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Update: Myron Lo

Today I got in touch with Myron Lo, the person involved in building the DIY flip display I wrote about previously, and they are apparently building this as part of a performance with the intention to share the designs later, there is more information on their Indiegogo page where they are seeking $10,000 to put their performance together.

The Indiegogo campaign has some great rewards, I've backed and hope you will also. Keen to see how they solved some of the problems, Myron said they'd read a lot on my website but hadn't had the time to contact me yet.

Very excited, and super keen to start working on this PCB that will have the RS-485 converter, the Arduino board and the stepper driver and sensor sockets on it, this will be the motherboard of each unit and allow them to be daisy chained without the hassle that Myron has had with I2C wires everywhere.

DIY Split-flap project

An Electrical Engineer by the name of Myron Lo has recently been working on a very similar project to myself, to manufacture his own flip display project. He is driving Adafruit motor shield using I2C from an Arduino Due rather than using a small MCU on each module, and has successfully manufactured a number of these units. So far he has made 16 and aims to make 64...

Early prototypes:

5 units:

8 units:

16 units:

I feel rather like I have been beaten to it, but I am aiming to spend some time on it very soon!

Qantas Solari Board

I was sent this and some from a kind gentleman working at Qantas in Sydny who saw my blogging and thought I might find this interesting, he has been working to repair it.

Flip Flap Digit

Just after Christmas I got an email from a chap called Philip Jensen, he reached out to me to tell me that he found my blog through a Google Search about Split Flap displays, and he too has been working on building one himself. He hasn't blogged this but I wanted to share what he was doing, it is very similar to the techniques I am using.

He has used a laser cutter to manufacture the unit out of 3mm MDF, and is using a 28BYJ-48 stepper motor commonly available online, he is powering the stepper directly from the Arduino, a little risky as the coils remain energised when they are turned off and the power is sent back into the Arduino and can damage it, also the Arduino can only handle about 40ma which isn't enough for a motor but it works as a prototype and thats what counts!

This is a great little project build, and has motivated me once again to get off my arse and do some work on it!

A visit to Brighton…

It was less than a year ago since I first visited Brighton, and noticed it's hidden split-flap display. A few weeks later I managed to get in touch with someone from Southern and found out that there were plans to remove it.

Now just a few months later I have been to visit the Network South East Society's depot where they are now storing the display from Brighton station, hidden under this unassuming blue tarp...


The unit is really old, and is quite beaten up, originally manufactured by Krone Technique UK, which appears to have become ADC KRONE, until it was recently purchased by TE Connectivity.


The unit appears to be pretty simplistic in it's design, with no position feedback, and no real control at the unit level, this relied on a rack of equipment which has been lost, probably very similar to that, which I saw images of 4 years ago.

The units have very simplistic circuitry and what looks like a DC motor, as apposed to a stepper, although this isn't clear.


Despite it's age and condition, it looks amazing, and you can almost hear the chattering... 

IMG_0048 IMG_0039 IMG_0038 IMG_0023

These units are clearly produced from an aluminium construction which has been painted black and then coated with the appropriate markings. It is also easy to see where some have been repainted.


There are a number of units severely damaged unfortunately.


Each flap has multiple anchor points, into a plastic wheel on a central shaft...


The design is very modular, each unit can be pulled from the rack to enable repair, and the entire rack is able to rotate allowing it to be accessed from the gantry behind, rather than requiring a dedicated scaffold unit.

IMG_0011 IMG_0009 IMG_0004 IMG_0014 IMG_0013 IMG_0037 IMG_0042

Every so often there is a chip like this, it might be for distributing commands from the main controller.

IMG_0035 IMG_0034 IMG_0024

Hands on with a split-flap display…



I have been away for a few days last week at the Resonate new media festival in Belgrade, Serbia. Whilst I was there I was extremely excited to discover an old Solari split-flap display in rather worse for wear condition, little did I know at the time that in the arrivals area that I was in was one broken old unit, mean while over in departures a cornucopia of units had been installed (a least 5 that I counted).



As I mentioned before they were clearly labeled as Solari units, which is interesting as I have never previously seen any externally branded units.


As I was saying they are all in a pretty awful state, the blank plate had fallen off between one section and another revealing some internal components. I think these are relays on a board, not sure what for, however on the right you clearly can see the metal gearing.

The left unit shows a simple trapezoid shape like the plastic Krone units seen before, while the right one is clearly deeper indicating that each unit may have a longer left side to allow for a PCB or motor.

You can also see that the gears aren't encased but just sit on the outside, this is something I have looked at before but always seemed complex.


Interestingly where some of the flaps have fallen out you can see the sprockets are actually also trapezoid shaped.


I really, really wanted to steal one of these flaps, but didn't, however they are by the feel (yes I did touch) only 500 micron, like the flaps used by flipbookit and are similarly probably Polypropylene from the appearance and finish. They were definitely screen printed and die cut however, and the shape exactly matched what I was  using!


This is the only picture I took of the whole unit, this one from the arrivals area was on but broken, just clicking occasionally but not moving. You can tell good things were happening, its 13:37.


split-flap-#4 split-flap-#8 split-flap-#9 split-flap-#6 split-flap-#11

The units in the departures area were in varying stages of disrepair, however this one was clearly working as it showed our flight.

split-flap-#12 split-flap-#13

So beautiful...


It’s Nearly Twelve…

384906603320Someone recently emailed me as they seem to with increasing regularity about Split-flap displays. This time I got a link to a project by Laurence Willmott, it is using a flip clock mechanism rather than a split-flap display mechanism but the principal is the same.

Project details


flipbookit – DIY split-flap display



The flipbookit is a DIY split-flap display product which is like a cross between a traditional display and a flip book, it allows you to have a mechanical crank or a motor. It was recently featured on Matt Richardson's YouTube channel:

Smiths of Smithfield

Tonight a friend has visited some bar/restaurant in London called Smith of Smithfield which has a split-flap display fitted behind the bar:IMG_2222


I did a bit of looking and discovered an official image, it looks like the display is used for showing menu items during the day, however the display is clearly not a new design and looks like it is reused from an airport departure board, where the hell did they get this – I think this necessitates a phone call and perhaps a visit?


Yet more reverse engineered split-flap displays…

Today yet another split-flap display project hit the blogs, Stephen Brown (aka BozNZ) worked with his client Indevin who recently bought 20 old surplus Solari flip units and wanted to get them working. Stephen got to work over three days reverse engineering the existing circuitry and creating a multi-drop interface board for the multi-pin connector on the back of the units, and then daisy chaining ribbon cable from unit to unit he placed a master controller on one end and had a basic ethernet setup.

It's heartening to see that a more experienced and knowledgeable engineer is doing the same kind of things with his work as those that I have landed on.

Checkout Stephens project here!

Source: Hack A Day