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Light Painting With An 19th Century Inspired Plotter


The geometric chuck was a device that stacked up multiple rotating wheels that could vary their speed and their offset to a central shaft, in order to machine ornate designs using a lathe. It’s this piece of machining obscura from the 19th century that inspired this light painting build from [Ted Kinsman].

Rather than the complicated gears and wheels used in the distant past, [Ted] instead elected to use stepper motors. Three stepper motors are stacked on top of each other, each one able to rotate at an independent rate. The design only implements three steppers as the slip rings needed to send power and control signals to each stepper are prohibitively expensive.

An Arduino is programmed to run the show, changing the speed of each motor and thus the patterns the system generates. Put LEDs on the spinning plates, or install a pen to mark a piece of paper, and it’s possible to generate all manner of beautiful spirograph-like patterns. Vary the motor speeds or the positioning of the lights, and the patterns vary in turn.

It’s a fun build for light painting, with some great visuals produced. We also appreciate the use of the Arduino which makes varying the parameters far easier than having to change out gearsets in classical designs.

If you miss the old school spirograph, you can always build one out of Lego. Else, consider experimenting with other light painting techniques. If you’ve built a fancy rig of your own, be sure to let us know!

[Thanks to zit for the tip!]

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