Videographer and Tinkerrer Pedro Callisaya just created what’s probably the cheapest four-axis motion controller (and even the basic ones don’t run cheap). He did this using a scraped 3D printer, which, to be honest, I am surprised never happened before in the modders community. (if the name sounds familiar, it’s because this is a second iteration of an ongoing project)
While the build is relatively easy for what you get, it is not the first project I would go for if I were just starting with electronics. That said, if you played with electronics a bit, this would be a fantastic weekend project to try out. You can download the project files here on a pay-what-you-think-is-fair basis.
The motion controller mechanics
The first part of the project is to build the structure of the pan and tilt head and the slider mechanism using common 3D printer parts (the material list is included in the files). I made a Build Guide file that is like a LEGO guide. This way, anyone can try to build the project.
Looking at the BOM (included in the project files), the most expensive parts are the 3D printer Board, Motor controllers, Motors, and tripod plate. But, if you can reuse some parts from your 3D printer, or spare camera setups, you can significantly reduce the cost.
Below are some of the steps, as illustrated in the instructions booklet. If you like Lego, you’re going to love this.
Installing the firmware
The second part of the project is to upload the firmware on the board. For the main board, you need to copy the file into a microSD card, insert the card into the board, and power it up. The board will upload the firmware by itself.
To install the firmware on the second board, the ESP32 development, you’d need to connect it to a PC or MAC. Then use the Arduino IDE, and upload the code. This is a simple step; you can find the instructions in a previous video. I am also working on a website-based version, so you won’t even need the Arduino IDE.
The third part of the project is to connect all the parts and cables. The connection diagrams are also included in the files (with a few samples below). You can do this with or without soldering. (if you want to go solder-free, use jumper cables and a pin header splitter). The second option is using a soldering iron and ordering the PCB (also included in the files). It is ready to order from a service like PCBWAY.
The materials cost just above $400 (not including a slider). But you can even lower the cost if you already have an old 3D printer or know a friend with a spare one. (check out your local Facebook groups for scrap printers).