My Attempt to motorize my IGUS based slider

(New Updates below! – 23 Januray 2012)

I bought a bunch of DSLR equipment lately and one of them is a Indian made IGUS styled slider. Though it worked very well manually, I still can’t get it to slide at a constant rate. Motorizing the slider came to mind but I didn’t know how to go about doing it.

Thanks to DSLR filming enthusiast websites like Cheesycam.com I saw a post which featured a DIY solution. http://cheesycam.com/diy-camera-stabilizer-motorized-igus-slider/

I was inspired by this video and figured that, hey I can do this too!

The first thing I did was I bought a really cheap electric hand drill and used the spooling method to drive the slider. The torque from the geared hand drill worked pretty well, unfortunately, it was noisy as hell and I had no way of securing the hand drill and the slider moved in fits and starts. The RPM was also way too high and inserting a potentiometer between the motor and power supply is not the best way to control the speed which I quickly found out.  I gave up the idea of using the hand drill motor as the slider drive unit.

From my research and consulting my electronics expert older brother, I found the best way to control the speed of the motor is to use a PWM unit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse-width_modulation

Using a PWM controller will deliver power effectively to the Geared motor. So I went on Ebay and ordered a 60rpm 12V DC high torque geared motor and a PWM controller. ****update**** I realized that the PWM board comes printed in Chinese so for anyone who doesn’t read chinese characters, here’s an image to show you how I connected the board.

Geared High Torque Motor

PWM controller with dual direction and speed control

I got these in about 2 weeks and 3 days ago started putting them together. 2 weeks prior, I went to buy parts like steel brackets and hose clamps to secure the motor. I also bought sliding door roller bearings to act as a pulley for the nylon cord. I initially used cheap plastic nylon rope but these were too slippery and changed to 2mm braided nylon cord instead. I also bought a plastic box to protect the electronics. Along the way I bought a heavy vice to secure steel brackets for drilling. I used these modified steel brackets to secure my Indian follow focus unit on my DSLR and it worked very well.

My motor came with a 6mm shaft and I have a hard time trying to attach it to a suitable pulley. Initially I used a coupler to convert the 6mm to a 4mm shaft attached to worm gear which I hoped could be used to drive the nylon cord, it worked well but only for one direction. I gave up the coupler and worm gear idea and decided that I needed a faster motor and also a way to securely attach a pulley onto the motor. A quick trip to the local Electronics dealership, I bought a new, faster and more powerful motor at 130rpm. And I was very lucky to find a rubberized Pulley that was originally used in Factory automation.

Rubberized Pulley

This Rubberized pulley created a lot of grip even on a single cord. As my later experiments showed me, a single cord is not enough, I even wrap it once around the pulley and it gave a lot of grip but the cord kept entangle on itself and caused a slight shake during the slider travel. The pulley is extremely well made but it had a drawback, it had a 9mm diameter hole whereas my motor shaft is only 6mm, in a flash of inspiration, I took a  small 8mm aluminum tube section, saw it in half and placed it between the pulley hole wall and the motor drive shaft. The grub screw on the pulley steel section is screwed in tight. Though the pulley did not spin perfectly center, it is good enough for me.

Underneath the slider I attached a steel brace which was meant for mending wooden furniture. I drilled a hole right at the center and attached it below the slider. The 2 ends sticking out will serve as anchor points for the nylon drive cord. An aluminum tubing section was used to secure the nylon cord end. The cord is strung through the door slider roller pulley on one end and pulled very tightly to ensure grip on the other end on the rubber pulley.

Steel bracket below slider

Steel Bracket below slider for attaching nylon drive cord

Door Slider bearing acting as pulley, attached with 90degree steel bracket

The motor with the pulley is secured with a 90 degree steel bracket and hose clamp. Washers are used to lower the height of the pulley. The gearbox casing is very strong and I’m able to tighten the hose clamp around it to the steel bracket. Holes on the steel bracket had to be widened for the screws.

Motor placement and attachment

Its a good thing I have a lot of washers, nuts and bolts with the same thread size for securing photo devices, and I used them a lot in this project.

Here is what the whole thing looked like.

Motor slider Version 1

I bought a black plastic box from the Electronics parts store to keep my PWM controller safe and easy to handle. I had to drill holes and cut a slot for the power cables and switches. A gelatin based plastic optic fibre is used to stream light out from the power LED.

Control Box with Power indicator glowing red

Runs off a 12v sealed Lead Acid Battery

Other Images of my motorized slider

Different angle shot showing bracket and Aluminum tube retainer. 3 slight bites on the cutting blade of a pair of pliers does the trick.

Slider Bearing performing Pulley Duty

Yes, it supports and drags the whole Shebang!

Action Videos! And yes you can control the speed on the fly!

I am quite surprised myself how successful this went, but the motor slider is not perfect. It still stutters a little on the return slide, but I attribute it to cord vibration due to slippage. I will be experimenting with 2 cords to act as a drive belt for the slider and see whether it gives me better results.

For the past few months, I have caught the DSLR filming bug and my knowledge wouldn’t be possible if not for great DSLR resource websites like nofilmschool.com and cheesycam.com .

I hope my experience here will inspire you to try motorizing your IGUS sliders!

Happy DSLR film making!

*******************************UPDATE********************************************

I have just concluded some R&D tests and found out that the jitter movement is caused by an improperly aligned pulley and lack of grip using only 1 nylon cord. After re-adjusting the motor and pulley and using double the length of the cord as a drive belt, most if not all of the jitter is eliminated. It is also noted that for proper function the slider must be secured properly. I am able to traverse the slider at very slow speeds and get very smooth shots.

Below are some of the modifications.

Using a Stationary clip, the other end is pulled tight, wrapped a few rounds secured with a stationary clip

An Aluminum tubing section is inserted through both ends and crimped by pliers to hold the 2 ends together.

With 2 cords to pull, there's more surface area and more grip for the rubber pulley

**************************2nd Update*******************************************

New motors are bought, a 5RPM motor and a 65 RPM motor. Result, the 65 RPM motor gives a slower and smoother slide. The 5RPM motor is great for time lapse photography.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

New smaller Battery and a power switch

3 instead of 2 cords are now pulled tight to drive the slider, faster motors in the background.

A small Keychain ring is used to distribute the 3 cords evenly and a on the other end, a stationary clip is used to secure ends which have been pulled tightly

Another view of the Clip secure

Door Slider bearing functioning as Pulley re-aligned close to the Slider and Motor Pulley

Time Lapse Madness!

Here’s me making a fool of myself! Enjoy!

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45 responses to “My Attempt to motorize my IGUS based slider

  1. Nice job. I’ve been looking at doing something similar, as I have most of the parts, but not finding the time to put it together. Instead of nylon rope, I’m planning to use a vinyl rubber coated 1/16″ wire rope from home depot. The rubber coating will give it grip, while the nylon has a tendency to want to stretch, no matter how tight you try to get it.

    • Thanks! The braided nylon cord does stretch a little, but once I pulled it tight and secured it, the tension is sufficient for the rubber pulley to grip the whole setup slider. I have yet to try 2 nylon cords as a drive belt, but I have high hopes. I also realized hat I need to install cord guides to prevent it from vibrating and causing the slider to jitter. Will update this post once I get results.

      • Hi, I’m making an XY table and found your page while searching for linear motion drive systems.

        Try using some Spectra filament 65-pound test fishing line. It’s inexpensive and not prone to stretching, besides being relatively cheap. Ask a friend who fishes for a few meters!

  2. Weelian, I just replied to your post about this system over at cheesycam. I’m putting together pretty much the same system on my Igus slider and I’ve mentioned an option over there you might consider to completely eliminate any slipping 😉

    check it out, bro.

    • Thanks for the heads up bro! I did consider the stepper motor and belt drive system, but I was initially inspired by the spooling method video shown in Cheesycam and I thought how can I improve the design, well its a good learning process for me. I had a lot of fun putting everything together. I’ll probably take it out in the field next week to try it out. I’ll explore the belt drive and programmable stepper motor version in the future.

      Cheers!
      Weelian

      • SkunkWorks

        No prroblem, man. I forgot that new posts over there sit in limbo until Emm approves them, even though I can see it myself. It seems to be there now 😉

  3. Oh, by the way, man, you don’t even need to go the programmable stepper motor route unless you want to do time lapse. I’m not doing time lapse so my motor is just a high torque geared motor from my local surplus store here in Canada, it’s sort of like Harbor Freight in the U.S. It’s a surplus automobile window crank motor 12VDC. It’s around 60 rpm, maybe less… and of course you can slow that down even more with the pwm.

    I actually did do the string and spool myself when I was testing out the whole motorized concept. I was just in the middle of trying it when Emm posted that same vid you mentioned. Seems like there are alot of us on the same page at the same time 😉

  4. Hi, great post! I found on ebay a PWM controller with an input of 12V and a output of 12v, the motor 5rpm 3v, how can I connect the output of the pwm 12v on a motor 3v? thx for any help

    • Hmmm, I think it will be easier if you get a 12v motor instead. If you were to bring down the voltage to match the motor, there might be some power loss, as in the motor may not generate enough torque to pull the carriage.

  5. Hi where did you get your PWM, from which vendor on ebay. There are so many of them. thank you

  6. Very nice! I thought about something like this, i like the motor solution..
    What about using a belt with teeth?

    • A belt driven system would be superior and better in terms of control. I think this system is simpler and easy to setup, but you may have to do some adjustments like pulling the cord to give enough tension for the grip. It would work best on roller bearing sliders.

  7. Fabio, if weelian doesn’t mind me posting my link, here’s your timing belt version… I’m almost done!

    http://www.skunkworksonline.ca/misc/slider2/

  8. @Fabio, sure I don’t mind at all! Anything to help the community! Your setup is very nice and clean! I like it!

  9. Shaun Anderson

    Hi I would love one of these – I’m not very good at building things though. would you be able to make another one for a fee, if I sent the parts to you? if so, send me an email shaunandy@gmail.com with the price! 🙂

    • Hi Shaunandy, it would be too time consuming for me to build another one and I think you are better off getting those ready made ones available on the internet like the Kessler Crane pocket dolly. Thanks for visiting!

  10. Hey mate,

    I saw your projects and I have been thinking about making something similar well actually completely the same! Now I was wondering if there are any special things I have to look out for.
    Like the type motor is any High Torque motor good enough? or is there a risk they take to much Ampere and the PWM won’t be able to deliver it? If its possible can you link the motor you used in this projects?

    Greetings, Dirk-Jan,

    • Hi Dirk-Jan, you will have to check the motor’s specifications and make sure it matches the output of the PWM. I actually bought several motors with different speeds but all at the same voltage settings. I got one of my motors off ebay, but in the end, it didn’t generate enough torque, so I bought it off a local electronics store. One of the motors I got is a Chun Jo Corp Ltd motor, DC12v, 65RPM, 0.25A-3.3A with a torque of 6000g/cm and a output of 6w. However this motor is too fast for me. I bought another one at 5RPM and it gave a very nice slow pull. *** update *** I think some of you might misunderstand my comment on the 65rpm motor. 65rpm is great all rounder, but if you want even slower motors for timelapse then a 5rpm motor is perfect. Ultimately, a digitally controlled belt driven motor gives the best results.

      • Aah thnx for the info! I already tried to search for the things you said like the amount of A a motor will take. Only problems is that I still have to find a seller on ebay who states the amount of A a motor needs to have. Until now I only found sellers who gave the rpm and the sizes of the motor…

        Anyway thanx for all the information I am sure that I am able to build 1!

  11. Nice Job and great information…. Can you please give the specs of the the motor the you used in your 2nd attempt. and where can I get it. Also it would be good to have some more info on the PVM controller and where to get it.
    Thank you
    Orlando

  12. Hi Weeliano great job man. I have a question regarding the connecting of the battery and the motor. Could you tell me where on the pwm you are connecting to for the battery and the motor? Silly question, but Iam not the most technically minded .Thanks in advance.

    • Thanks! Yeah I realized that for anyone who doesn’t read Chinese characters, it can be a mystery as to how the PWM is connected as the board is printed with Chinese characters for the connections labeling. I have taken a photo of the board and added the labels accordingly. It should be quite easy to figure out. Image is updated on the post.

  13. Thanks for your time and effort,it is very much appreciated.

  14. Wow. The test footage where you animated yourself around the room was really impressive! I’m sure that took a bit of thought and a lot patience!

  15. Hello, Did you mount both 5 rpm and 65 rpm motors on either side? or you have to disengage one and fix the other? is there an easy way to switch between motors?

    • No only 1 motor is used at any time. When I need to do timelapse , I just switch the motor to a slower one. Not very convenient but its not often you need to switch between smooth crabbing and timelapse anyway and switching the motor just take a few minutes.

  16. does your motor spin freely when turned by hand? Im planning to mount 2 motors on each side and power either by a toggle switch, is this a viable option? I dont want to be soldering wire on and off to the motor.

    • No, these motors are high torque motors and will take a lot of effort to spin by hand. I used crocodile clips to power the motors, so changing the motors doesn’t require me to re-solder them. Or you can use bullet connectors used on RC modelling batteries.

  17. where can i buy the gelatin based LED extension?

  18. Weeliano, Great instructions with valuable information. I already ordered the PWM controller, Now I need to get the Motor.
    Could you please tel me where did you buy the Motors ( the 65 RPM & the 5 RPM)
    Thank you again for sharing

  19. Weeliano Hello!
    I just finished my slider. Your blog helped me to get ideas, so I wanted to thank you for your work and teach what I’ve done. I have yet to finish installing the electrical circuit, which I bought, but I think it is easy.
    Greetings from Spain!

  20. First of all your blog is awesome! The timelapse video you made is cool dude! can instruct me on how to make a video like that?

    • Thanks for your kind compliment! The timelapse video is actually quite easy to make. You just need a intervalometer shutter release. You can either buy a physical intervalometer for a DSLR or for me I used the “Magic Lantern” firmware for the Canon DSLRs that enabled a lot of features, one of them a intervalometer which allows me to take pictures at every second interval. So every time I hear the shutter sound, I moved a bit and changed my pose. After that I assembled the photos into a video with VirtualDub with the right frame rate. You have to be very patient and move only in small increments for a smoother trippy effect. This type of animation is also called Pixelation.

  21. Kieran Heighes

    Hi there.

    I am interested in this mechanical slider design and wondered if you’d be able to help me with a question?

    I am trying to build a moveable microphone stand and found out about camera sliders and this looks the best way to accomplish what I need.

    I am looking for a way of moving the base left or right in 1/4 inch increments at a push of a button over a total area of around 7 inches. Would this type of precision be possible/workable with this design?

    Thanks for any help you can give.

    Kieran
    xkizzerx@gmail.com

  22. Hmmm, my setup does not really permit the kind of precision you want, you might want to look at using stepper motors and a belt set up instead. I found this using google http://www.haydonkerk.com/Products/IDEAProgrammableActuators/tabid/285/Default.aspx

    It might be what you want, but it looks expensive though.

  23. Kieran Heighes

    Cheers for the reply.

    I thought it might be a bit tougher to do. I will look into that link, it does look expensive, but hopefully there’s a cheaper way to achieve the same outcome.

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