Custom Controller Makes Turbomolecular Pump Suck

[Mark Aren] purchased a pair of Turbomolecular pumps (TMP) sans controllers, and then built an FPGA based BLDC controller for the Turbomolecular pumps. A TMP is similar to a jet turbine, consisting of several stages of alternating moving turbine blades and stationary stator blades, and having turbine rotation speeds ranging from 10,000 rpm to 90,000 rpm. TMP’s cannot exhaust directly to atmosphere, and must be combined with a backing (or roughing) pump to create a lower grade vacuum first. They find use in lots of applications such as electron microscopy, analytical sciences, semiconductors and lamp manufacturing. With the lamp industry rapidly embracing LEDs, many of the traditional lamp making lines are getting decommissioned, and if you are lucky, you can snag a TMP at a low cost – but it still will not be cheap by any means.

The two BOC-Edwards EXT255H Compound Molecular Pumps (PDF), that [Mark] bought did not have their accompanying EXC100E Turbomolecular Pump Controllers (PDF), and given pandemic related restrictions, he decided to build a controller of his own, using components and modules from his parts bin. The pump and controller user manuals offered only sketchy details about the sensored BLDC motor used in the pump. The low phase-to-phase resistance implied low drive voltage, and [Mark] decided to try running it at 24 V to start with. He already had experience using the Mitsubishi PS21245-E IGBT inverter bridge, and even though it was rated for much higher voltages, he knew that it would work just fine at 24 V too.

After figuring out a state machine for motor commutation that utilized PWM based adjustable current control, he implemented it on a 128 element FPGA board. Considering how expensive the TMP was, he wisely decided to first try out his driver on a smaller “expendable” BLDC motor. This whole process was non-trivial, since his available IGBT module was untested and undocumented, and required several tweaks before he could run it at the required 12 kHz PWM signals. His test motor was also undocumented, failing to run correctly when first hooked up. Fixing that issue meant having to disassemble the motor to check its internal wiring. Eventually, his efforts paid off, and he was able to safely run the TMP motor to confirm that his design worked.

With FPGA code, IGBT wiring and power supply issues sorted, the next step was to add a supervisory micro-controller, using an Arduino Nano. Its functions included interfacing with a touch screen LCD as a user interface, communicating with the FPGA module, and controlling several relays to switch power to the motor power supply, the roughing pump, TMP cooling fan, and a solenoid for the vacuum vent. Spindle current is calculated by measuring voltage drop across shunt resistors on the low side of the IGBT. Motor speed is measured using one of the motor hall sensors, and a thermistor provides motor temperature sensing. [Mark]’s PCB fabrication technique seems a bit different too. Using an Excellon drill file, he drills holes in a piece of plastic using a laser cutter to create a bare board, and then solders copper tracks by hand.

His initial tests at atmospheric pressure (although not recommended unless you monitor pump temperature), resulted in 7300 rpm while consuming about 7 Amps before he had to shut it down. In further tests, after adding a roughing pump to the test setup, he was able to spin the TMP to 20,000 rpm while it consumed 0.6 A. Obviously, the pump is rated to operate at a higher voltage, possibly 48 V based on the values mentioned in the TMP controller manual. The project is still “work in progress” as [Mark] hopes to eventually drive the pump up to its specified 60,000 rpm operating speed. What is not clear is what he eventually intends to do with this piece of exotic machinery. All he mentions is that “he has¬†recently taken an interest in high-vacuum systems and is interested in exploring the high-vacuum world of electron guns.”

Maybe [Mark] can compare notes with the Open Source Turbomolecular Pump Controller that we featured some time back. And if you’d like to be a little bit more adventurous and build you own TMP, we got you covered with this DIY Everyman’s Turbomolecular Pump.

How To Improve A Smart Motor? Make It Bigger!

Brushless motors can offer impressive torque-to-size ratios, and when combined with complex drive control and sensor feedback, exciting things become possible that expand the usual ideas of what motors can accomplish. For example, to use a DC motor in a robot leg, one might expect to need a gearbox, a motor driver, plus an encoder for position sensing. If smooth, organic motion is desired, some sort of compliant mechanical design would be involved as well. But motors like the IQ Vertiq 6806 offered by [IQ Motion Control] challenge those assumptions. By combining a high-torque brushless DC motor, advanced controller, and position sensing into an integrated device, things like improved drone performance and direct-drive robotic legs like those of the Mini Cheetah become possible.

IQ Vertiq 6806 brushless DC motor with integrated controller, driver, and position sensing.

First, the bad news: these are not cheap motors. The IQ Vertiq 6806 costs $399 USD each through the Crowd Supply pre-order ($1499 for four), but they aren’t overpriced for what they are. The cost compares favorably with other motors and controllers of the same class. A little further than halfway down the Crowd Supply page, [IQ Motion Control] makes a pretty good case for itself by comparing features with other solutions. Still, these are not likely to be anyone’s weekend impulse purchase.

So how do these smart motors work? They have two basic operating modes: Speed and Position, each of which requires different firmware, and which one to use depends on the intended application.

The “Speed” firmware is designed with driving propeller loads in mind, and works a lot like any other brushless DC motor with an ESC (electronic speed control) on something like a drone or other UAV. But while the unit can be given throttle or speed control signals like any other motor, it can also do things like accept commands in terms of thrust. In other words, an aircraft’s flight controller can communicate to motors directly in thrust units, instead of a speed control signal whose actual effect is subject to variances like motor voltage level.

The “Position” mode has the motor function like a servo with adjustable torque, which is perfect for direct drive applications like robotic legs. The position sensing also allows for a few neat tricks, like the ability to use the motors as inputs. Embedded below are two short videos showcasing both of these features, so check them out.

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The Spin Cycle: Washing Machine Motor Converts 10-Speed To E-Bike

The “Spin Cycle” is an amazing electric bicycle built using a motor salvaged from a washing machine; when the puns are this perfect you have to roll with them. [jimminecraftguy’s] creation is one of the most hacked-together yet functional electric vehicle we’ve seen in a long time.

The drive train of this bicycle starts with a brushless DC motor from a washing machine. It has been slightly modified to run on 48 volts, and is installed inside the triangle of the bike’s frame. It has a chain driving the bike’s crank, retaining the original chain and gearing setup (unlike many electric bike hacks that utilize hub motors). The crank has also been specially modified to include a freewheel, a necessary feature so that the motor can operate without spinning the pedals. Everything except the motor has been custom fabricated including the mounts and the electronics.

[jimminecraftguy] reports speeds of 110 kph which is a little crazy for a 20-year-old aluminum frame bike, and we’d guess it’s not street legal in many jurisdictions, but we can’t really find much fault with this build in general based on the amount of innovation required to get this working at all. A few more improvements for the build are in the works, including improved batteries and a cover for the sides to keep the local law enforcement from getting too suspicious. We can’t wait to see the final version. Continue reading “The Spin Cycle: Washing Machine Motor Converts 10-Speed To E-Bike”

Steampunk Brushless Motor Demo Pushes All The Maker Buttons

We’ll be honest right up front: there’s nothing new in [David Cambridge]’s brushless motor and controller build. If you’re looking for earth-shattering innovation, you’d best look elsewhere. But if you enjoy an aimless use of just about every technique and material in the hacker’s toolkit employed with extreme craftsmanship, then this might be for you. And Nixies — he’s got Nixies in there too.

[David]’s build started out as a personal exploration of brushless motors and how they work. Some 3D-printed parts, a single coil of wire, and a magnetic reed switch resulted in a simple pulse motor that performed surprisingly well. This morphed into a six-coil motor with Hall-effect sensors and a homebrew controller. This is where [David] pulled out all the stops on tools — a lathe, a plasma cutter, a welder, a milling machine, and a nice selection of woodworking tools went into making parts for the final motor as well as an enclosure for the project. And because he hadn’t checked off quite all the boxes yet, [David] decided to use the 3D-printed frame as a pattern for casting one from aluminum.

The finished motor, with a redesigned rotor to deal better with eddy currents, joined the wood and metal enclosure along with a Nixie tube tachometer and etched brass control plates. It’s a great look for a project that’s clearly a labor of self-edification and skill-building, and we love it. We’ve seen other BLDC demonstrators before, but few that look as good as this one does.

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Take A 3D Printed Brushless Motor Demo For A Spin

It used to be a staple of junior high physics class to build some sort of motor with paperclips or wire. A coil creates a magnetic field that makes the rotor move. In the process of moving, brushes that connect the coil to the rest of the circuit will reverse its polarity and change the magnetic field to keep the rotor turning. However, brushless motors work differently. The change in magnetic field comes from the drive controller, not from brushes. If you want to build that model, [Rishit] has you covered. You can see his 3D printed model brushless motor running in the video below.

Usually, you have a microcontroller determining how to drive the electromagnets. However, this model is simpler than that. There are two permanent magnets mounted to the shaft. One magnet closes a reed switch to energize the coil and the other magnet is in position for the coil to attract it, breaking the current. As the shaft turns, eventually the second magnet will trip the reed switch, and the coil will attract the first magnet. This process repeats over and over.

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Fun-Size Tesla Might Be The World’s Smallest

We get all kinds of tips about “the world’s something-est” widget, which normally end up attracting the debunkers in droves. So normally, we shy away from making superlative claims about a project, no matter how they bill themselves. But we’re comfortable that this is the world’s smallest Tesla, at least if we have to stretch the definition of Tesla a bit.

This clown-car version of the Tesla Model S that [Austin] built is based around a Radio Flyer replica of the electric sedan. The $600 battery-powered original doesn’t deliver exactly the same neck-snapping acceleration of its full-size cousin, so he stripped off the nicely detailed plastic body and put that onto a heavily modified go-cart chassis. The tiny wheelbase left little in the way of legroom, but with the seat mounted far enough back into the wheelie-inducing zone, it was possible for [Austin] to squeeze in. He chose to pay homage to Tesla’s battery pack design and built 16 modules with fourteen 18650 cells in each, a still-substantial battery for such a small vehicle. Hydraulic brakes were also added, a wise decision since the 4800 Watt BLDC is a little snappier than the stock motor, to say the least. The video below shows the build, as well as a dangerous test ride where the speed read 72 at one point; we’re not sure if that’s MPH or km/h, but either way, it’s terrifying. The drifts were pretty sick too.

It seems [Austin] has the need for speed, and for drifting.¬† We’ve seen his water-cooled electric drift trike before, as well as his ridiculously overpowered crazy cart.

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Dambusting, R/C Style

Disclaimer: no dams were actually busted in the making of the video below. But that doesn’t mean that a scale-model homage to the WWII Dam Busters and their “Bouncing Bombs” isn’t worth doing, of course.

In a war filled with hacks, [Barnes Wallis]’ Bouncing Bomb concept might just be the hackiest. In the video below, [Tom Stanton] explains that [Wallis] came up with the idea of skipping a bomb across the surface of a lake to destroy enemy infrastructure after skipping marbles across the water. Using barrel-shaped bombs, he built a rig that could give them the proper amount of backspin and release them at just the right time, letting them skip across the surface of the lake while the bomber made an escape. Upon hitting the rim of the dam, the bomb would sink to explode near the base, maximizing damage.

[Tom]’s scale rig ended up being a clever design with spring-loaded arms to release a 3D-printed barrel after being spun up by a brushless motor. He teamed up with R/C builder [James Whomsley], who came up with a wonderful foam-board Lancaster bomber, just like RAF No. 617 Squadron used. With a calm day and smooth water on the lake they chose for testing, the R/C Lanc made a few test runs before releasing the first barrel bomb. The first run was a bit too steep, causing the bomb to just dive into the water without skipping. Technical problems and a crash landing foiled the second run, but the third run was perfect – the bomb skipped thrice while the plane banked gracefully away. [Tom] also tried a heavy-lift quadcopter run with the bomb rig, something [Barnes Wallis] couldn’t even have dreamed of back in the day.

Hats off to [Tom] and [James] for collaborating on this and getting the skipping to work. It reminds us a bit of the engineered approach to rock-skipping, though with less deadly intentions.

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