How to Build an Antiqued Split-Flap Display for Showing Art

Split-flap displays were very popular in the days before the proliferation of inexpensive digital displays. They were most commonly used…

Cameron Coward
a year ago3D Printing / Art

Split-flap displays were very popular in the days before the proliferation of inexpensive digital displays. They were most commonly used for clocks, but the same concepts were often applied to show any kind of preset information. While they were purely electro-mechanical devices, they were capable of displaying a lot of information on the flaps. Ajaxjones has taken advantage of that to show tiny art pieces in a beautifully-antiqued, 3D-printed split-flap display.

Despite how common split-flap display once were, they’re actually quite finicky devices that easily become jammed or flip through too many cards at one time. For that reason, Ajaxjones started with a proven 3D-printable design modeled by Jonas Bonjeanand. He then heavily remixed the design to give it an appearance that matched the antique aesthetic he was going for, in particular he added features like a non-functional petrol tank to give it a kind of steampunk look.

The gears that turn the flap drum are driven by a small stepper motor, and that, in turn, is controlled by a Wemos D1 Mini R2. Ajaxjones programmed that through the Arduino IDE, and took advantage of the IFTTT and Adafruit IO services to control the flap turns. Finally, he airbrushed several layers of paint on to the 3D-printed parts to give them a nice weathered antique finish. With the assembly complete, he loaded it up with artistic illustrations of flowers for the flaps and the result is a great art piece perfect for a bookshelf adorned with leather-bound tomes.

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