tim savas

sorry bro


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.

sorry bro

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.

sorry bro

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.

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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
backlash_nut MOT backlash nut 4 4 $14.75 $59.00 AC14201-LN DumpsterCNC
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
carriage PLC camera carriage 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
sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro
775 670 3447 / tsavas[@]media.mit.edu