Make An Impression At The Bar With A CNC Coaster Plotter

If you’re anything like us, your success with the opposite sex at the bar wasn’t much to brag about. But imagine if you had only had this compact CNC polar plotter and could have whipped up a few custom coasters for your intended’s drink. Yeah, that definitely would have helped.

Or not, but at least it would have been fun to play with. This is actually an improved version of [bdring]’s original “Polar Coaster”. Version 2 is really just a more compact and robust version of the original. The new one has a custom controller for the steppers and pen-lift servo, and everything is mounted neatly to the main PCB. Where the original used a timing belt to drive the platter, the new one uses 3D-printed helical gears, and the steppers have been replaced by slimmer motors. It even has an SD card and smartphone UI, and the coasters look pretty good.

There’s no video of the new one, but you can see its predecessor in action below and imagine the possibilities. Snap a picture and have a line art rendition of someone plotted while you’re waiting for drinks? Just remember not to take any laser engraved wooden nickels.

22 thoughts on “Make An Impression At The Bar With A CNC Coaster Plotter

  1. “plated with solder on the PCB to make it extra smooth and wear resistant”

    I would have left it flat gold. low-cost pcb with hasl is often NOT flat and will wear down and is not what you want.

    next time, go enig. or better yet. 2 layers of pcb, for strength.

  2. I think it would go – snap a picture of someone then her boyfriend you didn’t see sitting over the other side of the room comes over and jams phone down my throat!

    Or am I just going to the wrong bars?

    Neat printer though :-)

  3. I imagine this depends more than anything on the sort of bar you hang out in, but I can say from first-hand experience that in bars frequented by “normal” people (i.e. those who don’t build gadgets for fun or read Hackaday) that walking into a bar with a gadget may start many instances of the same inane “what’ve you got there?… Why the hell would anyone in their right mind want a gadget to do that?” conversation unless there is a high enough density of fellow geeks at the bar you’re not likely to do much other than out yourself as a geek among a bar full of normals.
    I used to go around with a wearable computer with HUD and always on cellular data to ssh in to work, check email, dork around on the web, have time and location sensitive reminders, etc. and (back in 2003) people were like “Why the hell would you want to do _any_ of those things?”. It is a fairly safe bet that each and every one of those incredulous normal people now carries and uses a smart phone and does all of those things themselves on a daily basis. Never got me a date though, even hanging around the nerdiest bar in town…

  4. This looks like an awesome hack though and for the record if someone had one at the bar I’d totally be impressed and would definitely buy then a pint for their troubles knowing first-hand what it’s like being a geek at a bar generally full of normal (e.g. dull incurious folks).

  5. The next step is to get rid of the linear bearings and rail and make that axis polar to.

    Or just fix the pen position and put the rotating platform at the end of an arc arm.

    With enough reduction you could use small BLDC motors instead of steppers or plain DC motors with feedback like a rotary encoder or linear optical encoder.

  6. Bart Dring makes the most beautiful thing machines! He brought the coaster polar printer and the wooden nickel laser engraver to Supercon and was sitting out on the patio chur ing them out for people. Sure, the finished product are great, but the gadgets themselves are just soooo eye-catching and damn impressive.

  7. Thanks for writing about this awesome project!

    “If you’re anything like us, your success with the opposite sex at the bar wasn’t much to brag about.”

    Though this line seems to unnecessarily constrain the spectrum to which one might be attracted

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