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XY Table Part 1: Introduction

This new series is a tutorial on putting together a joystick controlled XY table from parts to a complete, working system.  I want it to be a comprehensive tutorial on getting a two axis system up and running, including:

  • The electrical part, for example,  connecting to the motors and limit sensors.
  • The mechanical part, for example, attaching the motors to the stage and setting the limit sensors.
  • Setup and initial testing.
  • Software, including sending commands to the drives and reading a joystick.
  • Finding information on motors, stages, and such so you can use them.

Why write this?  Because I haven’t seen a similar detailed project.  Automation magazines articles are almost always very general (why product X was great for project Y).  I will not get into theory (such as matching inertia using gear heads, motor sizing, etc); this is an introduction, and the XY table will work fine driven by ordinary NEMA23 servo and stepper motors without noisy gear heads.

The tutorial will be detailed, but not a step by step recipe.  Instead, I want to provide a detailed example and resources that you can apply to the particular parts you have.  I hope it will be useful to people who have bought surplus automation equipment.

I expect basic familiarity with automation concepts such as servo motors, quadrature encoders, and such, but will provide some basic links — and don’t forget, if you don’t know something, google it!

I will be using a bunch of parts I already have, but I will also cover some of the many other possible ways of getting to the same end result.


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