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.

11 thoughts on “Your Mug On An Etch A Sketch — Automatically

  1. The results are pretty good. It’s also cool that he calls them grub screws too :-)

    It would be interesting to see if the resolution could be pushed up a bit. I wonder how using something Autotrace to convert the photo to a contour map and then selectively discarding contours for the lighter parts of the image would work.

  2. I don’t think that there is any question that the resolution of the images could be improved. Here are some things a guy did freehand…

    The fly in the ointment is the control algorithm. This is a lot more difficult than your usual raster-to-vector conversion, because in this case, you can’t pick up of the stylus at any time.

  3. Ha! i guessed mitt too but i think it would be hard for somebody outside the us to guess, if he wins in 2012 elections it would become easier but untill then ill be surprice if non americans know who he is.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.