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Analog Edge Lit Clock
David is known as "the crazy clock guy" and he creates clocks that visualize time in unusual ways. He approached me to help him engineer the LEDs in a clock idea that he was developing and I designed the electronics for Levitation Time (shown at left). There is a levitating steel ball in the upper chamber that floats up and down, and the lighting in that section changes color on a 12-hour cycle. So for instance you can tell it is 3:00pm when it is green. The lower 2 circles indicate the hour and minutes by lighting one of 12 blue LEDs brighter than the rest.
We enjoyed working together on that clock and began an open collaboration to create other clocks. My artwork shares a similar aesthetic to his distinctive clocks so we found a lot of common ground as we explored ideas. He was always receptive to my suggestions and we eventually arrived at the concept shown below. Dave is good at creating these concept renderings and also built the mass model so he could get the general sense of size. The design evolved somewhat from this point of departure as we saw it coming together. I sent him detailed pictures (shown below) and videos so he was fully invested in the process. Throughout the process we kept asking each other questions about every detail.
The 12 sheets of clear acrylic have clock hands laser etched into them and are lit from below by LEDs. The 2 circles on the front represent the minutes (to the nearest 5) on the left, and minutes 1-4 on the right.
I began by designing the electronics. There are 3 control boards I designed - 1 for each lit section, and the circular LEDs are off-the-shelf NeoPixel LEDs. I then designed a LED board for the bottom lighting for the hands.
Dave found a local company that could laser etch the hands into 12 sheets of acrylic. I then cleaned up those sheets and assembled them together with black spacers to isolate the light so the LEDs would light one sheet at a time. Making the walnut base was a challenge in 3 dimensional thinking. I made it from 3 layers that I machined to support all the parts.
3 layers of walnut
Machining the top for the PCB
It took many hours for all the assembly to come together. I put a clear window in the base so you can see the electronics.
The final step was making the vitrine. At some point we decided that the base would not be wider than the overall case since the lines flowed better.
The time is set by holding a magnet attached to the gear (that stores in the base) close to the circles. To set the hour hands, you place the magnet in the upper hole on the back. If you leave it there, the hand cycles through from front to back (1:00 to 12:00) repeatedly which is mesmerizing to watch. Here's a video showing how you set the time:
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