I've made some strides on my Arduino powered dividing head the past few days. Here's a little background for what I am doing. First, the Arduino micro controller.
Available online for under $30, has 32K memory, numerous analog and digital inputs and outputs, including serial and PWM.
Next, the Sainsmart LCD display and keyboard shield
This board is called a shield because it is pin compatible with and piggybacks right on top of the Arduino board. It has a 2 line x 16 character display and 5 input keys plus a reset. The keys are configured like the cursor keys on a PC having a left, right, up, and down as well as a select. So, with this shield in place, the microcontroller can be used with only a power supply and doesn't have to be tethered to a computer. The keys provide input and the LCD provides the display.
Here is the Sainsmart shield mounted on the Arduino...
The Sainsmart gets its power from the Arduino.
The Arduino is programmed by hooking it up to your PC through a USB cable. This also provides power to the Arduino board. A free programming environment is available for the PC and allows you to develop programs in a language that looks almost exactly like C. There are a host of standard libraries for interfacing to LCD's, keyboards, wireless, serial devices, and others. You write the programs and compile them on the PC. The compiler then automatically downloads the program to your Arduino. Once the program is loaded on the Arduino, you can decouple it from the computer and run it off a separate power supply from 9 - 12 volts. The program will stay in the Arduino memory even when the power is switched off.
So this is the basis for controlling my electronic dividing head. The up and down arrow keys will be used to set the number of divisions I want, then the left and right arrow keys will be used to step forward or backward one division at a time. The program I have written will calculate the number of stepper steps need for each division and keep track of the position I'm on. The display shows the number of divisions and the current dividing head position.
I have purchased a stepper driver board that is about the size of a postage stamp and will power a stepper of up to 2 amps, 35 volts. I still have to select the stepper motor I want to use and build the mechanical part of the dividing head. Still have a few challenges ahead of me.