A camera slider made from wood and recycled parts

Turning Old Plotter Parts Into A Smooth Camera Slider

Taking apart old stuff and re-using the parts to make something new is how many hackers first got started in the world of mechanical and electronic engineering. But even after years working in industry we still get that tinge of excitement whenever someone offers us an old device “for parts”, and immediately begin to imagine the things we could build with the components inside.

A GoPro mounted on a moving platform made from recycled partsSo when [Victor Frost] was offered an old Cricut cutting plotter, he realized he could use its parts to create the camera slider he’d been planning to build. The plotter’s X stage, controlled by a stepper motor, was ideal for moving a camera platform back and forth. [Victor] wanted to build the entire thing in a “freehand” way, without making a detailed design or purchasing any new parts. So he dived into his parts bin and dug up an Arduino, a 16×2 LCD, some wires and buttons, and a few pieces of MDF.

The camera mount is simply a piece of steel that a GoPro’s magnetic mount can latch onto, but [Victor] keeps open the possibility of mounting a proper tripod ball head. The Arduino drives the stepper motor through an Adafruit Motor Shield, with a simple user interface running on the LCD. The user can set the desired end points and speed, and then run the camera back and forth as often as needed. In this way, the software follows the same “keep it simple” philosophy as the hardware design.

If you’re planning to build your own camera slider, [Victor]’s design should be easy to copy, if you happen to have an old cutting plotter. If not, you can try this simple yet well-engineered model. Want even more? Then check out this fancy multi-axis camera motion control rig.

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Making PCBs With A Cutting Plotter

[LudwigLabs] is creating PCBs using copper foil and a cutting plotter (vinyl cutter). In this approach, it’s an additive process where instead of removing copper from a copper-clad board, the traces are cut out of copper foil and transferred to a solid backing surface (cardboard, fiberglass, etc.).

While similar to the use of copper tape laid out by hand, as covered by us last year, the big advantage of using a cutting plotter is that it allows one to create much more complicated traces similar to those you would expect to see on a factory-made PCB. Since cutting plotters translate a 2D design into very precise movements of the cutting blade, this allows for sharp angles and significantly thinner traces, allows designs from EDA software like KiCad or Altium to be quickly translated to physical boards.

Enterprising hackers might consider the possibility of using this approach to make two-sided, and even multi-layered boards. The copper is produced separately from the substrate which opens up the potential for using uncommon materials like glass or paper to host the circuits. The main limitations are the transferring of (very delicate) copper structures and creating vias without damaging the traces.

As a comparison with traditional PCB fab processes, the photo exposure and etching (or laser exposure and etching) process requires the creation of masks, UV exposing a board, etching, cleaning and so on. The simplicity of copper foil traces has led to many experimenting with this approach. Would you want to use this additive process, or are there refinements or alterations you would make?