Feb 282014

Progress is being made on the hardware. The motors are mounted, the EggBot controller board is mounted, new spools are printed and installed.

Here is the overall mounting scheme so far


I ended up printing these small spools from thingiverse.


I used a screw specifically made for screwing into plastic. It has deep coarse threads that bite well into the soft ABS plastic. We’ll see if it holds long term but it seems to have a good grip right now.

The EggBot board has an issue where the upper and lower copper planes are one power and one ground. The problem is the mounting holes do not have copper pull backs so if you put a metal screw or stand off through the mounting holes the power plane and ground planes are shorted together. So that’s no good. Mounting the EggBot board requires using non conducting mounting hardware. I decided to print a mounting platform and hold downs.

I printed reliefs in the mounting platform for the pins that protrude from the bottom of the EggBot board. The four pins in the corners go through the EggBot board mounting holes to align the board and keep it in place when held down.






I’ve done some simple tests communicating with the EggBot board and moving the motors, making sure everything is still in working order and nothing got crimped or crushed.

Next steps are to string the gondola and get some code working.

Feb 282014

I’ve combed through enough of Wilba’s code to understand the fundamentals. I’ve done some cleanup and added comments and a bit of debugging functionality. I’ve uploaded the latest updates to github.

Searching the web for drawbot stuff I came across a post by Wilba on XKCD’s forum with some pictures and comments describing his drawbot geometry. This was a big help when trying to understand the code.

Wilba’s drawbot code supports using a larger spool and calculating the tangent point of the cord from the spool when calculating the pen position. The drawbot I’m making is much simpler. I’m using fishing line through an eyelet which fixes the cord origin regardless of the spool diameter or angle to the pen. Using a string around a spool does have the issue of the spool diameter changing due to wrap up of the string around the spool, but I’m using fishing line on a reasonably sized spool so the diameter change should be small.

At this point I’m going to fork the code from DrawbotWilba to DrawbotOne. DrawbotOne will be simpler to start with since it will only support the cord entering the drawing space from a fixed point at the eyelet.

Feb 212014

I’ve taken Wilba6582’s eggbot drawbot code and cleaned it up enough to build under Processing 2.0. It requires grabbing the latest controlP5 library and I’ve removed the gamepad control.

I haven’t tried running it against an EiBotBoard yet but that’s the next step. The code builds and runs, it rasterizes an image, and brings up a gui with the ability to drag the pen around.

I’m in the process of organizing and cleaning up the code and I’ll continue to push changes to github.

We’ll see where this goes but it gives a nice starting point for jumping off, a big thanks to Wilba6582 for doing the initial work.

Here’s the interface up and running from the barely modified code.


Feb 182014

I mentioned in an earlier post I had found a video on youtube of someone else using an EggBotBoard to drive a drawbot. That was pretty exciting because most of the drawbots out there (and maybe we’ll find later for good reason) are based on the Arduino / Adafruit motor shield combo. Since I decided to use the EggBotBoard it was good to find a kindred spirit that had already blazed a trail.

I left a comment on the video asking about what software was used and Wilba6582 responded and sent me a bit of code. I’ve just started to look at the code but from Wilba’s comments in the email he sent the code is targeted for the Processing environment and as shown in the video actually parses a file and drives the drawbot.

I’m posting the code here along with Wilba’s release. As I dig more into the code I’ll decide how much can be used as is, how much needs to be updated, and how much needs to be re-written wholesale. Part of my problem is that I’m not fully familiar with the Processing environment so I’ll need to take a moment or two to figure that out.

In the meantime I’m working on mounting the motors and electronics on a portable rigid surface (think piece of wood) so I can place the whole package above the surface I want to draw on, plug it in, and draw away.

Feb 172014

As mentioned in an earlier post I have decided to use the Eggbot control board (EiBotBoard) to drive my drawbot. I’ve gotten the electronics up and running, mostly just plug it in, screw down the stepper motor wires, and plug in the pen lift servo motor. Here are some videos of the EiBotBoard in action.

Some commentary on why I am using the EiBotBoard. The EiBotBoard is a nicely integrated dual stepper motor, multi servo motor driver that accepts high level motion commands over USB from a serial console.

Description of the motors selected for the drawbot. A couple NEMA 17 stepper motors I had laying around in my parts box. They are 0.8 amp motors, well within the 1.25 amps the EiBotBoard can supply.

Motion demo of the EiBotBoard driving two steppers and a pen lift servo. The script that is running is posted below. I am using a cygwin command window to echo the commands to the USB virtual comm port. Keep in mind Windows enumerates the COM ports starting at 1 and cygwin enumerates /dev/ttySxx starting at 0. In the script below I am echoing to ttyS18 because Windows enumerated the COM port at COM19.

Finally more commentary on why I like using the EiBotBoard.

Commands running in a cygwin shell script. Script with comments below.
echo "v" > /dev/ttyS18
echo "sm,500,500,500" > /dev/ttyS18
echo "sc,4,6000" > /dev/ttyS18
echo "sc,5,26000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "tp" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "tp" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "tp" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "tp" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "tp" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "em,3,3" > /dev/ttyS18
echo "sm,1000,2000,2000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "sm,1000,-2000,2000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "sm,1000,2000,-2000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "sm,1000,-2000,2000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "sm,1000,2000,-2000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "sm,1000,-2000,2000" > /dev/ttyS18
sleep 1
echo "em,0,0" > /dev/ttyS18

Send the version command to the board, establishes communication with the board.
echo “v” > /dev/ttyS18

Move both steppers at 1/16 size steps (the default) for 500 steps each and take 1/2 second to move (500 msecs)
echo “sm,500,500,500” > /dev/ttyS18

Set the pen lift servo min and max values, 6000 and 26000, determined from experimenting with this servo
echo “sc,4,6000” > /dev/ttyS18
echo “sc,5,26000” > /dev/ttyS18

Each TP command toggles the pen position from up or down
echo “tp” > /dev/ttyS18

Set the stepper fraction to 1/4 sized steps.
echo “em,3,3” > /dev/ttyS18

Step the motors for sm, duration in msecs, number of steps motor1, number of steps motor2
echo “sm,1000,2000,2000” > /dev/ttyS18
echo “sm,1000,-2000,2000” > /dev/ttyS18
echo “sm,1000,2000,-2000” > /dev/ttyS18
echo “sm,1000,-2000,2000” > /dev/ttyS18
echo “sm,1000,2000,-2000” > /dev/ttyS18
echo “sm,1000,-2000,2000” > /dev/ttyS18

Disable the motor drivers to avoid over heating the motors.
echo “em,0,0” > /dev/ttyS18

Feb 092014

Not a huge amount of progress on my drawbot but I’ve stumbled across a couple interesting ideas I want to capture as part of this build stream.

I have printed a gondola and a couple spools. I printed this gondola and it looks good.



It holds a sharpie marker great, tight with just the right amount of tip poking out. It has good mount points for the cords and a place to put some weights on the bottom. The problem is, and I didn’t think about it before printing it, there isn’t a way to mount a pen lifter servo. I could probably rig something up that would work fine, but I’d rather have a designed in solution. So I’ll likely be printing a new gondola soon. This gondola will probably work fine for a TSP single line art but I want a pen lifter so I can do pointillist style images.

I also printed out some spools, the ones I mentioned in my earlier post, the ones makerblock recommended I shouldn’t use. They printed fine and I think I can glue them together to avoid the coming apart and unspooling problem. But they aren’t ideal, for a lot of the reasons makerblock pointed out. They press fit onto the motor shaft, no set screw, they are kinda narrow so you get cord build up changing the spool diameter. They looked good on paper but after printing and holding them in my hand I can see some of the issues makerblock pointed out. So I’ll be printing new spools.



On to the interesting part. I found a link on youtube to a guy who made a drawbot using the Eggbot hardware. So far I haven’t found any more details but at least someone tried, and succeeded, at this before.

Second, and I think more cool. I stumbled across a video for building a drawbot on the cheap. This guy uses some super cheap stepper motors, less than $5 USD each with motor drivers, simple 3D printed spools, and cup hooks for cord guides. No motor mounts, he just screws through the motor mounting tab into the wood drawing surface. Doing a quick BOM using the cheap motors and drivers, a super simple bare bones arduino clone, 3D printed spools, cup hooks or eyelets for guides, a cheap wall wart power supply, and a hand made or 3D printed gondola I think you could make a drawbot for less than $50 UDS, maybe less than $35 with some searching.

To me this is a super exciting way to introduce robotics to newbies. The drawbot itself is cool, people just seem to like watching the drawing appear physically. The cost is pretty cheap, it seems within the range of a learning or science project, and it’s super simple to build. I think a high school or middle schooler could easily assemble a simple drawbot in a day. Build up some kits and sponsor a build a drawbot day at your local school.

Drawing board, melamine coated shelf board from HD
Stepper motors with drivers
A cheap arduino clone, preferably already assembled to avoid soldering
Cables and wiring harness, preferably already assembled for plug and play
3D printed spools and gondola
Cup hooks and screws
Some fishing line
A sharpie marker

The software would need to be developed to drive it but that problem is being worked. I think this is a cool idea that could be pretty interesting for young wanna-be nerdlings.

Search DealExtreme for stepper motors, I’ve found some motors with drivers for less than $4 USD each.

Feb 032014

I built my 3D printer from a kit a couple years ago. It is a MendelMax style and it came with a modified version of Marlin as the firmware and printrun as the host app.

One of the first things I did after putting everything together was update the firmware to the latest version of Marlin and printrun. That was a couple years ago. New versions of both the printer firmware and host software have come and gone and I’ve largely ignored them. My printer has been working fine and no need to mess with what works.

I’m in the process of building a polar plotter and I’m using my 3D printer more heavily to create many of the parts. After using the printer to print a couple parts, and remembering many of the little irritations that always bothered me, I decided to look around and see what new firmware and host apps are available.

I tried a couple different firmwares but eventually settled back on Marlin. I forked and cloned the latest from ErikZalm, created a branch for my printer mods, updated the Configuration.h, pushed my branch back to my fork, and pushed the changes to my fork. The changes for my printer are pretty minimal but pushing them to github gives me a place to stash them off box and makes them available if anyone else finds them interesting.

I added ErikZalm’s original github repo as an upstream repo so I can continue to fetch and merge his latest changes.

Fork ErikZalm’s Marlin repo into my github – do this on github.

Clone my fork onto my desktop.
git clone https://github.com/bhunting/Marlin.git

Add ErikZalm’s repo as an upstream remote.
git remote add upstream https://github.com/ErikZalm/Marlin.git

Create and checkout a branch for my feature work (support for my MendelMax)
git checkout -b bhunting_MendelMax

Fetch and merge upstream (ErikZalm’s repo), not really needed right now since I just forked and cloned it.
git fetch upstream
git merge upstream/Marlin_v1

Push my feature branch to my repo
git push origin bhunting_MendelMax

Modify the code as needed…..

Add, commit, and push
git add Configuration.h
git commit -m"configuration changes for MendelMax 3D printer - BAH"
git push

After the mods I built the firmware using Arduino 1.5.2 and flashed it to my printer.

First off I like that the annoying beep when using the rotary encoder has been toned down. Much more palatable now. I like the new menu system. Not a lot has changed but it does look cleaner and I like the wording better. But how does it print?

I upgraded to the latest version of printrun but at the same time I wanted to try Repetier Host. Printrun seems to work fine with the latest Marlin but Repetier has a more full featured interface. Repetier provides both host side software and printer side firmware. I was unsure if Repetier Host would talk to Marlin firmware but it turns out Repetier Host is more than happy to drive the Marlin firmware. In fact the two get along just dandy.

I’ve only done one print using Repetier Host and Marlin firmware but one thing I did notice, other than the improved user interface on both the printer and host side, is my print started and completed in one pass, no hiccups or restarts. It might be an anomaly but at least it didn’t crash and burn right out of the gate. So far I’m happy and looking forward to trying more prints with this combination.

Feb 022014

I just finished printing both motor mounts for my work-in-progress Polargraphic Plotter / Drawbot / Plotterbot. I decided on these motor mounts on Thingiverse. They fit a NEMA 17 motor and they looked simple and easy to print. Although I am a little concerned about the print layers being parallel to the mount bolt holes.

I printed these on my MendelMax 3D printer in ABS. I printed the mounts one at a time and each mount took a little over an hour to print. The prints needed some clean up with a pen knife to trim off the danglies but after that they look good. The motor mounting holes line up nearly perfect and the mounts are good fit to the motor bodies. We’ll see how they hold up under load but if I use a washer on the mounting holes it should distribute the stress.

My MendelMax printer

A two-for-one special, 0.5 mm printhead off of ebay. It seems to print ok.

The motor mount finished and ready to remove from the bed.





A video of the motor mount being printed

Another part down. Now on to the filament spools….

Feb 022014

I’ve decided to use an Eggbot control board, the EiBotBoard, to drive my polar plotter.
Not for any particularly wonderful reason. The board costs right at $50, which is the cost of an Arduino uno R3 ($30) plus an Adafruit Motor Shield ($20).

It seems the software to drive a polar plotter already exists for the Arduino / motor shield combo. Eggbot board, not so much.

So I’m looking at the same cost and more work to use the Eggbot board. But hey, if it was too easy it wouldn’t be fun :). I like the form factor of the EiBotBoard and if I can get it working as a polar plotter I can add a little back to the community.

I ended up buying the EiBotBoard from Sparkfun, the stepper motors from Pololu (on black friday sale for $14 each), the power wart from Adafruit.

The motor mounts, filament spools, and gondola I’ll download from Thingiverse and print them myself.

I’ve decided on the following parts:

Motor Mounts






I’ll probably download and print a few different styles of gondolas and see if I like any of them better than the others.

Progress is being made ….