Multi-Axis Controller Powers Clock

A multi-axis motion controller is helping bring a large mechanical piece of art to life. The Sonic Plaza on the East Carolina University campus combines elements of art, architecture and technology for a colorful and ever-changing public space. At the heart of the plaza resides a clock tower with a huge multimedia "clock" called the Media Glockenspiel.

Twelve video monitors on the Glockenspeil’s circular face center around a set of 3-ft. high doors, which open four times a day. At sunrise, a large rooster sculpture pops out from behind the doors, in turn followed by brass horns at noon, a cannon figurine at sunset, and a jester at midnight. A Galil multi-axis motion controller helps move the sculptures.

Here is how it works: the controller connects to a remote Apple Mac via Ethernet. The Mac runs a JavaScript-based program that calculates times for sunrise and sunset and sends a pulse to the controller to trigger the appropriate figure’s movement. At noon and midnight, the program sends signals based on actual clock time. Each sculpture must travel different distances out the door and exit at the right moment for its show.

Two of the controller axes move the sculpture. One axis commands the trolley motor, a Bodine dc motor powered by a Minarik amplifier, which orients the upcoming sculpture perpendicular to the face of the Glockenspiel. The second axis commands another motor and amplifier combo to move the sculpture out the door.

The multimedia Glockenspeil plays crowing noises when the rooster slides out and the monitors flash different colors and designs. The horns exit to music from brass horns, while the cannon comes with canon blast and a puff of smoke. The joker laughs.

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