Dome Servo Power Upgrade

At the recent Clone Wars events it became clear that the little Power Distribution Board that was supplying power to the dome servos wasn’t going to cut it. It would work for a while, but the onboard 7806 regulator would soon overheated and shut down to protect itself.

I’m not surprised, I currently have 8 servos in the dome, 4 for the pie panels, one for the front Holoprojector, one for a side panel, and two for the periscope – with more to be added. Idle, each requires around 8-10mA, but when active they can easily require an Amp or more under heavy load, which can add up fast when you have a few things going at once.

Space is tight on the power board so it’s hard to add decent heat sinks, and even if I could I wasn’t convinced that the single 7805/ 7806 (which can deliver a maximum of 1Amp) was up to powering all the servos from one IC.

One of the problems with servos is that they can sometimes stick and not return to neutral fully, and will continue to draw more power than necessary. Anyone who’s played with servos will know that if they’re even slightly misaligned or put under stress in the neutral position will cause them to hum (which means they’re drawing more than the normal 8-10mA). I’m pretty sure that’s what happens on some of my dome servos, but not all the time. It’s virtually impossible to adjust them all to be perfect, especially as things can move or shake in a fast spinning dome.

The dome is fed by a 12VDC supply coming up thru the slip ring, and servo/signals are connected to a custom board at each end of the slip ring. The 12VDC routes to the power distribution board in the dome that then re-creates the various voltages I need, from 5VDC all the way to 24VDC.

The solution to the servo power/overheating problem is to use a better DC regulator to replace the 7806, but I had a bunch of events coming up fast, was short on time and resource, and basically needed to fix the problem overnight.

So I create a simple power board with parts I had on hand, including three 7805 regulators which would power only 4 servos each, plus I added a big heat sinks on each one and a fan to help keep them cool.

Here’s the board coupled with the original servo board. It’s somewhat clunky and I will replace it at some point with a more streamlined solution and a single better regulator, but for now it worked fine to get me thru the events.

If you’re interested in makng your own servo power supply or even a fully blown Power Distrubution Board, it can be done for not much money. 7805 regulators are easy to find, most surplus stores carry them for around 50c, or at a pinch you can pick them up at RadioShack for under $2. Versions that can deliver higher loads are also available, but can be harder to find or sometimes a lot more expensive.

Google on “7805 circuit” or “7805 power supply” you will find dozens of examples of simple circuits to make your own boards. Here’s a good example.

The regulators also come in 6, 8, 9 and 12V varieties. So as I said you could make a distribution board for not much money if you’re up to the challenge.

I also have to stress again that I’m not an electronics expert. Please double check anything before trying to copy me. In this case there are definitely better was to ‘fix’ this problem.

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Posted by Chris on August 26th, 2008 in Dome, Electronics | 4 Comments

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4 Responses

  1. Paul remarks on

    Hey Chris, good work! I took a look at ST’s site, they have some higher current voltage converters. Some of them are sampleable. They do look much more difficult to build though…

    http://www.st.com

  2. Paul remarks on

    This eval board may work as well. It’s probably cheaper than buying the parts…

    http://www.digikey.com/scripts/dksearch/dksus.dll?Detail?name=497-4743-ND

  3. Paul remarks on

    Good work Chris! ST has some converters that can handle more current, although they look much more complicated to assemble. Many are sampleable. Here’s an eval board that’s not too expensive as well:

    http://www.st.com/stonline/products/literature/an/5410/eval4973.pdf

  4. Chris remarks on

    Nice find.

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