Feb. 22, 2015 | By Simon

Thanks to the low cost of entry and accessible methods of creating 3D printed parts, never before have we seen as many oddball “inventions” as we have today.  

Of course, 3D printing is used to help iterate on inventions that become commercialized, but for those who simply want to experiment and test a ‘proof of concept’, 3D printing is one of the most valuable tools in the inventor’s toolbox.  While we’ve previously seen fun 3D printed projects including “The Most Useless Machine Ever”, 3D printing enthusiast Maurice Boss has created a machine that is likely to be quite a bit more useful. 

Aiming to ‘liven-up’ traditional clocks (both analog and digital), Boss has created what is quite possibly one of the best uses for a dry-erase whiteboard, ever.  

The “Whiteboard Clock” is a device that operates a dry-erase whiteboard marker and eraser to simultaneously write and erase the current time on a whiteboard every 5 minutes.  For example, the clock will write 12:00 using the dry-erase marker - then five minutes later, it will automatically erase 12:00 and write 12:05.  

To operate the Whiteboard Clock, Boss programmed two servos to operate the arms holding the dry-erase pen and another servo to lift the arms off of the whiteboard and the pen up and down in order to write the numbers.  All of the plastic parts used by the Whiteboard Clock were designed in OpenSCAD and have been 3D printed  The base is attached to the whiteboard using four magnets (needless to say, in order to operate the device a whiteboard needs to be magnetic).   

The entire device is controlled by a PIC16F1454 microcontroller which is connected to a 433MHz receiver that receives updates from Boss’ computer.  Although the device is tethered by a USB cable, it is only used to power it.  

Additionally, Boos attached another combination of a PIC16F1454 microcontroller and 433MHz transmitter in order to broadcast small packets with ASCII text using a custom protocol that Boss developed.  This additional microcontroller acts as a modem to broadcast each line of text to the Whiteboard Clock.  As for the style of handwriting that the Whiteboard Clock uses, Boss used a font specified by a simple file in X and Y coordinates.  

In order to write the actual time, the font is processed through a C++ program that converts the coordinates into servo positions, which is then generated into a C file with the servo position for each number path before being written on the whiteboard.  

Thankfully, Boss has kept the design open source with a project explanation and has also uploaded all of the necessary program files on his Github profile:

3D Model | Font | Coordinate Transformation

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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SJK wrote at 2/23/2015 12:40:19 PM:

You guys have a very short memory. http://www.3ders.org/articles/20140224-this-3d-printed-clock-writes-the-time-minute-to-minute.html Maurice Bos should acknowledge his work is a derivative of joo's Plotclock, which was released with a CC-BY license. Attribution is due.

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