Tom is a single-axis camera rail developed for shooting time lapse sequences with linear motion. The project was started as a way of scratching my own itch, in many ways. I had been playing around with CNC routers at the time, making assorted parts and getting to know fabrication processes. Meanwhile I'd also just purchased my first DSLR camera. I wanted to combine photography and engineering in some way. Tom took me in that direction. Later on I brought biology into the mix.
Tom uses a screw drive for its translation motion. Much like a CNC router, beneath the camera's carriage is an anti-backlash nut that receives the motor drive. The Igus rail that Tom is built on is perfect for this type of movement. The tolerances between its bearings and rail are right on. I've also dropped standard 3/8"-"16 tripod threads down the length of it, so mounting options are abound.
Tom is controlled via Arduino microcontroller. It uses "shoot-move-shoot" sequential parameters—mega handy for time lapse photography. Meanwhile I'm making headway with bringing all controls into a web browser using Johnny Five and node.js. My next goal is to create a web-based UI for remote operation.
I don't hesitate to share that I initially designed Tom and its custom components in Sketchup. It made 3D illustration super approachable, and I still use it as a sandbox for getting ideas down. While more advanced CAD programs like Solidworks can take you to higher places, Sketchup feels like a ball of clay that lets you quickly prototype ideas.
Solidworks is next level incredible though, let's be real. The tool palette had me at "Hole Wizard." The parametric design capabilities? Stop, I'm tearing up. Tom and all subsequent rail projects have since been ported over to Solidworks.
Quick shoutout to Fran Graves, close friend and Central Mass legend, who so graciously abandoned several otherwise productive weekends to let me fly under his wing on his CNC mill. This man is largely the reason why I'm able to sing "started from the bottom, now we here" while I step up to the Media Lab's ShopBot, before proceeding to bend it to my will. Hooray for mentors.
Tom is an open-source project. I know, I'm such a nice guy. Below is a complete bill of materials. All custom components can be milled from 1/2" thick material, or check out the STL folder to 3D print them. CAD models and drawings are to the right. The Github repo is the best place to start.
|SW Name||Code||Description||Q||QP||Cost/Unit||Cost||Serial Number||Supplier|
|S-375-050-BTN-H-SS||HRD||3/8-16 1/2" screw||4||1||$7.42||$7.42||98164A469||McMaster Carr|
|S-010-716-SKT-H-SS||HRD||10-24 7/16" screw||4||1||$6.71||$6.71||92185A184||McMaster Carr|
|M-080-160-SKT-H-SS||HRD||M8 16mm screw||8||1||$7.07||$7.07||91292A145||McMaster Carr|
|S-004-075-NUT-H-SS||HRD||4-40 3/4" screw||4||1||$5.44||$5.44||92185A112||McMaster Carr|
|S-004-025-NUT-H-SS||HRD||4-40 1/4" nut||4||1||$2.83||$2.83||91841A005||McMaster Carr|
|S-006-075-SKT-H-SS||HRD||6-32 3/4" screw||2||1||$3.07||$3.07||92185A151||McMaster Carr|
|flanged_bearing||MOT||flanged bearing||1||1||$7.21||$7.21||6384K342||McMaster Carr|
|igus_rail||MOT||Igus DryLin W1040-A rail||1||1||$88.93||$88.93||W1040-A||Amazon|
|threaded_rod||MOT||3' 1/4"-20 threaded rod||1||1||$6.02||$6.02||93250A125||McMaster Carr|
|flex_joint||MOT||flex joint on motor||1||1||$37.53||$37.53||9861T529||McMaster Carr|
|nema23_motor||MOT||Nema 23 stepper motor||1||1||$16.00||$16.00||23HS22-1504S||Stepper Online|
|flanged_bearing||MOT||1/4" flanged ball bearing||1||1||$7.21||$7.21||6384K342||McMaster Carr|
|spacer||PLC||vertical carriage spacer||1||1||custom||custom||custom||timsavas|
|bearing_mount||PLC||mount for flanged bearing||1||1||custom||custom||custom||timsavas|
|motor_mount||PLC||motor to rail connection||1||1||custom||custom||custom||timsavas|
|backlash_mount||PLC||bracket for backlash||1||1||custom||custom||custom||timsavas|