Tutorial explains the concepts behind an IMU

[Anilm3] wrote in to share the IMU tutorial series he is working on. An Inertial Measurement Unit is most often found in self-balancing robots and quadcopters, providing enough high-speed sensor data to keep up with the effects of gravity.  He previously used some all-in-one IMU devices in school which did most of the work for him. But he wanted to grind down and look at what each sensor spits out and how those measurements are used. The first installment deals with the accelerometer, using its data to calculate pitch and roll. For these demonstrations [Anilm3] is using this ADXL345 sensor board, an Arduino, and some processing sketches for testing.

Whenever working with sensors you need to take noise into consideration. The post shows how to implement a low-pass filter in the code which will help smooth out the readings. The filtered data is then fed to a couple of mostly-painless formulas which calculate the movement of the accelerometer in degrees. The demonstration sketch is mapped to a 3D cube to give you an idea of how accurate the accelerometer is. There’s a little bit of lag which would let a self-balancing robot have a nasty fall. The solution to this issue will be discussed in upcoming parts of the series. The next installment tackles the gyroscope sensor.

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All About Accelerometers

If you’ve ever wondered about the use of or theory behind or the use of accelerometers, this tutorial by Love Electronics is a very good resource. In this article, Love takes one through how to hook up an ADXL345 accelerometer and use it with a Netduino processor. Before the subject of hooking everything up is broached, a very good discussion is given on the general theory and operation of accelerometers.

Information is given about installing all the required software and libraries. Additionally, a mini tutorial about writing a “hello” application using the .NET framework is given. Finally, the application gives the [Windows Presentation Foundation] tools necessary to visualize the raw data that the Netduino produces.

One could really start using this processor and accelerometer from scratch with this tutorial and some basic electronics knowledge.  This could add a great new feature to your next robot or allow measurement that couldn’t be done with simpler sensors.

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