MakerSlide Camera Slider Project

Many photographers have suggested that MakerSlide is a good material to make a camera slider.  A camera slider is a linear motion control system for a camera.  A stepper motor is used to smoothly move a camera along a linear rail.

We decided to make a simple starter project of the basic items to create one.  An Inventables Project is a quick, one click way to add all the parts you need to your shopping cart.  You can modify or delete items in the cart if you already have them or need additional items.

This project only includes the basic motion components.  It does not include the motor controller, the motors drivers or the method to mount the camera.  The design is for lighter camera systems of less than about 8 lbs.  Some basic free controller software for Arduino is available on GitHub, but this provided "as is", and is not an officially supported Inventables item.

Camera Slider

The basic camera slider is quite easy to build and well documented on the project page.  Step by step instructions with pictures are included.

The carriage plate has many extra holes to mount standard tripod heads.  You should try to center the mass of the camera on the center of the carriage for best results.

Controller / Drivers

You need a way to control and drive the motors.  This is not included in the project.  The simplest solution is to use an Arduino and a simple shield.  The GRBL Shield, Buildlog.net Stepper Shield and ITEAD Dual Stepper driver shield will work.  The ITEAD driver tends to run very hot and is not ideal.  Whatever driver you use, turn down the current as low as you can for quietest operation.

Arduino Uno

Control Software

A free and simple controller program for Arduino is available on GitHub.  The controller uses a menu driven interface via the USB connection.  The easiest way to talk to it is though the Arduino IDE serial monitor.  That allows a free, common interface between PC, Apple and Linux,  but most serial terminals will work.  The commands currently work in the unit of stepper motor steps.  It could be easily converted to a real world unit, but at this time it is just easier to use the same unit that the motors use.  

If you use a 18 tooth pulley, a 200 step/rev motor and 1/16 microstepping you will get 2222.2 steps/inch or 87.4 steps/mm.  That makes for a very smooth system.  Extremely slow rates are possible.  It can go 1 step per second at 2222 steps per inch, so it could take almost an hour to go an inch.  You could hack the code to easily drop this by many orders of magnitude.  Each move can have its own speed and acceleration to fine turn the affect you want.

It has several commands to interactively move the carriage around.  This would probably be done to setup the system before the actual “shot”.  These include Move, Home (go to zero), Jog and Zero (define current location as zero).  You can also create a move program.  This allows you to define a couple dozen moves that run sequentially.    These can either be moves or dwells (pauses).  Once the program is entered it can be saved.  This allows you to pre-program the device before you take it in the field.

At power up the motor disables.  This allows you to slide the carriage by hand.  This is handy if you don’t have a PC to do it in the field.  As soon as you make any move or run a program the motors enable.

Note:  The software is provided for free and "as is".  It is not an official, Inventables supported product.  It is open source, so feel free to hack and modify it.

If you have any question please comment on this blog post.

Interview with Samantha Alaimo

I recently had the opportunity to share some email correspondence with Chicago-based designer Samantha Alaimo. Her work can be found on her project profile on the Inventables website as well as on her personal website.

Elliott Mickleburgh: I’d like to begin by speaking about your Artist Palette Cutting Board. How did you come up with the exact shape for the design? Did you base it on one specific palette you might have seen or did it come from a remix of several palette shapes? Or perhaps the shape is entirely original, something you concocted purely from imagination?

Samantha Alaimo: The bamboo plywood material inspired the design. It is a material commonly used for cutting boards, but I wanted to both show off the beauty of the wood as well. I borrowed the standard ergonomics from a classic artist palette and merged with a modern cutting board shape.

The Artist Palette Cutting Board

EM: Using the image of the painter’s palette for a cutting board is a very interesting gesture I think. It speaks to a threshold that lies somewhere between aesthetics and an object’s utility. This leads me to my next question, somewhat cliché but appropriate in this context: what do you think the relation between art and design is? And is that relation something you hold close to your own practice or something you would prescribe investment in to other makers?

SA: I think sometimes it’s hard to hash out the difference between art, design, and personal practice. I went to a fine art’s college, I have painted, sculpted, made puppets even, but I really enjoy making useful products.  My art, my personal practice, is designing. I don’t see much use in trying to define the relationships between those things.  What I think is exciting now, is seeing how artists are influencing and getting involved with the maker movement.

EM: I’d like to talk about your Classic Chess Set a little bit now. Indeed the project has a very classic appearance with white and black pieces and a modest wooden board. You’ve also essentially open sourced the project through the Inventables website by offering files, a materials list, and other necessary information someone could use to fabricate one of these at home. This latter aspect of the design would give someone the opportunity to begin customizing your very traditional chess set. Are you interested in this juxtaposition between what might be perceived as a rigid classic aesthetic and offering the potential to subvert that rigidity through open sourcing your design?

SA: Yes. I wanted to provide a classic set as a template for people to “hack” and “fork”. I looked on sites like thingiverse.com, and while there are yoda head and minimalist chess sets, there wasn’t a traditional one. I wanted to contribute that to the community.

The Classic Chess Set

EM: Playing with or making another designer’s open sourced projects seems like it could be creatively productive in a number of ways. It also leads to serious questions of intellectual property rights and creative authorship. Do you yourself ever make other designers’ open sourced projects (not just those listed on Inventables necessarily, but from any open source library)? Do you think there is an ethical boundary to such open source experimentation?

SA: I will admit, the first time I was exposed to the idea of open source design, I didn’t get it. Why would I want to work hard on something just to give all the secrets away? But, it is about growing collective knowledge of the community. Everyone should have access to everyone’s knowledge so that someone can make something new and innovative. I have made other designers’ open source projects, and it usually makes me appreciate the hard work the designer put in.

EM: Fun question to round everything out: what are you working on now?

SA: I am working on a few some collaborations right now. I am working on some custom designs with a local wood wallet start up. I am also teaching a few artists how to use digital fabrication tools in hopes of making collaborative work.

Introducing The Laser Cutter Settings Calculator

Picking the right laser cutting settings can be the difference between a beautiful finished product and a piece of material in the scrap bin. At Inventables, we think that everyone should be able to find the perfect laser cutting settings quickly and easily. That is why we are building a laser cutter settings calculator: an interactive chart that gives you suggested laser cutter settings based on machine wattage, material density, and material thickness. Right now the calculator works for Full Spectrum Hobby Lasers and over 100 kinds of acrylic. We are currently adding settings for different brands and wattages of laser cutters and settings for our plywood, hardwood, and wood veneer. Keep an eye out for new machines and materials to be added to the calculator!

Clear acrylic that was cut with the settings generated from the Laser Cutter Settings Calculator. 

Give it a try (embedded below) and let us know if it helps!