Skip to content

18. Project Development

What tasks have been completed, and what tasks remain?
Completed Tasks
Task Category Task Completed
Design Mechanical components (Driven Pulley and Bearing Parts) have been designed
Core Structure and bottom container have been designed
PCB has been designed
Production The acrylic components of the thrust bearing have been milled and are working, but could be improved
The core structure has been printed and fills its purpose well.
The driven pulley has been printed but isn’t entirely compatible with the belt used, compromising the reliability of the ‘powertrain’
Electronics All electronic components have been sucessfully tested with the exception of the compass in the BN880 module
Remaining Tasks
Task Category Tasks Remaining
Design The driven pulley needs to be re-designed as it is not compatible with the GT2 belt I currently used
Production PCB needs to be milled
Electronics Designed PCB needs to be tested
Compass needs to be fixed

What’s working? what’s not?

While the project, in its current state, hasn’t deviated from the original idea, it is not portable enough to be used as intended. Nevertheless, as a physical object, it works well as a platform on which to test different programs and technologies. However, while most of the designed components and systems provide the desired functionality, some do so in an inefficient manner. Furthermore, most of my current road-blocks relate solely to phase 2 of my project. I am therefore confident the device will provide the functionalities outlined for phase 1 by the date of the presentation.

What’s working?

Element Description Functionality Rating
Thrust Bearing Able to produce a smooth and silent panning motion - Friction increases in certain areas due to an improper alignment of the raceways Inefficient but Functional
Belt Drive Transfers motion from stepper motor to bearing - Driven pulley isn’t entirely compatible with the belt used Functional but Inefficient
Core Structure Holds all components as intended Functional
Hosting WiFi network on ESP32 Able to host WPA2 network with up to two clients Functional
Server Hosting on ESP32 Able to send and receive data through HTTP POST and HTTP GET Functional
Stepper Motor Control with Driver Able to produce full- and micro-steps Functional
GPS Position Acquisition Able to obtain the GPS position of Base station - Takes a few minutes for the module to obtain a stable fix, but that is expected of GPS modules Functional (relatively)
Sending data from phone to base Station Able to send data from companion app to ESP32 server over WiFi Network hosted on ESP32 Functional
GPS data acquisition from phone Companion app can obtain GPS coordinates of phone Functional

What’s not Working

Element Description Importance
Magnetometer Magnetometer readings are either incoherent or constant, for reasons that I ignore. This needs to be fixed for phase 2 of the project Essential P2
Aligning of camera with specific GPS coordinates It is complex to test out the device’s program as I need to have a moving object tracked. Verifying if the device is acting as desired while moving is impossible. I am trying to work on a version in which coordinates are entered manually, but doubt I’ll have any breakthrough in the next few days, before the presentation Essential P2

What questions need to be resolved?

There are a few things that need to be completed for my project to reach its desired state in the current phase. These are listed below:

  • Will GPS tracking be sufficient to continuously track a moving object?
    • If not, what needs to be added to the system (sensors and mathematical considerations)?

  • How can the device be made more compact?
    • Does the actuation mechanism need to be altered or replaced?
    • Are stepper motors the most efficient solution for precise position control?

What will happen when?

I am unsure about how things will play out in the near future. However, I believe that I must focus on building a foundational technology for the project to mature into what I have envisioned. In that optic, I must first use the device in its current state to derive a reliable tracking system. The modular nature of the product’s design would allow me to freely add/remove components. Once that would have been achieved, I would work on adding a tilting mechanism. Followed by a complete redesign of the product aiming to make it more compact an easy to transport.

What have you learned?

The past 20 weeks have taught me a wide range of skills which enable me to better understand the implications, advantages and disadvantages of digital fabrication processes. While the amount of time attributed to each topic was rather short, The 18 fab cycles provided me with a sufficient understanding of most of these processes, as well as a desire to learn more.

The development of my final project has shown me that designing mechanical systems is complex as there are a multitude of factors that need to be considered. Indeed, I now understand that it is essential to ensure components that move relative to one another need to be manufactured to an high degree of precision. Minute imperfections will add up, causing the mechanical movement to lack consistency, therefore making it unreliable.

Precision is essential throughout. Perhaps the most important takeaway for me is that good design requires patience and focus. That is something that I have lacked throughout the academy as displayed by my blunders in molding & casting, as well as in the production of electronic circuit boards.

Last update: June 22, 2021