What Makes Wedge Coils Better Than Round For PCB Motors?

PCB motors are useful things. With coils printed right on the board, you don’t need to worry about fussy winding jobs, and it’s possible to make very compact, self contained motors. [atomic14] has been doing some work in this area, and decided to explore why wedge coils perform better than round coils in PCB motor designs.

[atomic14]’s designs use four-layer PCBs which allow for more magnetic strength out of the coils made with traces. While they’ve tried a variety of designs, like most in this area, they used wedge-shaped coils to get the most torque out of their motors. As the video explains, the wedge layout allows a much greater packing efficiency, allowing the construction of coils with more turns in the same space. However, diving deeper, [atomic14] also uses Python code to simulate the field generated by the different-shaped coils. Most notably, it shows that the wedge design provides a significant increase in field strength in the relevant direction to make torque, which scales positively on motors with higher numbers of coils.

This kind of simulation and optimization is typical in industry. It’s great to see an explainer on real engineering methods on YouTube for everyone to enjoy. Video after the break.

Continue reading “What Makes Wedge Coils Better Than Round For PCB Motors?”

Single Flex PCB Folds Into A Four-Wheel Rover, Complete With Motors

You’ve got to hand it to [Carl Bugeja] — he comes up with some of the most interesting electromechanical designs we’ve seen. His latest project is right up there, too: a single PCB that folds up into a four-wheel motorized rover.

The key to [Carl]’s design lies with his PCB brushless motors, which he has been refining since we first spotted them back in 2018. The idea is to use traces on the PCB for the stator coils to drive a 3D printed rotor containing tiny magnets. They work surprisingly well, even if they don’t generate a huge amount of torque. [Carl]’s flexible PCB design, which incorporates metal stiffeners, is a bit like an unfolded cardboard box, with two pairs of motor coils on each of the side panels. This leaves the other surfaces available for all the electronics, with includes a PIC, a driver chip, and a Hall sensor for each motor, an IMU and proximity sensor for navigation, and an ESP32 to run the show.

With machined aluminum rotors and TPU tires mounted to the folded-up chassis, it was off to the races, albeit slowly. The lack of torque from the motors and the light weight of the rover, along with some unwanted friction due to ill-fitting joints, added up to slow progress, especially on anything other than a dead flat surface. But with some tweaking, [Carl] was able to get the buggy working well enough to call this one a win. Check out the build and testing in the video below.

Knowing [Carl], this isn’t the last we’ll see of the foldable rover. After all, he stuck with his two-wheel PCB motor design and eventually got that running pretty well. We’ll be keeping an eye out for progress on this one.

Continue reading “Single Flex PCB Folds Into A Four-Wheel Rover, Complete With Motors”

Laser Scanner Upgraded To Use PCB Motor

[Rik]’s Hexastorm laser scanner project originally used a discrete polygon mirror controller+motor module from Sharp to spin a prism. But the scanner head was a bit difficult to assemble and had a lot of messy wires. This has all been replaced by a single board featuring a PCB-printed motor, based on the work of [Carl Bugeja]. The results are promising so far — see video below the break.

Since the prism is not attached to anything, currently it will fall off if mounted in the intended vertical orientation. One of [Rik]’s next steps is to improve the mount’s design to constrain the spinning prism. The previous Sharp motor was specified to 21000 RPM, but was only driven to 2400 RPM in [Rik]’s first version. This new PCB motor spins at 2000 RPM in these tests, comparable to his previous experiments ( we’re not sure about the maximum RPM ).

See our original writeup from 2019 to review the goals of this project, and be sure to checkout details and documentation on the Hexastorm project page. To learn more about PCB motors, read our article about [Carl]’s first design and visit his Hackaday.io page. Thanks to [Jonathan Beri] for the tip.

Continue reading “Laser Scanner Upgraded To Use PCB Motor”

Exploring The Hall Effect For Haptic Feedback PS4 Joysticks

Modern gaming console controllers aren’t without their annoyances — Joy-Con drift, anyone? The problems might stem from design deficiencies, but we suspect that user enthusiasm and the mechanical stress it can introduce might play a significant role as well. Either way, [Marius Heier] decided to take a look at what would be required to build a better joystick and came up with some interesting results.

The first video below lays the basic groundwork, with a bunch of experiments with 3-axis Hall effect sensors, specifically the Texas Instruments TMAG5273 and TMAG5170. They’re essentially the same sensor with different interfaces — SPI for the 5170 and I2C for the 5273. Using just one of these sensors, he was able to build a joystick with the usual X- and Y- axis control, but also with a rotary axis. What’s more, he built a motorized version using two NEMA 17 steppers to mechanically drive the stick back to center.

The joystick is bulky, but it looks like he’s got plans for a much smaller one with [Carl Bugeja]-style PCB motors that should fit into a PS4 controller. That’s the subject of the second video below, which uses a different Hall sensor — an Allegro A1304 — and is mainly concerned with getting the output of a non-motorized but considerably miniaturized joystick stick talking the language that the controller expects. It’s not a simple process, but it seems to be coming along nicely, and we’ll be watching progress closely.

Continue reading “Exploring The Hall Effect For Haptic Feedback PS4 Joysticks”

A Fast Linear Actuator Entirely In One PCB

There are many ways to make a linear actuator, a device for moving something is a straight line. Most of the easier to make ones use a conventional motor and a mechanical linkage such as a rack and pinion or a lead screw, but [Ben Wang] has gone for something far more elegant. His linear actuator uses a linear motor, a linear array of coils for the motor phases, working against a line of magnets. Even better than that, he’s managed to make the whole motor out of a single PCB. And it’s fast!

This represents something of an engineering challenge, because achieving the required magnetic field from the relatively few turns possible on a PCB is no easy task. He’s done it by using a four-layer board to gather enough turns for the required magnetic field, and a simple view of the board doesn’t quite convey what lies beneath.

PCB motors are perhaps one of those areas where the state of the art is still evolving, and the exciting part is that their limits are being pushed right there in our community. And this isn’t the only linear motor we’ve seen recently either, here’s one used in a model train.

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.

Continue reading “Tiny PCB Motor Robot Is Making Its First Wobbly Moves”

Microstepping A PCB Motor

Over the last 2 years [Carl Bujega] has made a name for himself with his PCB motor designs. His latest adventure is to turn it into a stepper motor by adding position control with microstepping.

The NEMA stepper motors most of us know are synchronous stepper motors, while [Carl]’s design is a permanent magnet design. It uses four coils on the stator, and two permanent magnets on the rotor/dial. By varying the current through each of the four poles with a stepper driver (microstepping), the position of the rotor should theoretically be controllable with good resolution. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. He achieved position control, but it kept skipping steps in certain positions.

The motor and controller consist of a single flexible PCB, to reduce the layer spacing and increase the coils’ magnetic field strength. However, this created other problems, since the motor shaft didn’t have a solid mounting point, and the PCB flexed as the stator coils were energized. Soldering the controller was also a problem, as the through-hole headers ripped out easily and the PCB bulged while reflowing on a hot plate, in one case even popping off components. [Carl] eventually mounted one of the PCB motors inside a 3D printed frame to rigidly constrain all the motor components, but it still suffered from missed steps. Any suggestions for fixing the problem? Drop them in the comments below.

Like his other PCB motors, the torque is very low, but should be suitable for gauges or clocks. A PCB clock with an integrated motor would be pretty cool to have on the workshop wall.

The TMC2300 stepper driver [Carl] used belongs to the same family of drivers that enable silent stepping for 3D printers. We’ve covered a few of [Carl]’s PCB actuator adventures, from his original design to linear actuators and a flexible POV display.

Continue reading “Microstepping A PCB Motor”