Arduino Star Tracker Raises the Bar

Proving that astrophotography doesn’t have to break the bank, [Gerald Gattringer] has recently documented his DIY “barn door” style star tracker which is built almost entirely from scratch. Short of the Arduino and stepper motor, all the components were either made by hand or are standard hardware store finds.

The build starts with three aluminum plates which [Gerald] cut by hand with an angle grinder. He then drilled all the necessary screw holes and a rectangular opening for the threaded rod to pass through. He even used epoxy to mount a nut to the bottom plate which would eventually attach it to the tripod.

The plates were then roughed up and spray painted black so they wouldn’t reflect light. The addition of a couple of screws, nuts, and a standard hinge.

Motion is provided by a 28BYJ-48 stepper which is connected to the drive nut by way of a belt. The spinning nut is used to raise and lower the threaded rod which opens and closes the “door”. To control the motor, [Gerald] is using an Arduino Nano coupled with a ULN2003 Darlington array which live on a routed PCB he made with his school’s Qbot MINImill. While some might say the Arduino is unnecessary for this project, it does make the final calibration of the device much easier.

We’ve covered a number of similar star trackers here on Hackaday, including one that you crank by hand. But the professional looking final result really makes this build stand out.

Touch-A-Sketch Gives an Old Toy a New Twist

After nearly 60 years and a lot of stairs and squares, there is finally an easier way to draw on an Etch A Sketch®. For their final project in embedded microcontroller class, [Serena, Francis, and Alejandro] implemented a motor-driven solution that takes input from a touch screen.

Curves are a breeze to draw with a stylus instead of joysticks, but it’s still a 2-D plotter and must be treated as such. The Touch-A-Sketch system relies on the toy’s stylus starting in the lower left hand corner, so all masterpieces must begin at (0,0) on the knobs and the touch screen.

The BOM for this project is minimal. A PIC32 collects the input coordinates from the touch screen and sends them to a pair of stepper motors attached to the toy’s knobs. Each motor is driven by a Darlington array that quickly required a homemade heat sink, so there’s even a hack within the hack. The team was unable to source couplers that could deal with the discrepancy between the motor and knob shaft sizes, so they ended up mounting the motors in a small plywood table and attaching them to the stock knobs with Velcro. This worked out for the better, since the Etch A Sketch® screen still has to be reset the old-fashioned way.

They also considered using belts to drive the knobs like this clock we saw a few years ago, but they wanted to circumvent slippage. Pour another glass of your aunt’s high-octane eggnog and watch Touch-A-Sketch draw something festive after the break.

Continue reading “Touch-A-Sketch Gives an Old Toy a New Twist”

Working 3D printed stepper motor

Stepper Small 1

Most 3D printers use stepper motors to control the movement of the extruder head. If you could actually print those motors it would be one more big step toward self-replicating hardware. Now obviously [Chris Hawkins’] working 3d printed stepper motor wasn’t built 100% through 3D printing, but the majority of the parts were. All that he had to add was the electronic driver pieces, magnets, wire, and a few nails.

The coils are made up of nails wrapped in magnet wire. The rotor is a 3D printed framework which accepts neodymium rare earth magnets. The axle is pointed which reduces the friction where it meets the cone-shaped support on either side of the frame. The IC on the upper right is a transistor array that facilitates switching the 20V driving the coils. The board on the lower right is a Digispark, which is an ATtiny85 breakout board that includes a USB edge connector for programming and a linear regulator which is how he gets away with feeding 20V as the source.

Don’t miss the demo video after the break where you can see the motor stepping 7.5 degrees at a time.

Continue reading “Working 3D printed stepper motor”