Iteration 1.0 - Meade telescope motor mounted to 100 cm length Neewer camera slider. Take an old Meade DS-60 telescope, cannibalize the azimuth motor, the handheld control, 12-volt cable plug-panel, and mount the motor to the Neewer frame at one end with duct-tape, and use parachute cord or clothesline rope as a timing belt to connect them. When running, the motor was very noisy, and the cord would fall off the rotating drive bolt sometimes, but it worked. Clumsy to use with the Meade handheld remote control. Inspired by this YouTube video: New Amsterdam Audio/Video
Iteration 1.1 - Neewer non-motorized camera slider with a TurnsPro time-lapse camera mount on a bracket (mounting kit supplied by them) on one end, and a pulley and bracket on the other end. The timing belt threads thru slots already cut in the slider leg mounts. Normally a TurnsPro is mounted on a tripod to do time-lapse, slow-motion, or stop-motion photography, but with their kit it mounts on a slider frame. This is a simple non-Arduino solution that provides for X-axis camera movement down the slider rail. Works great; powered by 4 AA batteries. Highly portable solution with no dangling wires to mess with. Turnspro is based in Plymouth, UK. See the TurnsPro.com website.
This video shows how to assemble their slider bracket kit: Turnspro Adapter Kit Setup.
Iteration 1.2 - Add two robotic servo motors to the trolley platform to provide Y and Z-axis rotation (pan and tilt). The TurnsPro moves the trolley down the slider, and the servos will pan and tilt controlled by an Arduino. The hobby servos and 3D-printed mounting bracket kit are sold many places on the Internet; cheap and easy to assemble. Typical usage is for robotics remote control. Unfortunately, they are not rigid enough to keep them from shaking while riding down the slider rail mounted to the trolley. Disadvantages include separate power required for the Turnspro and Arduino, and manually sequenced startup and stopping. I decided I won’t be using this configuration.
The 3 stepper-motor schematic configuration above uses a joystick, some push-buttons, and potentiometers. I didn’t want a whole lot of wires attached to the Arduino, so I ordered and received this Keyestudio JoyStick gaming shield that has most of what I need: Arduino Joystick Shield. Cheap, it’s only $5 US; this is just for testing and evaluation, not necessarily my final configuration. I have two slider rails here; this will be the electronics used with an Arduino to drive one of them:
If the Arduino sketch keeps track of the slider platform position properly, the movement limit switches are another item (and associated wires) that can be eliminated. NEMA17’s seem to be the stepper-motor of choice for most projects; they are easily sourced. I wanted to use lighter-weight servo-motors, but changed my mind after testing the plastic mountings. People also use brushless DC motors if they want to send position information back to the Arduino, but the sketch code has to be able to accept it. Final decision - NEMA17 motors.
This is the board I’m going to use for the second slider rail, a Devia Robotics control board. It can handle 4 servo-motors or 3 stepper-motors from the 12V power supply, has built-in ESP8266 Wifi, and looks like an Arduino Zero with a USB interface. Like all my hobbyist projects, I usually complete two different configurations to learn how they work and then give one to my brother for parallel testing:
There are plenty of DIY camera sliders that use custom 3D-printed or CNC-routed plastic parts; another design goal is to use as much off-the-shelf stuff as much as possible. The gears, pulleys, and timing belts are in abundant supply on the Internet because they are used for 3D-printers. Servos and steppers plug directly onto this board, and there are headers for the stepper-motor drivers already soldered on the board.