Spline Thieving Makes Hobby Servos Even More Useful

For years the proprietary spline pattern of rc servos has been a dealbreaker for hobbyists who want to add custom shafts and gears to their servos. First, different servo sizes have different spline sizes, and each vendor equips their servos with different patterns. True, some special vendors sell custom gears that mate to these patterns, but, overall, the hard-to-replicate pattern has severely limited the output options for servos.

This pattern didn’t deter [JB], however. With some clever CAD skills, and two working implementations, he’s demonstrated that these spline patterns can be (1) harvested and (2) added into custom components, opening a new suite of design opportunities involving servos.

To capture the spline, [JB] imports an image into Solidworks, and traces the pattern on a properly scaled image. From there, he can embed this pattern directly into a physical model for fabrication.

To make parts that preserve this pattern, [JB] has two options. With his FormLabs printer, he can print components that already have the pattern feature, allowing him to press-fit custom links directly onto servos. Alternatively, for a sturdier component, he presents the milling method. With this technique, he drills a circle of bolt holes onto the desired output shaft and then mills out the center. From here, the shaft can also be directly pressed onto the servo spline where each spline groove fits snugly into the edge of the previously-drilled holes.

So, how well do they work? According to [JB] he’s actually managed to do some damage to himself before damaging to the 3D-printed part while trying to strip the pattern. The end-goal is to insert these shafts into transmissions for a miniature combat robot, another one of [JB’s] projects which is well-underway. Until then, we’re looking forward to seeing more servos tightly-integrated into upcoming projects.

Futaba 10C radio modified for Spektrum module compatibility


The Futaba 10C radio (non-module version) is [Tom]’s transmitter of choice. Unfortunately,  it isn’t compatible with the Spektrum DSM2 technology modules he wanted to use. So, being the crafty guy he is, he decided to hack it so it was.

Upon opening the Futaba transmitter, he realized that the non-module version of the 10C didn’t really seem that different than a module version. His transmitter just has a pcb hardwired in place where the modules would otherwise go. He soldered a 4 conductor audio jack to the unused pins on the pcb in the transmitter, then mounted it in the case with some J.B. Weld. He then wired and mounted the receiving jack in the module case. A small 6 inch audio cable bridges the two devices, and velcro holds them neatly together.

He discovered that certain modules have problems with the channels being out of order. Unless someone comes up with a firmware hack, there’s no way to remap the controls. So, some modules are just not compatible. [Tom] gives a very nice video walkthrough after the break. Check it out.

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Adding shoulder buttons to an RC transmitter


[Gerard] does puppeteering and animatronics work, and to remotely control his creations and characters he uses an off-the-shelf remote control radio. It’s you basic 6-channel setup, but [Gerard] wanted a way to control eye blinks and other simple actions with the press of a button. Sure, he could use the toggle switches on his transmitter, but he wanted something that wouldn’t require turning a servo on and off again. To fix this problem, [Gerard] added shoulder buttons to his transmitter with only a little bit of soldering.

[Gerard]’s transmitter uses toggle switches to send a signal on channels five and six. To add his push buttons, he simply drilled a hole in the plastic enclosure, installed a pair of push buttons, and wired them in parallel to the toggle switches.

Now [Gerard] has momentary switches on channels five and six, perfect for making his creations blink. Since the buttons are wired in parallel with the switches, flicking the switches to the ‘on’ position in effect takes the button out of the circuit, just in case the transmitter gets jostled around.

Parts: 4×20 VFD character display (NA204SD02)


Futaba makes vacuum florescent character displays that can be used as a drop-in replacement for common character LCDs. VFDs have a wider viewing angle, and generally look cooler.

Futaba’s character displays can be interfaced using the standard 8-bit or 4-bit parallel LCD interface, or a simple two-wire protocol. The protocol type is set by resistors on the back of the display, so it’s not particularly easy to change without a hot-air rework station. Today we’ll demonstrate a serially-interfaced VFD using the Bus Pirate.

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