3D-Printed Halbach Motor Part Two: Tuning, Testing

Building your own Halbach-effect brushless DC motor is one thing. Making sure it won’t blow up in your face another matter, and watching how [Christoph Laimer] puts his motor to the test is instructive.

You’ll remember [Christoph]’s giant 3D-printed BLDC motor from a recent post where he gave the motor a quick test spin. That the motor held together under load despite not being balanced is a testament to the quality of his design and the quality of the prints. But not wishing to tempt fate, and having made a few design changes, [Christoph] wisely chose to perform a static balancing of the rotor. He also made some basic but careful measurements of the motor’s parameters, including the velocity constant (Kv) using an electric drill, voltmeter, and tachometer, and the torque using a 3D-printed lever arm and a kitchen scale. All his numbers led him to an overall efficiency of 80%, which is impressive.

[Christoph] is shipping his tested BLDC off to the folks at FliteTest, where he hopes they put it to good use. They probably will — although they might ask for three more for a helicarrier.

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Fly Across the Water on a 3D-Printed Electric Hydrofoil

Paddleboards, which are surfboard-like watercraft designed to by stood upon and paddled around calm waters, are a common sight these days. So imagine the surprise on the faces of beachgoers when what looks like a paddleboard suddenly but silently lurches forward and rises up off the surface, lifting the rider on a flight over the water.

That may or may not be [pacificmeister]’s goal with his DIY 3D-printed electric hydrofoil, but it’s likely the result. Currently at part 12 of his YouTube playlist in which he completes the first successful lift-off, [pacificmeister] has been on this project for quite a while and has a lot of design iterations that are pretty instructive — we especially liked the virtual reality walkthrough of his CAD design and the ability to take sections and manipulate them. All the bits of the propulsion pod are 3D-printed, which came in handy when the first test failed to achieve liftoff. A quick redesign of the prop and duct gave him enough thrust to finally fly.

There are commercially available e-foils with a hefty price tag, of course; the header image shows [pacificmeister] testing one, in fact. But why buy it when you can build it? We’ve seen a few hydrofoil builds before, from electric-powered scale models to bicycle powered full-size craft. [pacificmeister]’s build really rises above, though.

[pacificmeister], if you’re out there, this might be a good entry in the Hackaday Prize Wheels, Wings, and Walkers round. Just sayin’.

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Hand-Wound Brushless Motors Revive Grounded Quad

You’re happily FPVing through the wild blue yonder, dodging and jinking through the obstacles of your favorite quadcopter racing course. You get a shade too close to a branch and suddenly the picture in your goggles gets the shakes and your bird hits the dirt. Then you smell the smoke and you know what happened – a broken blade put a motor off-balance and burned out a winding in the stator.

What to do? A sensible pilot might send the quad to the healing bench for a motor replacement. But [BRADtheRipper] prefers to take the opportunity to rewind his burned-out brushless motors by hand, despite the fact that new ones costs all of five bucks. There’s some madness to his method, which he demonstrates in the video below, but there’s also some justification for the effort. [Brad]’s coil transplant recipient, a 2205 racing motor, was originally wound with doubled 28AWG magnet wire of unknown provenance. He chose to rewind it with high-quality 25AWG enameled wire, giving almost the same ampacity in a single, easier to handle and less fragile conductor. Plus, by varying the number of turns on each pole of the stator, he’s able to alter the motor’s performance.

In all, there are a bunch of nice tricks in here to file away for a rainy day. If you need to get up to speed on BLDC motor basics, check out this primer. Or you may just want to start 3D printing your own BLDC motors.

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Balancing Robot Needs Innovative Controller and Motor

A self-balancing robot is a great way to get introduced to control theory and robotics in general. The ability for a robot to sense its position and its current set of circumstances and then to make a proportional response to accomplish its goal is key to all robotics. While hobby robots might use cheap servos or brushed motors, for any more advanced balancing robot you might want to reach for a brushless DC motor and a new fully open-source controller.

The main problem with brushless DC motors is that they don’t perform very well at low velocities. To combat this downside, there are a large number of specialized controllers on the market that can help mitigate their behavior. Until now, all of these controllers have been locked down and proprietary. SmoothControl is looking to create a fully open source design for these motors, and they look like they have a pretty good start. The controller is designed to run on the ubiquitous ATmega32U4 with an open source 3-phase driver board. They are currently using these boards with two specific motors but plan to also support more motors as the project grows.

We’ve seen projects before that detail why brushless motors are difficult to deal with, so an open source driver for brushless DC motors that does the work for us seems appealing. There are lots of applications for brushless DC motors outside of robots where a controller like this could be useful as well, such as driving an airplane’s propeller.

Powerful, Professional Brushless Motor from 3D-Printed Parts

Not satisfied with the specs of off-the-shelf brushless DC motors? Looking to up the difficulty level on your next quadcopter build? Or perhaps you just define “DIY” as rigorously as possible? If any of those are true, you might want to check out this hand-wound, 3D-printed brushless DC motor.

There might be another reason behind [Christoph Laimer]’s build — moar power! The BLDC he created looks more like a ceiling fan motor than something you’d see on a quad, and clocks in at a respectable 600 watts and 80% efficiency. The motor uses 3D-printed parts for the rotor, stator, and stator mount. The rotor is printed from PETG, while the stator uses magnetic PLA to increase the flux and handle the heat better. Neodymium magnets are slipped into slots in the rotor in a Halbach arrangement to increase the magnetic field inside the rotor. Balancing the weights and strengths of the magnets and winding the stator seem like tedious jobs, but [Cristoph] provides detailed instructions that should see you through these processes. The videos below shows an impressive test of the motor. Even limited to 8,000 rpm from its theoretical 15k max, it’s a bit scary.

Looking for a more educational that practical BLDC build? Try one cobbled from PVC pipes, or even this see-through scrap-bin BLDC.

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3-Phase BLDC Motor Controller will Run you $20 in Parts

If you’re an active shopper on RC websites, you’ll find tiny motors spec’ed at hundreds of watts while weighing just a few grams, like this one. Sadly, their complementary motor controllers are designed to drive them at a high speed, which means we can only hit that “520-watt” power spec by operating in a max-speed-minimum-torque configuration. Sure, that configuration is just fine for rc plane and multicopter enthusiasts, but for roboticists looking to drive these bldc motors in a low-speed-high-torque configuration, the searches come up blank.

The days in the dust are coming to an end though! [Cameron] has been hard at work at a low cost, closed-loop controller for the robotics community that will take a conventional BLDC airplane motor and transform it into a high end servo motor. Best of all, the entire package will only run you about $20 in parts–including the position sensor!

“Another BLDC motor controller?” you might think. “Surely, I’ve seen this before“. Fear not, faithful readers; [Cameron’s] solution will get even the grumpiest of engineers to crack a smile. For starters, he’s closing the loop with a Melexis MLX90363 hall effect sensor to locate the rotor position. Simply glue a small magnet to the shaft, calibrate the magnetic field with one revolution, and–poof–a wild 14-bit encoder has appeared! Best of all, this solution costs a mere $5 to $10 in parts.

Next off, [Cameron] uncovered a little-known secret of the ATMEGA32u4, better known as the chip inside the Arduino Leonardo. It turns out that this chip’s TIMER4 peripheral contains a feature designed exclusively for 3-phase brushless motor control. Complementary PWM outputs are built into 3 pairs of pins with configurable dead time built into the chip hardware. Finally, [Cameron] is pulsing the FETs at a clean 32-Khz — well beyond the audible range, which means we won’t hear that piercing 8-Khz whine that’s so characteristic of cheap BLDC motor controllers.

Curious? Check out [Cameron’s] firmware and driver design on the Githubs.

Of course, there are caveats. [Cameron’s] magnetic encoder solution has a few milliseconds of lag that needs to be characterized. We also need to glue a magnet to the shaft of our motor, which won’t fly in all of our projects that have major space constraints. Finally, there’s just plain old physics. In the real world, motor torque is directly proportional to current, so stalling an off-the-shelf bldc motor at max torque will burn them out since no propeller is pushing air through them to cool them off. Nevertheless, [Cameron’s] closed loop controller, at long last, can give the homebrew robotics community the chance to explore these limits.

Build Your Own Brushless Motor

Building an electric motor from a coil of wire, some magnets, and some paper clips is a rite of passage for many budding science buffs. These motors are simple brushed motors. That is, the electromagnet spins towards a permanent magnet and the spinning breaks the circuit, allowing the electromagnet to continue spinning from inertia. Eventually, the connection completes again and the cycle starts over. Real brushed motors commutate the DC supply current so that the electromagnet changes polarity midway through the turn. Either way, the basic design is permanent magnets on the outside (the stationary part) and electromagnets on the inside (the rotating part).

Brushless motors flip this inside out. The rotating part (the rotor) has a permanent magnet. The stationary part (the stator) has multiple electromagnets. By controlling the electromagnets, the rotor spins. With no brushes, these motors are often more efficient, they don’t generate as much electrical noise, and there is no danger of brushes wearing out. In addition, the electromagnets staying put make the motor easier to wire and, if needed, easier to cool the electromagnets. The principle of operation is similar to a stepper motor. Steppers are usually optimized for small precise steps. Brushless motors are optimized for spinning, not stepping.

[Axbm] built a clever brushless motor out of little more than PVC pipe, some magnets, wire, and iron rods. The plan is simple: construct a PVC frame, build a rotor out of PVC and magnets, and mount electromagnets on the frame. An Arduino and some FETs drive the coils, although you could drive the motors using any number of methods. You can see the whole thing work in the video below.

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