Precision pen plotter: Compact DIY kit edition
The AxiDraw pen plotters are a family of simple, modern, precise, and versatile machines; capable of writing or drawing on almost any flat surface. They can write with your favorite fountain pens, permanent markers, and other writing implements to handle an endless variety of applications.
The AxiDraw MiniKit 2
The AxiDraw MiniKit 2 is a special compact addition to the AxiDraw lineup. Designed for lighter-duty applications, It takes up less desk space and less storage space. It's considerably more portable, too.
The AxiDraw MiniKit is also the only DIY kit model of AxiDraw that you get to assemble yourself. (All other AxiDraw models ship fully assembled, tested, and ready to use.)
A Mini Plotter
The AxiDraw MiniKit 2 has a working area of about 6 × 4 inches (150 × 100 mm): Big enough to be useful for a wide range of applications including short notes, postcards, and addressing envelopes.
It's also ideally suited for use as a signature machine, for signing checks, letters, books, or artwork.
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 that might 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 or laser printer) to address an envelope or sign one's name. And it does so with precision approaching that of a skilled artist, and — just as importantly — using an arm that never gets tired.
What's new in AxiDraw MiniKit 2?
Versus the original AxiDraw MiniKit, the MiniKit 2 has been redesigned for easier assembly, better precision, and higher performance. The key change is that the long linear rail that forms the base of the machine — a custom aluminum extrusion in the original MiniKit — has been replaced with a solid bar of machined aluminum. It's a solid billet of 6061-T6 aluminum, machined in the same precision process as the top-of-the-line AxiDraw SE/A3, and then anodized for toughness and a satin-silver finish. This change simplifies a number of the assembly steps, but more importantly has a cleaner overall look and tighter manufacturing tolerances for improved precision. It also adds some mass, helping it to stay stable on your desk at higher speeds.
Who uses AxiDraw?
AxiDraw plotters are used by a genuinely diverse range of people, including (to name a few):
- Digital artists, using AxiDraw to plot their artwork
- Celebrities, politicians, and elected officials, using AxiDraw as a signature machine
- University officials and other educators, to sign diplomas and certificates
- Educators, introducing students to digital design and fabrication
- Real estate and insurance agents, who would very much like you to open their "handwritten" envelopes
- Online retailers, including a personalized thank you note with your order
- Hotels that would like to leave a personalized welcome note for guests
- Makerspaces and hackerspaces, providing a versatile low-cost fabrication tool
- Tinkerers, extending AxiDraw beyond writing implements (etching tools, lasers, LEDs for light painting, vacuum pick-up tools, etc.)
- Pen and ink manufacturers, using AxiDraw to test their pens and inks
- Smartphone and tablet hardware makers, using a stylus to test their hardware
- Mobile device software authors, using a stylus to test their software
- People without use of their hands, who would like to send "handwritten" letters
- Woodworkers, laying out joinery markings directly onto wood
- Research scientists, as a low-cost XY motion platform
- Galleries, for numbering of limited-edition artwork
- Calligraphers, who could use a little wrist relief for certain types of busywork
Handling pens and paper
The AxiDraw comes with a small mounting easel (board with clips) that can hold note cards, envelopes, gift tags and other papers. You can also set the AxiDraw directly on top of drawing surfaces like boxes, notebooks, and larger papers to add graphics in place. Your paper size is not limited to the working area of the machine; the unique design of the AxiDraw features a drawing head that extends beyond the body of the machine which allows for drawing on whatever object is positioned in front of it.
The AxiDraw MiniKit 2 uses the standard AxiDraw pen holder. It fits a wide variety of pens, including Sharpie fine and ultra-fine point markers, most rollerball and fountain pens, small-bodied whiteboard markers, and so forth. It can hold a fountain pen at a proper angle of 45° to the paper. You can also use implements that aren't pens, such as pencils, chalk, charcoal, brushes, styluses on touchscreens, and many others. However, take note that AxiDraw is generally recommended for use with instruments such as fountain pens and rollerball pens, which do not require the user to apply pressure.
Unlike other models of AxiDraw, the AxiDraw MiniKit 2 is a do-it-yourself kit that needs to be built prior to use. Assembly is straightforward with the comprehensive and highly illustrated instruction manual, which is provided as as a PDF download. You will need to provide certain tools for assembly: Scissors, and small Phillips head and flat head screwdrivers. No soldering is required.
Once you've finished building the AxiDraw MiniKit 2, the comprehensive AxiDraw user guide walks you through every step of using the machine.
To operate AxiDraw, you will need a reasonably modern computer with an available USB port, plus internet access to download necessary software. Pens and paper are not included. (You can use your own! AxiDraw does not require proprietary pens or paper.)
AxiDraw is normally controlled through a set of extensions to Inkscape, the excellent, popular and free vector graphics program. Basic operation is much like that of a printer driver: you import or make a drawing in Inkscape, and use the extensions to plot your text or artwork. It's all handled through a straightforward graphical user interface, and works cleanly on Mac, Windows and Linux. Additional software interfaces available to AxiDraw owners include AxiDraw Merge, for auto-populating documents with data sourced from a CSV spreadsheet file.
More about AxiDraw
AxiDraw is a project by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, working in collaboration with Lindsay Wilson of IJ Instruments Ltd.
AxiDraw machines are designed and manufactured by Evil Mad Scientist in Sunnyvale, California, with both foreign and domestic components.
AxiDraw comes with lifetime technical support. They stand by their machines, and are here to help whenever you need it.
What comes with the AxiDraw MiniKit 2:
- All parts and materials necessary to build the AxiDraw MiniKit 2 writing and drawing machine
- Multi-plug power supply that includes EU, UK, AUS, and US style connectors
- USB cable
- Small Easel (Board and clips) for paper holding
Tools needed (not included with the kit):
- Scissors or diagonal cutters
- Small Phillips-head screwdrivers: #0 and #1 sizes
- Small flat-head screwdriver: 2 mm or 5/64" blade width recommended
- Miniature pliers (Recommended but not required)
- Small hobby knife (Recommended but not required)
- Usable pen travel (inches): 6.3 × 4 inches
- Usable pen travel (millimeters): 160 × 101 mm
- Vertical pen travel: 0.7 inch (17 mm)
- Maximum XY travel speed: 10 inches (25 cm) per second
- Native XY resolution: 2032 steps per inch (80 steps per mm)
- Reproducibility (XY): Typically better than 0.005 inches (0.1 mm) at low speeds
- Major structural components are machined, extruded, or folded aluminum, manufactured and anodized in the USA
- Holds pens and other drawing instruments up to 5/8" (16 mm) diameter and 25 g weight
- Overall dimensions: Approximately 14.25 × 9.25 × 4.25 inches (36 × 23.5 × 11 cm)
- Maximum height with cable guides: Approximately 9 inches (23 cm)
- Footprint: Approximately 13.5 × 1.7 inches (35 x 4.5) cm
- Physical weight: 3.2 Lb (1.5 kg)
- Shipping weight: 4.5 Lb (2 kg)
- Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux
- Drive directly from within Inkscape, using the AxiDraw extension
- Comprehensive user guide available for download
- Driver software software free to download and open source
- Internet access is required to download software
- Additionally, AxiDraw Merge software available at no cost to AxiDraw owners
- Note: programming is not required to use the AxiDraw
- Stand-alone command line interface (CLI)
- Available AxiDraw python API
- RESTful API available for full machine control, stand-alone or accessible by running RoboPaint in the background
- Simplified "GET-only" API available as well, for use in programming environments (such as Scratch, Snap) that permit only retrieval of URLs
- Direct EiBotBoard (EBB) command protocol available for use in any programming environment that supports communication with USB-based serial ports
- Code that generates SVG files can also be used to (indirectly) control the machine