Cheap Big Servo For Robot Arm

[Skyentific] is looking to push the hobbyist robotics state of the art. Motors and their gears, the actuators, are typically the most expensive part. For his build, he realised he needed big servos capable of delivering plenty of torque. Thus, he set about creating a 3D-printed design to get the job done on a budget. (Video, embedded below.)

Stepper motors are the order of the day here, chosen for their low cost compared to brushless solutions, particularly when taking control hardware into account. In this design, the stepper motor drives a sun gear as part of a bigger planetary gearbox with a high gear ratio. Cross-roller bearings are used to allow the servo to effectively handle both radial and axial loads. The servo as a whole is designed to fit neatly into the joints of the robot arm itself, and has external mounting points provisioned as such.

It’s a neat servo that somewhat apes those used on full-sized industrial designs, at least in the sense of being an integrated part of the joints of a robot arm. It also comes in at a relatively-cheap $32 based on the materials used by [Skyentific].

We’ve seen some related work from [Skyentific] before, too – like this interesting cable-driven joint. Video after the break.

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Light Painting With An 19th Century Inspired Plotter

The geometric chuck was a device that stacked up multiple rotating wheels that could vary their speed and their offset to a central shaft, in order to machine ornate designs using a lathe. It’s this piece of machining obscura from the 19th century that inspired this light painting build from [Ted Kinsman].

Rather than the complicated gears and wheels used in the distant past, [Ted] instead elected to use stepper motors. Three stepper motors are stacked on top of each other, each one able to rotate at an independent rate. The design only implements three steppers as the slip rings needed to send power and control signals to each stepper are prohibitively expensive.

An Arduino is programmed to run the show, changing the speed of each motor and thus the patterns the system generates. Put LEDs on the spinning plates, or install a pen to mark a piece of paper, and it’s possible to generate all manner of beautiful spirograph-like patterns. Vary the motor speeds or the positioning of the lights, and the patterns vary in turn.

It’s a fun build for light painting, with some great visuals produced. We also appreciate the use of the Arduino which makes varying the parameters far easier than having to change out gearsets in classical designs.

If you miss the old school spirograph, you can always build one out of Lego. Else, consider experimenting with other light painting techniques. If you’ve built a fancy rig of your own, be sure to let us know!

[Thanks to zit for the tip!]

Motorized Camera Slider Gives Your Shots Style

We’ve all seen those smooth panning shots, which combined with some public domain beats, are a hallmark of the modern YouTube tech video. Recreating that style in your own productions is as easy as pointing your browser to Amazon and picking up a motorized camera slider, so long as you don’t mind parting with a few hundred bucks, anyway. But [Paweł Spychalski] had a better idea. He decided to build his own camera slider and make it an open source project so others could spin up their own versions.

His design uses many components that have become popular and affordable thanks to the desktop 3D printer explosion, such as 2020 aluminum extrusion, LM8UU linear bearings, an 8 mm lead screw, and a NEMA 17 stepper motor. In fact, if you’ve got a broken 3D printer that you don’t know what to do with, stripping it for parts would get you a long way towards completing the BOM for this project.

To control the slider, [Paweł] is using an ESP32 and TMC2209 “StepStick” driver connected to an OLED display and a few buttons. As designed, a smartphone connected to a simple web page hosted by the ESP32 is the primary method of controlling the camera, but the buttons and display on the slider itself gives you a physical backup should you need it.

If you need something a bit more advanced than a linear slider, we’ve seen some impressive DIY motion rigs that can spin the camera around the target and produce some very professional looking shots.

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Compact M&M Sorter Goes Anywhere

Let’s face it — eating different colored candy like M&Ms or Skittles is just a little more fun if you sort your pile by color first. The not-fun part is having to do it by hand. [Jackofalltrades_] decided to tackle this time-worn problem for engineering class because it’s awesome and it satisfies the project’s requirement for sensing, actuation, and autonomous sequencing. We’d venture to guess that it satisfies [Jackofalltrades_]’ need for chocolate, too.

Here’s how it works: one by one, M&Ms are selected, pulled into a dark chamber for color inspection, and then dispensed into the proper cubby based on the result. [Jackofalltrades_] lived up to their handle and built a color-detecting setup out of an RGB LED and light-dependent resistor. The RGB LED shines red, then, green, then blue at full brightness, and takes a voltage reading from the photocell to figure out the candy’s color. At the beginning, the machine needs one of each color to read in and store as references. Then it can sort the whole bag, comparing each M&M to the reference values and updating them with each new M&M to create a sort of rolling average.

We love the beautiful and compact design of this machine, which was built to maximize the 3D printer as one of the few available tools. The mechanical design is particularly elegant. It cleverly uses stepper-driven rotation and only needs one part to do most of the entire process of isolating each one, passing it into the darkness chamber for color inspection, and then dispensing it into the right section of the jar below. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

Need a next-level sorter? Here’s one that locates and separates the holy grail of candy-coated chocolate — peanut M&Ms that didn’t get a peanut.

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Perfecting A 3D Printed Camera Motion Control Rig

If you’ve ever watched one of those high production value YouTube videos and wondered how they’re able to get those smooth shots where the camera seems to be spinning around an object, you were probably looking at the product of an motorized camera motion system. There’s no question these rigs can produce visually striking shots, but their high cost usually keeps them out of the hands of us lowly hackers.

Unless of course you do like [Andy], and build your own. The latest version of this impressive rig features the ability to continuously rotate thanks to commercial 12-wire slip rings, with optical endstops so the machine can still be homed at the beginning of a move. An onboard Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno are responsible for controlling the stepper motors, the configuration of which ends up being reminiscent of a standard 3D printer.

The MQTT remote can hold a phone for live video.

The software [Andy] has come up with lets him synchronize the camera rig with a small rotating platform he built, which allows for even more complex shots as demonstrated in the video below. It also supports a very slick MQTT-enabled remote controller that he built as a previous project, which makes taking direct control over the camera and monitoring its status much easier.

Want to add a little polish to your own project videos? [Andy] has released all of the files and information you’d need to build your own version of his motion control rig, though we wouldn’t blame you for feeling a bit intimidated by this one. It might not be the most elaborate camera motion control system we’ve seen, but it’s certainly up there. If you just want an overhead video and don’t need those fancy tracking shots, perhaps a modified VESA arm would fit the bill.

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Auto Strummer Can Plectrum The Whole Flat-Strumming Spectrum

Playing the guitar requires speed, strength, and dexterity in both hands. Depending on your mobility level, rocking out with your axe might be impossible unless you could somehow hold down the strings and have a robot do the strumming for you.

[Jacob Stambaugh]’s Auto Strummer uses six lighted buttons to tell the hidden internal pick which string(s) to strum, which it does with the help of an Arduino Pro Mini and a stepper motor. If two or more buttons are pressed, all the strings between the outermost pair selected will be strummed. That little golden knob near the top is a pot that controls the strumming tempo.

[Jacob]’s impressive 3D-printed enclosure attaches to the guitar with a pair of spring-loaded clamps that grasp the edge of the sound hole. But don’t fret — there’s plenty of foam padding under every point that touches the soundboard.

We were worried that the enclosure would block or muffle the sound, even though it sits about an inch above the hole. But as you can hear in the video after the break, that doesn’t seem to be the case — it sounds fantastic.

Never touched a real guitar, but love to play Guitar Hero? There’s a robot for that, too.

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A $50 CNC

In theory, there’s isn’t much to building a CNC machine. Hook a bit to a motor and move the motor around with some lead screws and stepper motors. Easy. But, of course, the devil is in the details. [DAZ] made a nice-looking and inexpensive rig that probably isn’t the most precise CNC in the world, but it looks like it does a good enough job and he claims he spent about $50 on it. The video below shows some of the work it has done, and it doesn’t look bad.

This isn’t a rainy afternoon project. You’ll need to cut some wood and 3D print many parts. The drives use M8 threaded rod. Electronics is just an Arduino running standard software.

The steppers looked pretty light duty, and we wondered if it would have been worthwhile to trade them out for beefier ones instead of modifying the ones used for bipolar operation. Still, the results did look good for $50. The 775 spindle is another place you could probably spend a little more and get something better. Non-printed linear rails, and a better screw? The point is that you’ve got a basis to build from.

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