A Drop-In Upgrade Module For Cheap Rotary Tools

We’ve all seen them, the rotary tools that look almost, but not quite exactly, like a Dremel. They cost just a fraction of the real thing, and even use the same bits as the official Bosch-owned version. At first glance, they might seem like a perfect solution for the hacker who’s trying to kit out their workshop on a tight budget. There’s only one problem: the similarities between the two are only skin deep.

Recovering components from the original controller

As [Vitaly Puzrin] explains, one of the big problems with these clones are the simplistic electronics which have a tendency to stall out the motor at low RPM. So he’s developed a drop-in replacement speed controller for his particular Dremel clone that solves this problem. While the module design probably won’t work on every clone out there in its current form, he feels confident that with help from the community it could be adapted to other models.

Of course, the first step to replacing the speed controller in your not-a-Dremel is removing the crusty old one. But before you chuck it, you’ll need to recover a few key components. Specifically the potentiometer, filter capacitor, and the motor terminals. You could possibly source the latter components from the parts bin, but the potentiometer is likely going to be designed to match the tool so you’ll want that at least.

The microprocessor controlled upgrade board uses back EMF to detect the motor’s current speed without the need for any additional sensors; important for a retrofit module like this. [Vitaly] says that conceptually this should work on any AC brushed motor, and the source code for the firmware is open if you need to make any tweaks. But hacker beware, the current version of the PCB doesn’t have any AC isolation; you’ll need to take special care if you want to hook it up to your computer’s USB port.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to buy a cheap rotary tool just to crack it open and replace the electronics, you might as well just build your own. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can always abandon the electric motor and spin it up with a tiny turbine. Continue reading “A Drop-In Upgrade Module For Cheap Rotary Tools”

An Open Source ESC For Brushless Motors

For something basic like a brushed DC motor, speed control can be quite simple, and powering up the motor is a simple matter of just applying voltage. Brushless motors are much more demanding in their requirements however, and won’t spin unless driven just right. [Electronoobs] has been exploring the design of a brushless speed controller, and just released version 1.0 of his open-source ESC design.

The basic design is compact, and very similar to many off-the-shelf brushless ESCs in the low power range. There’s a small PCB packing a bank of MOSFETs to handle switching power to the coils of the motor, and a big capacitor to help deal with current spikes. The hacker staple ATMEGA328 is the microcontroller running the show. It’s a sensorless design, which measures the back EMF of the motor in order to determine when to fire the MOSFETs. This keeps things simple for low-torque, low-power applications.

It’s a tidy build, and the latest revision shows a lot of polish compared to the earlier prototypes. If you’re interested to learn more, try building it yourself, or consider building a thrust testing rig for your bench at home. Video after the break.

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How Current Shunts Work

Current. Too little of it, and you can’t get where you’re going, too much and your hardware’s on fire. In many projects, it’s desirable to know just how much current is being drawn, and even more desirable to limit it to avoid catastrophic destruction. The humble current shunt is an excellent way to do just that.

Ohm’s Law.

To understand current, it’s important to understand Ohm’s Law, which defines the relationship between current, voltage, and resistance. If we know two out of the three, we can calculate the unknown. This is the underlying principle behind the current shunt. A current flows through a resistor, and the voltage drop across the resistor is measured. If the resistance also is known, the current can be calculated with the equation I=V/R.

This simple fact can be used to great effect. As an example, consider a microcontroller used to control a DC motor with a transistor controlled by a PWM output. A known resistance is placed inline with the motor and, the voltage drop across it measured with the onboard analog-to-digital converter. With a few lines of code, it’s simple for the microcontroller to calculate the current flowing to the motor. Armed with this knowledge, code can be crafted to limit the motor current draw for such purposes as avoiding overheating the motor, or to protect the drive transistors from failure.

In fact, such strategies can be used in a wide variety of applications. In microcontroller projects you can measure as many currents as you have spare ADC channels and time. Whether you’re driving high power LEDs or trying to build protection into a power supply, current shunts are key to doing this.

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Printed Parts Make DIY Electric Longboard Possible

Appalled by expensive electric longboards, [Conor Patrick] still wanted one, and wanted it now. So — naturally — he converted an existing board into a sprightly electric version at a fraction of the cost.

[Patrick] is using a capable 380KV Propdrive motor, capable of pushing him up to 30mp/h! A waterproof 120A speed controller and 6000mAh, 22.2V LiPo battery slim enough to fit under the board give the motor the needed juice. He ended up buying the cheapest RF receiver and remote combo to control the board, but it fit the all-important “want electric long board now” criterion.

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Cooling Fan Speed Controllers Do It By Generating Heat

cooling-fan-speed-controllers

We’ve never torn one apart ourselves, but it boggles the mind just a little bit to learn that these cooling fan controllers generate heat to do their job. We’d bet we’ll get shouted down in the comments, but doesn’t this seem counter-productive?

At any rate, we enjoyed reading two posts on this topic. [Göran’s] first adventure with the hardware started when he was trying to design his own speed controller. He saw a reference design in the LM7805 linear regulator datasheet which allows the adjustment of the output by changing the ground reference. When fed with 12V this ends up putting off some heat but it is a simple and reliable solution. He was a bit surprised to crack open a Zalman module and find the exact same circuit inside.

The controller in the background is an eBay purchase. He cracked that one open as well (that’s the link at the top) and found a circuit with a linear regulator in it, but this time it was a TL431 adjustable regulator. So here are our questions: Which one of these two is better and why. And can you do it relatively inexpensively without generating as much heat?

Fabricating Custom Displays For A Commercial Coffee Roaster

custom-display-panel-for-a-coffee-roaster

Roasting the perfect coffee bean is an art form. But even the most talented of roasters can use a little feedback on what’s going on with their equipment. [Ludzinc] recently helped out a friend of his by building this set of 7-segment displays to show what’s happening with this coffee roaster.

The yellow modules hiding underneath the display panel are responsible for setting the speed of the hot air blower and the rate at which the drum turns. They’re adjustable using some trimpots, but it sounds like the stock machine doesn’t give any type of speed feedback other than direct observation.

The solution was to patch into those speed controllers using the ADC of a PIC chip. They each output 0-10V, which [Ludzinc] measures via a voltage divider. After the speed is quantified the microcontroller outputs to one of the displays. Since there’s a different chip for each readout, the firmware can be custom tuned to suit the operator’s needs.

Keep this in mind if you’re still planning to build that coffee roaster out of a washing machine.

Add Speed Control To A DIY CNC Machine

adding-speed-control-to-diy-cnc

[Jesse Merritt] bought a manual speed controller for his router. It’s used in the CNC mill he build and he figured, why not add the ability for the computer to control the speed.

The speed controller is a $20 unit from Harbor Freight. It comes with an On/Off switch and knob which adjusts the power going to the router. [Jesse] pulled off the knob and milled a gear which takes its place. The second gear is attached to the horn of a hobby servo mounted on the side of the speed controller. The video after the break demonstrates an Arduino driving the servo based on a potentiometer input as well as commands from the CNC controller board he’s using.

Design files for the gears and the Arduino code which drives the servo is available from his Github repository.

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