Flyplotter build log 001

Get out of my head!

This idea has sat around in the back of my brain for a couple years now. I’ve built parts of it in my head dozens of different ways. It’s become my #1 ‘mind splinter’ as I call them. A ‘mind splinter’ is some thought, idea, or just… a thing that gets stuck in your head. Then you catch yourself thinking on it in your idle moments. You’re taking a shower, “I wonder if driving it by threaded rod would be slower than using a notched timing belt?”. Or you’re sitting in a meeting at work that really has nothing to do with you, “What if I gave it two pens? How much more work would that be?”. You get the idea.

Goldie Locks: Not too expensive, not too powerful, not too accurate

I took the idea into SketchUp and started playing around with things. Sketchup is my go-to app to get spatial things out of my head and see if they would actually work. The idea was simple, I thought. I just need a plotter, like they used to use to draw up blueprints, but sized and customized to draw directly on Adams readi board. There are lots of resources online for 3D printers and CNC mills that are all the rage in the Maker community. But I just needed something exact enough, and strong enough to draw on paper/paper wrapped foam. I didn’t need the submillimeter precision of a 3D printer if the lines were a couple millimeters off it wouldn’t really impact the quality of the finished part. I also didn’t need the torque and power of a full blown CNC machine I wasn’t going to be milling out hard material at 30,000 rpm. I just needed to drag a pen.

I think I’m close to finding that ‘goldie locks’ middle ground. I’m finally starting to actually put parts together and build this thing so It’s time I start really documenting it. Most of my notes and revisions have been shared over on the FliteTest Forum but just to get you up to speed here is where we are in the story.

Best Laid Plans?

First try at getting the idea out of my head and into something that might make sense.

My first try at getting the idea out of my head and into something that might make sense.

Putting some geometry to the idea.

Putting some geometry to the idea.

Tractor feed? In an attempt to simplify and shrink the footprint of the design I thought of using rollers rather than a full XY table.

Tractor feed? In an attempt to simplify and shrink the footprint of the design I thought of using rollers rather than a full XY table.

I ended up ditching the roller idea as I knew there would be lots of times I wouldn’t be working with a full sheet of foam.

The final three table ideas.

The final three table ideas.

The Three Amigos

After lots of amazing feedback from the FliteTest forum community I had developed three possible XY tables, each using a different option for the linear rails. One using cheap aluminum angles that can be found at most home improvement stores. Another using inexpensive rods and rod bearings that can be purchased from various eBay sources. And finally, a third design using V-slot rails from OpenBuilds. Each of these has their own strengths but the least expensive and easiest to source would be what I’ve come to call the ‘Open’ rails made of cheap aluminum angles. I may build another machine using either of the other two options but as a first prototype, I wanted something that someone else could reproduce with a minimum amount of specialized parts.