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Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/20/2012 11:47 AM

Google is more of a curse than a blessing when it comes to searching for something as simple as a low cost stepper motor setup for the novice. Does anyone have recommendations on what I might want to look at? I'd like to periodically move a simple pointer up and down a chart. The pointer will stop at certain points along the way. I'm sure that size affects price and components available, but too much is available! And I don't really understand the lot of it. .. The selection of products that would meet my needs is vast and largely commercial. I'm looking for something less than robust.. program and walk away.. the actual chart may only be one foot tall.. that would work, but larger is always better.. what if it were two feet tall? Or larger?. . the travel mechanism doesn't need to be any more glamorous than a rubber cord around some plastic wheels. Can it be done with legos? I'm just not sure, but I am sure the answer is not a simlple one. If I could make an outdated large format printer to do the job, that would almost be ideal, but what if I wanted to make several? What's a boy to do? I've already asked the guys at best buy and radio shack to no avail. I'm nearly at a total loss. I haven't asked jeeves..

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#1

Re: programable linear actuator? something simple?

01/20/2012 11:57 AM
  • Are you going to "manually" draw your graphs by moving the pointer up and down?
  • How are you going to control the feed rate of the paper?
  • Is something else going to generate your graphs; a process controller or measuring instrument?

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: programable linear actuator? something simple?

01/20/2012 12:18 PM

Sorry for not being more clear.. the pointer will only point.. no drawing.. no moving paper.. just a little up and down with some stop points along the way. Exciting.. eh? More of a display piece than one of vital mechanics..

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#3

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/20/2012 1:02 PM

Will the pointer:

  • always stop at the same locations?
  • same number of stops for each chart?
  • Before moving to the next location, will it pause for a set time, or different times for each location?
  • cycle continuously, or run once then stop?

What is the required accuracy and repeatability? (Can the pointer position vary 1 mm, 5 mm?)

Also, is this just for your own use, a small number of users, or many people? (In other words, how simple must it be to program/operate?)

Will this be used occasionally for a few hours, or continuously for days/weeks/months?


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#14
In reply to #3

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 11:08 AM

Will the pointer:

  • always stop at the same locations?

Yes

  • same number of stops for each chart?

Yes.. but change is inevitable..

  • Before moving to the next location, will it pause for a set time, or different times for each location?

set time is all I need, but flexibility is desired.

  • cycle continuously, or run once then stop?

continuously up then down and back again a few times a day..

  • What is the required accuracy and repeatability? (Can the pointer position vary 1 mm, 5 mm?)

In terms of resolution.. I could do something good with only ~10 to 100 stops along the way, but I could do something better with up to ~1000 stops and a longer travel.

In addition.. It would be ideal to program a reverse direction of travel for a step or two at positions along the way before continuing up or down. ...Sort of like of a thermometer whose temperature reads cool in the morning and rises and falls a bit throughout the day and then back down to the overnight cold..

Cycles per day top to bottom would be low, and limited to maybe 5 or 6.. give or take.. depending on the capabilities of the hardware. As long as can control the cycle rate I can make something workable..

  • Also, is this just for your own use, a small number of users, or many people? (In other words, how simple must it be to program/operate?)

For me at first, but if I like the way it works and the final cost of material/labor is reasonable, I would want to build several. I Don't need mass production.. Not yet anyhow..

  • Will this be used occasionally for a few hours, or continuously for days/weeks/months?

Continuous operation is the goal.. How long it lasts is less important in the interim than proof on concept.

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#29
In reply to #14

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 4:33 PM

"Will the pointer... ?"

That helps. Thanks.

It looks like you don't really need "industrial quality" at this point, so that will help keep initial costs down.

I'd look into a simple r/c style servo, converted for continuous motion, run with a PIC or Arduino.

I've been comparing PIC and Arduino, and they each have strengths and weaknesses. I think Arduino is easier for generic experimenting, since it's already assembled into a kind of breakout board. For a single-purpose, embedded project, I think the PIC may be a better choice.

Arduino resources

PIC resources

.

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#31
In reply to #29

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 7:11 PM

The Arduinos, PICAXEs and similar are the best way for someone to pick up programming. Once programming methods are understood fully, then, for a concise version of your program, the PIC is for many high speed applications the final step. But as many of these BASIC programmed chips are now SO fast, that is not always true today.

PICs generally need dedicated programmers that cost far more than the com port cable for PICAXEs......so a PICAXE is a far cheaper investment in learning than all the other ones.....especially as all the software and manuals are free to download and use.....that is not always true for anything else.

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#4

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/20/2012 2:39 PM

Maybe a hobby shop? Edmund Scientific? I have no clue.

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#15
In reply to #4

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 11:10 AM

Thanks lyn

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#5

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/20/2012 5:24 PM

Two questions: what is your budget? and what is your level of knowledge in electronics? Small stepping motors can be salvaged from many devices such as printers, but to use them you will also need a driver, a power supply and a controller such as a PLC or computer. Are you able to build, adapt, or salvage these; or do you want to buy the components ready to connect and go? If the later, I suggest you look at Automation Direct (www.automationdirect.com). They have all the components that you will need at very reasonable prices, and their catalog has a lot of useful information and their web sight offers a lot of technical support.

I am in no way connected with this company, but I have used their products for many years.

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#9
In reply to #5

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 6:40 AM

Actually the whole printer can make a pretty good pointer with minimal input programming. Just attach a visible pointer to the print head. Printing text characters moves the pointer to the right. To move it left either print back-space characters or a carriage return and start again to the right.

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#17
In reply to #9

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 11:35 AM

I would like something a little more.. unplug and play..

..Does somebody still make printers that print characters?

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#16
In reply to #5

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 11:22 AM

My wishes and my budget are never in perfect alignment.. I'm good with electronics.. I have my degree 'in the applied science of'.. For all that it's worth..

I'm more of a hands on ..smash and salvage kind of guy, but as we all learn at a very young age.. You can't just hook power to a stepper motor and make it go.

I could build and adapt some old parts.. And I love the Linear components in printers, but If I can learn a few ins and outs and make something with off the shelf parts for a couple few hundred bucks??.. I'll probably save myself some time and headache along the way, as well as ease production by having stock parts available.

...Screw drive would be awesome and simple.. But as they say.. any linear travel method in a storm

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#6

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/20/2012 7:46 PM
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#19
In reply to #6

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 11:44 AM

wow.. that's a great site.. More industrial in price and performance than I desire at the moment, but a great resource none the less.. I will keep them in mind

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#7

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/20/2012 11:05 PM

Here is a tutorial on driving stepper motors from an Arduino board- a good way to get a handle on what is required, although this may not be exactly what you are looking for.

The Arduino folks have a lot of tutorials, etc. that may be more appropriate.

You may also want to search Instructables for similar projects which can give you some insights in to what might be required for your project.

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 9:00 AM

We use these Aurdino boards for many applications and i have to say that for the price they are excellent performers. My only gripe is the limited 10 bit chip.

Ron

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 9:22 AM

For those of us stuck with 8 bit logic controllers, 10 bits sounds like it opens a whole new universe!

I wouldn't think the 10 bit limit would be a major issue with a simple stepper motor driver.

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#20
In reply to #7

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:17 PM

Thanks CW.. I am aware of the Arduino products.. They are pretty flexible and extensive in use! A veritable minefield of options.. But I like it.. I like it a lot! The prices are reasonable, and you get to learn and save by doing the work yourself.. Hmmm

I was waiting to see if this would come up as a suggestion.. Now I have to take it into serious consideration. Hmmm

Of course I'm also waiting for someone to point the way to the $10 programmable actuator in a box! Hmmm

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#24
In reply to #20

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:42 PM

A year or so ago, when I had a couple of stepper motors salvaged from an old ink jet printer, I played around with making these things work (idea being maybe incorporating them into a 3D printer). The biggest problem I had was identifying the leads. Tthere doesn't seem to be much of a standard, and, motors coming from the same device had different numbers lof leads. I did a bit of research, found some interesting suggestions, and would up setting up a system whereby I could control the motors with mechanical (push-button) switches manually. Interestingly, with different wiring, one can sometimes modify the resolution of the motor...

Once I figured out how to wire the motors and operate them with manual switches, I build a quick and dirty circuit replacing the manual switches with transistors, using external signals to activate the transistor switches (temperature and light, in this case). Ultimately I went with a cheap PIC to develop a programmable driver. The whole purpose of this exercise was to figure out how to make these things work...

If you are interested, I will search through my archives next week and see if I can't come up with some of the information I uncovered on the 'net. PM me.

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#8

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 4:24 AM

If it's only a pointer, why not use an analogue volt meter with a long pointer and change the voltage input to point in the desired place! You could have a little circuit that latches to the different pre programmed voltages!

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#21
In reply to #8

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:20 PM
  • not linear
  • not scalable
  • lacks resolution control
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#10

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 8:48 AM
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#22
In reply to #10

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:30 PM

What can I say?

I'm in love with their products

the fine lines of the 1500mm supported linear shaft..

the open bearing blocks

the 2, 3, and 4 axis kits? OMG

well priced.. understandable..

If my cash flow matched my ambition, I would already be ordering form these guys..

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#13

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 10:54 AM

If price is a problem:-

1) look for secondhand motors on ebay, sometimes REALLY cheap.

2) Scrap printers and scanners often have them, just take the unit apart. Go to the local electronic scrapyard, pay cents on the dollar.

3) Driver chips are cheap or look for them in the scrapped units, learn to desolder.....

4) PICAXE PIC chips are similar to Arduino, but far, far cheaper. They start around a Dollar. Programmable in BASIC, but still really fast, up to 40 MHz.

Best of luck.

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#23
In reply to #13

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:33 PM

Andy.. A dollar plus scrap parts?

Now you're just giving me an excuse to be lazy when I'm not working on this because of the cost involved..

I will look into this.. very closely.. esp if I want more units..

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:47 PM

Go to the Automation Direct site. They will have what your looking for. Most everything they sell comes with software at no additional cost and is good material.

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#30
In reply to #23

Re: Programmable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 6:58 PM

Go to Rev Ed's website here:-

http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/

and look up your nearest supplier in the USA or order from the UK direct.

All software needed and manuals are all free to download and use.

You only need a PC or Laptop with either a com port or a USB port to download programs to a chip.

If you want to use USB, then only buy the cable from Rev Ed as many others simply do not work.......

Rev Ed was financed from UK Government money so as to keep prices and profits to a minimum.....

You will love them.....I am myself no expert I hasten to add, but they have good forums, like CR4, to help you over any problems....loads of tutorials and loads of examples to play with.

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#18

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 11:44 AM

you could actually use this concept Servomotor . simple motor shaft coupled with a potentiometer feedback and I/O controller system would do.

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#26
In reply to #18

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 12:53 PM

I love that idea.. still an option.. Just unsure .. more research needed.. thanks.. much!

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#32
In reply to #26

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/22/2012 10:09 AM

something like this

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#27

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 2:00 PM

This was sent to me..

simple .. elegant .. self contained ..

I wonder what it would take?

This makes me wonder about the small stuff..

my novice is showing..

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#28

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/21/2012 4:12 PM

FYI: From my list of suppliers (retail, OEM, and surplus):

C&H Surplus - [http://candhsurplus.com/]
Enco - [http://www.use-enco.com/]
Grizzly Industrial - [http://www.grizzly.com/]
Groves Industrial Supply - [http://www.grovesindustrial.com/]
H & H Industrial Products - [http://hhip.com/products/]
Industrial Pipe & Steel Inc - [http://www.ipstool.com/]
J.W. Winco - [http://www.jwwinco.com/i]
Moose Industrial Surplus - [http://www.mooseindustrialsurplus.com/]
Norton Sales Inc - [http://www.nortonsalesinc.com/]
QTC Gears - [http://www.qtcgears.com/]
Surplus Center - [http://www.surpluscenter.com/]
W.M. Berg Mechanical Components - [http://www.wmberg.com/]
Wholesale Tool Industrial Machinery + Tool Supply - [http://www.wttool.com/]
Young's Surplus - [http://www.youngssurplus.com/]

... And, Amazon has an "Industrial & Scientific" section:
[http://www.amazon.com/industrial-sci...node=16310091]

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#33

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/22/2012 8:01 PM

Look at the Genie from Rapid Electronics UK.

http://www.rapidonline.com/SearchResults.aspx?kw=genie

It's a PIC based control system at a ridiculously low price. Only permitted for use for educational purposes but it will certainly be educating you about the Genie and PICs. Programmed by drawing flowcharts on a PC and downloaded by serial lead or USB (the latter adds considerably to cost).

The E18 motor version can control 3 radio control servos, 1 stepper motor, and a DC motor, and read digital and analogue inputs.

For the output you can put a long pointer on a Radio Control servo; or modify a servo to rotate continuously (Futaba 148 is suitable), drive a wire or a toothed belt and drive a geared down feedback pot to replace the one in the servo; or drive a stepper motor with a pulley for wire or toothed belt, using a limit switch one end feeding into the Genie to set a start point. The hardware can be done in Lego. Or Meccano.

Don't use a plain belt, and if you use a wire, one end must be anchored to the pulley and wrapped round it enough times to feed out the amount required - a friction drive will slip a little and lose position.

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#34

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/23/2012 2:19 PM

Just a thought: could you achieve the whole thing on a display, or just the pointer bit on several single or double line displays.

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#35

Re: Programable Linear Actuator? Something Simple?

01/24/2012 4:41 PM

Check firgelli.com

Cheap linear actuators with options

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