Freeform clock with RGB display!

A fun digital clock, featuring a 6 digit, RGB LED, 7 segment display. Built fully freeform style with brass wire!

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This project is scrapped. A good lesson in not over-complicating things, even if it makes a project cooler or more economical. Keep things simple where you can!

The story:

I like RGB things, and one of my friends was doing they're own freeform project (and they called it blinky), so I decided to to make a freeform clock. With an RGB seven-seg display because why not.

The 7 segment display

I was looking around for RGB 7 segment displays. Some people 3D print their own, but they're big and I don't have a 3D printer. I did some research on rgb 7 segment modules, an I found that the options were:
- Adafruit RGB 7-Segment Digit 1" (common cathode, 25 pins, super expensive)
- custom neopixel digit (digital, easy to use neopixel, semi-expensive)
- MIKROE 7-SEG RGB click (digital, "mikroBUS", ultra expensive)
- Sparkfun Dual 7-Segment Display RGB (multiplexed, difficult to use, cheap)

I chose the last one from Sparkfun. Probably should have chosen the digital addressable chainable and definitely much simpler one. But that would be too easy. Now I have 42 pins to connect with brass wires 144 LEDs (7 segs + dp * 3 colours * 6 digits) to multiplex. yay.

Microcontroller and other electronics

Since I was getting the 7 seg display from Sparkfun, I bought everything else for this project from them too. That includes an Atremis Nano dev board, because it is one of the cheapest for some reason. It features Bluetooth and tensorflow-lite voice recognition capabilities via the built in mic. We'll see if I end up using those. It also has a 48MHz microcontroller, and 21 GPIO. Because that's not quite enough pins to multiplex the 144 LEDs, I'll also be using the Sparkfun GPIO expander breakout for 16 extra PWM pins (very useful breakout BTW).

The plan:

This is a thorough layout of all the brass wires, including to-scale circuit boards. This should be pretty much what it will look like in the end. This doesn't include all the wires to some of the anodes, because that would clutter and confuse he plan.

Current status of the project:

I'm building it. Slowly but also as fast as I can.

  • 1 × Sparkfun Artemis Nano (Microcontroller) 19 total GPIO, 17 PWM channels, 4 I2C busses, 1MB flash and 384k RAM, 48MHz speed with 96MHz turbo mode, Bluetooth, microphone, LiPo charging
  • 3 × Sparkfun Dual RGB LED 7-Segment Display Features two digits with an RGB LED in every single segment!
  • 1 × Sparkfun SX1509 16 Channel IO Expander Breakout 16-channel GPIO expander with an I2C interface, bipolar, PWM, builtin pull-up/pull-down
  • 11 × 2N7000 MOSFET Simple little MOSFET
  • 19 × Resistors! Various values: 1x 51 Ohm, 6x 130 Ohm, 6x 91 Ohm, 6x 68 Ohm

View all 9 components

  • Status Update #2

    Tobias12/07/2020 at 00:12 0 comments

    Holidays have started. So I'll do this project. That's what I hope. Well I've got nothing else to do so it'd better happen.

    I'll have more soon! Stay tuned!

  • Status Update #1

    Tobias11/06/2020 at 10:13 0 comments

    I got the new soldering iron!!!

    It finally arrived, and I can finish the project! Except... No, because turns out we don't have any good masking tape in the house, which I will probably need to solder stuff together. I reeally hope I can get this project done before the circuit sculpture contest ends. I promise that this will be a sculpture of some sort when it's finished.

    Until next time (soon), bye!

  • Status Update #0

    Tobias10/22/2020 at 12:45 0 comments

    I've been busy with school, and I'm waiting for a new soldering iron (to replace my current 12w one), so this project has been neglected a bit. I currently have have all the components ready to be assembled, just waiting for the new iron!

    In the meantime, I'm gradually bending the brass wires as laid out in this plan:

    This plan is a product of weeks of procrastination about actually getting started on the physical project.

    Anyway, this is what the brass wire looks like:
    I'll post another update when I finish with the wire bending, and will hopefully have a soldering iron to finally assemble this project! Cya then!

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