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You can now find out more information on my special micro-site/page thing here splitflap.co.uk

Jack Spade


After years of on/off work on my split-flap display project, it has finally come to a point where it can be tested, extensively, with the right client, one that embraces the inherent flaws in a mechanical analogue system like a split-flap display.

The project came about after the folks at The Mobile Studio entered the annual RIBA Regent Street Windows Project and after a selection process Jack Spade choose their entry, leaving them with the challenge of manufacturing the installation. It was about this time they brought me in to work on the split-flap display. As one of the few people to have tried building them in recent years, and being located in London I was able to meet with them, finish a final prototype and quote them for building 12 units (10 for the installation).

The schedule was tight however we ended up being ready in plenty of time, the installation included a number of other elements that all came together on August 31st 2014 during an overnight installation. While there have been a few tweaks necessary they work very well, and produce a really satisfying effect.

The installation can be seen for the whole of September at the Jack Space, Brewer Street store and there is a behind the scenes video below…

Image: Agnese Sanvito

Prototype V4


I have been working heavily on iterating the design of the flip display, I have removed nearly all the glued finger joints and replaced them with T-joints using M3 machine screws, nuts and shake-proof washers.

I have also removed the middle wall and replaced it with a small motor plate and M3 x 20mm spacers.

I have also figured out the correct dimensions for the top front lip to allow the characters to stay in the right place until they are pulled down out the way for the next flap.

Finally I have switched to a metal 5mm steel shaft with bearings on either end and MXL timing pulleys for the motor and the spindle.



The MXL timing belt connects the motor to the spindle without a middle wall to support any gears.


M3 x 20mm spacers hold a dramatically smaller motor plate in position, supporting the weight.


To square up the unit and keep it rigid a top and back panel have been added to the housing.


In the distance the pulley is secured to the metal shaft which is connected to the motor via a MXL timing belt. The pulley protrudes from the disc on the far end to reduce the width of the entire assembly.


In the middle a universal mounting hub is connected to the spindle. This buries the hub inside to further reduce the overall width of the spindle.


On both ends the shaft is held in situ by a small (5mm ID x 9mm OD x 3mm W) bearing that is secured with two M3 x 6mm screws and nuts.


The tension of the timing belt helps to prevent the spindle from sliding free and falling out.


No front housing is present but could easily be added.

This side plan view gives a better sense of way things are connected.

This side plan view gives a better sense of way things are connected.

Update 2: Myron Lo

Today I got a nice email from Myron with a picture of his assembly, he says that the Arduino Due didn’t work out and he has switched to using several Arduino Mega’s. Using this mechanism he has been able to control 48 units and they are trying to finish the project before the end of the week and will be sending me another update!

It’s great to see how project developing!


This is the current progress…

It’s a bit shonky, the design needs refinement but thats something I am working on, I put the thing together and realise some things were wrong so I have to make another change, but it’s pretty good otherwise, I am stress testing it overnight to see if anything breaks.

24×7 flapping!

New flap holding carriage

This is my new design for the flap holding carriage. The new design is narrower as the mounting hub is inside the unit rather than on either side, this saves a good 5-10mm, additionally because there is one point of mounting to the hub and the two discs either side are held in position by the square spacer unit the holes from one side to the other are exactly perpendicular and stay aligned. The new design is in part inspired by the H-section in the flipbookit.

Click for a detailed annotated view.

plan 4

Split-Flap Game

Yesterday a nice chap called Richard contacted me to share his project, one that I have seen before, but forgot to blog it. He has built a game for his kids using a split-flap display.

You can see his online Instructables guide here.

Version 4

I have been working a bit over the past few months on the latest version of the split-flap display, I haven’t gotten to the making process yet, but I have beeing costing, and it’s a lot more expensive than originally thought, perhaps £200 per unit!

I am going to try and build the latest one soon, I want to get the first revision of a dedicated PCB made that has all three parts, the stepper driver, RS485 transceiver and the basic Arduino embedded so I can work on the firmware and test the prototype.

Here is a little sneak peek…

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 01.26.22

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 01.26.29

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 01.26.51

An am

I can hardly believe this is from 2012 and I didn’t see it before. Nice project, amazing engineering!

This is a whole collection of videos of how it was made, no website that I can find though.

Vivarium by Juan Fontanive

This is another take on the split-flap display as flip-book by Juan Fontanive.