Oct 3, 2015 | By Kira

When the Plotclock was initially released by German designer Johannes, it was an instant internet hit. The endearing, time-keeping robot uses a dry-erase pen to write out the time on a small white board, before erasing it and starting all over again, repeating this process every minute, on the minute. Made for DIYing and hackability, the Plotclock is powered by 9g servos which control the robotic arms and 3D printed hardware, and it has inspired countless makers to give it a shot or remix a version of their own.

Over in Norway, Kjetil Egeland was also interested in making his own Plotclock, but despite his experience as a skilled industrial mechanic, aircraft mechanic, and mechanical technician, he admitted that he was unfamiliar with all of the software and tools required, and thus wanted to devise clear and understandable instructions that any one could follow. “Often, the brilliant guys that make this stuff forget that there are idiots (like me) raround, that need a lot of help to really understand the principles and to have this fed in small portions,” said Egeland.

So, he set about making his own Instructables page, with step-by-step tips, graphs, photos, and descriptions of his own personal difficulties, experiments, and successes.

He 3D printed the hardware using the files and instructions from the original Thingiverse and then went about assembling the robotics. As recommended, he used M3 and M4 screws and bolts, and the Tower Pro 9g servos. However, when it came to the latter, he found that he had to replace the up/down servo with one that had bigger metal gears, since the first version kept slipping down the servo rod.

The Plotclock is powered by Arduino and Egeland used a Duemilanove Board, however MEGA or UNO would also work. “I am not an expert on Arduino, so I quickly found out that I had to do some more research on this one,” he said. For others new to the software, he recommends this beginner Arduino instructable by Amanda Ghassei.

Some of the 3D printed parts from the orginal Plotclock

Finally, he used Fritzing sofrware for making the wiring diagrams for electronics. “I have never used it before, but I managed to make this diagram in five minutes of how the wiring is done,” he said. If I could make anything that good in five minutes, I’d pretty darn proud.

The original Plotclock on Thingiverse does provide its own instructions, and if you happen to read German, you can also follow along on the fablab wiki. However as Egelad’s project shows, there are plenty of different approaches to making the finished clock, some more straightforward, others more complex, but as long as you can successfully finish it and maybe learn some new skills along the way, then no single approach is better than any others.

Maker projects shouldn’t be intimidating or unnecessarily complex, especially if it prevents other makers from even attempting to do it themselves. Egelad’s simplified instructions are an open invitation for people who may have seen the Plotclock before but didn’t feel confident in their ability to finish it. He also encourages others to help improve his instructions with even better clarifications, images, or tips and tricks so that even more people will be motivated to try their hand. With great ideas like that, we don’t consider him much of a ‘dummy’ at all.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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