Finding the Right Linear Actuator

A project log for Exploring Flip Dots

I have this idea for a slow but relatively cheap flip dot display that I want to try out. This is definitely a research project.

michael-gardiMichael Gardi 06/17/2021 at 16:340 Comments

So with my new push-push flip square design I need a way to activate the change from one state to the other.  Some kind of linear actuator would seem to be ideal for this. In fact I will go so far as to say that a solenoid is probably the best solution. To that end I have ordered some small 3-5V push-pull solenoids.

Since solenoid delivery is still many weeks away I decided to try something else. I really like what hugs is doing with his PinThing project. His linear actuator design is both elegant and compact. So I thought I would give his ideas a try. Now I created my version before hugs published his design so it's not quite the same or as good if I'm being honest, but for a test it gets the job done.

I didn't have any suitable motors geared or otherwise to try this out with, but I did have some continuous rotation servos lying around. So here is the result. 

A few things to note. The first is that this is such a cool idea. For hugs' PinThing project a perfect fit. For me not so much, at least with the slow servo rotational speeds. My actuator needs to impart enough of an impulse on the flip square sliders so that the square flips all the way around to the other side. At these speeds that is not going to happen. I have not completely given up on the idea though. I have some cheap "pager" motors with high rotational speeds on order.  

It will be interesting to see if they can be controlled well enough so that the the linear actuator acts more like a solenoid.  I'll let you know what I find when they arrive many weeks from now.