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DIY 100mm MIDI fader control box

puffer3

New Member
I play synthesizers and drums mostly, but as I've pivoted towards learning about scoring, I found the little knobs and sliders on my MIDI controllers to be sort of inexpressive for playing with sample libraries and even more limiting when working with tricky filter combos in Zebra2.
I found this thread on gs that pointed me towards building a simple faderbox for controlling some MIDI CC's (I currently use pro tools). It is based on the Teensy microcontroller, which is like a very tiny computer that you can load code onto and make do neat things. 


My day job is at an electronics recycling facility so I was able to "upcycle" many parts of this project, bringing the cost down to about the same as take out for 2. I had already hoarded some Teensy microcontrollers that came from some college lab before they were chucked into the recycler and I quite liked the look of this intercom box that I managed to rescue before it was "demanufactured." I purchased 4 bournes 100mm faders for around $20, bought a micro to panel mount USB extender for $8, some matching screws and nuts from home depot $6 and a matte black can of spray paint for $7. A friend who works at a college was kind enough to laser cut the panels for me, which was a nice favor! I designed the panels in Photoshop and they came out pretty good. My friend used mirrored plexi, which at first I was adverse to, but now I quite like.

The soldering was as easy as it gets (I skipped the LED on the original GS project) and loading the code was not too difficult as I had updated a few Teensy based eurorack modules before. Anywhoo, I am posting this here to inspire anyone who doesnt want to pay for a fadermaster to give it a go and try and build something similar. I have loved using it so far, it really makes controlling software more fun. Take a look at the initial gearsl*ts thread for more specific instructions and of course I am happy to answer any questions if I can.



Here is the intercom case I started with. Built very well! Thanks Louroe wherever you are!

encloser_faderbox.jpg


Here are some of the parts. Salvaged wire and Teensy plus the 4 faders I bought.
parts.jpg


Here are the faders installed in the faceplate. I soldered the teensy to a salvaged blank PCB to make it easier to mount. The USB cable goes to the back panel there and is mounted with mismatched screws (>_<)


I cut extra holes thinking I could use the code from the 16n fader bank to add CV outs ( i do some modular synthesis ) but that is for a later revision. This unit was first and foremost an expression controller for MIDI CC's.

panel and install.jpg


Here are the panels installed for the initial testing. After laser cutting the panels my friend went back with a stepper bit to add the space for recessed screw head to keep out of the way of the faders. This was probably the most difficult part of the whole project and they came out a bit chunky.
rear.jpg



Tests went well. I spray painted it and put it on my desk. Now i need a better weighted midi keyboard to compose my masterpiece ! Its easy to assign which CC's it controls in the code, tho later I might figure out how to add a little display and let u pick the CC's right on there but I want to compose not endlessly fiddle with electronics (oh no those are almost the same thing to me :) ) finished.jpg


The soldering is as easy as soldering gets and loading the code is not too tough either. The hardest part is putting it all in a sleek box that feels sturdy. I put some rubber feet on the bottom and it really doesn't budge!
 
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ReelToLogic

Still have my reel-to-reel
Nice job! I've built a fair amount of electronics in my day and I'm impressed with the clean professional look of your finished box.
 

ironbut

Senior Member
That's fantastic!
Any chance you could link a place where I could learn to load code for faders into a teensy module?
 
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puffer3

puffer3

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That's fantastic!
Any chance you could link a place where I could learn to load code for faders into a teensy module?

Thanks Jay but i actually modified the code and instructions from this gs post:



https://www.gearslutz.com/board/mus...r-w-100mm-sliders-under-100-2018-edition.html


tho they are likely very similar.

I did use the Teensyduino to load the code and all I adjusted was making it 4 faders instead of the original three and changed the CC's (both changes described in the gs post) I didn't code anything from scratch.




Loading the code is as simple as installing the Teensyduino program, plugging in a micro usb, copying the code and pressing the load button! pretty easy but still maybe a bit confusing at first. I bet having multiple sets of instructions and reading thru them is helpful for that. I'm sure we can help if you have any questions.
 

ironbut

Senior Member
Awesome guys!
Maybe I'll get around to building one too, but my primary aim is to be able to support the FaderCtls that are out in the wild already.
I think there are a under 200 (mine included) and while it works great now, who knows what the future may hold.
 

Jay Panikkar

Introduce A Little Anarchy
@puffer3 Oops, sorry, linked the wrong article.

Have you encountered any latency problems with your faders? Especially after using it for a prolonged period of time? Any issues with the USB buffers?

I'm mainly interested in making a XY pad using the touch sensitive pins on the Teensy; but I think getting a properly calibrated touch pad will be a challenge. Will update if any progress.
 
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puffer3

puffer3

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@puffer3 Oops, sorry, linked the wrong article.

Have you encountered any latency problems with your faders? Especially after using it for a prolonged period of time? Any issues with the USB buffers?


So far its been gravy. I will do a stress test on the buffers and let u know


Great idea on an XY pad. I had a dream of a 3 xy pad specifically for controlling zebra but I need to focus on making music not more doodads rn haha.
 

synthesizerwriter

Bits and bites of sound and silence...
@puffer3 Nice controller! I have always found that finding a 'right' sized and shaped case is the hardest part of building something. I have a box full of various cases that just weren't the correct angle, thickness, etc. when I actually tried them out. For some reason, no-one seems to make cases that I really like...
 
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puffer3

puffer3

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@puffer3 Nice controller! I have always found that finding a 'right' sized and shaped case is the hardest part of building something. I have a box full of various cases that just weren't the correct angle, thickness, etc. when I actually tried them out. For some reason, no-one seems to make cases that I really like...


Same! I walked by this intercom in the scrap pile for almost a week before I was like "This is actually the perfect case!!"
 

synthesizerwriter

Bits and bites of sound and silence...
I keep having this recurring thought that there must be a viable business making cases/enclosures that people actually want to use... But do I want to go through founding another start-up?
 

HotCoffee

Member
I keep having this recurring thought that there must be a viable business making cases/enclosures that people actually want to use... But do I want to go through founding another start-up?
Yeah. Perhaps this already exists, but what I really want, is a web site where you can design your own box (online CAD), then have it manufactured, all by the same company. Perhaps the prices would be too high for the average DIY:er though.
 

synthesizerwriter

Bits and bites of sound and silence...
Here are some '3D printing on demand one off' web-sites (I'm in the UK - search using the quoted term to get companies localised to you...). Prices are not as high as I expected...and capabilities vary enormously.

https://www.3dprint-uk.co.uk/xyz-price-estimator/
https://3dprintdirect.co.uk (Seem to be 'hobbyist' oriented...)
https://xometry.eu/en/3d-printing/ (This is the 'Hans Zimmer' equivalent!)
https://mnl.co.uk/online-quote-ordering/ (£50 minimum order)


There's a bit of a learning curve to ascend, but if you read this forum then you already know all about learning obscure software applications! You will need some 3D drafting software to produce the required format of file that describes your box (STL, OBJ, AMF, and 3MF are four common ones, apparently), and from experience in other fields, I would suspect that you are going to get the first 2 or 3 attempts wrong, so the 4th might be usable.

I'm going to try doing a small 'monitor switching box', and will report back with my results...
 
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synthesizerwriter

Bits and bites of sound and silence...
OK, so I've kicked off the '3d Printing On Demand' route, as promised.

I used TinkerCAD, a free web-app, from AutoCAD, to produce 2 STL files for a box and lid. Nothing complex, just a small box for a monitor switching box.

box and lid picture.png

I used 3dprint-uk.co.uk to do the prototype. Their online quote generator took the STL files and showed me what the box and lid would look like (useful confirmation!) and how much they would cost. The cost was about twice what a similar sized plastic or die-cast metal 'hobbyist' box would cost, except that this box was exactly the size I wanted, and could have any holes, legends or decoration on it that I wanted. I chose the 7-10 days economy service, ordered two sets of box and lid so that I was over the £40 minimum order value, and now I'm waiting for a parcel to arrive.

The TinkerCAD web-app was very easy to use, with lots of tutorials. I would almost suggest that trying to do your own UI in NI's Kontakt is harder...

The 3dprint-uk.co.uk web-site had various estimators and feedback views, and made it very easy to place an order.

All in all, so far it has been pretty painless - although it is two companies rather than one. Once I've got the box I will post some photos and then think about a more sophisticated design more suited to sliders...
 
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HotCoffee

Member
Please do post photos! I'll checkout TinkerCAD, thanks for the tip!

I ordered most of the parts today, including two generic cases. They were pretty cheap (around £10 each), and I will probably use them as temps while writing the code and testing the electronics. I'll make sure to start a separate DIY thread when I start building. I can't wait.

Meanwhile, I'll just have this on repeat for inspiration... so darn beautiful (although I would have preferred a matte finish):

 

synthesizerwriter

Bits and bites of sound and silence...
Here's an angled box which is more like I would want for a slider box...

angled box.png I'm considering making this box design (and others) in TinkerCAD available publicly, for anyone to use and tweak. Would anyone be interested in specialist box designs like these?
 

HotCoffee

Member
Here's an angled box which is more like I would want for a slider box...

View attachment 51140 I'm considering making this box design (and others) in TinkerCAD available publicly, for anyone to use and tweak. Would anyone be interested in specialist box designs like these?
I'm am very new to the DIY scene, but I suspect that many DIY:ers would be interested in a library of different box/case models that would get them in the ballpark of what they need.
 
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