Open Actuator System: Maker Muscle

Customizable linear actuators made easy....and cheaper.

Similar projects worth following
While working on a project that required an specific actuator, I realized the linear actuator market is not very maker friendly when it comes to customization and cost. In trying to find a solution, I decide to make my own instead and came up with a modular actuator system that's lower cost, super customizable and adds a bunch of other benefits to fit the exact needs I have.

I'm calling this project "Maker Muscle" and this is the first public posting of this new invention in which I would like to keep things open and hopefully get some great feedback from the community to make it awesome.

Main Features:
- Fully customizable to almost any Length, Power/Speed, Motor
- Lower cost than any custom actuator you can find.
- T-Slots on all sides for infinite mounting options
- Easy to upgrade or replace parts
- Add only what you need to make your perfect actuator.
- Get features only previously available in super expensive industrial versions.

The Quick Story:

Back a few years ago, I built a 3d scanning rig for my 3D printing store in Pasadena (Seen here with Metalnat). The purpose was to offer 3d selfies and then 3d print them (as we did at Hack-A-Day's 10th Anniversary party, room with green windows on right in the timelapse Eventually people kept asking me if they can buy it, and so last year I started working on a more portable (the current one was 2 meters tall, not easy to travel with) and sturdy one to offer on Kickstarter.

In the process of designing it, I came to a part where I wanted a nice looking, smooth and precise actuator to move an arm. After shopping around a lot, I realize that adding an actuator like what I needed was actually going to cost more than the whole rig it self...and I still wouldn't have the specifics I needed.

This gave me the idea to explore what it would take to create an amazing actuator while having it be much cheaper than getting some custom ones made (that were literally quoted above $1200 each!)

When I started, I made a list for myself of the features I wanted in the actuator and integrated them into the design. After some research, 3d printing some body housings shapes, and testing, I came up with the Maker Muscle concept.

I then went to a few friends that are actively working with robotics and got some amazing feedback. The great thing was that they asked me when they can get some Maker Muscles for their own projects... I said "soon my friends..."

....and that's how I got this started.

Details about target feature.

1. Has to be Customizable.

This is my most important goal for this project. Looking around the actuator market, I found that most actuators that can be customized in some way were super expensive (Check pricing at Misumi:

a. Custom Lengths

b. Custom Motor

c. Custom Screw Pitch

2. Modular

Being able to upgrade or change parts on an actuator, without buying a whole new one, I think is a critical feature to have. Modularity would save both time and money in a situation where you have an actuator already installed on something specific, but you just want to swap out the motor or a mounting bracket.

This is where the motor mount plates and attachments will come into play. As of now, you can install everything from steppers motors like NEMA 14, NEMA 17, NEAM 23 to almost any DC motor, with or without gearboxes.

I understand some Makers have a variety of motors they love to work with or maybe some robot contest have rules on the motor types, so with the Maker Muscle, you can turn your favorite motor into an actuator.

3. Must be lower cost.

Creating a standard for mounting and fittings allows for more universal options that would be cheaper to produce. Starting with the main core aluminum extrusion, the features i design into it will allow a huge of cheap options to mount things on to it.

4. Must allow many mounting option with T-Slots.

I love T-Slots. The Bukito 3D printer we designed in 2013 was a great example of how T-slots can be used to reduce parts and also give you the option to tweak or add more things with little effort.

So on the Maker Muscle, I thought that having T-slots on the outside would open up a world of creative mounting options that I think Makers and take advantage of in new ways never done before.

Write up in progress....more to come....


Total motor diversity with the Maker Muscle.

JPEG Image - 240.51 kB - 05/03/2017 at 01:25


Quick tests of motion and some electronics with bluetooth of my first prototype Maker Muscle actuator.

quicktime - 31.01 MB - 04/21/2017 at 02:43


View all 13 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Andrew wrote 05/27/2019 at 22:41 point

Since there seems to be NO SOURCE FILES provided, no update in quite some time, and what seems to be yet another failed kickstarter campaign, i have started to reverse engineer this design concept and have published my initial drafts up on github.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mogens wrote 01/23/2020 at 20:35 point

Actually I have done somewhat the same but based it on a readily available type of aluminium profile. I really liked the Maker Muscle custom profile though... I have just put my project up here on hackaday:

  Are you sure? yes | no

dekutree64 wrote 05/12/2019 at 15:49 point

How is the thrust load handled on this? Dumped on the motor bearings, or is there some sort of thrust bearing inside the tube or motor mount?

  Are you sure? yes | no

GrayPillow wrote 05/31/2017 at 03:37 point

I am looking for Application of my system ( I think there will be more amazing fearures when put your project and mine together.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Deezmaker wrote 05/31/2017 at 18:49 point

I agree! I was looking into Mechaduino ( also, and yours seem similar too. These would make the Maker Muscle a pretty awesome servo actuator system.

  Are you sure? yes | no

GrayPillow wrote 06/01/2017 at 01:54 point

Yes,Mechaduino is an amazing project, I love it very much. I build AnanasStepper 2.0 is a whole motion control system, which has some upgrade . You may like AnanasStepper 1.0 ( which is more simple and cheap.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Francois Bujold wrote 05/20/2017 at 22:12 point

The project title refer to it as "open".  Besides the extrusion that is custom made, are the part files and drawing publicly available? I was looking at standard 40x0 extrusion instead of the custom one, Have you ever tried/consider some  40x40 extrusion?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Deezmaker wrote 05/31/2017 at 18:31 point

I'm going to post the parts as soon as I'm happy with them and are in a more finalized state for production. I have a few folks trying them out to see if I have to tweak anything, but yes, they will be published here sometime after the Kickstarter.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Andrew wrote 08/08/2018 at 15:32 point

any update on this? I'd like to try 3d printing my own prototype of this to test. I already have a spool of white igus tribo filament with low coeficient of friction. Can you publish the CAD files for use? Thanks!

  Are you sure? yes | no

tangert wrote 05/15/2017 at 20:50 point

So why the kickstarter if you already have the material?  Why not just start selling it?  I would buy some right now depending on the price.  Also when is this kickstarter starting its the middle of May.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Deezmaker wrote 05/31/2017 at 18:29 point

It's for several reasons, but a couple is that I wanted to get feedback from the general market and second, to raise enough funds be able to make the other parts which cost quite a bit to get molds made. I want most parts to be Acetal (Delrin) injection molded so they can be strong and durable. If you just get the "Core" reward, it'll be delivered pretty fast.

  Are you sure? yes | no

RX HMP wrote 05/05/2017 at 09:39 point

very interested in costs. you do say cheaper but I cant see how.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Deezmaker wrote 05/31/2017 at 18:16 point

For the features you can have (like stepper motors), it's way cheaper than getting a custom actuator made.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kirschner Christoph wrote 04/04/2017 at 03:37 point

i'm very interessted in your project!! 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Deezmaker wrote 04/21/2017 at 02:49 point

Thanks! It's coming along great so far.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Deezmaker wrote 04/21/2017 at 02:50 point

Looks like you might be able to use this for your Solar project, and maybe even for the Cable Cutter.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates