Hacker [12344321A] has built a clever open-source pen plotter having a frame made from odd-shaped PCB panels (Chinese). It holds an ordinary drafting pen and draws on a small writing platform 8 x 8 cm square. This is barely enough space to draw a business card, depending on which country you’re from. The motion appears to be provided by DVD stepper motor head positioning assemblies, and the controller is an ESP32-based GRBL 3-axis board. User control is via WiFi and the plotter can be seen in operation being driven from the user’s smartphone (see video on the project page above).
This looks like it would be an inexpensive build, and seems sturdy enough despite being literally held together by solder and paper clips. But be forewarned, the project is documented on an open-source hardware sharing site sponsored by EasyEDA called OSHWHub — the Chinese equivalent of their similar English-language OSHWLab. Hence all the notes are in Chinese, although Google translate can help here. [12344321A] provides all the engineering design files under GPL 3.0 license.
Thanks to [J. Peterson] for finding this project and bringing it to our attention via the tip line.
6 thoughts on “Pen Plotter From PCB Panels”
Those linear actuators are sold on AliExpress :)
And those linear guide rails are definitely not out of a DVD player.
Those ball bearing linear slides do not come from a DVD player. Not exactly cheap, depending. The precision of a PC board is no real advantage here. Just as easy and cheaper to use some pieces of sheet metal. Could easily make something much larger. They’re just looking for a way to sell some pc boards.
Those rails can support full grown man* – waste of resources. With even simple drill press and aluminum this could be nano cnc mill capable of light cuts in steel.
*majority of US citizens excluded
I’m guessing MGN9 bearings and 100mm rail, which works out to be about U$12 for a pair. Doesn’t seem like overkill or overpriced for the convenience if your time is slightly valueable to you. I’m wondering though, could you go further and sandwich 3 layers of pcb to create a groove on their edge. You could make your actual linear slide mechanism out of pcbs. Perhaps too much friction for those tiny dvd step motors.
MGN9 rails are quite affordable, and though they may seem sort of overkill for a project like this, they do provide a supple and precise linear movement for an affordable price.
So I would go the other way.
I’d say that the stepper motors for this project are underpowered, especially with a paperclip as nut.
I wonder at the capabilities of this thing, and about the general stiffness.
As it is, it is plenty good to hold a pen or a laser and draw some things, but probably not good enough for milling.
The Z-axis with full resolution is a bit overkill for a pen or laser.
The PCB’s seem to be much thicker then the standard 1.6mm. Maybe they are 3.2mm?
so overall, I find this a bit of a weird mismatch of parts but it’s probably been a good learning experience and something to have fun with.
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