Sand Table - Make: Community
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Sand Table

By Ron Marianetti

This table draws designs in the sand by moving a steel ball through the sand via a magnet mounted on a software controlled platform underneath.

Type: Artistic


State: CA
Country: United States
Affiliation: None


What inspired you or what is the idea that got you started?

I was inspired by seeing the Sisyphus table by Bruce Shapiro ( I thought it was so cool and wanted to make one of my own.

What is your project about and how does it work?

Underneath the table is a mechanism that moves a magnet. The magnet in turn pulls a steel ball through the sand, making designs. The mechanism has two motors on it - one to move the ball radially in and out from the center using a rack and pinion gear, and another to rotate the arm around 360 degrees. It is essentially a 2D polar plotter.

For the motors, I use two DC motors with shaft encoders on them. The motors are controlled by an Arduino with a motor shield mounted on it. The Arduino accepts simple motor movement commands through its serial port - "move to this specific angle and radius" for example. The Arduino in turn is controlled by a Raspberry Pi which has the set of available designs and breaks them down into the simple motor movement commands that it sends to the Arduino. The Raspberry pi also implements a web server implemented in python and javascript that allows you to talk to the table over WiFI using a web browser in order to select which design(s) you want.

What did you learn by doing this project?

* How to control motors using the Arduino
* How to decipher and use the feedback signals provided by a motor encoder
* How to design and prepare parts for cutting on a CNC router using Fusion 360
* How to design and prepare parts for 3D printing using Fusion 360
* How to design and send out a PCB for manufacture using Eagle CAD.
* How to write a web page GUI using React (Javascript)

What impact does your project have on others as well as yourself?

It's relaxing and fascinating to watch. I think it also inspires others on how science and engineering can meld with art and meditative experiences.