Public Lab Research note

Electronics-Free Automated Pan Mechanisms

by ranon | July 07, 2016 21:52 07 Jul 21:52 | #13268 | #13268

Silly Putty Pan Mechanism

The silly putty pan mechanism, originally developed by Simon Harbord, uses a twisted rubber band attached to a hook that runs through a volume of silly putty. The silly putty controls the spin of the rubber band, giving a slow, controlled spin.

@mathew and I have been developing a pan mechanism using this concept, that is made using hardware and a few custom components that can be laser cut.

As the video demonstrates, there are some inconsistencies in the turn speed of the rig due to friction. There is also a static friction issue, causing it to get stuck at certain points. How might these issues be resolved?

Jerk Pan

Another option for electronics-free panning is the jerk pan mechanism, developed by @cfastie. This is a simple and effective way to reorient the camera after it has been sent up the line.

Propeller Mechanism

A third solution is a wind or wind-up powered mechanism, as demonstrated here.

This mechanism is very effective in that it is both a pan and tilt mechanism in one. The downsides to this mechanism are its complexity and weight. More info on this mechanism can be found here.


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