CNC Etch-A-Sketch: Stop Motion Is Logical Next Step

It happens to everyone. You get your hands on an Etch-A-Sketch for the first time, and armed with the knowledge of how it works, you’re sure you can draw things other than rectangles and staircases. And then you find out the awful truth: you are not as precise as you think you are, and if you’re [QuintBUILDS], the circles you try to draw look like lemons, potatoes, or microbes.

Okay, yes, this definitely isn’t the first CNC-ified Etch-A-Sketch we’ve seen, but it just might be the coolest one. It’s certainly the most kid-friendly, anyway.

Most importantly, you can still pick it up and shake it to clear the screen, a feature sorely lacking in many of the auto-sketchers we scratch about. And if you’re not fully satisfied by this hack, be sure to check out the stop-motion video after the break that turns this baby into a touch-screen video player for Flatlanders.

Turn it over and you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3 and a CNC hat. The knobs are belt-driven from a pair of NEMA-17 size stepper motors that interface to the knobs with tight-fitting pulleys. Power comes from four 18650s, and is metered by a battery management board that provides both overcharge and drain protection. At some point in the future, [QuintBUILDS] plans to move to a battery pack, because the cell holder is electrically unstable.

We love the welded frame and acrylic enclosure because they make the thing sturdy and portable. Also, we’re suckers for see-through enclosures. They’re clearly superior if you want to do what [QuintBUILDS] did and take it to an elementary school science fair to show the kids just how cool science can be if you stick with it.

If you don’t think motorized Etch-A-Sketches can be useful, maybe you just haven’t seen this clock build yet.

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Escher: Etch-a-Sketch As A Service

For better or for worse, the tech world has fully committed to pushing as many of their products into “The Cloud” as possible. Of course, readers of Hackaday see right through the corporate buzzwords. It’s all just a fancy way of saying you have to poke some server over the Internet every time you want to use the service. In a way, [Matt Welsh] has perfectly demonstrated this concept with Escher. It’s a normal Etch-a-Sketch, but since somebody else owns it and you’ve got to have an active Internet connection to use it, that makes it an honorary citizen of the Cloud.

Escher takes the form of a 3D printed mount and replacement knobs for the classic drawing toy that allow two NEMA 17 steppers to stand in for human hands. Thanks to the clever design, [Matt] can easily pull the Etch-a-Sketch out and use it the old fashioned way, though admittedly the ergonomics of holding onto the geared knobs might take a little getting used to. But who wants to use their hands, anyway?

In terms of the electronics, the star of the show is the the Adafruit Feather HUZZAH32 development board, paired with a motor controller that can provide 12 V to the steppers. [Matt] even went through the trouble of making a custom voltage regulator PCB that steps down the stepper’s voltage to 5 V for the Feather. Totally unnecessary, just how we like it.

For the software folks in the audience, [Matt] goes into considerable detail about how he got his hardware talking to the web with Google Firebase. Even if the Internet of Sketches doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, we imagine his deep-dive on pushing G-Code files from the browser into the Feather will surely be of interest.

It probably will come as little surprise to hear this isn’t the first automatic Etch-a-Sketch that’s graced these pages over the years, but this might be the most fully realized version we’ve seen yet.

Hackaday Podcast 029: Your Face In Silver Sand, Tires Of The Future, ESP32 All The CNC Things, And Sub In A Jug

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys geek out over the latest hacks. This week we saw a couple of clever CNC builds that leverage a great ESP32 port of GRBL. The lemonade-pitcher-based submarine project is everything you thought couldn’t work in an underwater ROV. Amazon’s newest Dot has its warranty voided to show off what 22 pounds gets you these days. And there’s a great tutorial on debugging circuits that grew out of a Fail of the Week. Plus, we get the wind knocked out of us with an ambitious launch schedule for airless automotive tires, and commiserate over the confusing world of USB-C.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (58 MB)

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Etch-A-Selfie

Taking a selfie before the modern smartphone era was a true endeavor. Flip phones didn’t have forward-facing cameras, and if you want to go really far back to the days of film cameras, you needed to set a timer on your camera and hope, or get a physical remote shutter. You could also try and create a self portrait on an Etch a Sketch, too, but this would take a lot of time and artistic skill. Luckily in the modern world, we can bring some of this old technology into the future and add a robot to create interesting retro selfies – without needing to be an artist.

The device from [im-pro] attaches two servos to the Etch a Sketch knobs. This isn’t really a new idea in itself, but the device also includes a front-facing camera, taking advantage of particularly inexpensive ESP32 Camera modules. Combining the camera features with [Bart Dring]’s ESP32 Grbl port is a winner. Check the code in [im-pro]’s GitHub.

Once the picture is taken, the ESP32 at the heart of the build handles the image processing and then drawing the image on the Etch a Sketch. The robot needs a black and white image to draw, and an algorithm for doing it without “lifting” the drawing tool, and these tasks stretch the capabilities of such a small processor. It takes some time to work, but in the end the results speak for themselves.

The final project is definitely worth looking for, if not for the interesting ESP32-controlled robot than for the image processing algorithim implementation. The ESP32 is a truly versatile platform, though, and is useful for building almost anything.

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Etch-A-Snap Will Sketch Your Selfies

The Etch-a-Sketch was a hugely popular toy in the days before video games and the Internet became ubiquitous. These days, they’re a fun amusement, but can still be difficult to master. Rather than learn the necessary skills himself, [Martin Fitzpatrick] decided to build a machine to draw for him. Enter the Etch-a-Snap.

The build starts with a Raspberry Pi Zero, equipped with the requisite camera. Images taken are processed into a 100×60 pixel image with 1-bit color. At this stage, a network graph representation is built of the image and used to generate commands for the plotting mechanism to draw the scene. Plotting is achieved with stepper motors that turn the knobs through 3D-printed gears. Plotting is slow, with images taking 15 minutes to an hour to “develop”. The system can also be used to draw manually processed images, which can improve results when images are chosen carefully.

It’s a project that combines modern hardware with a classic toy for some interactive fun. We could imagine a large-scale version of this being a great installation at a science museum or MakerFaire. We’ve seen others tackle a computer-controlled Etch-A-Sketch, too. Video after the break.

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The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Building A CNC Machine

Despite appearances, [This Old Tony]’s latest series has little to do with CNC-ifying an Etch A Sketch. Although he certainly achieves that, more or less, automating the classic toy is just the hook for a thorough lesson in CNC machine building starting with the basics.

Fair warning: we said basics, and we mean it. [Old Tony]’s intended audience is those who haven’t made the leap into a CNC build yet and need the big picture. Part one concentrates on the hardware involved – the steppers, drivers, and controller. He starts with one of those all-in-one eBay packages, although he did upgrade the motion controller to a Mach4 compatible board; still, the lessons should apply to most hardware.

By the end of part one, the Etch A Sketch is connected to two of the steppers and everything is wired up and ready to go for part two, the first part of which is all about inputs and outputs. Again, this is basic stuff, like how relays work and why you might need to use them. But that’s the kind of stuff that can baffle beginners and turn them off to the hobby, so kudos to [Old Tony] for the overview. The bulk of the second part is about configuring Mach4 Hobby, with a ton of detail and some great tips and tricks for getting a machine ready to break some end mills.

For someone looking to get into a CNC build, [Old Tony]’s hard-won CNC experience really fills in the gaps left by other tutorials. And it looks like a third part, dealing with making all this into something more than an automated Etch A Sketch, is in the works. We’re looking forward to that.

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Etch-a-Sketch 3D Printed With Cell Phone

Most of us have fond memories of the Etch-a-Sketch from childhood. [Potent Printables] wanted to update the designs so he 3D printed an XY carriage for a stylus that works with a cell phone drawing program. You can see the video below and the 3D model details on Thingiverse.

The design is fun all by itself, but it also gave us a few ideas. For one thing, if you motorized it you could make some pretty clever drawing toys. But there could be a more practical use, too.

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