I liked this project. Here’s some things.
The scope of this project was very large. I started a few months early in the fall semester, which definitely made the rest of the process way easier. I was able to basically finish the pan/tilt module and get a few tests down before the actual project semester even began. I think this was actually pretty crucial, and if I did not have that kind of time management early on, attempting to do the entire thing in one semester would have been super high pressure. I was able to be pretty relaxed about my pace the entire time, which made everything much more enjoyable.
It was the most extensive exploration of 3D printing I’ve so far done. It included lots of gears, ABS printing, prints lasting up to 23 hours, integration with lots of other hardware, and some very tight tolerances. With careful planning and design, I was able to get most of these prints off successfully on the first attempt.
This was also the first time I’ve ever used stepper motors. They’re fickle little beasts, but I learned a lot about how to make them behave, and I highly value the addition they’ve made to my actuator toolbox. I’m certain I will use them more in future projects.
Funding was a big challenge and was hugely damaging personally. DCC was no help in supporting my project. This is a spiteful statement.
Theoretical Future Advance Stuff
If I were to continue this project, there is plenty of room to improve.
The 3D printed parts, mostly the gears, could benefit from being fabricated from a material like aluminum. Over time, the gears would wear down and some play would start to be noticeable.
The pan/tilt module could be improved if it was a bit more compact. It’s currently quite large and clunky. The linear module is also clunky. However, I think that being a bit larger is a manifestation of the 3D print & bolt approach that I used. The approach would be a bit different for a more commercial product, and I think that would allow everything to shrink down to very comfortable sizes.
The cable carriage is one of the biggest areas that could be improved, even though it’s technically not a part of the four module system that the core project consists of. Currently, to mount it on on the cable, I have to remove the pulleys, lift the heavy assembly over the cable, rethread the bolts through a washer, the carriage body, a spacer, the pulley, another spacer, the carriage body again, another washer, and then use two wrenches to lock it down with a locknut. The carriage could be improved with an easier means of mounting onto a cable, perhaps by fixing the pulleys to the carriage from only one side instead of two, so that it could simply be lifted and rested onto the cable. Then some sort of safety could be applied so it would not slip off.
The carriage could also be improved in its assembly. It’s less of an issue than the problem of putting it on the cable, but it is a bit difficult to tighten the bolts to mount the modules. It is also not easy, or rather wasteful, to remove and remount the batteries since they are attached by zip ties.
Also, the cable rig would benefit from a second stabilizing cable so that there would be less swing in the shots. This way, less stabilization would need to be used in post and the camera could afford longer exposures, which make for better timelapses.