XY Plotter 1 – Overview

We will be writing a few articles on the blog relating to the XY Plotter we recently made. The XY plotter was a physical machine built to demonstrate the possibility of both Flowcode 6 simulation and our ability to quickly create hardware.

I have copied the post across from the forum so you can see the XY plotter, and we will shortly upload a short video of it in action. Over a series of posts I will go over how it works and some of the difficulties encountered.

The forum post…

Prior to joining Matrix about two months ago, I had very limited prior knowledge of Flowcode, using version 2 only briefly during my undergraduate degree so learning Flowcode 6 was the same for me as it may be for you. One of my first tasks as an applications engineer was to develop both a simulation within Flowcode and a working machine to demonstrate the capabilities of both Flowcode 6 and the Matrix E-Blocks. It was decided that I should develop an XY plotter, with which I should be able to provide basic XY coordinates which could draw a simple shape.

This post is to give you an insight into what is possible within Flowcode 6. The XY plotter is a concept design, and by no means a finished product; however, it demonstrates the power of Flowcode 6. Both the simulation and the hardware run from the same Flowcode file, with the ‘simulation’ commands not affecting the downloaded program.
In terms of hardware, the plotter uses two stepper motors for XY axis movement and therefore two E-Block motor boards, one for each motor. It utilises a solenoid to lift and drop the pen when required, based on a Z coordinate. A Matrix keypad is used to provide additional manual control over the motors while hardware interrupts and switches are programmed to halt the system if the axis limits are reached due to using coordinates out of bounds. These switches stop strain being placed on the system which would occur if the motors continue to drive the hardware into the limit pillars. The base for the XY plotter base is one of our Automatics bases, and the clear Perspex was laser cut with our own machine. Liam, a fellow employee, designed the hardware within Google SketchUp, and we separated the model into 4 components and imported the mesh files into Flowcode. The XY plotter components were then configured, detailing which motor connections connect to which port etc.

I have included both a screenshot and a photo of the finished design, which is fully working.

More of the design process will be uploaded to our blog over time (we’re currently very busy with moving offices and with the new open beta) to demonstrate how the plotter was programmed and the challenges faced both mechanically and electrically, and also within Flowcode.

If you have any comments or questions please feel to post! We always love your feedback.

Paul

XY Plotter-Forum

XY Plotter Image - small

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