Marble Clock

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About: Try again. Fail again. Fail better

EDIT:
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Note:

I have a twitter account where I share the progress of my projects before I publish them. You can follow me and give feedback on my projects. I think this will eliminate many problems of the project before it's published.

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Marble Clock is a 3D printed rolling ball clock that tells the time by the location of marbles/balls. It consists of 3 main rails, where,

  • The 5-minute rail with 1-minute intervals
  • The 60-minute rail with 5-minute intervals
  • The 12-hour rail with 1-hour intervals

add up and tell the time.

Outline

In the first step, I will give you a little bit of history of rolling ball clocks and ball clocks in general. Next, I will explain the Idea behind this project. Then I will give you an insight into the design process of this clock, so you'll be able to design your own clock. I'll give you a 3d print guide so you can easily print the required pieces and arrange them. After giving you a step by step assembly guide and show you how to sync your clock, I'll end the instructable with a troubleshooting guide. So, if you encounter any problems during your build you can solve them easily.

The purpose of this instructable is not just to give you a cookbook. I'll show you the way I built this project and provide you with open-ended questions, so you can add your own ideas, and take this project even further. Many parts I've designed are not connected. This way you can change the design to your own liking and then glue them together.

I strongly encourage you to share your build when it's done!

Let's get started.

Step 1: A Short History of Marble Clocks

This instructable is based on the design called "rolling ball clock" that was invented by Harley Mayenschein in the 1970s. He patented his invention and started a company which began to manufacture these clocks from solid hardwoods in the 1980s.[1]

The original rolling ball clock had 3 main rails, 2 for minutes and 1 for the hour. by adding the two rails one can get the total minute. This way the time was shown.[1]

There were many varieties of these clocks ... for example the kineticlock which had 10 minutes intervals instead of 4, or the Chronomeans Clock which was built with anodized aluminium.
Other rolling ball clock varieties:

Source:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_ball_clock

Further Reading:

http://www.chilton.com/~jimw/ballclks.html

Step 2: The Idea

I've been a long time fan of ball clocks. I've seen one when I was a kid in a novelty store. And I just stood there watching it endlessly. The movement of the balls with time was magic to me. After I heard about the clock contest on Instructables. It gave me the Idea to try to design and build a ball clock from scratch. So I started to sketch on paper.

What I wanted to do was to design a different lifting mechanism instead of the traditional rotating scoop type design. So then it hit me. I was going to use a rotary to linear motion mechanism so while the mechanism was rotated by a motor the ball would be moving in a line, up and down. Creating a little illusion.

The rails were mostly inspired from other ball clocks but I had an idea to create a bell mechanism so everytime one hour passes there would be a sound. Unfortunately, I could not build this into the project.

Step 3: Tools & Parts

Note: these are the Tools&Parts I had available. You can use any other part for your needs.

Tools:

Parts:

3D Printed Parts :

all parts are on step 5 I recommend you to read read step5 before printing them.

Step 4: Design Process

You can skip this step if you just want to print the project. This step is for people who want to design their own ball clocks or want to add new features to this project. It gives an insight on how the ball rails were designed in Fusion 360.

If you are new to the Fusion 360 environment I suggest you take a look at a few tutorials.
You can enroll in this class: https://www.instructables.com/class/3D-Design-Clas...

also, this youtube series gives a good beginner tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5bc9c3S12g

I suggest you to read this step after you've seen the tutorials.

Details on the design process are noted on the images.

Base Structure & Rails

The base structure is basically 6 rails holding 4 rods. The rods(8mmx8mm) were designed to be sturdy. They are held by bolts to a wood plate. The rails were inspired by the original rolling ball clock. But the dimensions are different due to different ball sizes and weight distribution.

Elevator

The elevator design was inspired by this mechanism. User mgg942 used this design and created a rotary to linear drive on Thingiverse . I tweaked and re-designed this to create an elevator mechanism.

Step 5: 3D Print

There are two seperate .zip files you can download.

The 3d parts.zip folder contains all the parts for the clock separately.

The 3d_parts_sets.zip contains 5 sets. each set is designed for a 25x25cm print area.

If you have a large print area you can print these like I arranged them in sets. Or you can print them separately.

I suggest you to finish printing before the assembly of any pieces. It's much easier if you lay them on a table in an arrangement. Like a LEGO set.

Each part is given a number and a letter. these will be useful while following the building instructions next step.

Step 6: Base Assembly

you can use the pdf template to drill holes on the wood.

Parts used in this step:

  • [3d printed] 1a-3f (28 parts)
  • 5 x 40mm M3 bolts & nuts
  • 6 x 30mm M3 bolts & nuts
  • 3 x 15mm M3 bolts & nuts
  • 6 x 10mm M3 bolts & nuts
  • 10 x 6mm M3 bolts & nuts
  • 4 x (3mm*6mm*2.5mm) ball bearing

Tools used:

  • Tack-it
  • philips head screwdriver
  • pliers

Estimated Time:

  • 15-20 minutes

Note: Assembly instructions are noted on the images.

Step 7: Center of Gravity

This is the most important part of this project. I did not design the rail pieces connected to the joints. This way everyone can adjust them to their needs. The rails and the connectors under them are not attached. You have to figure out the center of gravity and glue it when you are certain. Let's begin,

The 5min rail:

Slowly put 4 balls on the minute rail. And position the connector piece accordingly so it doesn't tip over. It should tip over when the 5th ball comes. This takes a bit of time to adjust. When you're satisfied go to the 15min rail.

The 15min rail:

Slowly put 11 balls on the rail. again it shouldn't tip over while 11 balls are on it. When the 12th ball arrives it should tip over.

The Hour rail:

This is the same as the 15min rail. wherever you glued the connector on the 15min rail you can glue it on the same place on the hour rail.

Lastly, to test them all at once put 11 balls on the hour and 15min rails and 4 balls on the 5 min rail. then drop one ball to the 5 min rail. They all should go smoothly and leave the rails

Step 8: Elevator Assembly

Parts used in this step:

  • [3d printed] 4a-5d (9 parts)
  • 1 x 25byj-48 Stepper
  • 4 x (3mm*6mm*2.5mm) ball bearing
  • 1 x (F6-14M 6mm x 14mm x 5mm) Thrust Bearing
  • 2 x 10mm M3 Bolts & Nuts
  • 2 x 25mm M3 Bolts & Nuts
  • 2 x 6mm M3 Bolts & Nuts
  • 4 x 40mm M3 Bolts & Nuts

Tools used:

  • Tack-it
  • philips head screwdriver
  • pliers

Estimated Time:

5-10 minutes

Note: Assembly instructions are noted on the images.

Step 9: Driving the Motor & Timing

How to drive the motor

To drive the 28byj-48 stepper motor with a constant speed I've used an Arduino Uno with the AccelStepper library. you can download the library here . If you don't have experience with Arduino or don't know how to install libraries you can check this site.

Connect the pins on the stepper motor to the Arduino like this:

Stepper---Arduino

  • IN1 ----> 2
  • IN2 ----> 3
  • IN3 ----> 4
  • IN4 ----> 5

After uploading the code you are good to go!

Timing

The most important thing about a clock is precision. We want this clock to be as precise as any other wall clock/ watch so it works without any error. To do this we have to change the speed of the motor so the elevator completes 1 revolution in 60 seconds precisely.

Now get a stopwatch in your hand and run the motor. Start the stopwatch when the elevator gear crosses a specified point. And stop your watch when it crosses the point again. Take a note at the time. now let's calculate the required speed

T = time on your stopwatch

t = 60s (time you want it to complete 1 revolution)

M = old motor speed("stepper.setSpeed()" in code)

m = new motor speed("stepper.setSpeed()" in code)

new motor speed(m) =(T*M) / t

Insert this into the code and check your stopwatch again, repeat this until you are satisfied with the result

Step 10: First Test

You're done with the build now it's time to test this clock!

Check your watch and put the balls according to the time. And start the motor when you are ready. It's really fun to watch time go by with this clock. Go and put yourself some tea and enjoy the sound off balls clicking. Now while doing that you should check a few things to be sure that this clock can run for 7/24 straight.

Things to look for:

  • Can the elevator bring a ball without dropping it each minute?
  • Are balls not getting stuck on the rails after 2-3 hours?
  • Is the clock on time after several hours?

If your answer is no for at least one of those questions, you can check the Troubleshooting step!

If your answer is yes, then congratulations you've built a precise ball clock!

Step 11: Troubleshooting

- Balls are not moving easily on the rails

Sometimes filament residue blocks the balls. use a sandpaper to sand the pieces.

- The motor is stopping after a few hours.

Try to connect external power to the motor.

-the balls are falling even though I set them not to fall

The surface the clock is on can effect this try to change the location of the clock

-The clock is not on time

Repeat the timing step as much as you can until you are satisfied

Step 12: What's Next

There are lots of things that can be improved on this clock. Here are a few that I have in mind.

  • Adding an am-pm rail.
  • Adding a bell so it makes a sound every hour.
  • Creating a more stylish ball descent system. instead of the ball tower that just drops the balls.
  • Make a bigger version with different kind of balls

I hope you enjoyed this instructable.

If you have any questions ask away! & tell me about your build!

Clocks Contest

First Prize in the
Clocks Contest

4 People Made This Project!

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78 Discussions

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cfb70

Question 6 days ago on Step 5

Hi Brian, thank you for this magnificent design. He decided to start manufacturing it. I have no experience with 3d printing. I have to buy from a company that does that job. I would appreciate if you can tell me what type of material to use: filament ABS or PLA. In addition, how many millimeters of deposition material of the printer or some other parameters that you know can indicate to obtain a good result (compatible with the price and the necessary average quality) after printing. I hope your repply thanks a lot. Carlos.
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NickI26

Question 4 weeks ago

could you post some side and rear shots?, can't see how the ball escape leaver is done. And is it possible to get an accurate hole placement for the base board?

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ChucktegNickI26

Answer 4 weeks ago

This is the way I did it hope this helps, used a 158 grain cast lead bullet for the weight, put it on one side only to keep it from hitting the trough.

DSC_0840.JPGDSC_0842.JPGDSC_0843.JPG
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brian.sadwin

Question 6 weeks ago on Introduction

Since I do not have a 3d printer I tried several online 3d printing companies. They all said problems with the files and do not recommend printing. (various reasons) Any body out there that has printed these files? If so what printer was used and what type of material. I would be interested in paying for the parts to be printed. Thanks

2 answers
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BeerLogicbrian.sadwin

Answer 6 weeks ago

I can see why that the printing companies are having problems. I am trying to print the parts and am having problems. My printers only have 22cm print beds so I cannot print the 5 sets at once. I have been trying to print the parts individually but have had problems finding all of the of them. The problem is that some of the parts are composite assemblies. 2B, 2C1 and 2C2 are actually two separate parts. 3D are also 2 part assemblies but the risers are of different heights. There looks to be at least 3 sizes of these parts. the parts 5C is also made up from two parts and 5B is made up from 3 parts.

so far I have printed all but 1e, 1f, 2a, 3d, 3f, 4a and 4f. The printing issues with 1d and 1e is the 'ring' where the ball drops through is rounded at the bottom so it does not bond to to the printing plate even with a skirt and supports.

When I can print a complete set that works I can print them and sell you one by posting on e-bay at cost + shipping if that is allowed on instructables and id ok with gocivici.
Richard

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PeterG55BeerLogic

Reply 4 weeks ago

Hallo, sorry das ich in deutsch schreibe.
Ich habe alles nach und nach einzeln gedruckt hat wunderbar geklappt warte jetzt noch auf die kugeln.

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面包板

Question 5 weeks ago

Thank you very much for paying so much for this project. I hope to implement it before the Spring Festival, and then learn SW to add my own ideas. When I looked at the stl file, I found that there were four missing parts, two of which had only one part, while the other two were completely absent. as the picture shows.
Do you have a more complete stl file? Thank you very much if you have time to update!

1.png2.png
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BeerLogic

Question 6 weeks ago

I am trying to print the parts one at a time or sets of the same part where more than one are required. on the 3d (lime green parts) how many sizes of the 'riser' parts are there? is it two or three? I laso cannot find 3f.

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EzequielI5

Question 6 weeks ago

Does it works with 11.11mm balls? I can't get the exact diameter in my country.

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brian.sadwin

Question 8 weeks ago on Step 8

I do not have assess to a 3d printer . Can I buy the printed parts from you? If not any suggestions on who can print the parts for . I will gladly pay the costs. If I had to buy a printer any suggestions. Most printers that are reasonably priced are to small a base. Thanks for any help you can give. Brian

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DingX1

8 weeks ago

fantastic! good work, thanks for sharing!!

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drkoray

5 months ago

Awesome project.

Is it possible to use Arduino nano instead of uno?

1 reply
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Maurilio-gm C.Cdrkoray

Reply 8 weeks ago

Probably yes. No special processing connections or requirements ...
Just do the modifications on the doors.
I have not even used my Nano myself, but I intend to use them soon. This project should be one of them.

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reichert99

4 months ago

I downloaded your ino file, however I don't see any M or m in the code. How would I set the timing. This is what I see.
// ConstantSpeed.pde
// -*- mode: C++ -*-
//
// Shows how to run AccelStepper in the simplest,
// fixed speed mode with no accelerations
/// \author Mike McCauley (mikem@airspayce.com)
// Copyright (C) 2009 Mike McCauley
// $Id: ConstantSpeed.pde,v 1.1 2011/01/05 01:51:01 mikem Exp mikem $
#include <AccelStepper.h>
#include <Wire.h>
#define HALFSTEP 8
#define motorPin1 2 // IN1 on the ULN2003 driver 1
#define motorPin2 3 // IN2 on the ULN2003 driver 1
#define motorPin3 4 // IN3 on the ULN2003 driver 1
#define motorPin4 5 // IN4 on the ULN2003 driver 1
AccelStepper stepper(HALFSTEP, motorPin1, motorPin3, motorPin2, motorPin4);
void setup()
{
stepper.setMaxSpeed(1000);
stepper.setSpeed(127.7);
}
void loop()
{
stepper.runSpeed();
}

thanks

1 reply
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gocivicireichert99

Reply 8 weeks ago

Hi,
stepper.setSpeed(127.7);
The 127.7 here is the m value, you can change the speed directly by changing this value.

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IsaacN5

Tip 8 weeks ago

Hi guys,

Finally finished mine - very happy with it. Few tips:

1. Do NOT get those cheap slingshot balls - I got them from AlieExpress - although they state they are 11mm - they vary with diameter and weight. I suggest a good quality ball bearings will be a good idea.

2. If I have to do it again - I would start with parts 2 (the moving parts) - the other parts will have to match these ones - so do them first - this will save you re-positioning time of the other parts.

3. Build the Big wheel assembly before you do the trays that take the balls from part C - this will set the height of the lowest point (where the wheel grabs the wall) then you can plan your slant up to part C.

4. Took me some time to understand where the other 2 wee bearings go on the wheel assembly - since the BOM for this stage say 4 bearings but actually show 2. So put the thrust bearing first - then put the 2 small ones inside the hole of the thrust bearing and then the screw to join them all.

5. Did not understand how the small cogs connects to the screw - so I did my own version - did put a disk under the cog. See picture attached.

6. I made the base for a box - so I could put the Arduino and Stepper board under - so nothing to see from outside - the made 2 holes on the side. I am powering with 9V 2A power supply. The other hole is fpr the USB in case I need to tune the speed.

7. When doing the balancing - it is important to take into account that the last ball falling before the part tips - comes from above and has some speed. make sure after you do a normal balancing - to test also for the falling last ball before you glue permanently.

20181221_214257.jpg20181220_224742.jpg
1 reply
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gociviciIsaacN5

Reply 8 weeks ago

Nice build!
I will edit the project with some corrections asap, thanks for the tips and feedback.

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IsaacN5

2 months ago

Hi - Thank you for this beautiful project. I am doing one too.

You state 10mm bolts for the support legs (part 3D) - however none is mentioned on your BOM.

1 reply
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gociviciIsaacN5

Reply 8 weeks ago

Thank you!
I added them to the list, thanks for pointing it out.