Personal Writing and Drawing MachineUser GuideAxiDraw Version 2.0Guide Revision: 2.5, October 1, 2017

0. This guide is a work in progress!Welcome to AxiDraw!You’re one of the first to get one of our new personal writing and drawing machines. Thisguide is here to help you get started. There is a lot here–covering how you set up and usethe machine, and pointing you about where to go from here.However, this guide is still a work in progress, and we you may wish to check back soon forthe latest version.We are planning several additions to this guide in the coming months, both adding clarifications in response to feedback, and adding some additional sections that are alreadyplanned. We are planning additional sections on performance tuning, specific work flows,and hope to add more concrete examples and videos as well.Recent changes to this guide include updates to the current software version, which isv1.2.2.You can download the latest version of this at at the front cover of the guide to find the date and version number of the guide thatyou are looking at.2

Contents0. This guide is a work in progress!. 21. Introducing the AxiDraw. 51.1 Credits and History:. 52. Checking out your AxiDraw. 62.1 What comes with the machine. 62.2 AxiDraw Anatomy. 62.3 Safe handling of the AxiDraw. 83: Overview: Getting Started with AxiDraw. 94: Software for AxiDraw. 104.1 Installing software. 104.2 Inkscape and the extensions. 104.3 Aside: Alternative software and APIs. 105: The Home Corner.116: Workholding.126.1 Printing on with large workpieces .126.2 Workholding with the Clip Easel.126.3 Moving beyond the Clip Easel.137: Connecting Power and USB. 148: Pens and Getting Ready for Printing .158.1 Pen choices.158.2 Setting the pen angle.158.3 Inserting a pen.168.4 Pen up and pen down positions. 178.5 Positioning your paper.198.6 Summary.219: Plotting with the AxiDraw.219.1 Making your first plot.219.2 Pausing, resuming, and canceling plots.249.3 Plotting with multiple layers and colors.259.4 Basic speed control. 279.5 Pen lift speeds.289.6 Advanced options.299.7 AxiDraw Manual Controls. 309.8 Plotting away from home.323

10: Designing for AxiDraw.3310.1 General considerations.3310.2 Visualizing paths in your document.3410.3 Working with standard fonts.3410.4 Single stroke fonts & Hershey Text.3610.5 Capturing a signature. 3710.6 Aside: On automatic tracing of handwriting. 3710.7 Filling text and shapes.3811: Maintenance and troubleshooting.3911.1 The hex wrenches.3911.2 Lubrication.3911.3 Belt tension.3911.4 Loss of position.3911.5 Service, repair, and parts support. 4012. AxiDraw Tips and Tricks. 404

1. Introducing the AxiDrawThe AxiDraw is a simple, modern, precise, and versatile pen plotter, capable of writing ordrawing on almost any flat surface. It can write with your favorite fountain pens, permanent markers, and other writing implements to handle an endless variety of applications.Its unique design features a writing head that extends beyond the machine, making itpossible to draw on objects bigger than the machine itself.The AxiDraw is an extremely versatile machine, designed to serve a wide variety of everyday and specialized drawing and writing needs. You can use it for almost any task thatmight normally be carried out with a handheld pen.It allows you to use your computer to produce writing that appears to be handmade, complete with the unmistakable appearance of using a real pen (as opposed to an inkjet orlaser printer) to address an envelope or sign one’s name. And it does so with precisionapproaching that of a skilled artist, and — just as importantly — using an arm that nevergets tired.1.1 Credits and History:While new to most of the world, the AxiDraw project has been active since 2014, when itwas first created by Dr. Lindsay Robert Wilson of IJ Instruments Ltd. in the UK.Early AxiDraw units had a different design. It wasa smaller format pen plotter with a chassis madefrom machined Delrin plastic. It had two independent timing belts, one driven by a stepper motoron the base, and the other by a stepper motor onthe moving carriage. For software, it used a modified version of the WaterColorBot driver developed at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.AxiDraw, 2014In 2015, Wilson began collaborating with Windell Oskay and Lenore Edman of Evil MadScientist Laboratories towards a new AxiDraw model – now before you –that would beprincipally designed and manufactured in the USA.The new AxiDraw was enlarged to reachtwice the travel area, to cover a full pageof A4 or US Letter paper. Its geometrywas changed to use a single drive belt, withtwo larger stepper motors stationary on thebase. Its major components would now bemade of aluminum (machined or stampedand folded), and the new pen holder couldbe mounted vertically or at 45 to the paper.AxiDraw V2, 20165

2. Checking out your AxiDraw1. AxiDrawlips)(Binder c2. Clip Easel3. USB Cable4. Hex drivers5. Power supply2.1 What comes with the machineHere are the parts that comewith the AxiDraw:1. The AxiDraw itself (Ready to use)2. Clip Easel and binder clips (4)3. USB cable4. Hex drivers, including 5/64”, 3/32”, and 1/8”5. Plug-in power supply. (9 V, 1.5 A, worldwide input)6. Not shown: Rubber bands2.2 AxiDraw AnatomyLet’s also look at what the different parts of the machine are called.We will refer to many of these parts by their names elsewhere.Carriage (X-axis part)Cable Guides(not handles!)Base (right)Base (left)6Pen holder

§2.2, AxiDraw anatomy, continued:Top ViewCarriage (Y-axis part)Y Tail BlockY ShaftsTiming beltX ShaftsWire conduitPen holderDetail: Left BaseStepper motor“EBB”Control boardPowerJackitnduWire coPause Button(aka “PRG” button)Base Block (left)USB PortRubber Feet7

§2.2, AxiDraw anatomy, continued:Detail: Pen holderBeltVertical slideY ShaftsPen ClipScrewsPen-liftservo motorPen ClipY Tie BlockVertical shaftsThumbscrew2.3 Safe handling of the AxiDraw1). Lifting: Lift AxiDraw by the base blocks, or by the stepper motors or X shafts ifnecessary. Do not lift by the cables, carriage(s), cable guides, or pen holder.2). Heat: Please note that the two stepper motors may get warm. This is normal, butit is helpful to be aware of it. They should not get too hot to touch.3). Moving parts: AxiDraw has exposed moving parts. Keep fingers, hair, and otherthings that could get caught, crushed, or tangled safely away from the belt and thepinch points between the moving carriage, the pen holder, and the motors.8!Warning: Keep fingers away from pinchpoints while AxiDraw is operating.

3: Overview: Getting Started with AxiDrawIn brief, here are the steps to getting started with the AxiDraw:1) Install the software.2) Open or create the artwork that you would like to print.3) By hand, move the carriage to the upper-left Home Corner.4) Connect power and USB cables.5) Check pen-up and pen-down heights.6) Set up your pen and paper.7) Begin plotting from within the AxiDraw software.Part 4 of this guide goes through the first item on the list: Installing the software. Parts5 through 8 go through setting up your AxiDraw for use. Part 9 walks through makingyour first plot, and various options available while plotting. Part 10 talks about designingfor AxiDraw. It is followed by sections on various tips and tricks for using your machine.9

4: Software for AxiDraw4.1 Installing softwareYou will need to install software on your computer to operate the AxiDraw.Current instructions and download links are available at: there, follow the directions specific for your operating system: For Mac and Windows, there are easy installers that you can download. For Linux, one or more manual steps are required.The software that you will install includes Inkscape, the superb (and free) drawing program, and a set of extensions that operate the AxiDraw from within Inkscape.4.2 Inkscape and the extensionsOnce you have installed the software, launch Inkscape.The AxiDraw software may be found in the Extensions AxiDraw submenu of Inkscape.All machine control is performed from within the “AxiDraw Control” panel. (A secondextension, Hatch Fill, is provided as well, to help with filling in shapes.)4.3 Aside: Alternative software and APIsRoboPaint is an alternative driver software available for painting and drawing robots. Itrequires a separate install process, but does support AxiDraw.Programming is not required to operate the AxiDraw. However, all of our software isopen source. And, if you would like to program it or remotely send data to it, we dohave interfaces and documentation available.For more information about RoboPaint or our APIs, please see the documentation onour wiki site at these options, a stand-alone command line version of our (otherwise) Inkscape-based software is in development, and available in beta to AxiDraw users. If youwould like early access, please contact us 10

5: The Home CornerBefore you start plotting, the pen holder must be moved to the Home Corner. This is asfar left and as far back as it will go: where the pen holder is closest to the left base (withthe AxiDraw logo, and the USB port).HomeCornerAxiDraw LogoWhen a plot finishes, the AxiDraw will return to its Home Corner automatically, leaving itready for the next plot.Slide the carriage to the Home Corner byhand. You can move it diagonally by holdingthe Y Tie Block, which is the black block justbehind the pen holder. Do not push the penholder directly.The carriage can only be moved when the power to the motors is off. If it does not moveeasily, turn off the motors so that you are not trying to force them. To do so, use the“Raise pen, turn off motors” command in the Setup tab of AxiDraw Control (see page17). If necessary, you can also physically disconnect the AxiDraw from power.11

6: WorkholdingWhatever workpiece the AxiDraw is to write or draw upon – whether that is paper, wood,or cookies – needs to be reasonably fixed in place so that it does not move while plotting.6.1 Printing on with large workpiecesFor large workpieces such as poster boards or cardboard boxes, the AxiDraw may beplaced directly on top of the workpiece. Other examples of large workpieces that AxiDraw can sit upon might include things like fabric, wooden surfaces, or large whiteboards.Some workpieces, such as this small dryerase whiteboard, are awkward to work with:Tall, but not wide enough for the AxiDraw tosit on top of. In cases like this, you may needto prop up the base of AxiDraw to make ittall enough to reach.6.2 Workholding with the Clip EaselA simple board with clips, the Clip Easel, is included with the AxiDraw for holding smallerworkpieces – principally different shapes and sizes of paper – that are not large enoughto be held down by the AxiDraw itself. This is a great way to mount paper when gettingstarted with the AxiDraw.The Clip Easel is 9 12 inches (about 23 x 30 cm) in size, with rubber feet and four smallbinder clips. You can mount different sizes of to it, including US letter size (or A4) paper,and smaller sizes including envelopes, cards, and invitations. (With smaller paper, you canalso potentially mount several pieces at the same time.) The clips can be positioned asneeded to hold the paper flat, and avoid the areas where you will be writing.12

§6.2, Workholding with the Clip Easel, continuedABCDThe examples shown above are:A) A certificate to be filled out (Letter size, landscape orientation)B) Mailing address (#10 envelope, landscape orientation)C) A formal invitation (6 ⅜ 8 ⅞ inch, portrait orientation)D) A page of mixed text and drawing (Letter size, portrait orientation)In every case, line up the corner of the paper with the upper left corner of the Clip Easel,such that the corner of the paper is closest to the Home Corner.If your document is wider than it is tall (or square), it is said to be in landscape orientation,and your paper should be oriented as in examples A and B above. If is taller than it is wide,it has portrait orientation; turn your paper “sideways” as in examples C) and D) above. (Thisdefault behavior can be overridden. See “9.6 Advanced options” on page 29.)6.3 Moving beyond the Clip EaselWhile the Clip Easel is versatile, its use is entirely optional. Paper can be also held in placewith tape, clamps, tacks, other types of clipboards, and by other means as necessary.If your AxiDraw is used as a single-purpose machine (that is, if you use the same penand paper size consistently), you will likely prefer to make a workholding solution tailoredfor your specific application. For example, you might use multiple clip easels (or similarboards) with endstops that hold them in place. Or perhaps standard clipboard, permanently mounted to a tabletop or work surface. Dedicated solutions like these can make itmuch faster to swap paper in and out for printing.13

7: Connecting Power and USBPower adapterCableUSB CableIn the next section, when setting the pen heights, it is necessary to plug in the AxiDraw.When it is time to do so, connect the power and USB cables to the AxiDraw as shown.Connect the USB cable to any available USB port on your computer.The plug-in power adapter included with the AxiDraw (9 V dc, regulated, center positive)works with worldwide mains power (100-240 V ac). Outside of the US, it may require aninexpensive plug-shape adapter.Once your cables are connected, make sure that the AxiDraw has room to move. As thecarriage moves, it’s important that it cannot get caught on stray cables.14

8: Pens and Getting Ready for PrintingIn this section we will discuss different types of pens, configuring the pen to be vertical orat an angle, the pen-up and pen-down positions, setting the pen height, and how to setthe paper position relative to the pen.8.1 Pen choicesThe pen holder on the AxiDraw fits pens up to ⅝ inch (16 mm) in diameter. The maximumrecommended pen weight is 1.6 oz (45 g). The design is such that the pen rests on the surface by its own weight. That allows it to ride over surfaces that are textured or otherwiseuneven, however it also means that the pen holder does not apply significant downwardpressure.Good choices for pens to use include fountain pens, permanent markers, rollerball pens,technical pens, (small-bodied) whiteboard markers, liquid chalk markers, and other writingand drawing instruments that do not require significant downward pressure. While we refer to writing and drawing instruments as “pens” to be concise, other instruments such asautomatic pencils, chalk, charcoal, and brushes can also work well in many cases. Others,like ball point pens may work inconsistently because they require a substantial amount ofdownward pressure to operate.8.2 Setting the pen angleThe pen may be mounted vertically or diagonally at 45 to the paper by mounting the PenClip in either the vertical or angled position.To detach the pen clip, loosen and remove the two black M3 screws on the front of thepen clip, using the 5/64” (2 mm) hex wrench, which has a ball end for easy access. Usethe same two screws to reattach the pen clip, either in the vertical or diagonal orientation.The 45 angle position is optimal for use with fountain pens, but will work well with mostrollerball and fine point markers. The vertical position is more suited to markers with fattertips or writing instruments that require more downward pressure.15

8.3 Inserting a penYou can insert a pen – or other writing instrument that you are using – into the pen clipand tighten it in place with the thumbscrew. (If you are setting up for the first time, youmay find the thumbscrew removed for shipping.)Take care to only apply gentle force with the thumbscrew: You only need to immobilize thepen, so stop turning once you encounter moderate resistance.When using any ink-based pen (whether rollerball, fountain pen, or permanent maker), itis helpful to “bleed” out the tip before writing. Try it by hand on a piece of paper, and makesure that ink is actually flowing.Note on fragile or delicate pens: If you choose to use fragile pens (such as high-end fountain pens with celluloid barrels), exercise great care when inserting the pen. You may wishto wrap the barrel in a thin, soft cloth to avoid scratching, and use little or no pressure fromthe thumbscrew. Moderately priced fountain pens, like the Lamy Safari shown above,tend to be quite tough, and require little special treatment.16

8.4 Pen up and pen down positionsIn this step we will check the pen-up and pen-down positions.First, connect power and USB (See “7: Connecting Power and USB” on page 14).Then, within Inkscape, open up AxiDraw Control. You can find it in the menu bar at:Extensions AxiDraw AxiDraw ControlClick on the Setup tab:Select the “Toggle pen between UP, DOWN” action, and click the Apply button. If yoursoftware is all installed correctly and everything is hooked up correctly, the pen lift motorwill alternately move to the up or down positions each time that you press Apply.Pen downPen up17

§8.4, Pen up and pen down positions, continuedThe pen-up and pen-down heights may each be adjusted between 0 and 100% to suityour needs. Higher percentage values lift the pen higher.The factory-default values of 60% (up) and 40% (down) are a good starting point. Try alsoadjusting them to a different set of values (say, 70% and 30%, respectively) and apply, tosee that the positions change when you adjust them. The pen holder should visibly moveup and down as you raise and lower the pen holder.Pen up gap:1/8 - 1/4 inch(3-6 mm)above paperWhile in the pen-up position, insert your pen and position it above your paper.The vertical position of your pen should be approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch (3 - 6 mm)above the surface of the paper. You can physically adjust the position of the pen with thethumbscrew, and/or change the positions from the Setup tab of AxiDraw Control.Toggle also to the pen-down position. With the pen down, the pen should rest on thepaper by its weight. If it does not, you may need to lower the pen-down position. (Whiletesting, you can protect the paper that you will be writing upon with another sheet ofpaper, to avoid writing on your actual workpiece.)Finally, return the pen holder to the pen-up position to position your paper for printing.Once you are familiar with the process of inserting the pen and setting the height, thisprocess can be reduced in practice to two steps:1) Raise the pen holder to the pen-up position (if it is not already there).2) Insert your pen.18

8.5 Positioning your paperWith your pen at the HOME Corner, and the pen at an appropriate height, it is time toposition the paper with respect to the AxiDraw. The printable area starts at the HOMECorner, and extends down and to the right from that point.Plotting on large surfaces (where the AxiDraw sits directly on the surface):Position the AxiDraw such that the pen tip is at the upper left corner of the area that youintend to plot upon. The software will treat the corner of the page in your Inkscape document as Home Corner for the purpose of plotting.Here is how the “page” printed above looks from within Inkscape:19

§8.5, Positioning your paper, continuedABPlotting on everything else ( letters, envelopes, invitations, and other smaller items):Position the paper with its upper-left corner directly underneath the tip of the pen.Square the paper up so that its top edge is parallel to the X-Shafts of the AxiDraw.As we discussed earlier (page 13), documents that are taller than wide are usually turned “sideways”, as in B above. Whether vertical or horizontal, it is always the corner of the paper closest to the Home Corner that one aligns below the tip of the pen.For comparison, here are how those two documents look on the computer when settingup to print:ABThe absolute position of your paper with respect to the AxiDraw will vary, depending onthe paper, the pen that you use, as well as the pen length if it is mounted at 45 . However,for any given pen and paper setup, it is likely to remain relatively consistent. (See “6.3Moving beyond the Clip Easel” on page 13.)20

8.6 SummaryYour AxiDraw is now ready to print. To recap, the steps in getting ready are:1) Move the pen holder to the Home Corner.2) Connect Power and USB cables.3) Use the software to move the pen holder to the “pen-up” position.4) Insert the pen, just above the paper.5) Position your paper with its corner beneath the tip of the pen.9: Plotting with the AxiDraw9.1 Making your first plotIn this section we will walk through the steps to make your first plot on the AxiDraw. Finishinstalling the AxiDraw software (§4) before beginning here. In addition to what comes withthe AxiDraw, you will need pen and paper.Download the set of AxiDraw example files from download is a small zip archive of example files. Open/unzip , and from within Inkscape open up the file called AxiDraw First.svg . Once open, the document should lookapproximately like this:If you cannot see the full page outline when you first open the file, select from the menuView Zoom Page, or type the number ‘5’ on your keyboard.21

§9.1, Making your first plot, continuedIf you have not done so already, get the AxiDraw set up to print:1) Slide the pen holder to the Home Corner. (See §5) The Home Corner is the upper-left corner, by the AxiDraw logo and USB port.2) Clip a piece of paper to the Clip Easel. (§6.2) Align the paper to the upper left of the Clip Easel, closest to Home.3) Plug in the power cable and connect the USB. (§7)4) Using the software, toggle the pen down and back up, leaving it “up”. (§8.4) From the menu, select Extensions AxiDraw AxiDraw Control In the “Basic Setup” tab, use the Toggle Up, Down option.5) Clip in your pen, with height just above the paper. (§8.4)6) Position your paper with its upper-left corner beneath the tip of the pen. (§8.5)22

§9.1, Making your first plot, continuedYou are now set up to print. Last thing: Check the area around the AxiDraw, and makesure that the carriage has room to move, both in front of and behind the base.Finally, switch to the Plot (first) tab of AxiDraw Control, and click Apply to begin.The AxiDraw should now begin printing your document, and will return back to the HomeCorner, with pen up, when it finishes.23

9.2 Pausing, resuming, and canceling plotsTo pause while plotting, press the pause button, which is the raised button located on theleft hand side of the AxiDraw. (See “Detail: Left Base” on page 7.) The AxiDraw willstop plotting and raise the pen immediately after finishing the current line segment.Note: You must physically press the pause button to pause a plot in progress.(The “Cancel” button shown while any Inkscape extension runs is nonfunctional, due toan Inkscape bug.)Once paused, you can make adjustments in the settings (for example, to the pen height orplotting speed), before resuming. Or, you may simply want to cancel the plot.To resume a plot underway, use the Resume tab in AxiDraw control, and select the Resume action and Apply:To return the carriage to the home corner, instead select the “Return to Home Corner”option and Apply. The plot can still be resumed after moving back to HOME (if, and onlyif, moved by this command).If you are canceling to start a new plot (from the Plot or Layers tab), you must return thecarriage to Home before beginning. Failure to do so will cause a loss in position control.You can also move home manually. To do so, use the “Raise pen, turn off motors” in theSetup tab (See “8.4 Pen up and pen down positions” on page 17), and move thecarriage back to the Home Corner by hand. You will need to return home manually in anyevent where there is a loss of position control.24

9.3 Plotting with multiple layers and colorsBy default, AxiDraw Control will plot your entire drawing. However, if you have a document with multiple layers, you can use the Layers tab of AxiDraw Control to plot a singlelayer, or some set of layers.After plotting from the Layers tab, you can stop to change any settings that you wish to,or switch to a different pen. This makes it possible to plot drawings with portions drawnwith different colors and (for example) different speeds.When you click Apply with the Layers tab open, the AxiDraw will plot only the layer orlayers that have a name beginning with the number selected there. The only requirementfor using this feature is that you begin each layer name with an integer in the range 0through 100.For example, if you have three layers with the names,1 - Red swirls1 - Red zig zags2 - Blue circlesThen you can plot the two red layers with a red pen by specifying “1” in the “Plot onlylayers beginning with” field. You can then change the pen to blue and plot the blue layerby specifying “2” in that field. Click the “Apply” button each time to begin plotting of theselected layers.25

§9.3, Plotting with multiple layers and colors, continuedOpen the Layers window in Inkscape (shown at right) byselecting from the menu: Layer Layers.You can edit the layer names within the Layers window,and you can use the various commands in the Layersmenu to move objects between layers.The set of layers shown in this particular example – sixlayers with six different colors – is for the party invitationexample shown below. You can see below how it appearsin Inkscape, as well as printed on the page using six ultra-fine point Sharpie markers.One concern when swapping betweenpens is to get consistent registration,such that each pen is mounted consistently in the same place. It is easiest todo so when using multiple pens of thesame type, and when mounted in thevertical position, rather than in the 45 angled position.26

9.4 Basic speed controlThe Timing tab of AxiDraw control lets you set the basic movement speeds for the AxiDraw. The two numbers at the top under the “Movement speeds” heading set the speedsused for the horizontal (XY) carriage motion.The first item in the list, Writing/Drawing speed, sets the maximum speed that will be usedwhen the pen is down. The second, Pen-up movement speed, sets the maximum speedthat will be used when the pen is up, traveling between two points.The default value for these two speeds are 25% and 75%, respectively. You can adjustthese speeds. However, please keep in mind that the quality of printing that you canachieve is always a trade-off between speed and neatness.Everyday use:Most of our sample drawings and tests are made with a medium speed that is a compromise between speed and precision. This is a good balance for fine-point permanentmarkers and wide-nibbed fountain pens:Writing/Drawing speed: 20%Pen-up movement speed: 75%Working with precision:When working with fine point pens and tuning for higher precision (with writing or drawing) a good starting point might be:Writing/Drawing speed: 10%Pen-up movement speed: 50%Working at high speeds:When using wide-tipped permanent markers or other writing implements that makebroad marks, one might go as high as:Writing/Drawing speed: 50%Pen-up movement speed: 90%There are additional factors besides speed that influence precision. These factors includethe pen lift and lowering speeds, the weight of your pen, where on the page you are plotting, and so forth. The “right” speed to use for any given application is one that gives youhigh enough output quality at an acceptable rate.27

9.5 Pen lift speedsThe lower half of the Timing tab has the heading “Pen lift and lowering speeds.” These control the vertical motion between the heights that are set in the Setup tab (page 17).The four controls in this section allow you to set the: The pen raising and lowering speeds, and Optional delays (normally set to 0) after raising and lowering the pen.The pen

Once you have installed the software, launch Inkscape. The AxiDraw software may be found in the Extensions AxiDraw submenu of Inkscape. All machine control is performed from within the “AxiDraw Control” panel. (A second extension, Hatch Fill, is provided as well, to help with filling in shapes.)