Drawing Lines In The Sand: Taking Beach Graffiti To The Next Level

When strolling down the beach, there’s always an urge to draw in the sand – it seems compulsory to make your mark by inscribing something. But there’s a dilemma: how do you go about physically drawing it? You could opt to remain standing and attempt to deploy a toe, but that requires a level of dexterity few possess. The only other option is to bend down and physically use your hands. Ultimately, there’s no way to draw anything in the sand without losing your dignity.

The solution? A robot, of course – the brainchild of [Ivan Miranda]. The idea is simple and elegantly executed: make a large linear actuator, place it on wheels, and attach a servo which can position an etching tool to be either in the sand or above it. The whole contraption moves forward one column at a time, making a vertical pass with the marker being engaged or disengaged as required. The columns are quite thin, giving relatively high-resolution text, though this does mean it take a while. Adding another servo and marking two adjacent columns at the same time would be an easy way to instantly double the speed.

The wheels are big and chunky, to ensure the horizontal distance travelled does not change between the top and the bottom. Of course, when making big parts like these it always helps if you’ve already built a giant custom 3D printer. If you want to read more of [Ivan]’s large scale 3D printing antics, checkout his tank with suspension, or plus-sized seven-segment clock.

39 thoughts on “Drawing Lines In The Sand: Taking Beach Graffiti To The Next Level

    1. Now that is actually a very good idea!

      Regarding the project, fun project! The concept of scraping the sand (as if you draw in it with a stick) works surprisingly well. Cool!

  1. What a cool build! This brings up so many ideas. I wonder if it could first go through an lay out the top and bottom tick marks which could then act as positional awareness for a second pass of vector drawing (cursive fonts, etc) rather than raster?

    I also wonder what the maintenance process for cleaning sand out of the mechanisms is like?

    1. I expect it could do vector drawing with dead reckoning over a large enough area, its wheels seem to be large and grippy enough on the sand.

      I was trying to think about how I’d make it faster. Multiple ‘print heads’ should increase the speed by the number of heads that there are. Using a solenoid instead of a servo would allow the head to move much faster.

    2. About the maintenance, I’d say none, with that flat sand almost none sticks to the wheels and the “drawing” tip sand is cleaned by hand pretty easily, none of the other components gets any sand if carefully handled.

  2. It has to draw every point one at a time though. Could a future version draw multiple parts at once while it moves along one long axis? Drawing a single point at a time is like a single linear operation. Why not do several at the same time?

      1. yes that is correct… but normally a dot matrix printer has 8 (or nine) needles. This sand printer only has one “needle”. By adding 7 more servos the printer can print 8 times as fast.

      2. Years ago there was a sky writing company that used WWII fighter planes flying in formation. The smoke generators were synced by the lead plane and they formed a dot matrix “sky printer”.

    1. It sounds funny now but when my wife was in school one of her jobs as a student security officer was to guard drying concrete. I imagine that was right up there with watching paint dry.

  3. Pessimistically, I anticipate a beach devoid of any patch of pristine sand; instead one covered by the battling sand-printer robots spewing political memes amongst the Nike® ads and QR-code coupons.

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