EtchABot Part 2: Vector and Raster Images

This post describes how to draw vector and raster images on an Etch a Sketch with EtchABot.  As described previously, EtchABot converts an Etch A Sketch to an versatile, easy-build CNC drawing machine.

In image drawing mode, EtchABot receives instructions through the Arduino serial port.  When connected to a computer running software that converts images to a series of drawing commands, EtchABot can reproduce vector (SVG) or raster images.

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A Tribute to Mechanized Etch A Sketches on the Internet

Motorized Etch A Sketch from http://www.paleotechnologist.net/?p=3625
Motorized Etch A Sketch from paleotechnologist.net

In working on my latest project, a CNC Etch A Sketch, I’ve come across a LOT of similar projects online.  There is obviously something very appealing about taking a childhood toy and giving it electronic controls.

Before adding my own version of this project to the canon, I would like to recognize and thank the large number of people who have so generously shared their knowledge and projects.  So, this post is a listing of mechanical Etch A Sketches I’ve found online.   If you know of a project that you don’t see here but would like to include, please email it to me, and I’ll add it to the list.

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EtchABot: a CNC Etch A Sketch

The EtchABot - a CNC Etch A Sketch
EtchABot – a CNC Etch A Sketch

EtchABot turns your Etch A Sketch into a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) drawing machine.  I’m really excited about this project because of its versatility and its well balanced combination of entertaining and educational aspects.  It’s always fun to hack a toy to do something above and beyond its original intent, and if you build the EtchABot and run the example Arduino sketches, you can make:

EtchABot Gallery

There is an EtchABot Arduino library, so it’s also easy to program it with your own ideas.

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YAWP – Yet Another Wall Plotter

 The Inspiration:


I’ve been very slow to create posts these last few months.  I like to think it’s not due to laziness, but just that I’ve been so busy playing with other projects.  I’m pushing myself to write up the more interesting ones.  These days I’ve been obsessed with machines that draw.  The biggest of these projects has been my wall plotter, nicknamed YAWP (Yet Another Wall Plotter).

A wall plotter (also known as V-plotter or polargraph) works by moving a pen around a vertical (or slightly angled) drawing surface by means of two motors attached to string or a timing belt.  Although wall plotters are really just very slow, low resolution printers, the potentially unlimited scalability and numerous variations in the output make them compelling to watch.  Because of their simple design and because it’s fun to watch a machine drawing with a pen, they are far more engaging than a typical desktop printer.

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Building PlotClock

I found a YouTube video of a clock that can draw the time with an erasable pen, then wipe it away before restarting the cycle:

There is something very human and endearing about the motion of the arms as they perform their task of drawing and erasing over and over and over again.  After locating the plans and instructions by joo at Thingiverse, I absolutely had to make one.

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