Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Swiss Engineer 3D Prints an Incredible Laser Projection Clock

ST Medical Devices

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c3Writing about 3D printing day in and day out I find myself always stumbling upon projects which really do show off the power that a 3D printer can place into an individual’s hands. The do-it-yourself community has transformed over the last few years thanks to this amazing technology, meaning people like myself have the pleasure of covering some pretty darn incredible projects.

One such project, a 3D printed laser projection clock, comes out of Switzerland. Created by a 51-year-old engineer and ex-fiber optics equipment designer named Stefan Ries, this clock is anything but ordinary. Currently working outside his field of expertise, Ries constantly has an urge to relax by working on creative DIY projects.

“I could always do something with electronics but wasn’t capable of making anything mechanical as I’m really clumsy with those things (In Switzerland we use to say: I have two left hands),” explained Ries to 3DPrint.com. “Even a simple box around any electronic was an absolute disaster. A year ago I had to stay at home due to a broken arm for a while. I bought a 3D-printer and suddenly I could realize all mechanical constructions. This was for me a fundamental new situation!”

c6With a fascination of lasers, and equipped with a new UP! Mini 3D printer, Ries set off on what may have been one of his more complicated DIY projects, his laser projection clock. While stumbling upon clocks on YouTube similar to the one he had planned to create, he noticed that for the most part the displays were incredibly unstable. Also, because such projections were enabled via a moving wheel of mirrors, which took quite a lot of time and patience to adjust properly, Ries realized that the perfect solution would be to simply print out the mirror wheel on his Up! Mini.

“The wheel was my starting point then. I tried first with fixed, printed angles for the mirrors which didn’t work at all,” explained Ries. “So I realized that I had to make it adjustable. As the wheel itself acts now as a spring, I required some trials for a design and shape which would allow it to have a good balance between spring load and adjustment range.”

To rotate the mirrors Ries first used a CD-ROM motor, but found out quickly that this would not work properly for stabilizing the projection. He next turned to a PC fan motor which worked like a charm. Once the main mechanical components were printed, (at 0.25 mm without support) the electronics were added in (an Arduino Pro Mini, a wheel encoder, and a real time clock), and all that was left to do was to create and assemble the housing. Ries 3D printed it all, and has made every one of the 16 3D models he designed for the clock available for free on Thingiverse.c5

Once completely assembled, the only real issue that the clock had was that it was too light. While the mirrors spun, the clock would vibrate and slowly creep along Ries’ desktop.

“Of course always keeping a hand on the clock was not an option so I made a container which I filled up with coins to add some weight (I do a lot of business trips and have coins in foreign currency laying around everywhere),” Ries told us.

Since Ries used normal laser pointer modules for the initial version of his clock, the daytime visibility is not all that great. He has informed us, however, that he has already ordered a stronger laser and will soon be modifying his design in order to suit this the new laser.

Let us know if you have created a similar projection clock. Post your thoughts and feedback in the 3D Printed Laser Projection Clock forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of the clock in action below:

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