Futaba Setup and Tweaks

futaba 10cSpent the last few days playing with the new Futaba 10C transmitter.

I had to re-calibrate the joysticks with the RoboteQ AX3500, and took the opportunity to review my speed controller setup, and tweak some of the parameters. After I was done looked like something like this –

Control Input: RC
Motor Control Mode: A and B Mixed
Input Adjustment: Logarithmic Strong
Amps Limit: 60
Acceleration: 682 (milliseconds)

I changed the Input Adjustment to Logarithmic (from Exponential) and decreased the Acceleration Delay to 682 ms. This controls how fast Artoo reaches his maximum speed and time to stop. I found that anything lower made him too jerky as he tries to stop on a dime. Both these parameters will make Artoo a little bit more responsive.

futaba end pointOn the Futaba I increased the end points on each of the servo channels to 140%, but I suspect I could have left them at 100% due to the joystick calibration on the RoboteQ.

I also had had to reverse the direction on some of the channels.

Futaba 10C F/S SetupI’ve managed to get the signal Fail Safe to work on the Futaba. Many of the older Futaba can’t do this, or at least not on all channels. For example, I know the 7 ch 2.4Ghz receiver can only do it on channel 3/Throttle. Which makes sense for airplanes, but not very good for robotic applications.

The default setting on the 10C is “Nor” which will set the receiver to continue to send the last good signal received out to the servo, or in my case the speed controller. This would cause the droid not to stop if I ever lost power on the transmitter or it’s link to the receiver in the droid.

Hoping that I’ll never need to use it, but at least it’s setup now.

As a side note, I’d almost went with an RC setup from Spektrum which offer a separate receiver (BR6000) specifically design for robotics, but it’s only 6 channels and I’m not crazy about the Spektrum transmitter setup, and really liked the extra knobs and sliders on the Futaba 10C.

I’ve also discovered that the extra FM antenna on the 10C is easily removed, and has zero effect in the transmitters operation. I was suprised to even see it installed when I got the unit. I’ll need to make a plug to fill the hole.

Posted by Chris on June 24th, 2008 in Electronics, RC | 1 Comment

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Battery Power Issue Resolved

WonderCon was last weekend, and it was my first real test of Artoo since the rebuild. I’d mentioned that both Gerard and I had problems with our batteries. We’d figured it much be the carpet, but I hadn’t had the problem at Celebration 4 – and in the back of my mine I had a niggling theory what was causing it.

For Celebration 4 I’d used 3 7Ah 12V batteries, two dedicated to powering the NPC-2212 drive motors, and one for the body electronics like the sound system, dome drive and speed controllers. But during the rebuild before WonderCon I’d decided to consolidate all 3 batteries into one block to make charging easier. I’d had issues with power before, but thought the problem was resolved and I could consolidate my battery sub-system. Runtime at WonderCon was approx. 60 minutes vs 180+ minutes at C4 – which is a huge difference.

Unfortunately, while I was redesigning my electronics and adding the charging system, I’d forgotten that the RoboteQ speed controller really likes a solid 12V supply, so last weekend as my batteries ran down and when the NPC motors first start-up they were eventually pulling the supply well below the minimum 10.5V required by the controller. It’s “intelligent” and shuts down if it thinks it doesn’t have enough power to control the MOSFET drivers. It’s only for an instant, and starts back up almost immediately as power is cut to the motors – which resulted in the very slow and slightly jerky movement.

RoboteQ AX3500

So today to prove my theory, I reinstalled the the “dead” batteries from last week without recharging them, and added a separate 12V battery to the Power Control lines on the RoboteQ – Bingo! Worked first time. The issue was totally gone.

I’m kinda embarrassed that I went through this, because I should have remember that there’s a know “design feature” with low batteries and high current draw on this type of speed controller.

I’m now confident that I can pretty much run Artoo for multiple hours on a single charge – but I will have to reconfigure my electronics system again – making it harder to charge batteries in place.

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Posted by Chris on March 1st, 2008 in Electronics, RC | 2 Comments

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Artoo’s First Steps

I received my center foot on Friday and it was the last structural part that I needed to get R2 on all 3 feet. So, my goal for Saturday was to get him running around under his own steam by the end of the day. I still needed to wire in the RoboteQ AX3500 speed controller which controls the drive system.

I added a power strip to the inside of the back mounting plate to connect all the grounds to and set about wiring things up.

Ground Block

I then did some basic tests of the 3500 and noticed something strange. The motor would run for a second then stop for a split second then start again, like it had a slight tremor. Message code on the 3500 status panel flickered from motor direction information to an ‘8’ – which means under or over voltage. I suspect it’s a low battery. I hope it’s not a Vex/RoboteQ incompatibility problem. I suspect I may need to add a second battery dedicated to just controlling the 3500.

I then worked on trying to get the center foot assembled and attached to the frame. But there was a problem, I was missing the pack of hardware. A quick trip to Ace fixed it, but I couldn’t get the exact parts and had to improvise on the standoffs.

Standoffs

Like the outer legs and feet the new foot was a snug and it took some cajoling to get the pivot point to fit.

Now that the center foot/leg was attached I was excited to think I was close to getting him mobile.

Frame and Legs together

However I really shouldn’t have rushed as much as I did. What followed was a bunch of silly mistakes which cost me a lot of time. Luckily no harm was done and I learned a lot in the process.

Even in my haste to get the legs on and the motors hooked up, I’d remembered that I needed to lock the legs somehow. I’m not going to be using the satellite motors to do 2-3-2 at this points, and one of they’re jobs in the design was to lock/hold the legs in place. So I knew I needed to figure something out, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to skip this step just for now. Boy was I wrong!

At the same time I also had the drive wheels in the back of the feet, and they weren’t always touching the floor. I’d also forgotten to reverse the drive wires on one motor.

As you can imagine his first steps were not pretty to say the least and he jerked around because of the RoboteQ battery problem, and his legs went in opposite directions. It was a total shambles. Luckily I didn’t have the camera handy for a photo.

I also needed to tension the drive belts more which meant that I had to partially disassemble the feet again. I’m beginning to realize it’s a major pain to unscrew so many bits just to fix one thing.

After stripping him back down and fixing the problems and locking his legs back in 3 legged mode I gave him another spin and here he is. He’s super fast, but I really do need to figure out the battery/undervoltage problem that makes him stop/start/jerk.

Once I get the RoboteQ speed controller working correctly this thing is going to scream.

Posted by Chris on May 13th, 2007 in Electronics, Feet, RC | No Comments

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