PlotBot: Building the Machine

With the research all done, I started thinking about how I wanted to build my PlotBot.
Having looked at the other designs, I found they were either mounted on a wooden frame and then a piece of paper is taped onto the wooden panel, or they draw directly onto a surface like glass or a wall. Given that the aim is just to make something that catches peoples eye, rather than making posters or drawings for people, I think the best course of action would be to use a whiteboard. I can get one reasonably cheaply, and the mounting is pretty much already sorted.

the Mountings

The whiteboard and mountings.

Once I had bought a whiteboard (600mm x 450mm) I started lining up the parts I had as to how I would mount them.
I had also bought 2 Pololu 1204 Stepper Motors and an Adafruit Motorshield v2 (AFMSv2). I did have a few concerns with these parts combined together, in that the motors only draw 600mA and the motorshield provides 1.2A per channel, therefore the motors might get a little hot if they start drawing more than they should – but we’ll see how it goes!

rough positioning

Roughly lining up the parts on a sheet of acrylic.

To mount the acrylic sheet to the whiteboard I used two of the mounts supplied with the whiteboard secured on the top of the sheet. These then hook onto the edge of the whiteboard, and the mounts on the side are adjustable to “lock in” the sheet to the sides of the board. Finally I decided to neatly mount the arduino and AFMSv2 in the center of the acrylic sheet.
Drawing up where to cut

Whiteboard Mounting     Arduino Mountings

IMG_20140813_134431     IMG_20140813_110556_1

I picked up two remote control car wheels at a local hobby store, along with 50m of fishing line, which would form the basis for my reels.IMG_20140819_220854

I found some nuts in the garage that fitted the inside of the wheel, and used Araldite (metal glue) to fill the gap around the stepper motor shaft hoping that this wouldn’t go wrong.

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Araldite’s in, I was a little bit messy dripping it everywhere!

 With the luck of the gods, after leaving it 24 hours to cure I was able to punch the stepper motor shaft out of the nut, leaving a nice shaped hole. The advantage of this method being that I can very easily remove the reels and use the steppers in other projects.  

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IMG_20140819_221038  IMG_20140819_221322

Now that I have the reels mounted on the steppers, I was able to complete the main build; mounting the steppers onto the acrylic sheet, and winding the fishing line onto the wheels – happy days!

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IMG_20140903_141638  IMG_20140903_141609

 

 

 

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The Cloud Chamber

I am taking my inspiration from this project here http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Cloud-Chamber-using-Peltier-Coolers/. I plan to start by making a few choice modifications to the design. Once I have it up and running then I will make more drastic changes to the project to see what gives the best result.

First off is some basic concepts on how cloud chambers work. There are three main types of radiation alpha, beta and gamma. The two types we are focusing on is the alpha and beta, this is because these are heavily ionising. The alpha particle has the greatest charge and therefore the greatest ionising power, followed by the beta particle with half the charge of the alpha particle. The ionising properties of the radiation is what allows the cloud chamber to work.

Inside the cloud chamber we create a supersaturated vapour of alcohol by cooling evaporated alcohol down to very low temperatures. This is usually achieved with a chamber of dry ice at the base. As a charged particle, like a Helium nucleus (alpha particle) or electron (beta radiation), passes through the vapour at high speeds it ionises the vapour around it leaving a trail. These are the white lines in the image on the link at the start.

Unlike most cloud chambers I’m using Peltier coolers like the one in the link to cool the alcohol. The advantage of this being that you don’t need dry ice every time you want to run your cloud chamber. So I start off with a rather odd shopping list:

A Tec1-12710, A Tec1-12709, Thermal paste, A CPU fan (bigger the better), A clear plastic pot, Some thin scrap metal, Concentrated alcohol (Isopropyl or similar), Some bolts and screws, A light source (a torch to start with), A computer PSU (above 300W) and a radioactive source.

While a radioactive source is not necessary, as you can detect cosmic rays, I thought I would get one for testing. My source is some uranium glass from eBay although others are available this is a nice alpha source, some fire alarms contain americium which is a strong alpha source and can be used. WARNING! handle with care! Although these sources are rarely dangerous ingesting or mishandling a radioactive source is never a good idea, swallowing glass isn’t the best idea even if it isn’t radioactive.  If swallowed consult a doctor immediately, better safe than sorry.

Almost all the things on the list can be found on eBay or in a dump. If your a student it is worth asking around your labs for parts. Fortunately I have most of the parts from old computers and bits lying around. The rest I managed to obtain for £20 including delivery.

If you want to build this yourself  it may be worth waiting until I have a working product before you buy all the parts as I am making this up as I go. I will also add more detailed part lists as I go.

Tools: Aside from the essential tools (screw driver, hammer, duct tape, etc.)  it is probably useful to have a multimeter and a inferred thermometer although they are not essential.

Okay, after that lengthy post I look forward to starting the project as soon as I receive my parts in about a weeks time!