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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tõnis

Yet Another Flap Clock


At around 2022 Christmas time I was wandering around on the internet and saw a Vestaboard - a flap display. It’s a nice flap display, however very expensive. After some thinking I decided to make my own, I just wanted to have one.

Project summary

In this project I was building a flap clock using 3d printed components wherever possible. The plan was utilizing PCBs for simple electrical connections and the whole design should be modular. Production should be as simple as possible and the costs should be reasonable.

My responsibilities

  • PCB design and component selection

  • CAD design for the display

  • 3d printing and assembly

  • Software development and testing


Already at the beginning of the project I knew that the flap design would be the most challenging part. I made several design iterations and trials before I settled with the sticker solution. In the end it was very time consuming and not the best solution for such a huge project.

The whole clock utilizes 12 digits next to each other and each of them are the same. That simplified the printing and buildup process. The whole printing, including the prototyping, took more than 4000 minutes 2 kg of filament.

The software development was not as smooth as I expected. I used a new ESP32 module and not all libraries were available for that specific module.

The electrical design worked more or less as expected. The most challenging was the homing as I used a hall sensor that just slides into the position. That made the homing little fiddly and it did not always result in the same position. The amount of flaps were too large and the possible error margin too small.

In the end I made the software to work with what I had and it is not in the desired state as thought at the beginning of the project. The hardware design took much longer than estimated and the whole buildup process was very tiring and required 2-3 times more time than expected.

At least the display makes a nice sound and it is good to look at. If I could find a better way to make the flaps I would rebuild it.

Here is the link to my Instructable description.

Used tools

SW: Fusion 360, Arduino IDE, Visio

HW: 3d printer, ESP32, shift registers, stepper motor, hall sensor


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