300 Amps Through An Open Source Speed Controller

Sometimes, a little puny matchbox-sized electronic speed controller (ESC) won’t do the job. If you find yourself looking for something heftier, say, in the range of hundreds of amps, you might look towards a design like the MP2 ESC. [owhite] has built an example of the design that can deliver some serious power.

[owhite’s] build has some serious specs: it’s rated to offer up to 300 amps at up to 150 volts, though thus far, it’s only been tested at up to 100 V. Like the original MP2, which hails from the Endless Sphere forums, it’s designed to be compatible with VESC code using the STM32F405 microcontroller. It’s intended for driving high-powered traction motors in applications like e-bikes and electric scooters, as you might have guessed by its potential output power being well into the tens of kilowatts range.

If you’re eager to build your own, you can do so, with the design files on GitHub. Just note that you’ll need some hefty parts to handle the juice, including beefy MOSFETS and juicy capacitors rated at 160 V.

Open source motor controllers abound of late, and we’ve featured a few in recent times. Just remember that astute design and using parts within their means is the key to avoiding letting the smoke out! Continue reading “300 Amps Through An Open Source Speed Controller”

Hackaday Prize 2023: Tiny RC Aircraft Built Using Foam And ESP12

Once upon a time, a radio controlled plane was a hefty and complex thing. They required small nitro engines, support equipment, and relatively heavy RC electronics. Times have changed since then, as this lightweight RC build from [Ravi Butani] demonstrates.

The body of the plane is lightweight foam, and can be assembled in two ways. There’s a relatively conventional layout, using a main wing, tailplane, and rudder, or a pusher model with the main wing at the rear and a canard up front. The open hardware electronics package, which [Ravi] calls VIMANA, consists of an ESP12 module with a pair of MOSFETs to act as two independent motor drivers — allowing the plane to be flown and steered with differential thrust.

For more advanced flight control, it can also command a pair of servos to control ailerons, a rudder, canards, or elevons, depending on configuration. There’s also potential to install an IMU to set the plane up with flight stabilization routines.

Thanks to the low-cost of the VIMANA board, [Ravi] hopes it can be used in STEM education programs. He notes that it’s not limited just to aircraft, and could be used for other motorized projects such as boats and cars. We’ve featured an early version of his work before, but the project has come a long way since then.

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize 2023: Tiny RC Aircraft Built Using Foam And ESP12”

A white longtail cargo bike sits on grass with fenced-in planters behind it. The bike has a basket made of black metal tubes on the front and a passenger compartment behind the rider seat for children made of similar black metal tubes. A white canopy is above the passenger compartment and a solar panel sits atop the canopy.

Solar Powered E-bike Replaces Car Trips

E-bikes can replace car trips for some people, and adding a solar panel can make the fun last longer. [Luke] did some heavy modifications to his RadWagon to make it better, stronger, and faster than it was before.

The first step was replacing the stock 750 W controller with a 1500 W model to give the motor twice the power. [Luke] plans to replace the motor if it gets fried pushing too much juice, but is planning on just being careful for now. To stop this super-powered ride, he swapped the stock mechanical discs out for a hydraulic set which should be more reliable, especially when loading down this cargo bike.

On top of these performance enhancements, he also added a 50 W solar panel and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller to give the bike a potential 50% charge every day. Along with the OEM kid carrier and roof, this bike can haul kids and groceries while laughing at any hills that might come its way.

Checkout this other solar e-bike or this one making a trip around the world for more fun in the sun.

The RP2040 Doth A Motor Controller Make

When the Raspberry Pi people launched their RP2040 microcontroller, it seemed as though it might be destined as a niche product for those areas in which the Pi has traditionally been strong. But during the global semiconductor shortage, it has remained almost alone among microcontrollers in having plenty of fab capacity to keep the supplies rolling. That, and its very vanilla set of ARM peripherals alongside those programmable state machines have thus seen it find a home in many places it might not otherwise have seen. Take the dual RP2040 motor controller from [Twisted Fields] as an example, would it have been more likely to have sported an STM32 in previous years?

It’s been produced as part of the Acorn Precision Farming Robot platform, and it’s a fully open-source two-channel controller on a board the same size as a credit card. The schematic appears fairly conventional through a cursory glance at the PDF, but we know from experience that motor controllers are never as deceptively simple to get right as their circuit would lead the unwary engineer to believe. The heat dissipation, current, and transient handling all play a part in a successful design, and we expect this one to evolve to fix any issues it might still contain.

If you’d like to remind yourself about the Acorn farming robot, then take a look at our earlier coverage of the project.

Thanks [Mark] for the tip.

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.

Continue reading “Protect Your Drivers When The Motor Stalls”

The Three Cent Motor Controller

If you follow the world of small microcontrollers you will certainly be familiar with the usual fare of Atmel, ARM Cortex, PIC, and others. But these aren’t the smallest or cheapest devices, below them is an entire category of grain-of-dust microcontrollers with minimal capabilities and at rock bottom prices. Maybe the most well known are the Padauk series of chips, whose PIC12-like architecture can be had for literal pennies. These are the famous 3 cent microcontrollers, but despite their fame they have a bit of a reputation in our community for being difficult to work with. [Ben Lim] dispels some of those ideas, by Padauk-enabling a motor and encoder from a printer to make a three cent motor controller.

The Padauk doesn’t have on-chip peripherals such as SPI, instead its IDE provides bit-banging code to do the job. This and some PID motor controller code makes for a straightforward task on the little chip, and with the help of a probably considerably more expensive MAX14870 it can drive the motor. For the curious, the code can be found in a Git Hub repository. There may be more accomplished motor controllers to be found, but we doubt you’ll find one with a cheaper microcontroller.

Want to know what the fuss is about with the Padauk? Our colleague [Maya Posch] has you covered.

Putting The Magic Smoke Back In A Cooked Scooter

When [Vitor Melon] found out there was a custom firmware (CFW) available for his Xiaomi Mijia M365 Pro electric scooter that would increase his top end speed, naturally he installed it. Who wouldn’t want a little more performance out their hardware? But while the new firmware got the scooter running even better than stock, he does have a cautionary tale for anyone who might decide to ride their Mijia a bit harder than the fine folks at Xiaomi may have intended.

Now to be clear, [Vitor] does not blame the CFW for the fact that he cooked the control board of his Mijia. At least, not technically. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the new code or the capabilities it unlocked, but when combined with his particular riding style, it simply pushed the system over the edge. The failure seems to have been triggered by his penchant for using the strongest possible regenerative breaking settings on the scooter combined with a considerably higher than expected velocity attained during a downhill run. Turns out that big 40 flashing on the display wasn’t his speed, but an error code indicating an overheat condition. Oops.

Results of the PCB repair.

After a long and embarrassing walk home with his scooter, complete with a passerby laughing at him, [Vitor] opened the case and quickly identified the problem. Not only had the some of the MOSFETs failed, but a trace on the PCB had been badly burned through. Judging by the discoloration elsewhere on the board, it looks like a few of its friends were about to join in the self-immolation protest as well.

After a brief consultation with his graybeard father, [Vitor] replaced the dead transistors with higher rated versions and then turned his attention to the damaged traces. A bit of wire and a generous helping of solder got the main rail back in one piece, and he touched up the areas where the PCB had blackened for good measure.

A quick test confirmed the relatively simple repairs got the scooter up and running, but how was he going to prevent it from happening again? Reinstalling the original firmware with its more conservative governor was clearly no longer an option after he’d tasted such dizzying speeds, so instead he needed to find out some way to keep the controller cooler. The answer ended up being to attach the MOSFETs to the controller’s aluminum enclosure using thermal pads. This allows them to dissipate far more heat, and should keep a similar failure from happening again. You might be wondering why the MOSFETs weren’t already mounted this way, but unfortunately only Xiaomi can explain that one.

With their rapidly rising popularity hackers have been coming up with more and more elaborate modifications for electric scooters, and thanks to their wide availability on the second hand market, it’s likely the best is still yet to come when it comes to these affordable vehicles.