has 114 LEDs + 114 servos and is always moving? The answer is this servo controlled word clock.
For this project I teamed up with a friend of mine which turned out to be a must because of the large effort of this build. In addition, my electronic and his mechanical skillset complemented each other quite well. The idea for this adaptation of the popular word clock came to us while we were making a regular one as Christmas gift. There, we noticed that it is also possible to project the letters from the back onto a white sheet of paper. At the time this was only a workaround solution to hide our crappy craftsmanship since we ended up with a lot of bubbles while attaching a vinyl sticker with the letters to the back of a glass plate. We then noticed that one can achieve interesting effects when bending the sheet of paper since the letters change size and become blurred. This made us come up with the idea to make a word clock where the letters are projected from the back onto a screen and can be moved back and forth to change the size of the projected image. At first we were a bit reluctant to build this project because of the costs and effort it takes when you want to move each of the 114 letters individually. So we tossed with the idea to make a version where just every word that is used to display the time can be moved back and forth. However, after seeing that the Epilog contest was coming up on Instructables asking for epic projects, and also after finding relatively cheap servo motors, we decided to go all the way and make a proper version where each letter is individually controlled by a servo