Prologue: This printer was found free on Craigslist. It might've worked at one point, as it was a 1500$ machine 30 years ago. I barely tried to get it to work but I admit I was more concerned with what was inside, if i could reuse and repurpose it to make a plotter/cutter instead of buying a silhouette. So i wanted to do that, do it on the cheap, teach myself some new stuff and have it look almost untouched.
Ok so I've never written an 'ible before and this really isn't one so much as its an honest to god Project journal. This for me is big because I almost never document any process of any project. I am so bad, that I never sketch, plan, draw, whatever what im gonna build. I just build it and 98% of the time I come out on top. Anyway that is my personal crapola way of doing stuff and this time I wanted to see if i had the discipline to journal the progress of this sudden project. I mean sudden because i got this plotter? Printer? Printer, on Sunday (Mar 4 2018) from the free section on CL. I got it home and immediately took it apart. and took pictures. Weird. (the picture part, not the taking it apart thing, I do that all the time)
Anyway a little background on my interest in this want to take something and make it into something else. I recently needed a vinyl cutter for a painting i was doing. (I mean I'm still doing because i still don't have a vinyl cutter). I also had an idea for this sculpture in my head that I really want to complete. Its going to take tools that I do not have to make. Like a 3D Printer, CNC Mill, Vinyl cutter and maybe even a Laser Cutter or Engraver. I decided that I wanted this sculpt to come to life and that i was going to need to either by or make the tools I needed. Buying was flat out, out of the equation. I could not get away with hauling off and dropping multiple hundreds of dollars on an off the shelf Vinyl Cutter, for example. I would be homeless and without an significant other in a heartbeat. But if I build what i need, not go crazy with the cost and even build with salvaged parts, The Wife would be more accepting on some small buys of stuff like steppers, drivers etc if i need to. So I dive head first into researching CNC salvage builds or salvage/new builds. I've been reading everything that I can get my hands on and am learning a lot. I have a little bit of background with machining, G code and fabrication so im good on that. I am a beginner with Arduino and most of what that entails. Long story short, I come up on this printer for free, I want to make it into something more that it was and go from there.
Step 1: Enter the Plotter.
So I find this ad for a broken plotter on Craigslist, I freak out and immediately text the guy. He tells me to come get it and so I drive 20 mins to get it and immediately take it apart when I get home. I mean I DID try to make it work (put in cartridges etc) but it continually errored out. I shrugged and began pulling body panels off. Luckily the guy who gave this to me had also given me all the documentation for the machine and I had a printout of the instructions on how to replace the belt so i had a good idea on how to crack this thing open. Now obviously I started to take pics of this machine AFTER I removed its skin and some of its components. I decided to scrap the brains of the machine. It was a serial or parallel port hook up and used SO-DIMM ram. I did not want the headache of trying to get that dinosaur to talk to my alien of a computer, I just don't have the strength, I dont even care about doing that kind of hacking or whatever because I'm lazy, honestly. But anyway, I had a good idea that this machine had the potential to be something cool as I took it apart. I took out all the stuff that could be abandoned (like the ink stuff, print heads, the computer ). I just wanted a frame with 2 motors that I could control. Thats just what I got.
I determined that I could probably still use the print carriage, power supply, the 2 motors and powertrain, belt, and a handful of sensors and the only real modding would be to fabricate a servo controlled z axis for vinyl cutting/plotting with pen in as far as adding something new to the machine. It goes without saying that there would need to be a microcontroller involved to control this and ill get to that later on.
Step 2: I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!
I know this is a bit rambly, but I assure you I have a point. This is the power supply and the computer inside the printer. I took one look at the intel chip and was like "nope!" So out it went. I did take note of the nicely annotated PCB, especially where the power supply plugs into the board. Theres 5v, 12v, and 24v coming out of the PS and that looked promising to keep in the project. This began to solidify my idea of trying to repurpose as much of the machine that was left, like the power supply and such.
Step 3: MÖTÖRHEAD!
Which brings me to these lil guys. The vertical motor runs the belt that makes the carriage go lefty-righty. Its a simple DC motor, 2 wires, easy peasy. The horizontal motor with the more-than-you-would-think-the-thing-needs-wires, spins the rubber drum forwardsy and backsy. Ok we have X and Y axis. I know that the carriage motor used an encoder strip to accurately move, I saved it and left it on the machine. But the thingy that read the strip was on the PCB on the printhead and i have already removed it so there was nothing to control the motor from going full blast at 24v. I have already considered replacing that with a Nema 17 motor or maybe using the Nema 23 motor I already have, but i think that the 23 might be overkill. so theres that about that motor, its gonna be replaced with a stepper.
The other motor is rotary encoder driven and looks like I can get it to do what i want after deciphering what wire does what on the 5 wire tail. pretty sure that the other 2 wire tail is the power for the motor. Here is the data sheet on the encoder HEDS-9140 at the end of the motor http://www.farnell.com/datasheets/20563.pdf
Step 4: Corona Radiatia
Theres the rest of the random pictures I took.
Step 5: GOALLLLLLLLL!!!
Well no, not yet but I am going to diagram my intended goal and the steps needed to accomplish said goal. and then ask for suggestions as well. Keep in mind, I am a maker but ive never done this before. I have used CNC machines but i've never built one before. I am learning as I am going and WILL make mistakes. I appreciate suggestions and all the help I can get to get this project to fruition. I realize I am building this on the backs of other people that have come before me, who are clearly smarter than I am and that this is not an original project.
Goal: Repurpose large format printer/plotter and transform it into a Vinyl cutter/pen plotter.
- see if I can get my arduino to talk to the rotary encoder so i can control the damned thing. I do realize that im going to need either an H bridge or stepper motor driver to power the motor and that i cannot power a motor like this straight from the arduino. im a newb, but im not a friggin idiot.
- replace the other motor with a real stepper and on the old mount. if not, model a modified version of the spring loaded mount on the computer and have it printed.
- attempt to use as much of the original drivetrain, including the 8mm rail, belt, ink carriage, and pulley.
- Learn to use my Kingprint MKS board and use this as the new brain of this machine.
- I would like to put all of the original body panels back on and have it look like it used to, other than a new control panel that more than likely will be a Kingprint LCD Touchscreen.
- I would like to fabricate a Z axis mount out of the present printhead carriage that would raise and lower an off the shelf current market cutter cartridge (silhouette or equivalent) for vinyl, paper, or fabric cutting. As well as a pen mount for old school pen plotting because I'm weird like that.
I have determined that this is a worthwhile endeavor based on the amount of reusable parts and easily reusable chassis. I would like to reuse as much as i can, like the motors but if they cant work, I want to be able to install a suitable replacement without too much jankiness. Anyway, thats the goal, mod the hell out of it, use as much of the original components as possible with some necessary upgrades.
Questions proposed to Community:
- Rotary encoder, help me figure this out and see if its even worth reusing or just retrofit a stepper.
- Chassis, The 2 sides are 1/8" aluminum plate and there is a custom aluminum extrusion that makes up the gantry. it secures the mount for the belt pulley and is where the plastic endplates are screwed to. I want an opinion about maybe replacing that extrusion with a T-slot extrusion, dual rail, stepper motor, belt driven X axis like you would see on any other cutter or printer. do you think that, that would be a decent fabricated upgrade?
- should I reuse the original powersupply?
- is this project even worth completing?
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.