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PanoTilt Project Documentation[edit]

Last Edit: 6/3/15

This project is inspired by the old defunct Open Moco project, and the companies that have arisen from the old open source projects--eMotimo and Dynamic Perception. My goals for this project is to document my process & progress in making a low cost & durable Pan & Tilt Head that is open source, and can be easily manufactured.

Current Status Notes:

6/3/15 Aluminum Pan-O-Tilt

My industrial design buddy helped me put together the aluminum version of the Pan-O-Tilt just in time for the 1st Mini Maker Faire! The Mini Maker Faire was a blast! We must've seen like over 300+ people! I'm still recovering my voice and back from the Faire and it was a ton of fun :)

I've tried plugging the stepper motors into the 4P4C "RJ11" jacks and it they don't work out--the Molex crimp connectors that Micah had showed me do work out. I've reached out to one of my IT buddies--he's the IT Director, and he showed me how to properly crimp RJ11 cables--they are telephone cables--which consist of solid copper wire--I'll need to solder on the motor wire cables then wrap heat shrink tubing to see if this would work out better to get the RJ11 connectors to work out.

Currently I'm working away on building an "offical" Pan-O-Tilt website which will house all of the steps for building your very own Pan-O-Tilt :)

Alluminum Pan Tilt.jpg

5/20/15 Building more Pan-O-Tilt's

Due to the request of a few friends I'm currently working on building more Pan-O-Tilt's. One version will be entirely done in aluminum and the second version is in Acrylic. Unfortunately SDP-SI is backlogged on their 30 tooth gear--so I'm looking for other possible gear replacements.

I know that I can 3d print out the gears. So far the worm gear can be 3d printed with ease. The 30t gear doesn't have enough infill to properly "catch" onto the screw--so the gear "slips". The slipping problem has been solved on the actual gears by using an screw inset, and by tightening the set screw.

I'm working on finishing up the aluminum version to demo at the 1st Annual Makerfaire!

5/12/15 Woo! Hoo! We're going to the Makerfaire!

Great news! We're heading to the MSP Makerfaire 2015! It's the first Makerfaire in the Twin Cities and it's going to be a lot of fun! We'll also do our best to represent NEM as none of this would've been possible without the help of NEM and NEM members :) So, I'm starting to ramp up on parts production. I don't think everything will necessarily arrive on time-but it'll be cool to at least show people how the Pan-O-Tilt project works out.

Just an FYI--polycarbonate can't be laser cut--or at least the polycarbonate sheet I had couldn't be laser cut--polycarbonate burns-a lot! Quite literally it burns! I'm sticking with good old Acrylic :)

Also, I can wait until the old fashioned--or not really old fashioned--more like now recently obsolete 4 wire RJ11/4P4C connectors arrive so that I can connect the stepper motors a better way--currently they tend to pop out of the header shroud and short circuit a bit--the 4P4C connector will keep the wires from shorting and will be "keyed" so that the motors and plug in only one direction. And I'm slowly making progress on getting a case printed out--there's currently a lot of usage on the 3D printers--it's great seeing all of the awesome prints. The new software that Micah installed for the Rostock is super awesome :) as the old software was a little more glitchy to get the print going.

5/11/15 Anything that can go wrong... To Heck with Murphy! Let's Fix It!

The Manfrotto tripod I was using has broken apart, and the clerk at the camera shop started to quote Murphy's Law to me--I don't know about you but it's perhaps the world's most annoying quote to hear in the universe--especially when you are trying to building something new and exciting. I really love Peter Diamandis' book Bold where he has a chapter about fixing things instead of standing by and quoting that annoying quote. Bold by Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler

Long story short--the camera shop views Manfrotto tripods as disposable, and so does their distributor Bogen--after calling them for help or parts--a super helpful mechanic friend of mine helped me "glue" my tripod back together--dear reader if you are ever in the market for tripods--I'd avoid the Manfrotto ones :)

The eBay 1.7mm barrel head doesn't fit--playing around with the Anker battery more they include a cable that does fit the Anker--and the adapter cable from eMotimo fits--so I'm ordering more eMotimo cables :)

Coming up is the Makerfaire on May 30th. I had the privilege of seeing Kristina Durivage's awesome speech on Wearable's at last years Mobile March where I also spoke about social media marketing. I've applied my Pan-O-Tilt project for the Makerfaire and didn't have my website up in time for the first deadline--they've since extended the deadline, and I still haven't heard back. I do hope that I get to display Pan-o-Tilt and show it to people and either way--it looks like a super fun event and every maker should attend. Here's the link: Makerfaire BlogMakerfaireMSP

Also coming up on June 6th is the last CreateMN Meeting--Adobe has restructured the Adobe User Group program, and CreateMN will have the last and best meeting on June 6th. Don French the creator of AutoMate a pan and tilt head will be presenting, and I will be presenting the Pan-O-Tilt project there as well. Please support the remaining Adobe User Groups in the Twin Cities--they are a great resource for learning and creating new exciting ideas. RVSP to the CreateMN Meeting

Since I'll be having some additional free time on my hands--I'm building out a few more Pan-O-Tilt heads for myself and a few friends that have requested one. For the new builds--I'm going to try polycarbonate and try the press inserts. Also, Steven Brace and I were chatting on the MiniEngine Forum and he suggested that I use thicker side screws for extra stiffness-so I might give that a try too :) In the meantime--I'm using both Acrylic Weld and side drilling with M4 screws, which is working out really awesome because the Acrylic Weld that William suggested melts/fuses 2 acrylic pieces together into a sturdy monolithic piece.

It'll be super fun to build out a few more Pan-o-Tilt units :)

5/6/15 Fine Tuning

Shooting with the Pan-O-Tilt has been a lot of fun, and I'm working on addressing some issues minor issues that I'm currently having with my prototype. First is transporting the unit--I need something better than the cardboard box/paper bag solution that I'm currently using--the motor wires are bending and falling out as a result of unnecessary contact with other camera gear. I'm currently looking for a larger camera bag, and am also looking for a smaller hard shell case to transport the unit.

To save the settings on the MiniEngine--I started to use an SD Card--the use of an SD Card is absolutely time saving--I don't have to go and mess with all of the settings. Unfortunately the SD Card that I had available was too big--so a quick trip to MicroCenter resolved this problem and I'll need to test out the smaller SD Cards to see if they work as good.

To address the motor wire issue and to create a way so that the motor connector can only be inserted one way "keyed" I'm looking at getting some 4P4C connectors or the "telephone jack" connectors--this way new users would only have one correct way to insert the motor drivers. When I showed my friends the set up of the unit--we realized that there was a possibility of inserting the motors a different way.

I'm also curious about the differences between Acrylic and Polycarbonate--Polycarbonate is supposed to be stronger and more prone to scuffing/scratching--I'm currently working out building out a second prototype in Polycarbonate, If there really isn't a much of a difference I think I'll stick to the much easier to source Acrylic.

I'm having "slippage" issues with heavier lenses and cameras--so I've ordered some M5 sized Press Insert Sleeves to see if this would help out. Also, I might try using a T-Nut to address the "slippage" issue with heavier lenses and cameras.

SDP-SI is out of gears! For the second prototype I'll try out my printed gears :)

In certain situations when the controller bumps against the tripod--it shorts out--so I'll need to get a case printed out ASAP or a case laser cut out ASAP :)

I really feel that the perfect battery for the MiniEngine is the Anker Pro 2000--it's easy to transport and provides a lot of power. The problem is that the DC out cable of the Anker is 1.7mm and the MiniEngine import port is 2.1mm. Emotimo does have an adapter cable and I'm having 2 small problems with my Emotimo cable--the 1.7mm to 2.1mm is too short--I have to plug it into a 6ft 2.1 female to 2.1mm male cable and when there's some shuffling on the shooting floor--this cable can get loose--it'll be nicer if the cable could be a 6ft cable that goes from 1.7mm male from the Anker batter to the 2.1mm MiniEngine Shield. After searching around for parts--it seems possible to build out a 6ft 1.7mm to 2.1mm cable.

4/30/15 Shooting with the Pan-O-Tilt

Pan-O-Tilt in action

I've been shooting for a good solid week now with the Pan-O-Tilt head, and for the most part it is very rewarding. There are still some minor glitches--like the Pan head slips a little under he weight of a heavier camera. and battery life from the Anker 12V battery is reporting incorrectly. I'm making strides with these smaller issues each day as I've now had more experience in Acrylic manufacturing and shooting time lapse movies.

4/23/15 Connectors Arrive

Some more connectors arrive and my Dremel Drill bits also arrive! I the main shield completed, and I also need to get the motor board completed--today most of the missing connectors have arrived! You can connect the 2 boards by using just wires. I've had boards fry out before on different projects--so I really am a fan of the connector approach and don't really want much of anything soldered to the board--I'd rather take the type and install a connector than to go back and try to desolder a broken wire link.

Now the board is able to be powered up and able to interact with the stepper motors. What's awesome is that everything is now working super great!

4/20/15 Acrylic Side Drilling Solved

A break is always great when attempting to solve a difficult or complex problem--in this case it was trying to be able to tap and side drill into an acrylic sheet without breaking or melting the acrylic. Wile traveling--I though--wouldn't it be great if I could just somehow change the speed of the drill--commercial or heavy duty drill presses are accurate--and may be overkill. Luckily I came across a Dremel Drill press at a small town hardware store--I totally bought the last drill press--which means that I was meant to pick up that drill press :) JK.

After setting up the Dremel Drill Press--I dialed my Dremel Rotary Tool in between 6/7 rotations. and I used this setting on one of my first pieces. And success! The test came out beautifully--a variable speed drill press had solved a vexing problem :)

Now--the pieces are joined by tap and drilling the screws also, by using Acrylic Weld which is working out amazing well too. The screws give the Acrylic Welded pieces some extra durability.

4/19/15 Charming Small Town Hardware Stores

As I travel to the badlands--I realized that I'm missing some metric screws--so my traveling companion and I make a few stops at a few local hardware stores along the way. What's interesting is that they don't have the screws or nuts sealed away in little plastic bags--you can actually pick them up and match them to related parts--it's just so weird coming from the big city where everything in the store is sealed/tagged/bagged to a small county store where you can pickup a screw and test to see if any of the screws or bolts would fit my application. The process proved to be insightful and time saving--insightful because some other screw sizes and bore sizes could also work out, and it was really fun to just to be able to test ideas out. The only other time I've seen this is at Ax Man in Minneapolis :)

4/18/15 Traveling and Acrylic Side Drilling

I'm traveling to the badlands and back this weekend, and there's also no Internet where I'm going, so rather experience any down time--I'll be bringing some of the parts I've been working on--in particular is the problem of Acrylic side drilling--with the drill press back at NEM Makers--the acrylic would melt of I drilled too slowly and chip apart if I drilled too quickly. As I start to get ready for my trip, I'll need to make doubly sure that I have everything I need to continue working on my project with out Internet--I'll have to print out some diagrams and parts manuals.

4/16/15 Arduino Duo Order


I'm missing some hookup cables to try flashing the Arduino Duo firmware--I'll have to wait and see if I can find anyone to help me to and try flashing the firmware to see if I can get the Arduino Duo working again. In the meantime--I figured I'll bite the bullet and order an "actual" "real" Arduino Duo--the problem is that no sells a Duo locally and they are also hard to find online in stock. After searching the web for an hour--I found that had them in stock.

4/15/15 Arduino Duo & Amazon Gears

I was breadboarding out the Time-lapse MiniEngine Shield connectors to see if the second part of the shield was working correctly--and everything was working great for the first 5 minutes--the stepper motor was moving, the intervalometer function was working then I accidentally bumped the workbench and the shield TFT threw up a white screen--all of the components on the shield felt hot--a wire must have crossed. I unplugged everything and reconnected and same white screen on power up.

My big question is: "Anyone with experience with the Arduino Duo? I have a clone board that I can't seem to reach"--The Native USB Port can't be seen and the Programming Port says--No device found on cu.usbmodemfa13--I've tried hitting the reset button and memory erase button in sequence--reverse sequence and both buttons simultaneously--nothing seems to work.

My Amazon Gear order came in and the worm gears are really meant for smaller toy sized motors--so the Amazon description is incorrect--these would work better with Solarbotics Motors with are used in building BEAM styled robots.

The project is sort of at a stand still at the moment as I figure out how to get the Arduino Duo reconnected--I might also try picking up yet another Duo controller--though this is last resort--and I'm also wondering if there's anything wrong with the Big Easy Drivers--or if anything had fried out on my TimeLapse Shield.

4/13/15 Ordering Optional Parts & more support hardware

I'm about half way through the completion of the electronics portion of the project--I'm currently using the MiniEngine Board--based on the Arduiino Due. I decided to try out some cheap Arduino clone boards--mainly because I didn't have the $50 to purchase a Due locally (after paying to get the aluminum parts made--I really have to watch my budget for this project) and it's around $25 for clone board on eBay from China--I decided to try one out from China--interestingly--it looks very similar to a Due--the back graphics are similar--the font type is a off a point or two--the only problem is that one row of the Analog headers are bent too far--meaning this board wasn't built with robots in a pick and place assembly line--someone got tired hand soldering and the analog row went a little too far to the right :) Overall with the exception of that one header row--build quality is rather impressive for hand soldering :)

I've soldered all of the components with the exception of the "optional" components--I don't know if I really need them--and they would be nice to have on the board--so I decided to order them in case I need them. Radio Shack and Microcenter don't have 6 pin terminals--I could solder wires straight onto the board--but I think it would be helpful to use the screw terminals in case I need to remove the board--it's a much more elegant solution--the diode neighboring the header row is a little tight and close--so I may solder wire to one board--and only use one terminal.

The Big Easy Drivers work either on 3.3V or 5V--to make the Big Easy Stepper Drivers communicate to the MiniEngine Shield and Arduino Due--I soldered the jumper pins together for 3.3V.

To assemble the MiniEngine Shields to the Due some M3 Spacers and bolts are needed--since I'm not sure how long the bolts really need to be for a printed case--I might go with slightly longer and easier to find nylon M3 screws--the current build documentation states that one part of the screws may need to be "trimmed".

If I'm going to build this board on a production basis--I think it would make sense to hardwire the wires into both boards (this would help keep costs low--as I couldn't find really affordable pin terminals and use RJ11 jacks for both stepper motors as I don't have a great solution for creating a motor cable with the 4 right angle pins.

Since I'm ordering more optional hardware--I noticed that Amazon has started to carry some small plastic gears and worm drives--they come in red, white, and blue and look like toy parts--I'm also ordering up a few different gear sets because if they work out it would be totally ground breaking because I could mass produce a pan & tilt head quickly and inexpensively--also as the gears wear out--replacement parts would be affordable and the final product would have a reasonable cost--If these gears work out this would mean that anyone interested in motion control and time lapse could afford to purchase pro level equipment.

4/9/15 Project Status & Electric Parts:

All of the electronic parts have arrived except for the MiniEngine Controller--I originally ordered it on 3/26/15-- and in the future I'll spring more for shipping because I'd like to track where my package is located and the progress of the package delivery--currently I don't know when the Mini Engine controller will be showing up or where it's at located. In all fairness--it is shipping over from Europe and may be help up in Customs or may have gotten lost in the mail :(

Update! I just checked my mail and the Mini Engine is here!!! So it takes about 10-11 days to arrive by standard post :)

The SDP-SI Worm gears have arrived and they are really awesome--they fit the stepper motor shafts really well.

Here's where I'm at with the different Pan & Tilt approaches:

Acrylic--the thickness I had originally planned for is incorrect--I have cut out all of the parts on 1/4" Acrylic when I should have been using 3/8" Acrylic--right angle brackets suggested by Steve and Acrylic Weld suggested by William may help salvage the parts I had already cut. If this works--cutting the parts in Acrylic would be cheapest and fastest way to manufacture a Pan & Tilt head. I purchased some right angle brackets and M4 bolts and washers from Home Depot last night and they are fitting together great--I just need to drill some more holes into 4 of the plates.

Aluminum--my industrial design friend is helping me cut and tap the parts--our aluminum parts should arrive by this Friday--and he will tap and drill the aluminum parts for me. The bummer is that the vendor's cutting tool doesn't do any holes because the holes are smaller than their tooling tolerances allow for and can't accurately cut small holes--good to know but sort of a bad deal--this means mass producing the project in Aluminum is slow and potentially more costly. It might be about 3-4 weeks before I see the aluminum parts.

3d Printed--I now have all of the parts printed out for the 3d Printed head design, and I just need to figure out how to cut threaded steel rods :) It's a new and exciting problem--because I have no idea on how to cut threaded steel rods--however, once I figure this out--this could help me in creating other projects like a 3d Printer or making a CNC machine.

Overall, I'll need to narrow down the design approach in materials because all 3: Aluminum, Acrylic, and 3d Printed could be manufactured, and I am making strides in all 3 approaches. Also, I'd like to experiment with printing out worm drive gears as if I can have the gears printed out and if they work awesome--they will save everybody that tackles this project a lot of money.

4/8/15 Worm Drive Gears:


I showed one of my friends my Pan & Tilt project and he recommended that I cut the parts out of aluminum instead of trying to side drill Acrylic which would chip or melt when drilled. So instead of trying a different Acrylic thickness--we sent the files out to a few different places to get quotes--the first place quoted us around $1400, and the second place quoted us under $100--but they couldn't laser out any of the holes because their equipment can't cut M3-M4-M5 sized accurately--so we'll give it a try--my friend will help me Tap and Drill the holes in his spare time--so this will take a few weeks as he finds the time to tap and drill the aluminum parts. The aluminum parts should arrive this Friday.

For the gears--I did order mine from SDP-SI which are expensive and cost an arm and a leg.

QTC Gears has better pricing for this but they are out of stock. The parts from QTC Gears would be SW0.8-R1 and BG0.8-30R1. However they are out of stock on SW0.8-R1 and aren't responsive on email when I asked when they would restock the SW0.8-R1part--hence I ordered from SDP-SI.

Since I'm waiting for the gears to arrive--one idea I was wondering about is whether or not the gears could possibly be printed out, and if the printed gears would be accurate enough? My industrial design colleagues think that 3d printing a worm gear wouldn't lead to an accurate gear--however I feel that a 3d printed gear might be better and quieter than a steel gear which "sings" when moving rapidly. Also if the gears wear out, I could in theory print out new gears. Also, I wonder how metal on metal gears, and how metal on plastic, and plastic on plastic gears handle backlash--it'll really fun to run some tests on all of the different materials to see which parts handle backlash (backlash here refers to the camera bouncing around between the shoot-move-shoot--SMS sequences) the best!

The DXF files available for download don't work in Maya--which is the program I'm using for the modeling (yes I realize that Maya isn't the ideal program for modeling Maker stuff--I'm like Austin Powers sort of obsolete, yet cool)--I don't have a SolidWorks License so I can't open the IGES files easily--after searching around I found that there's an extension in SketchUp from SimLab that can open IGES files brilliantly.

I've now rendered out a few different versions of the worm gears and have exported them into STL format and just need to stop by NEM to print them out on the Makerbot--I really just need to use the Makerbot for these prints because they have to be as accurate as possible.

4/3/15 Saving the Acrylic Pieces:

William has suggested that I should try using Acrylic Weld for my current Acrylic parts. Acrylic Weld melts the pieces of Acrylic to form a strong bond. And Steve has suggested that I could possible use a right angle bracket for the pieces--possibly giving hope to the Acrylic pieces--another idea is to use thicker Acrylic pieces to solve the side drilling problem.

3/30/15 Acrylic Side Drilling and Potentially Trying Out Different Materials:

I've made a few steps forward and have gone a few steps backwards :)

First the backwards steps--I've had trouble drilling the acrylic side ways--if I drill too quickly--the acrylic chips. If I drill too slowly--the acrylic melts.

I've talked it over with one of my industrial designer friends and we've come to the conclusion that the parts might need to be cut thicker--using either 3/8" Acrylic to support the M4 sized bolts on the side. And the thicker material would make it easier to tap and drill.

For the steps forward--I've successfully reached out to Steven Brace the designer of the pan and tilt head! We can make and sell pan and tilt heads at NEM! If you are interested in making and selling the pan and tilt head let me know and I can fill you in on the details of sending Steven a small royalty for each pan/tilt head sold--given the lack of interest in time lapse on DSLR's I don't think I'll be selling a whole lot--overall it's been a great experience in learning more about the laser cutting tools and software. And I also got to learn how the drill press works, and a whole bunch of other things :)

Since I'm looking at getting thicker sheets of acrylic--my industrial designer friend suggested that the part should really be made out of aluminum to better support my camera. He's borrowed my work camera a few times and understands that the final pan and tilt head would need to support some weight--so we are currently looking into cutting the parts with aluminum.

3/23/15 Sourcing Parts:

Sourcing Parts for the Steven Brace Acrylic Pan & Tilt Head--Working with Micah to drill M4 and M5 slzed holes--need to decide between a Raspberry Pi or Arduino micro controller--would like final controller to have a capacitive TFT screen. Steve Stokowski is helping me print out the parts for the 3d printer--at this point I just need the 7_TopCover.stl, 6_UpperPanMount.stl, or 9_BottomCover.stl

Another possibility is to use the Mini Engine or Chronos Controller as the controller. If I have time I will pursue either the Pi or Arduino--currently it looks like I will be using the Mini Engine.
Currently I'm pursuing 2 design strategies either laser cut the pan and tilt base or 3d print the pan and tilt base:

Here's the links for the Acrylic laser cut pan & tilt by Steven Brace:

Here's the links for the 3D printed pan & tilt:

The micro controller would be MiniEngine:

Parts for Steven Brace Acrylic Pan & Tilt Head:

10x laser cut acrylic plates - 1/4 inch acrylic laser cut from DXF files
18x M4 countersunk bolts - Ebay
2x M5 Socket head bolts - Ebay
2x M5 Nylocks - Ebay
2x 25x42x11mm Thrust bearings - Ebay
2x 5x12x4mm Thrust bearings - Ebay
2x A-1Y-5MYK08RA Worm - SDP/ SI
2x A-1P-6MYK08R030 Worm Gear - SDP/SI
Arduino DUE - Sparkfun
2x Big Easy Driver Stepper Driver - Sparkfun
2x ROB-09238 – Stepper Motor with Cable - Sparkfun
Controller Arduino or Raspberry Pi
Arduino DUE - Sparkfun
Raspberry Pi - Sparkfun
Sparkfun also has some great looking Touch Capacitive Displays for Pi & Arduino

Misc: washers, spring washers, thread insert for tripod mount, tripod screw, diodes, resistors etc…

Parts for Printed Pan/Tilt Head:

Stepper Motors NEMA17 - Sparkfun