Dec 1, 2016 | By Andre

The wristwatch is a timepiece that dates back to the 16th century. It became universally popular in the 20th century as both a functional object and (for some) a symbol of wealth and extravagance, but began a rapid decline in the last decade, thanks in part to other portable devices such as smartphones, laptops, and mp3 players.

The decline continued so far that a 2010 BBC article suggested a growing percentage of the population saw no need for them at all, although 86% admitted to still owning one. This decline slowly led tech giants like Apple and crowdfunded startups (like the soon-to-be phased out Pebble) fill the void with what we now know as the smartwatch; a wrist-based time piece that is capable of so much more than keeping the time.

With smartwatches well on their way to bringing back the centuries-old tradition of keeping time on one's wrist (a 2016 study suggests smartwatches have become more popular than the traditionally common Swiss watch), it’s no wonder that the maker culture has recently gone ahead and made a DIY smartwatch with the help of 3D printing, Arduino, custom PCB, and some clever programming.

The Hackadai.IO project entitled Chronio contains details for a low-powered device that tells time, date, temperature, a stopwatch feature, and even has a cloned version of the once-upon-a-time sensation of a game called Flappy Bird. Of course, you won’t be comparing specs to Apple’s most recent offering, but that's because the Chronio pours most of its efforts into one area: power longevity.

The Chronio has no WiFi or bluetooth connectivity, and uses a low-energy 96x96 pixel Sharp Memory LCD. This means no online capabilities or blistering state-of-the-art graphics. But its focus on minimizing power consumption pays off, because a standard 160mAh button cell battery lasts several months before a replacement is necessary. That should be a welcome change to those frustrated with the limited battery life on more full-featured smartwatch releases.

On top of the longevity and still fairly impressive feature set, the watch also looks pretty cool, thanks to some clever 3D printed case designs. Project creator Max.K suggests that “DIY watches often consist of a pcb and screen wrapped in duct tape,” and that he “wanted to change that by designing a 3D printed case.”

From the looks of things, your typical desktop filament-based 3D printer will be able to print the case without much difficulty. And even though supports are required for an accurate finish, having them set on the watch interior ensures a clean exterior surface finish once the 3D printed case completes.

Even though other material options are possible, Max.K used PLA plastic at a fairly high resolution, suggesting that the buttons be printed at 0.1mm layer height. Also, as is so common in the DIY world of today, he has released the 3D printable STL files on his thingiverse page under a creative commons attribution license.

From an electronics perspective, the Chronio uses an Atmega328p with Arduino bootloader micro-controller, a Maxim DS3231 real-time clock, and of course the aforementioned display and batteries that bring the smartwatch to life.

Going back to the battery life for a moment, it may seem shocking that a modern smart watch can last as long the Chronio does. But the system is technically in sleep mode most of the time and only updates once a minute to automatically update the time or if a button is pressed. The means a mere 20uA of power consumption (most of which is used by the display itself).

It is worth emphasizing that this remains a work in progress. The most recent project logs discuss ongoing testing of the battery life as well as comparisons to the popular Pebble watch. Ultimately (not much of a surprise here) the Pebble is technically superior in just about every category except battery life, with Chronio lasting upwards of 6x as long on a single charge vs. the Pebble set to airplane mode.

To conclude: while this isn’t the first DIY smart watch to hit the scene (another 3D printed smartwatch went live late in 2015), it certainly seems to be the most impressive to date. Considering humans have been wearing timepieces on their wrists for centuries now, I imagine the recent dip in popularity was short-lived (even with the recent and unfortunate announcement that Pebble will be purchased by Fitbit and eventually phased out).



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Marcello wrote at 12/3/2016 8:06:36 AM:

What is the smart feature in this watch? I see none.

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