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Idea: The Flyplotter

#1
As I've been working on my scratch build designs with SketchUp I've had some serious laser cutter envy. :(

As I build and test the construction aspects of my designs with physical prototypes I have to tile, tape up, cut out, transfer shapes to the foam, cut out the parts... No big deal when you know the plans work (thanks FT guys!!) but when they are your own designs and you're working through bugs it can be very time consuming.

That got me thinking about this:

Photo Jan 06, 3 03 30 PM.png


Think of it as a dollar store foam printer. Ideally I'll be able to tweak my designs and just 'print' them directly to the foam board. I've been reading up on a lot of DIY CNC projects and 3D printers and a plotter would be just a bit easier since it is only X and Y directions.

Anyone out there have any CNC experience? I'm in research an planning mode for this now but I've found a whole lot of inspiration/tutorials.

DIY plotters/CNC projects:
 
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RoyBro

Senior Member
Mentor
#5
Everything old is new again. Sometime around 1987, I was project manager for a software company. We had a couple of CAD programs. So I got to play with a couple of pen plotters. The table top model was very similar to what you've described, except that it was only had an 8"x10" plotting area. The larger format was also sheet fed, but had a roller for one of the axes.

I was thinking that a 20"x30" pen plotter would be perfect for printing on DTFB. But I am not nearly as talented as you. If you get this working and put out a "Building a plotter for Dummies" level set of instructions, I'll be right there with you.
 

Tritium

Amateur Extra Class K5TWM
#6
Hmmmmm, I bet I can adapt my ShapeOko to use a pen and knife. I already expanded the working area to larger than Foamboard.

Thurmond
 
#7
Hmmmmm, I bet I can adapt my ShapeOko to use a pen and knife. I already expanded the working area to larger than Foamboard.

Thurmond
The ShapeOko is one I've been studying. I bet it would be pretty straight forward to swap out your mill tip for a pen or knife. I hesitate to investigate the knife route. My wife has a Cricut (12x6") and even with the 'thick' cutting blade it's a challenge to get a good clean cut on anything more than a sheet of paper. I've considered using a Cricut blade in place of the pen to just score deep enough to cut the top paper layer. I would then follow the score lines and cut them out manually.
 

Tritium

Amateur Extra Class K5TWM
#8
A while back a vendor posted on this forum about a swiveling blade holder for larger CNC machines. It used Utility knife blades. I will build one for my ShapeOko and I will try cutting anyway. Nothing to loose but time. I have a vacuum table I snagged from the semiconductor industry salvage bin when I worked in that field. Since I am planning to get a ShapeOko 2 soon this machine would have sat idle if not for your idea inspiring me to action (I hope).

Thurmond
 
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willsonman

Builder Extraordinare
Mentor
#9
Its a fantastic idea. I believe there is already code out there to translate sketchup files to do this. I looked into CNC years ago. Biggest issue is the stepper motors. More $ = better accuracy. With what we do... the smaller the plane the more precise you need to be. Keep in mind that to do all the plotting that vacuum table will be running for quite some time. I would suggest a simple frame and clamps. KISS method is usually best for these sorts of things.
 
#10
Keep in mind that to do all the plotting that vacuum table will be running for quite some time. I would suggest a simple frame and clamps. KISS method is usually best for these sorts of things.
Good point. I was just thinking of using PC cooling fans to create a lower pressure but your comment got me thinking that I should just build it so the foam can slide right into a 'pocket' frame with a spring clamp.

I'm going to hit the thrift shops for some old printers/scanners that I can scavenge some stepper motors to play with. Adafruit has a Motor Shield for Arduino that can drive both stepper motors as well as the 9g servo I'm planning to use to lift and place the pen.

If you get this working and put out a "Building a plotter for Dummies" level set of instructions, I'll be right there with you.
If I can pull this off I'll post all the details with parts and links.
 

eagle4

New member
#11
If you get this working and simple, you could even start up a Kickstarter and sell the kits. Might help you with funding this project.
 

willsonman

Builder Extraordinare
Mentor
#16
Wife and I are not hoarders. It was a 10-year-old HP that was cheap to begin with. Two ink cartridges cost more than what that thing was new. It stopped printing more than one page before jamming. I got a new one to replace it for free. Cant argue with free.
 

Tritium

Amateur Extra Class K5TWM
#17
I have many stepper motors and other parts from OLD HP inkjets and some old IBM Selectric's that need to be put to use. Also have some "Open Rail" and a bunch of "V-Wheel" sets from a Kickstarter Reward and some "MakerSlide" from another Kickstarter Reward. Standing by. My machine size limitation is 2 meters X 2 meters if I use a continuous rail surface.

These guys have great prices on motor driver and many other small PCB items. I have purchased many items from them in the past and have been well pleased.

http://www.pololu.com/

Thurmond
 
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xuzme720

Dedicated foam bender
Mentor
#18
Wife and I are not hoarders. It was a 10-year-old HP that was cheap to begin with. Two ink cartridges cost more than what that thing was new. It stopped printing more than one page before jamming. I got a new one to replace it for free. Cant argue with free.
Sorry, Wilsonman. I was only joking. I find that I have often tossed something a week or month before I wish I hadn't. Just how it seems to go...
 

Tritium

Amateur Extra Class K5TWM
#19
Sorry, Wilsonman. I was only joking. I find that I have often tossed something a week or month before I wish I hadn't. Just how it seems to go...
That is why my wife gave up and I got a 45' HC shipping container. I have a 35 year collection of potentially useful items there. Did I mention the 40' container and the Railroad Box car too?

Thurmond
 

xuzme720

Dedicated foam bender
Mentor
#20
That is why my wife gave up and I got a 45' HC shipping container. I have a 35 year collection of potentially useful items there. Did I mention the 40' container and the Railroad Box car too?

Thurmond
Another option pops up! <runs off to price containers>