Dumpster diving nets 100 Arduino-powered motor controllers

Never one to pass up the recycle pile at work, [Scott] usually doesn’t find much. A few old hard drives, maybe a ancient laptop every once in a while, but on very rare occasions he finds something actually useful. This latest haul is a gaggle of stepper motor drivers that, with a bit of work, can be reverse engineered and turned into an Arduino.

After prying into one of the plastic-enclosed boards, [Scott] found a LED, a quartet of transistors for powering the motor, and an ATMega168 microcontroller. Interestingly, most of the pins for the 168 were already broken out on the DA15 connector on each controller. The only thing needed was to build a programmer to dump the Arduino bootloader onto these little widgets.

After much trial and error (and building a new programming interface), [Scott] now has 100 Arduinos with a single stepper motor controller built in. He’s already made a toy light cycle rotate on a small stepper (after the break) and blink a LED, but with this many widgets, we’re wondering what crazy contraption [Scott] will come up with.

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USBPIC controls just about anything

Over the last few years, [Michael] has been developing a PIC microcontroller board. He calls his project USBPIC, and with the addition of a few FET drivers, H-bridges, and LED drivers his homemade dev board can handle just about anything thrown at it.

[Michael]’s board is build around a PIC18F2455 microcontroller with both an In Circuit Serial Programming header and support for a USB port included. Instead of going for a modular format where the board can expanded through shields or expansion cards, [Michael] decided to make three different versions of the USBPIC.

The TRANS USBPIC includes eight FETs for switching off high current devices totaling 32 Amps. The MATRIX board has twice as many outputs as the TRANS board, but uses ULN2803 or UDN2982 chips for driving smallish-current devices. Finally, the HBSW board takes a TRANS board and replaces four FETs with a an L298 H-bridge chip for driving two DC motors.

For what [Michael] lost in modularity, we think he gained a very tidy microcontroller board capable of driving everything from robots to LED matrix displays.

Open source brushless motor controller

It’s been a long time coming, but efforts to create Open Source brushless motor controller are finally paying off.

The Open-BLDC project aims to create an open source motor controller for the brushless motors usually found in remote control airplanes, helicopters, and quadcopters. Normally, these motor controllers – usually called electronic speed controllers – can’t supply more than a few dozen amps, and are usually only controllable via a servo signal.

The Open-BLDC goes far beyond the capabilities of off-the-shelf ESCs with up to 200 amps of output, TTL level serial input, and the ability to use regenerative breaking.

While the Open-BLDC project is far from complete, the team working on the hardware hopes to add I2C, CAN, and PPM interfaces, along with speed and torque control.

There is no word on when, or even if, the Open-BLDC will ever be available for sale, but with the features it has it would be welcomed by just about any builder constructing a gigantic RC vehicle.

CPLD motor control

[Chris] continues cranking out the tutorials, this time around he’s showing how to use a CPLD for simple motor control. The demo hardware is pretty basic, he built his own FPGA/CPLD demo board a few years back which used a PLCC socket for easy interfacing. You should be able to use just about any gear you have on hand.

Of course the thing about these chips is that you’re working with hardware that can be run in parallel. [Chris] mentions that this is what makes it perfect for timing-critical applications. Here he’s using a motor driver that monitors a PWM signal, using the duty cycle to actuate the direction and speed at which the motor turns. After the break you can see a demonstration of the CPLD reading from an ADC chip and converting the value to a PWM signal. [Chris] has also used the same hardware for VGA signals; something that is usually a timing nightmare if done with a microcontroller.

If this leaves you thirsting for more CPLD goodness check out our own guide on the subject.

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Motor controller also does nyan cat

As a freshman at UC Berkeley, [Keegan] has been helping out with his school’s Pioneers in Engineering program that gives high school students some hands on experience with engineering principles, usually by building robots. This year, [Keegan]’s project is a motor controller that just so happens to play the nyan cat song over the motor PWM output.

The motor controller is meant to replace the Pololu simple motor controller the PiE team is currently using. Onboard is an H-bridge chip and an ATmega328 that takes commands from an I2C bus. The ‘328 is loaded up with the Arduino bootloader making the firmware very accessible – a good thing for the high school students that will be building and programming these robots.

[Keegan] put up the Eagle files for the board up on the PiE Wiki. For now, just enjoy the dulcet tones of the pop tart cat theme song after the break.

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Repair a misbehaving motor controller board

It can be a real drag to fix a circuit board which has stopped working as intended, especially if you don’t have any reference material for the product. That’s the position that [Todd Harrison] found himself in when the controller for his mini-lathe gave up the ghost. He undertook and hefty repair process and eventually mapped out and repaired the driver board.

First off, we’re happy to report his success at the end of a year-long troubleshooting process; the entirety of which occupies six different posts. The link at the top is the conclusion, and you’ll find his final test video after the break. But as you can see from the image above, he was met with a lot of problems along the way. The first two segments show him reverse engineering the PCB, with a giant schematic coming out of the process. In part 3 he then started probing the board while it was live, with the smell of hot electronics causing him to disconnect the power every thirty seconds. One time he took too long and blew a resistor with the pictured results.

In the end it was a shorted PWM chip to blame. He tested a couple of different replacement options, dropped in the new part, and is now back in business. Continue reading “Repair a misbehaving motor controller board”

Motor drivers: half h-bridge with brake and more

Here’s a nice little circuit that will drive a motor and allow you to stop its rotation, giving your robot a set of brakes. It’s part of [JM’s] post about the in’s and out’s of building microcontroller friendly motor controllers (translated).

This particular setup is a half H-bridge. It allows you to drive the motor in one direction only. The MOSFET used on the ground-side of the motor doesn’t actually need to be there. This is the brake which let you electronically stop the motor from spinning. Without it, the motor will keep turning under its own momentum when the half-bridge is shut off. Depending on the application this can be a big problem. There’s a great demonstration of the circuit braking a fast spinning motor in the video clip below the fold.

It is possible to use this driver with PWM, but [JM] has some warnings about inbuilt functions like FastPWM. Make sure you read his admonition, and if you need a refresher don’t miss this Hackaday video segment.

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