Polar Platform Spins Out Intricate String Art Portraits

We have semi-fond memories of string art from our grade school art class days. We recall liking the part where we all banged nails into a board, but that bit with wrapping the thread around the nails got a bit tedious. This CNC string art machine elevates the art form far above the grammar school level without all the tedium.

Inspired by a string art maker we recently feature, [Bart Dring] decided to tackle the problem without using an industrial robot to dispense the thread. Using design elements from his recent coaster-creating polar plotter, he built a large, rotating platform flanked by a thread handling mechanism. The platform rotates the circular “canvas” for the portrait, ringed with closely spaced nails, following G-code generated offline. A combination of in and out motion of the arm and slight rotation of the platform wraps the thread around each nail, while rotating the platform pays the thread out to the next nail. Angled nails cause the thread to find its own level naturally, so no Z-axis is needed. The video below shows a brief glimpse of an additional tool that seems to coax the threads down, too. Mercifully, [Bart] included a second fixture to drill the hundreds of angled holes needed; the nails appear to be inserted manually, but we can think of a few fixes for that.

We really like this machine, both in terms of [Bart]’s usual high build-quality standards and for the unique art it creates. He mentions several upgrades before he releases the build files, but we think it’s pretty amazing as is.

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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the original used a timing belt to drive the platter, the new one uses 3D-printed helical gears, and the steppers have been replaced by slimmer motors.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.

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Pimp My Scope

Most of us have heard some form of the adage, “You can buy cheaper, but you’ll never pay less.” It means that cheaper products ultimately do not stand up to the needs of their superior counterparts. Hackers love to prove this aphorism wrong by applying inexpensive upgrades to inexpensive tools to fill up a feature-rich tool bag. Take [The Thought Emporium] who has upgraded an entry-level microscope into one capable of polarized and dark-field microscopy. You can also see the video after the break.

Functionally, polarized images can reveal hidden features of things like striations in crystals or stress lines in hot glue threads. Dark-field microscopy is like replacing the normally glaring white background with a black background, and we here at Hackaday approve of that décor choice. Polarizing filters sheets are not expensive and installation can be quick, depending on your scope. Adding a dark-field filter could cost as much as a dime.

Like most mods, the greatest investment will be your time. That investment will pay back immediately by familiarizing you with your tools and their workings. In the long-run, you will have a tool with greater power.

Simple mods like the light source can be valuable, but upgrades are not limited to optical scopes, an electron microscope was brought back to life with Arduino

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A Polar Coordinate CNC Plotter Even Descartes Could Love

Take apart a few old DVD drives, stitch them together with cable ties, add a pen and paper, and you’ve got a simple CNC plotter. They’re quick and easy projects that are fun, but they do tend to be a little on the “plug and chug” side. But a CNC plotter that uses polar coordinates? That takes a little more effort.

The vast majority of CNC projects, from simple two-axis plotters to big CNC routers, all tend to use Cartesian coordinate systems, where points on a plane are described by their distances from an origin point on two perpendicular axes. Everything is nice and square, measurements are straightforward, and the math is easy. [davidatfsg] decided to level up his CNC plotter a bit by choosing a polar coordinate system, with points described as a vector extending a certain distance from the origin at a specified angle. Most of the plotter is built from FischerTechnik parts, with a single linear axis intersecting the center point of a rotary drawing platform. Standard G-code is translated to polar coordinates by a Java applet before being sent to a custom Arduino controller to execute the moves. Check out the video below; it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch, and we can’t help but wonder how a polar 3D-printer would work out.

Have polar coordinates got you stumped? It can be a bit of an adjustment from Cartesian space for sure. It can be worth it, though, showing up in everything from cable plotters to POV fidget spinners and even to color space models.

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Polar Coordinate Mapping And RGB LED Disks

Last week, Adafruit released the DotStar RGB LED Disk, a 240mm diameter disk packed with 255 individually addressable RGB LEDs. Because blinkey glowey projects are the best projects, [Adam] had to have one. His tests open up some interesting possibilities in the world of blinkey LED stuff, including a polar coordinate display that would be perfect for low-res games and LED clocks.

[Adam] found the Disk sufficiently bright and glowey, but there were two problems. The first was the JST SM connector on the input of the DotStar Disk; with 255 LEDs on the disk, it has a maximum draw of over 10A, while the connector can only supply 7A without getting unreasonably warm. Secondly, there aren’t 60 LEDs around the outer edge of the disk, limiting its application as a clock.

There’s another thing wrong with the DotStar Disk, until you realize it’s effectively a polar coordinate display. RGB LED libraries are usually written for strips or matrices, not circles. The LEDs are sequentially arranged on the DotStar disk spiraling inwards, and after mucking about with some terrible code, [Adam] realized he could control a pixel with only its distance from center and angle from the connector. This makes plotting circles easier, but it also opens this display up to some interesting applications; circular Pong would be cool, and LED clocks are the bees knees.

Bipolar bot for drawing spirals

[Bart Dring] is well known around these parts for Makerslide, the buildlog.net laser cutter, and a collaboration with Inventables for the Carvey CNC machine. They’re all popular projects and all very useful. This one, not so much. It’s a bipolar bot that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this year’s build for [Bart]’s usual gonzo CNC machine for ORD Camp.

The Bipolar Bot – yes, that’s its name – is pretty much a SCARA bot. There are two NEMA 14 steppers in the joint of two arms, each of which are bolted to a bearing on a base plate with the other end holding a pen. That’s it as far as the mechanics go, but the software is extremely interesting.

The steppers are driven by an Arduino with the help of a tool that converts Cartesian Gcode to the bipolar Gcode the machine requires. There’s a bit of math involved, but nothing of note if you can code some trig functions

Right now the bipolar bot is busy drawing stuff that looks like it came right off a spirograph. You can see a video of that below.

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Center pivot pen plotter

This center pivot pen plotter is an interesting take on the idea, and manages to somewhat simplify the fabrication when compared to a gantry-style built.

Normally we’d see a gantry that travels on two rails, with a print head that moves along its length. Here the gantry is anchored on just one side, with a chain driven system to rotate it along the plotting surface. The print head uses a fine-point felt-tipped marker. It still travels along the arm as you would expect, and can be tilted away from the paper for repositioning.

What was made easier in hardware ends up adding to software complexity. The benefit of a traditional system is that it uses X and Y coordinates to plot a design. The pivot of this mechanism means that as the print head moves further from the center of the machine, the distance between each pixel is magnified. But the clip after the break proves that this issue has been solved.

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