James Bruton, the 3D printing robotics guru who goes by Xrobots (check him out if you’re unfamiliar), has come up with yet another clever application of his skills. In this case it is a “flip dot” style display that uses a unique mechanical method to reduce the number of motors needed, called multiplexing.
You would normally see multiplexing in something like an LED matrix, where you have a bunch of LEDs and you want to reduce the complexity of the circuit required to individually address them all . You can read more about multiplexing here, if you want to know more of the technical details, or try out a project to learn more about it!
In this case, James is taking a slightly skewed approach and instead of using tons of actuators and a typical multiplexing approach, he’s adding a layer of mechanical multiplexing. This means instead of using 15 servos for the display you see above, he can use only 3, plus a single continuous motor. This savings in hardware is already fairly substantial, but when you expand this out, you’ll find that this approach could drastically reduce the price of a display very quickly. The only catch? It’s relatively slow, so temper your expectations.