The inner workings of servo motors

Servos seem to be the go-to option when adding motors to hobby projects. They’re easy to hack for continuous rotation for use in a robot, but with the control board intact they are fairly accurate for position-based applications. But do you know how the hardware actually works? [Rue Mohr] recently published an article that looks at the inner world of the servo motor.

As you know, these motors use a voltage, ground, and signal connection for control. The position of the horn (the wheel seen on the servos above) is dependent on that control signal. The duty cycle of a 20 ms pulse decides this. Inside the housing is a control board capable of measuring this signal. It’s got a chip that monitors the incoming PWM pulses, but that’s only half of the equation. That controller also needs feedback from the horn to know if its position is correct or needs to be changed. Integrated with the gear box that connects the motor to the horn is a potentiometer. It’s resistance changes as the horn turns. Knowing this, it is possible to fine tune a servo by altering that resistance measurement.

Crafting a hexapod with an RC controller

Here’s a fantastic project that lets to drive a hexapod around the room using an RC controller. [YT2095] built the bot after replacing the servo motors on his robot arm during an upgrade. The three cheapies he had left over were just begging for a new project, and he says he got the first proof-of-concept module put together in about an hour. Of course what you see above has gone through much improvement since then.

The three motors are epoxied together, with the one in the middle mounted perpendicular to the motors on either side of it. Those two are responsible for the front and rear leg on each side, with the third motor actuating the two middle legs. It’s a design we’re already familiar with having seen the smaller Pololu version. You might want to check that one out as there’s some slow motion video that shows how this works.

[YT2095] added control circuitry that includes an RF receiver. This lets him drive the little bot around using a transmitter with four momentary push switches on it. We love the idea of using copper clad for the foot pads.