The circuit, assembled on a purple PCB, with a large capacitor and a sizeable white resistor, wires soldered to holes in the PCB

Protect Your Drivers When The Motor Stalls

[Mark Rehorst] tells us about a tragic incident involving an untimely demise of $200 worth of motor driving hardware, and shares a simple circuit so that we can prevent such tragedies in the future. His Arrakis sand table project has quite a few motors involved, and having forgotten to add limits into the software, he slammed a motor-driven mechanism into a well-fixed part of the table. The back EMF of the motor created a burst of energy, taking out the motor driver, the controller board, and the power supply.

With the postmortem done, he had to prevent this from happening again – preferably, in hardware. Based on a small appnote from Gecko Drives, he designed a simple PCB that shunts the motor with a high-power resistor, as soon as the current starts flowing into a direction it’s not supposed to flow into. He goes in depth about the way that the circuit works and the reasoning behind parts selection, as well as shows an LTSpice simulation and shares the PCB files. This was his first time designing PCBs in KiCad, and we believe he’s done a great job! This worklog is certainly worth reading if you’d like to understand how such circuits work and what goes into building one.

He dubs this a “bank account protection” circuit, and we can absolutely relate. It’s not just CNC tables that need such protections of course – we’ve seen a solution for small hacky makeshift electric vehicles, for instance. A motor’s generative properties aren’t always a problem, however – here’s just one example of a hacker trying to put them to good use.

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Tripping Out: A Field Guide To Circuit Protection

My introduction to circuit protection came at the tender age of eight. Being a curious lad with an inventive – and apparently self-destructive – bent, I decided to make my mother a lamp. I put a hose clamp around the base of a small light bulb, stripped the insulation off an old extension cord, and jammed both ends of the wires under the clamp. When I plugged my invention into an outlet in the den, I saw the insulation flash off the cord just before the whole house went dark. Somehow the circuit breaker on the branch circuit failed and I tripped the main breaker on a 200 amp panel. My mother has never been anywhere near as impressed with this feat as I was, especially now that I know a little bit more about how electricity works and how close to I came to being a Darwin Award laureate.

To help you avoid a similar fate, I’d like to take you on a trip (tee-hee!) through the typical household power panel and look at some of the devices that stand at the ready every day, waiting for a chance to save us from ourselves. As a North American, I’ll be focusing on the residential power system standards most common around here. And although there is a lot of technology that’s designed to keep you safe as a last resort,¬†the electricity in your wall can still kill you. Don’t become casual¬†with mains current!

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