Gorgeous Engineering Inside Wheels of a Robotic Trail Buddy

Robots are great in general, and [taylor] is currently working on something a bit unusual: a 3D printed explorer robot to autonomously follow outdoor trails, named Rover. Rover is still under development, and [taylor] recently completed the drive system and body designs, all shared via OnShape.

Rover has 3D printed 4.3:1 reduction planetary gearboxes embedded into each wheel, with off the shelf bearings and brushless motors. A Raspberry Pi sits in the driver’s seat, and the goal is to use a version of NVIDA’s TrailNet framework for GPS-free navigation of paths. As a result, [taylor] hopes to end up with a robotic “trail buddy” that can be made with off-the-shelf components and 3D printed parts.

Moving the motors and gearboxes into the wheels themselves makes for a very small main body to the robot, and it’s more than a bit strange to see the wheel spinning opposite to the wheel’s hub. Check out the video showcasing the latest development of the wheels, embedded below.

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Arduino Electronic Speed Control explained

You can salvage some nice motors out of optical drives but they can be tricky to control. That’s because brushless DC motors require carefully timed signals used in a process called Electronic Speed Control (ESC). [Fileark] built and ESC using an Arduino and has a couple of posts explaining the concept and demonstrating how it works. His test circuit uses six 2N2222 transistors to protect the Arduino from excessive current. You can see six red LEDs above which are inline with the base of teach transistor. This gives visual feedback when a transistor is switched, a big help for troubleshooting your circuit.

Once you’ve seen the videos after the break you’ll probably come to the conclusion that this is an impractical way to use a brushless motor. But it is a wonderful way to learn about, and experiment with the concept of ESC. Chances are you can get your hands on an old optical drive for free, making this an inexpensive weekend project.

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