Picture of Internet Arduino Controlled T-Slot XY Table
This is a ridiculously easy (in terms of power tool use - see below) way to make a lower precision XY Table.  With the wide availability of T-Slot extrusions on Amazon and Ebay, and using simple home improvement store hardware, this is a great way to build these kinds of projects.  Using patio door rollers on an angle is a low cost and easy way to handle what are often complex mechanics on CNC machines.

You can try this project out live on the Internet!  It's at the TeleToyland Sandbox 2.

This is a second version of a previous Instructable, and is another approach to making a lower cost, lower precision XY table.

How easy is "ridiculously easy"? Here is a list of all the fabrication required:
1) For each of the six timing belt pulley brackets, cut 2.25" of channel aluminum, drill two 1/2" holes (pro-tip: use a step drill), and two 13/64" holes.
2) Cut 7" off the ends of two 1"x2" t-slot extrusions.

That it! The rest is like assembling an Erector set. Nuts and bolts. T-Slot is so cool! :-)

The previous approach is working well, but having the ability to easily adjust each of the parts is a great advantage of the T-Slot.  Tightening the timing belts with screws in wood can be challenging to get just right, but with T-Slot it's very easy.  While the cost is a bit higher by using bearings vs. drawer slides, we don't have the drawer slides sticking out like we do now, getting tripped over and caught in bicycle spokes. :-)

In addition to the T-Slot, we tried to keep the parts easily available (i.e. from home improvement stores), and as always, requiring the least amount of precision drilling etc.  We've built a lot of projects, and anything that requires a hole to be drilled in a particular spot seems to be hard to get just right.  We do have the tools - punches, drill presses etc., but it's just cooler to be able to use a hacksaw and hand drill! :-)

Here's a video of it in operation during testing:

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Can this x-y table support 5-10 lbs of loading while moving?

CarlS (author)  greg.becker.9254 months ago

Possibly. There is only one screw holding each roller wheel, so those may be OK, but it might be better with a more rigid structure and multiple screws per roller. Also, with that kind of weight, there would be a lot of inertia in the system, so ramping the motors up and down carefully would be important.

Thanks a lot for the response. So if we ramped the motors up and had a more rigid structure it sounds like we still should be fine.

SachinY5 months ago

SachinY22 seconds agoReply

Hi Carl,

Thanks much for
sharing this - this is great. I have a question, on step 5, picture 3,
can you give the details of all the pieces which will help us hold the
nylon ball bearing on the aluminum channel. I can see that you have:

a. Two washers (M 93574A513) and

b. Two flanged bearings (M 57155K323)

c. Pulley (M57105K21)

then you also have a cylindrical rod along with 2 black round things.
assuming it is a shaft with 1/2" diameter along with a shaft collar (M
9414T6).Can you please let me know if this is correct.

Also for shaft, I'm planning to buy the following and then cutting it into 44", 2.25" (2) and 3.25" (2)


Please let me know if this will work.Thanks a lot- your help is
is much appreciated.



CarlS (author)  SachinY5 months ago

Yes, that is a short piece of the 1/4" shaft (not 1/2") since it fits on the inside of those 1/4" ID bearings, and the black things are the shaft collars. I just got my shaft material from the local home store.

SachinY CarlS5 months ago

Thanks Carl for your prompt response. Much appreciated.



Hi, Greetings from Colombia, I'm working doing a project for my university that is based on the xy table, you could be so kind as to let me see the code you used in Arduino please.

Thank You

CarlS (author)  sebastian.velasco.75 months ago

Step 9 has some code, and also, this similar one that is joystick controlled. Hope that helps! http://www.instructables.com/id/Table-Sized-Arduino-Joystick-Controlled-T-Slot-XY-/

chestef10 months ago

Hey CarlS,

outstanding Instructable! As a retired Mechanic and Mechanical Engineer your comment about having the "Nice Toys" to improve the fit of the parts I can suggest the following. The photos show the pulleys and shafts skewed to the slots. That is understandable since the slots are meant to easily insert a screw and nut and it's up to you to apply a square and tighten until red in the face to hold the alignment! One suggestion: there are u-tube and Instructables about soldering aluminum with a low temperature torch (propane or butane) that really holds. Cutting pieces of aluminum strap material a little oversize you can file the piece to just slide into the mating slot. Then, squaring the piece of aluminum to the piece you wish to locate, clamp it and solder away. Touch up with a fine tooth file can give you the fit you are looking for. No great expense, practice soldering on aluminum scrap, and when ready, build a machine that looks and is accurate. The aluminum solder holds up against stress and strain far beyond what you will face with your design here. Outstanding! Thank you for the instructable!

CarlS (author)  chestef10 months ago

Thanks - good ideas!

mohd.naz.73110 months ago

hi..may someone help me in my project..i want to make project to move
object from one place to another base on this project

can i do it?and how..please help me

Hi, awesome project! I to would appreciate if you do not mind sharing code to control two 4 wire 12v stepper motors with a joystick or something of the sort, if you have know it. Also what the circuit would look like, sorry I'm really novice, but learning as implementing this into a school project.

thankyou inadvance, any direction will be helpful!

hh301 year ago

Hi, I am doing a similar project . I would appreciate if you do not mind to share your arduino code used to control the system especially the internet control.

Thanks in advance

CarlS (author)  hh301 year ago

I think I replied via message, but to get it in the comments... The code should all be in this Instructable, and I am happy to answer any questions.

robjags2201 year ago


I would just like to say thank you for all the help. Your documentation was very easily to follow and adapt as needed for our XY stage application. Per my school requirements. Would it be okay if I add you as a reference along with the pdf build procedures in my thesis. An email concurrence is okay. Thanks a bunch once again.

CarlS (author)  robjags2201 year ago
Absolutely. I'd love to see the report or some pictures of what you built. If you have anything online, I can also link from the site if you would like.
robjags2201 year ago
Appreciate the detailed instructions. This will be really helpful for my project. Would it be possible to get a copy of your arduino code used to controll your system with the stepper motors. This would really help for my project application. Thanks in advance
CarlS (author)  robjags2201 year ago
Thanks. I will PM you the code since it is not pretty! :-)
would you please send it to me too? thank you
May i have the code too for step motors?please
CarlS (author)  danielbfmv1 year ago

I went ahead and added it to Step 7 since there have been a few requests.

CarlS (author)  libelluleft1 year ago
OK, I sent it
Thank you so much! :)
danielbfmv1 year ago

How is the stepper controlled ? by joystick?

CarlS (author)  danielbfmv1 year ago

That was just a test, and hard-coded with an Arduino. If the project was switched to stepper motors, it would work as it does now - with commands being sent to the installation from the web site.

Congratulations on your work, your projects are awesome Carls.

Do you think im able to do the same with an arduino and an adafruit motor shield v2?

My project is similar to yours but with a positioning table, do you think it's better with step motors or servos ?

CarlS (author)  danielbfmv1 year ago

Most lower cost precision tables use stepper motors, so that may be worth checking. The Adafruit shield may work. With DC motors and potentiometers, you would need to write code for the motion control - preferably with PID control, which may work. For this project, I used the Pololu motor drivers to off-load that functionality. The other concern with the Adafruit board is if you can have motors with sufficient power to move a project of this size and mass - I am thinking that shield may not be able to supply quite enough power unless you are building a smaller one, but I have not tried it.

apos001 year ago
Hi Carl
You instructions are amazing and I used your idea to base my project that uses the xy table on your design. The issue that I am having is that following the analog calibration the commands don't seem to correspond to a linear mapping i.e commanding the jrk to go to 2045 does not drive the motor to the centre of the range. Rather it behaves somehow logarithmically. I have double checked the specs of my potentiometers and are definitely linear. I was wondering if you experienced a similar issue?
johnny17841 year ago
Very nice work.

I sent you a PM.
Bye Mr. Carl.
JoeStrout2 years ago
Beautiful project and a really nice write-up!

I'm tempted to try something like this myself, but I find myself balking a little bit at the $50 (each!) motor controllers. Are there any other closed-loop options? Seems like it's just a microcontroller with an A/D input and an H-bridge... shouldn't be more than $10 in parts. But I know the devil is in the details. I know Pololu does great work, but were there any other options you considered?
CarlS (author)  JoeStrout2 years ago
Thanks! Most of the people who use this design use stepper motors, so that is one way to go. You would either need to manually home the system every once in awhile, or use limit switches and automatically home it...

For the DC motor approach, you may be able to use H-Bridge chips and an Arduino or something to do the motor control. I just like the JRK controllers since you can calibrate them (PID, max accel, and travel limits) easily with the Windows program.

For the Y Axis, you could use a hobby servo pulled apart - see the previous design Instructable that is linked in the intro of this one. For the Y axis, a reasonably powerful servo will work. For the X axis, though, there seems to be a bit too much momentum for regular higher power servos to handle. There are some monster servos, but then you are getting back up to the same price point.

Good luck!
rimar20002 years ago
What a great work! Congratulations.
CarlS (author)  rimar20002 years ago
GrfxGawd2 years ago
I have a very strong motivation to build my own mill, or cnc machine. I VERY much like your choice of frame materials and overall construction method. But higher resolution will be necessary, as some of the parts will require military spec final dimensions. (Not aerospace specs mind you...) Stepper motors and a control system are obviously indicated. What other factors am I obviously missing? I am an absolute novice yet at this point. But, on a positive note, I'm very quickly assimilating information on processes and materials. My problem with many of the current build I see are materials used in construction, and especially max size of parts. I don't need to machine "large pieces", but I need something larger than a pencil box.
CarlS (author)  GrfxGawd2 years ago
You should definitely look at other home made CNC projects. This one was designed to be low cost and low precision, so it would not work for your application. Many of the materials (t-slot & timing belts) are used in other CNC machines. Good luck!
ScottCE2 years ago
This is a great design and write-up, thanks for taking the time to document it so well.
I am looking to do something similar but on a rather smaller scale, roughly about 1/4 of what you've made. I want to be able to cut a designs into 3" by 6" sheets of 0.02" vinyl. I will be using MicroRAX instead of T-Slot for the smaller cross-section, but what other changes would you recommend to fulfill those needs?
CarlS (author)  ScottCE2 years ago
Another user was building a smaller one too, though I think he is using the same design with a smaller frame. It's important to note that this design is not very accurate since it's just a sand box. You most likely want stepper motors etc., and there are a lot of great CNC designs on the web. I have some MicroRAX, OpenBeam, and MakerBeam extrusions - all about 10mm, and you would definitely want to test it out to see how it flexes, but on a smaller scale, it might be great. Some of the 3D printers, like the BukoBot, also use T-slot, and work in a very similar fashion. Good luck! I am also interested in making a more portable one to show at Maker Faires etc.
prekdal3 years ago
Is it possible to purchase this as a kit or at least grab the parts from a single online retailer? :)
CarlS (author)  prekdal3 years ago
Sorry - it was a custom project. The parts and sources should all be listed, though.
marco.bucao3 years ago
@ CarlS, I'm looking to make a larger desing of this XY Linear table, do you know what changes in the potentiometer, motor, and controller will I need. I found longer T-slots, hardware and programing will be the same, but also can'
t find a longer timing belt right now. Do you think you could help point me in the right direction?
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