Time Twister, A Digital Clock With Lego a Twist…

In the world of Lego Robotics craftsman Hans Andersson is indeed a creative spark. During the day Hans designs business software but when time allows at night he becomes a robotics genius.

Hans has taken a simple toy and created something that’s off the charts cool, the Mindstorm Rubik’s Cube Clock called Time Twister. Lego clock designs have become popular with Mindstorm – Robotic Lego – enthusiasts but most have been a fairly standard affair, analogue faced tick tock kind of clock. Until now that is, Swedish Mindstorm master Hans Andersson has created the most dramatic and visually stunning clock mechanism ever. Closely resembling 4 black and white automated Rubik’s cubes this is a clock that can make the passage of time itself interesting. This isn’t the first incredible robot to come from Hans’ tinkering either he has also produced robot’s that can solve Rubik’s cubes and also another that will complete a Sudoku puzzle.

One of the most fascinating things about Lego has always been the crazy things people create, it is after all an unlimited toy becoming anything you wish to imagine. Imagine it, build it then when u get sick of it, destroy it and start again.

The clock itself is mechanical and cool but it’s the mechanism for updating the time that is hypnotic, a most unusual clock movement. Each of the numbers is constructed like a Rubik’s cube and rotates each stacked layer in order to construct the required number. Each number is made of five stacked layers with three pixels on each layer, creating a grid of 3 wide and 5 high to display a single number. 4 cubes are used to display the time – hours:min hh:mm – and a flip black and white second indicator. The very clever part of the design is the layout of the pixels. Each layer has 3 pixels on each of its 4 faces. Each of the four faces has a different pattern allowing any digit 0 – 9 to be built using one of four faces on the five stacked layers. Rotating and flipping through the faces starting at the bottom layer and working up the clock constructs the number by moving the right face into place.

Since first demonstrating the Time Twister Hans has been flooded requests to produce the clock. Frankly we here at Highpants think Lego is insane for not jumping on these designs and turning them into proper Lego sets. Instructions for the other projects are already available for download from his website . As a hobbyist Hans has graciously released his projects for free download. All instructions and Lego code are available. His designs are quite advanced so while a newbie to Mindstorm could easily build the robots they will be experts by the time they are finished.

Lego clock movement, behind the scenes.

The first robot Tilted Twister was released on the website in 2008 and introduced the world to Hans’ hobby. Built using the Mindstorm NXT v1 kit, an updated design is also available that uses the NXT v2 Mindstorm parts, v2 being the current standard. The redesigned NXT v2 parts are apparently an improvement but there are some parts that were dropped from the original kit. Amazingly the Tilted Twister will solve a mixed up Rubik’s cube in around 60 moves. After scanning each square of the Rubik’s cube the robot calculates its moves then goes about flipping and twisting the cube till all the colors come together. Again Hans has managed to create a Mindstorm robot that not only solves a practical problem but also does it in a visually stunning way.

The progression of Hans’s work can be seen in his published designs. The digital clock obviously contains all of the lessons learned building the Tilted Twister and Sudoku Solver. Hans does seem to like a challenge to, placing such restrictions on his designs as only being able to use the parts from one Standard Mindstorm kit. Such challenges lead to clever design ideas like tilting the robot to enable flipping and requiring rotating on one axis, reducing the number of motors required to 3, the number available in a standard kit.

Lego has been with us for many years now, still one of the most popular toys in the world, introduced in the 40’s he colorful bricks would go on to become a favorite around the world. Since Mindstorms introduction in 1998 many people have found themselves making robots with varying degrees of success. Hans Andersson has managed to create some of the best examples of what you can achieve with some bits of plastic, a few electric motors and a whole heap of creativity, toys unlimited. The Time Twister, Tilted Twister and Sudoku Solver a perfect examples of that creative spark.


Tilted Twister – LEGO Mindstorms Rubik’s Cube solver