These days, it’s common among us hackers to load a stepper motor with forces in-line with their shaft–especially when we couple them to leadscrews or worm gears. Unfortunately, steppers aren’t really intended for this sort of loading, and doing so with high forces can destroy the motor. Fear not, though. If you find yourself in this situation, [Voind Robot] has the solution for you with a dead-simple-yet-dead-effective upgrade to get your steppers tackling axial loads without issue.
In [Voind Robot’s] case, they started with a worm-gear-drive on a robot arm. In their circumstances, moving the arm could put tremendous axial loads onto the stepper shaft through the worm–as much as 30 Newtons. Such loads could easily destroy the internal stepper motor bearings in a short time, so they opted for some double-sided reinforcement. To alleviate the problem, the introduced two thrust bearings, one on either side of the shaft. These thrust bearings do the work of redirecting the force off the shaft and directly onto the motor casing, a much more rigid place to apply such loads.
This trick is dead simple, and it’s actually over five years old. Nevertheless, it’s still incredibly relevant today for any 3D printer builder who’s considering coupling a leadscrew to a stepper motor for their Z-axis. There, a single thrust bearing could take out any axial play and lead to an overall rigid build. We love simple machine-design nuggets of wisdom like these. If you’re looking for more printer-design tricks, look no further than [Moritz’s] Workhorse Printer article.
There are a lot of fun projects you can do with stepper motors salvaged from old printers or disk drives. However, it isn’t always clear how to connect to some strange motor with no markings or schematics. [Corvetteguy50] has a video showing his trick for working out the connections easily, and you can see it below.
The basic idea is simple. Using a special jig, he connects an LED across two random pins and spins the motor. If the LED lights, you’ve found a coil. You just don’t know which coil, yet. You can also short two wires and note when you feel resistance when you spin the shaft.
Ever since he looked into them as a way to water and care for his plants, [Tom] has been fascinated with cable robots. These high-flying gadgets can move in three dimensions over huge areas, provided you’ve got the ability to string up the aforementioned cables. But despite their flexibility, there hasn’t been a whole lot of hobbyist level development with these unique systems.
So what can you do with a cable robot? In the video after the break, [Tom] shows one of his creations dutifully transporting beer cans across the room and stacking them into a pyramid. Admittedly this isn’t a particularly useful capability (unless you run a bar, perhaps), but it does show the speed and dexterity of the system even when crossing large distances. If you’ve ever wanted to play the home edition of “Automate the Freight”, this one’s for you.
The system uses a trio of 36 volt stepper motors powered by a homebrew SLA7078 driver that [Tom] designed himself. Each stepper turns a geared-down spindle to which a strong cable is attached. With some clever routing around the workspace, careful orchestration of these small winches can be used to move the point where all the cables meet in 3D space. All that’s left is mounting your gadget of choice to this central point, and away you go.
If you’re familiar with the DSLR camera market, you’d know that modern lenses are works of technological art. Crammed full of motors and delicate electronic assemblies, they’re bursting with features such as autofocus, optical stabilization and zoom. [Saulius Lukse] has been experimenting with motorized lenses for webcam applications, and has built a controller to make working with them a snap.
The controller is capable of controlling up to 3 stepper motors, as well as a voice coil, which should be enough for the vast majority of lenses out there. Microstepping is supported, which is key for optical systems in which tiny adjustments can make a big difference. The controller speaks USB and I2C, and is now based on an STM32 chip, having been upgraded from an earlier version which used the venerable ATmega328. The board is designed to be as compact as possible, to enable it to neatly fit inside camera and lens assemblies.
The board has been used to successfully control an 18x zoom lens, among others. Combining such a lens with a webcam and a good pan and tilt mechanism would create a highly capable surveillance package, or an excellent vision system for a robot.
The machine uses a rotating turntable to spin a piece of drawing paper. A pen is then placed in a pantograph mechanism, controlled by another two stepper motors. The build uses the common 28BYJ-48 motor, which are a unipolar, 5-wire design. A common hack is to open these motors up and cut a trace in order to convert them to bipolar operation, netting more torque at the expense of being more complex to drive. [InventorArtist] worked in collaboration with [Doug Commons], who had the idea of instead simply drilling a hole through the case of the motor to cut the trace. This saves opening the motor, and makes the conversion a snap.
[InventorArtist] was able to create a machine capable of beautiful spirograph drawings, and develop a useful hack along the way. Reports are that a jig is in development to make the process foolproof for those keen to mod their own motors. We expect to see parts up on Thingiverse any day now. We’ve also covered the basic version of this hack before.
The system consists of computer-based software and a hardware system working in concert to solve the cube. Webcam images are processed on a computer which determines the current state of the cube, and the necessary moves required to solve it. The solving rig is constructed from steel rods, lasercut acrylic, and 3D printed parts, along with an Arduino and six stepper motors. The Arduino receives instructions from the solving computer over USB serial link. These are then used to command the stepper motors to manipulate the cube in the correct fashion.
It’s no speed demon, but the contraption is capable of solving a cube without any problems. Manipulation of the cube is reliable and smooth, and the build is neat and tidy thanks to its carefully designed components. Of course, there are now even Rubik’s Cubes that can solve themselves. Video after the break.
Over on hackaday.io and deep in the Hackaday Prize, a lot of cool people are playing around with the possibilities of putting coils in printed circuit boards. On the face of it, it makes sense: drawing spirals on a PCB gets you an electromagnet. This allows you to do all sorts of crazy things. You can make miniature model maglev trains using the track as a motor. Someone built a wearable Tesla coil.
The latest build to show off the possibilities of motors etched on PCBs is [bobricius]’ micro manipulator. It’s a 100 mm square board capable of moving a small magnet around the surface. The point? Well, if you have to ask that question you’re really never going to get the point.
The design of this stepper motor is simply two coils of wire, with the X axis of the grid placed on the top copper layer of the PCB and the Y axis on the bottom copper layer. There are four poles to each of these coils, and they plug right into a standard stepper driver, so to control this board all you need is a basic Arduino and a motor shield. Or a RepRap board, take your pick, you probably have something sitting around in a junk drawer.
In the test of this board, the stepper motor can move small rare earth magnets around quickly and with high repeatability. As for what use this PCB stepper motor has, if you have to ask that question, you’ll never know. Also, because it looks cool.