Center pivot pen plotter

This center pivot pen plotter is an interesting take on the idea, and manages to somewhat simplify the fabrication when compared to a gantry-style built.

Normally we’d see a gantry that travels on two rails, with a print head that moves along its length. Here the gantry is anchored on just one side, with a chain driven system to rotate it along the plotting surface. The print head uses a fine-point felt-tipped marker. It still travels along the arm as you would expect, and can be tilted away from the paper for repositioning.

What was made easier in hardware ends up adding to software complexity. The benefit of a traditional system is that it uses X and Y coordinates to plot a design. The pivot of this mechanism means that as the print head moves further from the center of the machine, the distance between each pixel is magnified. But the clip after the break proves that this issue has been solved.

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Self-feeding pen printer

At first look we thought this was a plotter, but it’s really more of a dot matrix (or line matrix) printer. [Bruno] whipped this up using parts from a DVD optical drive. It is capable of moving the pen along the Z and X axes, and feeding the paper along the Y axis.

The video after the break shows the machine printing Megaman, an image perfectly suited to the low-resolution pixels this can put out. But even without the high-pixel counts you might get from a thermal printer, we just love the look of this one. And who doesn’t have an optical drive sitting around just waiting to be hacked? It looks like the one part you’re going to have to source is the stepper motor and geared feed wheel that moves the paper.

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Your mug on an Etch a Sketch — automatically

[Jim's] pretty serious about his Etch a Sketch. He’s gone to the trouble of building a rig that will automatically render a photograph as Etch a Sketch art. Do you recognize the US political figure being plotted in this image? He actually cracks these open and removes all of the internals to preserve the artwork when the reassembled body is ready to be hung on a wall. But we like it for the hacker-friendly interface techniques he used.

He moves the knobs using a pair of stepper motors. They attach thanks to a pair of 3D printed gears he modeled which go over the stock knobs and secure with four set screws. He says he can be up and printing in five minutes using these along with the MDF jig that holds the body and the motors.

He converts photos to 1-bit images, then runs them through ImageMagick to convert them into a text file. A Python script parses that text, sending appropriate commands to an Arduino which drives the motors. The image is drawn much like a scanning CRT monitor. The stylus tracks one horizontal line at a time, drawing a squiggle if the pixel should be black, or skipping it if it should be white.

We wish there was a video of the printing process. Since we didn’t find one, there’s a bonus project unrelated to this one after the break. It’s an Etch a Sketch clock.

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Light painting with a string plotter

[Matt Bell] sends a shout-out to Hackaday by creating a light-painting of our logo with his string plotter. He starts off by setting up a pair of stepper motors which each have a spool to wind and unwind a string. The plotter is made by suspending a stylus between these two strings. In this case, he’s using a wireless LED board (seen above) built from the remote control receiver/transmitter from a toy car. The link above is part of a Flickr set from which you can get the whole story by reading the captions of each image.

After the break we’ve embedded a clip of an in-progress light painting. You can see there’s some oscillation of the LED unit that makes it a bit less precise than the CNC light painter we saw a couple of weeks ago. It seems like string plotters usually don’t have this issue if the stylus has something to help stabilize it. We wonder if a piece of acrylic would help get rid of the shakes? [Read more...]

Polar pen plotter draws huge images very slowly

[Euphy] just posted and Instructable of his Polargraph drawing machine that’s able to draw huge images slower than molasses in November. The plotter only uses two stepper motors to control the position of the pen and can be made nearly entirely from salvaged parts – [Euphy] built his for just about £150.

The Polargraph uses two stepper motor on the top corners of a large, flat surface. A weighted pen carriage is attached to both motors with beaded cord that’s often seen in window blinds. By controlling the distance from the carriage to each motor, the position of the pen can be precisely controlled. It’s not a very fast way of drawing an image (check out the real-time video), but it sure is interesting to watch.

There have been a few other rope-and-chain plotters, like Der Kritzler and Hektor. [Euphy]‘s work is the is one of the best documented builds we’ve seen, and he’s also put up the code and a website.

We really could have used [Euphy]‘s plotter when we wanted to draw some whiteboard art. While we’re out dumpster diving for some small stepper motors, check out the time-lapse video of the Polargraph after the break.

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Insanely kludgy pen plotter actually works

This pen plotter, held together with structural epoxy, is an amazing piece of engineering, and almost as impressive as a bridge made entirely out of Bondo.

[Brian] at the Rochester, NY hackerspace Interlock needed to build something for the BarCamp geek “unconference.” To lure BarCamp attendees over to the Interlock table, they needed a small tabletop device with whirring motors that was able to make some decent swag. Hacking together a pen plotter sounded like the perfect project.

The mechanics of the build were scavenged from old printers and scanners. [Brian] decided to use pin-feed card stock, so the take-up wheels from an old dot matrix printer was sacrificed as well. This paper feed mechanism serves as the Y axis, and the X axis rides above the paper on precision rods. The pen holder is supported by a tiny solenoid.

Things start getting crazy at the software level. grbl was loaded onto an Arduino with a stepper driver shield, and vector text drawings were printed. After a bit of live-action hackery, [Brian] figured out how to plot captured webcam images. OpenCV captures and does a trace outline. This is converted to vectors with autotrace, and from EPS to HPGL by pstoedit. A Python script then cleans up the HPGL and converts it to G code and sends it to the printer. Confused? So are we, so just check out the video of the plotter in action after the break.

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Material of choice: felt pen on glass

If you’re paying big bucks for those floor-to-ceiling windows why not make them into a canvas for your art as well. Der Kritzler is a motorized plotter that can make this into a reality. It’s a laser-cut pen holder suspended from a pair belt pulleys. Those belts have counterweights, which make it easier for the stepper motors to move the pen jig smoothly. The firmware running on the Arduino that controls Der Kritzler has some very precise setup requirements. Since there is no feedback for the Arduino to sense the position of the pen, the two stepper motors must be exactly 1500 mm apart with 1060mm of toothed belt between the carriage and each stepper motor when the power is turned on.

Input images are converted to code for the device using a processing sketch. So far [Alex] has tried out a couple of different effects, starting with a vector graphic, or using some open source tools to convert bitmaps to vector graphics. Don’t miss his video demonstration embedded after the break.

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