I'm part of an open source hardware project called RepRap (open source 3d printer), and we're essentially developing a system that relies on a microprocessor to do things. we're having to solve alot of the problems you've already solved, and it seems sort of silly to re-invent the wheel. i was thinking that instead of building boards from scratch, we could create shield boards that would attach to the arduino to do the specific task we need to do.
Pardon my curiosity, have any copies been made that aren't clumpy? I'm not sure if it's because I hit a bad batch of pictures, but the images I have seen of stuff made look as one might expect stacked globs of glue would look.
It sounds awesome. Speaking as part of the Arduino team, I think we'd love to work with you. This sounds like it would make a great Arduino shield, as I'm sure there are lots of people looking to control stepper motors for all kinds of things. BTW, have you seen the Stepper motor library in Arduino 0009 (http://www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/Stepper)?As you start to think more about the details, please keep us up-to-date. If you have specific questions about the Arduino hardware, or if there's any way we might be able to help with the manufacturing or the distribution of the boards, feel free to contact us at team at arduino dot cc. If you have any software requests (e.g. improvements or changes to the Stepper motor library), feel free to post in the software development forum or to email the developers list (http://mail.arduino.cc/mailman/listinfo/developers_arduino.cc).
The Arduino system is a natural for this. I happen to be collaborating with my father on a little project of his to make something very similar to the reprap project. Im sure he will be publishing documentation on this when he is ready but the idea was to make a single board control unit for the cnc aspects of a reprap and have a second daughterboard once the heads and extruders are brought online. I have just completed the first revision of the main board. It runs on a hefty 30A 5V external power source, has 3 uln2003s for onboard control of 5v unipolar steppers, uses a screw terminal for a large heatsinked current limiting resistor, has usb via ftdi's mm232r module, can connect 3 limit switches/photo interrupts, and brings the remaining pins out to headers. Its all through hole so that a kit might one day be offered. This is all in very rough stage at the moment with more information when its available. The only image I have is of the cad file but Im sure my father will post later once he receives the board in the mail and has a chance to get things hooked up. Im already thinking about the second revision and opening it up to variable voltages, finding drivers more robust than the 2003s, having a better interface (switches, rx/tx leds, etc), finding a better implementation of usb and so forth. Cheers,Brian
i'd like to keep this on topic about steppers, but if you'd like to chat more about the project and our goals, feel free to send me a PM.
also, on the manufacturing/assembly side, i definitely think we should work together, at the very least i'd love to hear how you guys have done things. i run the RRRF, or RepRap Research Foundation, which is a non-profit corporation that supports the RepRap project. essentially we buy and re-sell parts to the community at cost. i already have experience doing PCB buys, but nothing on the assembly side. providing a plug and play shield would be AMAZING and be a huge step forward for the community. but we can figure that all out after the shield gets designed.