Hardware miniE v1

For running the miniEngine v1 you will need an Arduino Uno Board and the DFRobot Display shield for a minimal setup. With these components (and some breadboard magic) you are able to use the system as an intervalometer for your Camera. To avoid the flying wires and the breadboard I suggest a more integrated solution. You can go for a proto-board, or choose the miniE shield which is designed especially for miniE. You can buy it here: www.shop.airiclenz.com

miniE shield assembled

first miniE shield (v1.3) fully assembled

most recent version 1.3 of the shield

For a full setup that uses all capabilities of the current version, you will need the following components:

Hardware Requirements

  • 1x Arduino Uno
  • 1x DFRobot Display Shield
  • 1x RTC module (optional: only needed for timed programs)
  • 1x Stepper motor driver (e.g. EasyDriver)
  • 1x Stepper motor fitting your requirements
  • 1x Dolly system to control
  • Computer running Windows, Linux, or OSX compatible with the Arduino IDE (v1.0 or later)
  • Some additional material for wiring up all components (e.g. miniE shield board, wires, resistors, …)

Recent DFRobot shield hardware changes

It seems that DFRobot have changed their shield and that you will most likely receive one of the new ones if you buy now. The new hardware will only work properly with the original software code if you change the code slightly!

Here is the thread that covers the topic: http://forum.airiclenz.com/showthread.php?tid=56

* * *

Everything you need to set-up a miniE shield (schematics, CAD files, documentation) is included in the project tarBall which you can download on the Download page.

If you download the project Tarball from Sourceforge you should receive a copy of the CERN Open Hardware Licence along with the files. If not, see http://www.ohwr.org/projects/cernohl/wiki.

123 thoughts on “Hardware miniE v1

  1. I have just installed your miniE sketch and it compiled and installed on the Arduino just as advertised. This may seem insignifigant, but as a total electronics novice, this is a major accomplishment. I have tried several other sketches and have yet to get to this step with them.
    I am adding the Easystepper board and the dead on timer. The only item I’m missing is the MiniE shield.
    As a non-electronics person, I am sure that there are many people like me who would love to be able to assemble these components together, load a working system, like your’s and go out and get some work done.
    If you can’t produce the shield yet, maybe you could give us the information where we could order a copy of the board you have above and a list of components needed.
    I would buy the assembled shield (and have voted in your poll) if it were offered. You should use the poll as a guide to the popularity of your system. If these components were offered as a complete product, many more photographers who might not be interested in building a system but would love to have a the ability to drive a slider and camera would purchase the product.
    Put the system you have shown above in a functional box and you have a salable product that is easy to advertise and promote. The only way you can produce your shield is to make it. I think it’s time for a Kickstarter project. The Timelapse+ project raised over $60k. This could probably do that also.
    Go for it.


    • Could not agree more, go for it!
      I’m doing a timetrapper and miniE combo right now, would love to see yours in mass-production aswell. Just as a shield is good enough, even better as a ready-to-use item, just do it cheaper than timetrapper.
      Following all your steps, love the project!

  2. I am very interested in this and would be willing to provide tooling to make an functional custom enclosure and sell at cost to anyone that would want one. Would like to match this to our existing slider system and keep it open source as well. Will be one of the first to purchase from your store when your up and running.


  3. I can’t open the files miniE_arduino_shield_v1-3.sch and miniE_arduino_shield_v1-3.brd, can you help me?

  4. Problem solved, I had installed the 5.8.0 version, now I have the last, thank you very much for your help, greetings from Spain.

  5. Hi Airic,

    As I am planning to control two motors (one for the dolly and one to pan my ballhead) I am curious to know whether there is any way to trigger/control more than one Easydriver?

    • Hello aun,
      in the current version there is no option for controlling two motors. It would be possible hardware wise though – for example with an Arduino Mega, but the software has no copability yet to do this kind of control.


  6. Hey Airic, just received my kit – great project!
    I’m wondering what would be a fitting stepper motor to carry a Canon 5D mkII camera and would appreciate you’re experience and knowledge in helping e make the right purchase.
    Thanks – and keep up the great work.

    • Hej Adi,

      it’s always great to hear that people like the project – thanks!

      Regarding the motor – ans answer is quite difficult because I don’t know anything about your dolly / track system. Do you want to realize vertical moves too? …

      In general it is a good idea to add some kind of gearing to improve the forces the motor can create (especially if vertical moves are required). A worm drive would be perfect for this. Also use the full 0.75A the EasyDriver provides. So if you for example use a motor rated with ~3V and 0.75A and then drive it with 12V, you would receive close to the maximum the system can provide.


      • Airic thank you for your reply – I’ll look for “worm drive”, since I know nothing about it. Is it simply a mechanism?

  7. HI!
    I have been running my kit for a while but have problems as I cannot set date/time(everything else works just fine). Clock module is mounted battery up as per instructions in assembly guide

    • Hello UndCon,

      can you please let me know what the problem actually is? It’s a little bit hard to help with just the info that something is not working. 😉


  8. HI!
    When I go into settings for System time I cannot change values
    (the rig is at work so I cannot take any pictures right now, ill post a reply tomorrow)

    If I recall correct it says 146 146 146 in all fields for date/time.

    I will replace the battery to see if that is the cause, the solders all looks OK to me but I can reheat them a bit and see if it changes. Hmm Friday tomorrow, can bring the gear home so you can see better pictures

    here is a test with the old camera…

    • I guess it’s because you are using an Arduino Mega. The I²C port to communicate with the RTC is located at the pins A4 and A5 on the UNO. On the Mega they are located near the AREF pin (20 & 21) and are not connected in any way to the pins A4 and A5:


      Try it with an UNO, I think it will work then.


  9. Hello Airic
    First of all, thank you for the incredible work!
    I want to to solve a question before buying the miniE shield. What is the use of LS1 and LS2?
    Thanks in advance,

      • Hello Airic,

        Thanks for the quick reply. Yes, I have already downloaded the docu, the extra librarie, compiled the code, etc. And then I have seen these buttons, but I don’t understand what are they for… Sorry if its a dumb question.

        • Hello, the limit switches are supposed to be placed at each end of your dolly-track. When the dolly reaches one end of the track, a limit switch is activated and this causes the engine to stop immediately.

          A typical limit switch can look like this:

          image by Sparkfun.com

          I hope this helps understanding their purpose.


          • Completely! Thank you very much, now I understand completely your great system! 🙂


          • Hello!

            The limit switches work great – when the motor tries to move the dolly and the switch is triggered it immediately backs up to avoid damages to dolly-mechanism – But when moving to motor home the switches does not stop the dolly.

            I found that out after disengaging my belt drive and forgot to reset motor home position.


          • Hello,
            I just checked the code and the routine used for the regular motor movement is exactly the same as used for the “motor-home” functionality. So the triggers should work in both cases (same code executed). Has someone else the same problem?


  10. Hello Airic,
    I just want to congratulate you for your excellent work. After soldering the components, I programmed the Arduino UNO and everything worked perfectly. Until the moment all is running absolutely Plug and Play. Great job and thank you very much for sharing.

    Greetings from Spain,

  11. I have problems about miniE,
    1. If the miniE shield were sandwich together with the arduino and lcd keypad shield, the miniE program not working, lcd goes blank.
    2. If the miniE shield were removed from sandwich, the miniE program works.

    Can you solve my problems?

    • Hello,

      can you please open a thread in the forum and post some more details there (e.g. pictures of your shield)? I can not help you from what I know so far.

      (Did you adjust the LCD contrast?)


  12. Hello Airic

    Greets from Romania.

    First of all, thanks for sharing this great project.
    It robbed me so far approx 3-4 hours per night in the last three weeks and I’m still having fun.

    Second, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to find out that the first usage of My prototipe of MiniE was to … mutate my fairly normal QUIGG Office Laminator into an effective Heat Transfer PCB machine 🙂
    I needed a faster way to produce PCB’s.

    Third, my intention is to use MiniE mainly for the Point and Shoot cameras modded by the marvelous CHDK software. Taking into consideration that this can be done via a +5V pulse on the camera USB port i’ve hacked the Shutter port and created an additonal CHDK trigger socked. It should work just fine, power requirements much much lower compared to the available 40mA of the Arduino.

    Fourth. The motor. This is killin me.
    Before getting into this Arduino stuff, I allready constructed my time-lapse dolly and it’s based on DC motors that have gears. Your schematic is for stepper only ( 🙁 ) so the only Ideea that came to me was to add a relay hooked on the SLEEP signal and this relay is actually turning my motor on and off. The only problem is how to convert “steps” into “seconds” 🙂 Haha ha…that’s fun. Unfortunatelly, my Frankenstein gives me trouble. I’ve used an RC ESC hooked to a servo tester in order to regulate the DC motor but the ESC…hm…is to smart for this motor switching and randomly starts an internal protection mechanism inside…hm.

    Fifth. A lot more to talk about but I’ll stop now.
    My plan is somehow to merge the beauty of your software with the L293 controller (like the one used by Dynamic Perception) to have my dream dolly. Or…why not: build a huge shield that would accomodate both stepper and dc motor. (yeah, I know…this would require serious software changes…)

    the end.
    multumesc frumos Airic

  13. Hey Airic

    I have a focus problem, the arduino is not sending the command to the 4N35 optocoupler. After changing a couple of 4N35`s, I still have the problem. Now i am confused if this is a problem of the program, camera settings or optocoupler.

    Thanks, and hope to hear soon from you.

    • Hello Khabes,

      I don’t know the shield from Sparkfun and never tested the system with this shield. If it is pin-compatible you can surely give it a try and report what the result is.

      Please use the forum for this kind of questions in the future. Thanks, Airic

  14. Good morning, Airic.

    I bought the V1 miniengine.
    Do not get the camera to work, I changed the two 4N35 and still the same.

    In the scheme of 4N35, the Cathode, pin 2 serves to GND. In miniengine plate, pin 2 not receiving a signal.

    Any solution ??

    Thank you very much.


  15. Great product,

    is there a posibility to trigger the modul extern?

    I search for a modul with only one stepper motor and with external trigger function.

    Thanks Lukas

    • Hello Lukas! The miniEngine v1 has no external trigger functionality while version2 has 2 trigger inputs which can be used for example for starting the shot.


    • oh .. and a DRV8825 stepper driver instead of the EasyDriver would be fine?

  16. bonjours je débute avec arduino j’ai fait tous les montage comme dit installer le uno les shilde 1.3 et le lcd 1602 mes qu’elle code ou comment bien le programmer pouvez vous m’aidé svp

    • voici le message qui me donne quand je vérifie-
      que doit on faire svp
      This report would have more information with
      “Show verbose output during compilation”
      enabled in File > Preferences.
      Arduino: 1.0.6 (Windows Vista), Board: “Arduino Uno”
      miniE:219: error: ‘DateTime’ does not name a type
      miniE:457: error: ‘RTC_DS1307’ does not name a type
      miniE:459: error: ‘DateTime’ does not name a type
      miniE.ino: In function ‘void setup()’:
      miniE:559: error: ‘RTC’ was not declared in this scope
      miniE.ino: In function ‘void loop()’:
      miniE:774: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      miniE:774: error: ‘RTC’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_eeprom.ino: In function ‘void write_config()’:
      mE_eeprom:257: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_eeprom.ino: In function ‘void load_config()’:
      mE_eeprom:341: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program.ino: In function ‘boolean check_programFuture()’:
      mE_program:58: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program:58: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program.ino: In function ‘void add_newProgram()’:
      mE_program:88: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program:88: error: ‘RTC’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program.ino: In function ‘void delete_program()’:
      mE_program:127: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program.ino: In function ‘void check_programs()’:
      mE_program:183: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program:195: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program:195: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program:208: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_program:208: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui.ino: In function ‘void do_screen()’:
      mE_ui:272: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content.ino: In function ‘void paint_status_screen()’:
      mE_ui_content:168: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content.ino: In function ‘void fill_screen_array()’:
      mE_ui_content:319: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content:329: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content.ino: In function ‘void paint_status_time()’:
      mE_ui_content:1240: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content:1261: error: ‘RTC’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content:1261: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content:1267: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content:1268: error: ‘time’ was not declared in this scope
      mE_ui_content.ino: In function ‘void paint_status_program_time()’:
      mE_ui_content:1350: error: ‘program_datetime’ was not declared in this scope

      • Did you read the documentation? Everything needed for building the miniE v1.3 is explained in there. For questions there is the forum (not this comment section). This specific “error” was already discussed in the forum – many times. You need to install all needed libraries – otherwise it will not work.

  17. bonjour pouvez vous me dire qu’elle batterie externe je doit mettre pour le montage complet arduino uno miniev1.3 et le clavier lcd moteur bipolaire pas a pas 12v et 2 switch stop moteur et ou la brancher aussi svp je débute et ne voudrait pas faire de bêtise merci a vous math

  18. Hello Airic
    I want to buy your system for control my dolly, but i can’t found the best Power supply for the MiniE V1.3.

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