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Video: Upping the stakes in the Cunning Chronograph Competition

September 04, 2015

Max The Magnificent-September 04, 2015

Well, I have to say that I'm absolutely flabbergasted. In fact, I cannot recall when my flabber was so gasted. Do you recall our ongoing Cunning Chronograph Competition (see also Cunning chronograph combines concentric NeoPixel rings)? Well, my chum Steve Manley just upped the stakes when he sent me the following photograph showing the latest state-of-play with regard to his little beauty:

I must admit to being intrigued. In the case of the prototype jig for my own humble offering, I've currently got my NeoPixel LED rings mounted under a sheet of glass with a thin white-translucent film between them. "This is truly amazing! How on earth did Steve achieve this incredibly effect?" I thought to myself.

"This isn’t too shabby I suppose; how did you throw this look together?" I asked Steve in my reply email. I'd forgotten that (a) Steve recently purchased a 3D printer and (b) he is mind-bogglingly tenacious when it comes to learning how to work with this sort of thing. In response, Steve sent me the following images. We start with some screenshots from his 3D modelling package.

First, we have the mount for the two inner NeoPixel rings:

Next, we see a segment from the mount for the outer NeoPixel ring:

Four of these segments can be clipped together to form the full mount for the outer ring; also, the inner mount can be attached to the outer mount.

Now, it's certainly fair to say that the above mounts are nicely and cleverly designed; on the other hand, there's nothing too surprising thus far. That changes when we see the following drawing of the part that's used to isolate the LEDs in the two inner rings:

Similarly, the following image shows a segment that's used to isolate the LEDs in the outer ring (once again, four of these segments are clipped together to create the entire fixture):

I've played with 3D drawing packages before, and I didn’t find them to be all that easy. The sort of things that Steve is doing here are non-trivial and -- if I were wearing one -- I would doff my cap to him.

The following image shows all of the 3D parts Steve created to form the latest incarnation of his new clock. On the left-hand side we see the four base quadrants used to mount the 60-pixel outer LED ring (the bottom three are in their face-up orientation; the top segment has been flipped over to show its reverse side):

In the middle at the bottom we see the base hub for mounting the 24- and 12-pixel inner rings; in the middle at the top we see the hub used to isolate the LEDs forming the inner rings from each other. Finally, on the right-hand side we see the four quadrants used to isolate the LEDs in the 60-pixel outer ring from each other (once again, the bottom three are in their face-up orientation; the top segment has been flipped over to show its reverse side).

On the left-hand side of the following image we see the base elements assembled with their NeoPixel rings mounted; on the right we see the isolation elements assembled and painted black to eliminate light bleed:

The image below shows the isolation assembly mounted on top of the base assembly. All we need now is to add the diffuser layer and we're ready to rock-and-roll:

I have to say that I'm tremendously impressed with, and enthused by, all of this. I immediately emailed Steve begging him to post a video on YouTube so I could see it in action. An hour or so later, he responded with this video, along with an apology that he hadn’t had the time to add a voice-over.

The really frustrating thing is that Steve tells me that this video doesn’t do things justice, and that his chronograph looks much, much better in real life.

As fate would have it, I'm currently working furiously on my own version of the chronograph because I want to present it at the Awesome Arduino "Show and Tell" session at the forthcoming ESC Minneapolis in November (see also Fantastical Theatre sessions announced for ESC Minneapolis).

I couldn’t help myself; although my outer case is going to be phantasmagorical, the way in which I'm mounting my NeoPixel rings doesn’t hold a candle to Steve's implementation, so I begged him to share it with me. Well, Steve is a "Gentleman and a scholar," as they say in England. He immediately emailed the *.stl (STereoLithography) files to me so I can print my own parts. Furthermore, he tells me I can make these files available to anyone who wishes to create their own capriciously cunning chronograph (click here to access a ZIP file containing these files).

There remains just one small fly in the soup, as it were. I purchased a cheap-and-cheerful 3D printer a year-or-so ago, but -- after playing with it for a while -- it ended up gathering dust in the corner of my office. Thus, when my chum Alvin, who was visiting from England, mentioned that he wanted to start making things with a 3D printer, I gave him mine as a present.

This means that I'm now looking for someone who offers affordable 3D printing services; any recommendations would be very gratefully received.

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