Flexure PCB Actuators Made Before Your Very Eyes

When we see something from [Carl Bugeja], we expect to see flexible PCBs and magnets being pushed to do unexpected things. His latest video in which he designs a set of PCB actuators using flexure joints certainly doesn’t fail to please.

His intent is to create a simple actuator in which a magnet is placed over a coil, and moves upward within the confines of he flexure which surrounds it. And rather than try individual designs one after the other he’s created a huge all-in-one test array of different flexure actuators, each having a slightly different design and construction to whichever one is next to it. There are plenty of magnet flips as he tests them, and using this approach he’s quickly able to eliminate the designs which work less well.

To give an idea how these actuators might be best used, he tried them in a few applications. Their lifting force is relatively tiny, but he found them possibly suitable for a haptic feedback device. Of particular interest is that as the structure is a PCB it’s relatively straightforward to run a line to the magnet and turn it into a touch sensor. The idea of an all in one sensor and haptic feedback component is rather appealing, we think.

If you’ve not seen Carl’s work before, we’ve encountered him many times over the years.

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Flapping PCB Fan Blows A Little Bit

Moving air with spinning blades is the most popular way, but it is not the only way. Using the PCB actuator technology he has been working on for the past few years, [Carl Bugeja] built a small electromagnetic flapping fan using a custom flexible PCB.

Inspired by expensive piezoelectric fans ($400 for a 30mW fan), [Carl] wanted to see if a cheaper alternative could be made. Using a similar design to his other PCB actuators, he had a custom flexible PCB made with an integrated coil, which can flex on two thin supports. These supports also contain the power traces for the coil. By sticking the base of the PCB between two neodymium magnets, it can flap back and forth when driven by an alternating current. It produces a bit of airflow, but nearly enough to be useful. The power traces in the thin supports also break after an extended period of 180° flapping.

Although this probably won’t be a viable replacement for a rotary fan, it would be interesting to see how far one can push this approach by optimizing the design and magnet arrangement.

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Tiny PCB Motor Robot Is Making Its First Wobbly Moves

[Carl Bugeja] has been working on his PCB motors for more than three years now, and it doesn’t seem like he is close to running out of ideas for the project. His latest creation is a tiny Bluetooth-controlled robot built around two of these motors.

One of the main challenges of these axial flux PCB motors is their low torque output, so [Carl] had to make the robot as light as possible. The main board contains a microcontroller module with integrated Bluetooth, an IMU, regulator, and two motor drivers. The motor stator boards are soldered to the main board using 90° header pins. The frame for the body and the rotors for the motors are 3D printed. A set of four neodymium magnets and a bearing is press-fit into each rotor. The motor shafts are off-the-shelf PCB pins with one end soldered to the stator board. Power comes from a small single-cell lipo battery attached to the main board.

The robot moves, but with a jerking motion, and keeps making unintended turns. The primary cause of this seems to be the wobbly rotors, which mean that the output torque fluctuates throughout the rotation of the motor. Since there are only two points of contact to the ground, only the weight of the board and battery is preventing the central part from rotating with the motors. This doesn’t look like it’s quite enough, so [Carl] wants to experiment with using the IMU to smooth out the motion. For the next version, he’s also working on a new shaft mount, a metal rotor, and a more efficient motor design.

We look forward to seeing this in action, and also what other application [Carl] can come up with. He has already experimented with turning it into a stepper motor, a linear motor, and a tiny jigsaw motor.

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Superconference Interview: Carl Bugeja

It’s an exciting time of year for us, not because Christmas is on the horizon, instead for something far more exciting than that! The Hackaday Superconference is nearly upon us, our yearly gathering of the creme de la creme of the hardware hacking world for a fascinating program of lectures and other events. We can’t wait, and we hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.

A particularly stimulating part of the Supercon experience comes from the people you rub shoulders with as you attend, whether or not you will have seen their work on these pages they represent a huge and fascinating breadth of experience and skill. It’s the incidental conversations at events like this that are the most fertile, because from them comes inspiration that can feed all manner of things.

One of last year’s hits came from Carl Bugeja, when he gave a talk about his impressive work with using printed circuit boards to construct electric motors and magnetic actuators. We’ve seen the various iterations of his work evolving in these pages, and at last year’s event he also gave an interview to our own Elliot Williams, and we’re happy to bring you the resulting video after the break.

We’d love to be able to reveal a hidden stash of Supercon tickets, but sadly it’s all sold out. We can however direct you to the livestream of the event which begins at 10 am Pacific time on November 15th. Be sure to head on over to the Hackaday YouTube channel, and subscribe.

Meanwhile it’s worth pointing those lucky ticket holders to the Supercon ticketing page since we’ve added more tickets to the previously-sold-out workshops. Now, enjoy Carl’s interview, and we hope you’ll join us for Superconference whether you do so online or in person.

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