Project lead: Manuel Lopez



This project intends to create a modular linear motion system that can extend as long or short as needed. The system consists of a single stepper motor, stepper motor driver, microcontroller, aluminum extrusion and carriage assembly. Fishing line is used to drive the system; this brings down the cost of the system. The system will be able to be used using just the Arduino IDE or with the HyperGUI.


  • Create a linear motion system that can have any length

  • Rail system should be able to mount on tripods or building structure

  • Controlable from GUI or simple Arduino IDE




The HyperRail idea came from the need to analyze a crop using hyperspectral imaging. The system needs to be able to go very slow and at a consistent speed. The most logical way to do this was using a stepper motor and some kind of rail. I searched for linear railing and concluded that aluminum extrusion would be a good solution for this system. I also found a stepper motor that has a small form factor and 400 steps/ revolution. If I combined this motor with a good stepper motor driver, I would be able to increase the steps from this motor. I found the Big Easy Driver from Sparkfun electronics; this increased the steps to 6400 because it was able to do 1/16 stepping with stepper motors. The CAD model below shows that idea that we had in mind and the implementation. 

3D CAD Model

After the actual production of all of the pieces in the CAD design, we actually did a deployment of this design in greenhouse on campus. This deployment will be imaging pine seedlings. The picture below shows the HyperRail installed and ready to go. 

First deployment of the HyperRail 

First deployment of the HyperRail 

This system doesn't have to be installed on a structure of a building, it was actually first designed to be put on tripods so that the whole system would be portable in the case it would be setup out on field and then be taken down. The picture below shows a demo version of the HyperRail with the RFID reader for the RFID Moisture project attached.

Demo version of the HyperRail with soil moisture sensor sytem installed

Demo version of the HyperRail with soil moisture sensor sytem installed

The HyperRail was designed to be a modular system in many aspects. The first one was length; this system should be able to be as long or short as the user needs it to be. For this reason the system uses a single motor and idler pulley to move the carriage that carries the sensor system. The next modular element is the sensor mounted on it. The plate on the HyperRail has a variety of holes so that you can mount any sensor system on it. Another very important aspect is the mounting system. It can be mounted on the structure of a building or tripods. The current demo setup has inserts for the aluminum extrusion so that the rail clips on to the tripods, making this a very quick setup. Another plus about the setup is that the tripods offer a variety of heights. 

The system can be controlled using a custom software application or just a command line interface from Arduino. Here is the picture of both. 

HyperRail application

HyperRail application

Command line interface    

Command line interface 


The application is geared towards people who do not have a background in programming and just want a plug-and-play solution. The command line interface gives your more control on what the HyperRail does because you compile the source code and then start talking to the HyperRail; it lets you change code and see the effect from the change really quickly. Both are perfectly good to use, but one is more user-friendly than the other one.  


This system is very versatile in its implementation and utility. It can be used for a variety of sensors such as C02, temperature, soil moisture, humidity, or any sensor system that you can imagine. It can also be used to just move an object very slowly and at a precise speed. The possibilities of the use for this system are endless. The system is very easy to setup if you are setting it up on tripods and it take a little longer if you are doing a building deployment. A big plus is that you can choose the user interface you want to use. If you want to get going, you can just use the application, and you want to add more functionality you can use the Arduino interface and add/delete code you want, compile it, and run it. 


I will be working to change the microcontroller to a Feather 32u4 so that we can control it using radio. This will add wireless communication from and to the HyperRail's drive system.  If your system wants to talk to the drive system and autonomously move its location, it would be able to talk to the HyperRail and tell it where  it would go. 

Demo Video



HyperRail, Hyperspectral 



  • Software
    • Processing. (2017). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ben Fry and Casey Reas.
    • Arduino. (2018). Italy: Massimo Banzi, David, Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino, and David Mellis.



  • Tutorials coming soon!