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Split flap display spells out three-letter abbreviations

Arduino TeamJuly 15th, 2016

Let’s face it, there’s something magical about split flap displays. Common throughout older airports and train stations, the electromechanical devices are used to show changeable alphanumeric text (e.g. arrival and departures), fixed graphics, or in Jonathan Odom’s case, Internet slang.

With three-letter abbreviations like BRB, LOL, OMG and SMH commonplace in today’s smartphone and online conversations, the Maker decided to bring text and animation back to its mechanical roots with his own split flap display. As you can see in the video below, an arcade button under each frame enables him to cycle through all 26 letters to spell out his thoughts in acronym form, while a fourth frame reveals an animation of the very first cat video (by Eadweard Muybridge).

Structurally, the DIY gadget consists of 3D-printed parts, laser-cut acrylic for the tongue, flaps, brackets, wheels and spars, and plywood for the base. Everything is assembled by hand using screws and nuts. In terms of electronics, an Arduino Uno and Adafruit Motor Shield control a set of servo motors.

Although Odom’s configuration has four modules, you can technically build as many as you want and then connect them together. The Arduino motor shield only has 16 channels, so if you want more than than that you’ll have to find another means of controlling the rotation.

Want one for your desk? You can find all the necessary files and code on its project page, and see the final product in action below!