Build A Plotter Using Scrap DVD Drives

Building your own CNC machine can present a series of varied challenges. There are the software considerations, but also the mechanical side of things – motors, shafts, screws and slides all need to be addressed in a working design. Of course, you can always outsource some of the work – and that’s precisely what [Daniele Tartaglia] did  with this pen plotter build (Youtube link, embedded below).

It’s a capable plotter, able to nicely reproduce both graphics and text.

The build gains X and Y axes by virtue of two salvaged DVD drives. The tray mechanisms come ready to go with stepper motors and lead screws already assembled, and make a great basis for a compact plotter. A wooden frame is constructed to hold everything together. The pen is held against the paper with a rubber band which helps the ballpoint to draw a nice dark line, with a servo used as a pen retract mechanism. An Arduino Uno with a stepper driver shield is then employed to run the show.

It’s a tidy build, with neat cable management and smart design choices giving it a pleasing aesthetic. The CNC fundamentals are good, too – with minimal backlash and slop, the plotter is able to draw quite effectively. Old optical drives are a popular choice for plotter builds, as it turns out. Video after the break.

16 thoughts on “Build A Plotter Using Scrap DVD Drives

  1. It’s funny how this guy goes through the effort of adding trim and other nice touches, but when it comes to critical angles and dimensions he just eyeballs it. Can’t argue with the results though, seems to work great. And I really like the idea of using DVD drives as a CNC axis, I’m sure you can get heaps of them for free if you look around.

    1. Its a plotter, how many of those dimensions are really critical? As long as you build it to take into account the tollerance of having it eyeballed then accuracy isnt really required. You could never use this as a mill for anything that large, maybe a pcb mill but those dont require the mill to be exactly perpindicular to the bed (a couple degrees off might kill your bits faster but it wouldnt affect precision and the accuracy is tuneable). Even as a laser cutter none of his eyeballing will affect the precision and some test work would allow you to tune in the accuracy, the limiting factors here are size and rigidity.

      Its also amazing how good the ole eyeball is at seeing straightness and right angles.

      Also chasing critical dimensions is a very deep rabit hole, one you can go down forever if you want (it all depends on how tight your tollerances are)

  2. The reliability and consistency are just amazing.
    Where can I find a cheap ballpoint pen like that?

    It was fun to watch this project do its thing. Next up, a tiny 3D printer using the same platform?

  3. i have never seen a slide out tray run by anything but a simple DC motor. The laser is run in and out by a screw turned by a stepper motor which is used here. An early CD jambox I found had a linear motor in place of this screw drive. In the case of the 2nd post that carries the work piece into an eye safe space.

  4. “Build A Plotter Using Scrap DVD Drives”

    Title man, title!

    I read that and thought “What? That can’t be what this is. That’s such old news!”

    And it is. It’s been all over HaD as of several years ago. It’s an instructable (or many instructables) Hell, that’s an early days practice project that the original reprapers used a practice in building a cartesian bot. And yes, I even think I remember seeing 3d printers built this way.

    But I clicked it anyway. I clicked it to see if someone was on crack for posting it. Or maybe this one was special, the title didn’t do it justice.

    The title didn’t do it justice.

    Yes, scrap CD/DVD drive plotters are the project that every current maker child’s older sibling left moldering in their parent’s basement when they went away to college. But this one does have a difference. This one looks nice! It looks like the maker really cared about the quality of the finished product. Most of these things are cheap OSB frames that look like someone hacked them out of the floor with a butter knife. CD-ROM drive parts are zip-stripped into place with all sorts of ROM drive specific stuff that could have been removed still hanging off.

    Clearly Daniele Tartaglia was having none of that. This thing looks like it was made to be displayed. She obviously takes pride in her work. Congrats on a great job!

    How about “Scrap Drive Plotter That Doesn’t Look Like Scrap” or something along those lines.

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