DIY Rotary turntable

I have wanted to build a rotary turntable for quite a while. With it I can shoot 360 degree product shots, I can set the camera up on it and shoot panoramas. I can use it with my timelapse setup to put motion into a long shot. I also have an idea about trying to use it to build a masterlock picker!

There is a stepper motor connected to a sparkfun easydriver via an arduino (not shown) The motor has something like 1.5 degrees per step and it is geared down heavily via the rubber belt, so it is very precise.

I used a table saw to cut this notch. Not something that I would recommend for the faint of heart.
Here is the easy driver on the breadboard.

This shot shows the bottom of the board. I used a “lazy susan” bearing from Home Depot to keep the turntable rolling smoothly. One thing I did wrong is that it was mounted several times while I was sanding or grinding and I definitely got a bit of grit in the bearings.
more info after the break

Macro photography focus stacking rig

The other day I saw this link from dsvilko and thought it was a really good idea. He uses the sled from a cd or dvd player to accurately position a subject for macrophotography. If you have never tried it before, then shooting something macro usually means that there is very light coming in to the camera and it makes manually focusing something (by twisting the lens) almost impossible.

Initially I wanted to directly duplicate dsvilko’s rig, but the sled I have doesn’t have the belts traveling in the same direction as his, so there was no easy way for me to replace the dc motor with a stepping motor. I decided to just roll with the punches and stick with what I had. By limiting the amount of time the motor was on I could build a reasonable facsimile of a repeatable step. I am currently moving the sled in 20 millisecond periods.

I directly soldered wires to the existing motor’s terminals. I zip tied them to the sled and then started work on the arduino side of things. I am using a l298 h bridge motor driver to control the motor. It takes 3 wires from the arduino. Two wires control the direction of the motor, and the third turns it on.

more after the jump

Geek gift guide for 2011 – electronics geeks

    _Electronics geeks

Hello, world! This is the second geek gift guide post. The first was more general, and this is specifically showing gifts aimed at electronics geeks. Keep your eye peeled for a few more guides.

    You can measure up an electronics geek by the amount of time that passes between unwrapping a gift and pulling out a screwdriver in order to open it up. They (we) like to build things and break things in the quest to learn how they work and how we could make them work better. The gift ideas below range from beginner to advanced and are sure to have something to please.

    Kits from make mag or sparkfun or adafruit
    Electronics kits are a great way to get your feet wet in electronics. They generally contain everything you need in order to make your project and all you have to do is solder the components on the board. This is a great way to build a frustration-free project, and you also get to see how things are designed “the proper way” Pick out a kit that looks interesting from either of those places and it’ll be a sure fire couple of quiet hours spent with the soldering iron.

    Ponoko gift card – Ponoko is a great company out of new zealand that helps makers build stuff. They have laser cutters and all kinds of other tools that you can pay to have them cut materials with. This is really good for getting laser cut acrylic cases or gauge clusters.

    Hackerspace gift certificate – depending on where you live, there may be a hackerspace near by. This is like an artists collective for geeks. They usually have all kinds of tools, materials and like minded people. They are good places to meet other geeks and collaborate on projects. They generally charge admission to cover rent, so a gift certificate is like free entry! Look for a hackerspace in your area here.

    9 more geeky ideas after the break!

Building the Bliptronome v0.1 and 0.2

So here is the followup to my last Bliptronome post. As I said I bought a bliptronic-5000 from thinkgeek over christmas break and was working on it back at home. I didn’t have very much for spare parts or tools, so I had to make due with that I had.

Here is the box it comes in. Try to contain your excitement.
monome clone from bliptronic-5000

Here is my first prototype. I learned a lot with this, not the least being that using old ide cables can be a very frustrating way to prototype. After re-wiring the arduino 3 or 4 times I finally tested the cable only to find that 5 of the pins were all grounded internally (somehow). I ended up with the breadboard here and it worked out for a test.
monome clone from bliptronic-5000

Since the ide cable failed I ended up taking the female header off of the scrap board and mounting some solid core wire to it.
monome clone from bliptronic-5000

This is the top of the the button board.
monome clone from bliptronic-5000
more gory details after the break

Cheap Monome built from a toy and and arduino – bliptronome

I’ve watched the monome videos for quite a while now, and I’ve really enjoyed them. I love how the unlabeled device looks so useful in someone else’s hands, but I know it’s really tough to learn. I have wanted one for a bit, but the makers (who seem awesome) only release small runs every once in a while, and they are generally highly (~$500) priced as well.

I saw a few links saying that you could build your own from an arduino and a bunch of gear, and that really got me interested. Over here at flipmu they have a full shopping list for building an arduino based monome clone that is called an “arduinome”, but it still looks like it comes out to almost $300 with shipping AND it is still very much a kit.

More recently I saw that some people had hacked their $40 bliptronic-5000s into arduinomes and that really piqued my interest. The hack basically uses the shift registers, buttons and leds of the bliptronic, and swaps in an arduino as the brains of the operation. The hardware is nowhere near as nice as the actual monome is, but it is approachable financially, and it’ll be useful for other things once it is connected to the arduino regardless.
Hit the jump for the details!

How to ‘piggyback’ driver chips on Ladyada’s arduino motor shield

I really like the motor shield from adafruit industries. It is simple and it allows me to plug it in and start playing quickly. I usually have giant machines in my head, and the shield just wasn’t designed for those kind of motors.
You aren’t going to end up running your prius off of one of these controllers, but it turns out that you can almost double the max motor current draw just by soldering on some chips.
From Adafruit’s forums I figured out what ic’s I need to order (L293). Here is the label on the esd bag.

Now all that you need to do is solder them on top of the existing motor driver chips! As strange as it sounds, the theory has been vetted. Each one of those drivers can handle 600mA continuous. By stacking one on top of another they each handle ~600mA and you end up with ~1200mA! The motor shield has two driver ICs mounted on it, they are the two outer ones.

Here is a shot of the board. It is assembled, but it only has one motor driver chip per channel (‘channel’ feels weird there, but you know what I mean)

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Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Challenge

I just got back from the Sparkfun AVC. It was a blast! I shot a lot of video, but that will take a while to get processed edited and uploaded. In the meantime here are the things I thought were cool on the ‘factory tour’ with a few AVC shots thrown in.

This pond instill fear in a lot of AVC owner/operators. Strangely enough the airborne division didn’t seem to mind the water as much as the trees.

This lil guy broke down the day before the big race. Sigh. It’s not easy being autonomous.

Known for it’s blazing speed, Bluebot held it’s own. It eventually claimed first place in the DNF division!

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Missed out on Sparkfun free day? Buy it anyways!

So, like many of my readers I spent the morning watching firefox time out on sparkfun’s website. Eventually the clouds parted just in time for me to see the ticker go from 70k to 98k, to 100k. Just like that the first ever (annual?) sparkfun free day was over. I was bummed. Then I started thinking about it. Everything in my cart was something I wanted, and I did have a good time this morning, and I had a good time thinking about what I was going to get, and why. I have always thought sparkfun is a really cool company, and the fact that I can’t get this stuff for free isn’t going to stop me from buying it.

Right now there are probably a few thousand people still crashing the gates of trying to get in on free day. It is over. They rewarded us with the chance to get free stuff. I personally am going to thank them by buying it anyways.

Thanks Nate, thanks Sparkfun!

Christmas gifts for geeks (pt 4) Arduino Edition


arduino Bare Bones Board Macro

Introduction – just in case you haven’t renewed your geek card for the past year (decade?) Arduino is a term that refers to a microcontroller on a board that has certain hardware and software ‘shortcuts’ figured out. It was designed to be as plug and play as possible, and to lower the barrier to entry for people who want to let their computer interact with the physical world. The programming language is fairly simple and very well documented, and it is a matter of minutes between installing the software and uploading your first program! Like I usually do, there is an amazon store here in case you don’t want to read my witty banter.

arduino – the meat and potatoes of this whole shebang.
The cool thing about arduinos are that even if you already have one, you canalways find a use for another! You can set them up to ‘talk’ to each other. You can leave a project set up after finishing it, or be able to prototype multiple projects at the same time. Also, there are a wide array of shapes and sizes (and prices) of arduinos, and each one is suited for a different application.


You can start out with the ‘classic’ Duemilanove. It is the original form factor, and most of the shields are built to fit this one. This is a great one to use for prototyping, and if need be you can use a smaller board in your finished project. If this is your first arduino I would recommend getting the kit which includes jumper wires, a breadboard, some LEDs, resistors and a pushbutton. That way you can start making things blink as soon as you get it out of the box!

arduino mega
MEGA – The arduino mega is just like the Duemilanove except that it uses a bigger chip, is a bigger board, and has more inputs and outputs. Most of the code is portable across the two. If you have a project that needs more i/o’s than the smaller chips, then this is right up your alley!

Click the link to check out the good stuff! Continue reading

$17 Arduino-based nikon IR intervalometer + code


This is one of those projects I’ve been working on for quite a while now, but never well enough to actually put it in a box! Well.. it still has no box, but it’s much closer to a boxable form.

It is a RBBB arduino clone (but any arduinowillwork) with an ir led, a potentiometer, a resistor, and some perfboard. The perfboard is as much there to help provide a little bit of wire strain relief as it is to provide a place to mount the pot. The code simply reads the pot input and converts it into a delay() function. Then it fires the IR led with the nikon-specific magic to tell my d40 to shoot.

Here is an example of one of the timelapses I have shot.

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