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. [Read more...]

Building a LED strip the minimal way

For his first big build with an MSP430, [Javon] decided to an RGB LED fader. Having worked with Arduinos in the past, he figured that his MSP430 would have a few PWM channels. After being proved wrong by the data sheet, [Javon] needed to figure out a way to switch a bunch of RGB LEDs with only one PWM channel on his microcontroller.

Because there was only one PWM pin on [Javon]‘s micro, he needed a way to multiplex his output. He ended up using a 74HC4052 mux/demux chip to drive 20 LEDs. The LEDs were mounted onto hard board and the main part of the circuit built on a bit of perfboard. While there’s no total cost for his build, we’re guessing [Javon] didn’t spend much on his project; certainty much less than this explosion of LEDs.

[Javon] put all the build pictures up as a Google+ album and a few video demos up. Check those out after the break (009 Sound System warning, you might want to hit mute).

[Read more...]

Dimming AC lights the hard way

It’s that time of year again where the thermometer drops, the sun sets earlier, and we try to warm our hearts with the solstice festival that is common in our own respective cultures. Of course we all need a few strings of lights, but wouldn’t it be great if we had PWM controlled dimmable lights?

When he started out on his PWM-controlled, AC-powered light box, [Waterbury] immediately realized that relays were not going to be an optimal solution. The best way out of the mess he dug himself into would be via zero crossing. After getting a transformer wired up to a transistor for the detection circuit, a short bit of code was written in the wee hours of the morning and a proof of concept was had.

With the control box complete, [Waterbury] hacked up a quick VB app and piped the output of a WinAmp visualizer into the lights via serial. The Inception demo was great, but finer-grain control was needed. After seeing a Hack a Day post on a nice equalizer chip, the seven band output on IC were converted to UART.

[Waterbury] took his seven-band AC-controlled light box to a Halloween party with his synth and the results looked awesome. You can check that out after the break, but we’re really waiting to see his Christmas decorations this year.

[Read more...]

Follow up: Star Wars tree gets an upgrade


We asked, and [Zach] listened.

Earlier this week, we featured a circuit he built which allowed his tiny Star Wars Christmas tree to visually replicate the series’ theme song. Several of you, along with myself, thought it would be far cooler if the tree also played the music to accompany the light show, so [Zach] set off to add that functionality.

Worried that the music would get annoying if it played along with the lights constantly, he tweaked his circuit design to incorporate a piezo buzzer that could be easily switched on and off. After wiring it to the MSP430 driving the light show, he tweaked the program to output signals to both the light string and buzzer simultaneously.

While the light show accurately represented the song, he initially ignored flat and sharp notes as they would be indistinguishable to the eye. In audio form however, the missing notes would be glaringly obvious, so he re-transcribed the sheet music resulting in the video you see below.

If you happened to follow [Zach’s] lead and put one of these together in your own house, be sure to swing by his site and grab the latest code, complete with audio track.

[Read more...]

The force is strong with this Christmas tree light show


[Zach] is a huge Star Wars fan, and in addition to the array holiday decorations that adorn his house, he says that his wife is nice enough to let him put up a Christmas tree full of Star Wars ornaments. For the past few years, the tree sat in the corner of the room unlit, but his wife thought that it should have some lights this year.

His wife came home with a small string of battery-operated lights, but [Zach] wanted something with a bit more geek cred. He decided to program the lights to play the Star Wars theme song, translating the tune’s pitch to light intensity.

He dug through his bin of electronics and found an MSP430 along with a small target board that would do the job nicely. He sat down with some sheet music, translating the notes to PWM values, resulting in the light show you see below.

While his wife provided a lovely violin accompaniment to the tree, we think that a small audio module would make a great addition to the tree next year.

[Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

Detailed tutorial shows how to unleash your inner [Michael Knight]


Our own [Mike Szczys] recently sat down and put together a great tutorial on building a Larson Scanner. The ubiquitous circuit is usually one of the first few projects on a budding hackers list of things to build, since they are just so darn fun.

Simple versions of the scanner sweep back and forth lighting the LEDs without any sort of transition between them. The configuration most familiar to us all as featured in Knight Rider and Battlestar Galactica are a bit more complex, and have a fading trail of light that follows behind the leading edge of the sweep. [Mike] notes that this fading is traditionally accomplished through the use of capacitors, which cause the light to gradually fade as the animation sweeps across the LED array. He decided to take a different route with his circuit, relying on PWM control of the LEDs instead.

Mike put together a simple circuit using an ATmega168, a handful of resistors, and of course, an array of LEDs. Utilizing interrupts and PWM, he was able to accurately recreate the iconic light sweep without the use of any capacitors. One big benefit to his design aside from the lower component count is the fact that he can easily adjust the speed of the sweep as well as the fading properties with a few small code tweaks.

Be sure to check out his blog at some point, where he shares his code, some circuit diagrams, and plenty more details on how his scanner was built. In the meantime, take a look at the video below to see the result of [Mike’s] work.

[Read more...]