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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Electrical System Update

The last couple of weeks I’ve been busy getting Artoo back together for a couple of important events. I’ve totally overhauled the electrical system (again) and I’m hoping this will be it for a while.

At the hospital visit on Saturday I ran Artoo for about 4-5 hours on the new system and the 18Ah batteries without any sign of slow down, and I continued to run him again the next day for few more hours on the same charge. I must admit that I didn’t do lots of long sprints, but I’m confident that my earlier battery problems are fixed.

With that said, here’s a summary of the electrical work and the new electrical system design.

The following schematic outlines the 3 main areas of my setup. The red area is the front charging port, flashing LEDs and the battery select/on/off switch. Yellow is the wiring harness/relays that does all the magic of switch batteries between charing mode or running the droid, and finally the blue on the right is the rear electrical panel containing the speed controllers, fuse block, battery monitor, and power distribution board. It also contains an additional relay/power jack to run the drive from 120VAC/12VDC adapter.

There’s also a PDF version that maybe easier for printing.

Here’s a photo of the battery select relay/wiring harness (yellow section of the schematic). It uses 3 automotive relays to do the battery switching for charging and to turn Artoo on and off.

I attached the wiring harness to the battery holder using a small bracket

And here’s the new batteries in place

This is the front charing port (red section on the schematic) you’ve probably seen before. The attaced board to the right is the PICAXE controller that flashes the lights when the front door opens, and the smaller board to the left just contains a 7805 5VDC regular to power the PICAXE. The wiring harness above connects to to the charging socket.

In addition to adding the extra relays to switch two sets of batteries, I replaced the large MAXI fuse block/voltage display with a much smaller ATO fuse block and a separate LED voltage meter display.

I mounted the voltage meter on the rear electrical panel, and instead of using one for each of the batteries I decided to use just one with a switch to flip between batteries. The board requires a separate 5VDC supply to operate and I got this from the power distribution board.

Here’s the new rear panel. Going clockwise, top left is the battery monitor, then the Vex Micro-controller and receiver, below that is the power distribution board, and below that the fuse block, to the left the RoboteQ AX3500 speed controller for the drive motors, and above that the Syren10 speed controller which turn the dome.

I also worked on getting the slip ring soldered up and installed.

And I made up little boards for it to plug into. 12VDC power is connected to the blue terminal block, and the control/servo cables on the 3 pin connectors.

There a very similar board in the dome, but with an additional 5VDC input from a 7805 regulator IC to power the servos.

Posted by Chris on April 21st, 2008 in Electronics | 2 Comments

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Easter Get Together

I can’t believe it’s been a month since WonderCon — I’ve done very little on Artoo since, which as been a nice break, but I feel guilty that I still need to go back and post on work I’d done last month.

The good news is, as a result of us being at WonderCon there’s at least one new builder who’s jumped head first into building. What’s even better he only lives a few miles away from me – Welcome to the club Steve!

Today I did get together with Gerard to talk droid and strip my Artoo back down ready to implement my revised battery system. I was hoping to get a few more local builders over, but being easter it was hard to arrange at such short notice.

The easter bunny also brought me newer bigger batteries. I’m going to replace the smaller 7Ah batteries with a single 12V 18Ah battery. Thanks Gerard!

Now to try and get the battery to fit and still be easily removed.

I’m probably going to position the new battery just off-center with a second smaller standby battery for the RoboteQ to the right. Based on the height of the battery and the clearance needed to get it in and out, the new holder/harness will probably much shorter than my original.

I’m also even more convinced that I should loose the fuse block, which works well and even has a battery voltage read-out, but it’s somewhat overkill and gets in the way of battery removal. I could try putting it deeper into the droid, but that then defeats the purpose of keeping for the voltage display.

In closing here’s shot of my frame minus the skins

Posted by Chris on March 24th, 2008 in Electronics, Events | No Comments

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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.

Related Posts:

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

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Periscope LEDs and RoboteQ

Not a whole lot going on. I did find a very cool surplus electronics store this week in Santa Clara called HSC. They carry a LOT of stuff at a fraction of the cost and the place is full of things that can be used on R2. I was hoping to find a slip ring to experiment with but I was out of luck. I did pick up a few bits though, including some red rectangular LEDs for the front slot on the periscope.

I did a quick test fitting on my aluminum periscope housing and they fit perfectly.

There’s very little published reference material for the periscope, but I have it on good authority that the front red light was made up of 6 of these LEDs.

I also worked a bit on my RoboteQ speed controller, adding a RS232 connection to the provided PWM cable to allow me to monitor things live from a tethered laptop. Basically I ran two wires (RxD/GND) from the 25-pin plug they provide to a 9-pin RS232 plug/housing.

The plug you see on the right may look like an RS232 connector, but it’s really used to connect just two PWM wires from the Vex receiver into the RoboteQ. It comes as standard with the controller, and they also provide a seperate RS232 cable to connect your computer. I really don’t understand why they don’t just provide one combine cable. Confused? Please see the RoboteQ manuals 🙂

Once the controller is connect to my computer I can use they’re monitoring software called roborun. It polls the speed controller and graphs live data like battery voltage, controller temperature, current being used, PWM data etc. It also allows me to exercise the motors without using my RC transmitter.

Posted by Chris on January 10th, 2008 in Electronics | 2 Comments

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Back from C4 – R2 Lives!

I’m back from C4 and R2 performed really well.

I was able to finish the basic structure, the dome, the electronics and he was fully RC’d and running around most all of the days at the con. As you can see I also fixed the dome and got most of the blue painting done. Battery life was excellent and the Roboteq AX3500 speed controller / NPC-2212 combo worked out great. I was in both races and the little guy far exceeded my expectations of what I thought I’d be able to do at C4.

This is me driving back to the hotel on the last evening ready for transport back to the Bay Area – Yes I drove him home 1/2 mile to the hotel without incident.

Chris and R2 - C4

I still need to sort through my photos and upload them and post a full write-up, but wanted to post something other than having my dented dome as the top post in the blog 🙂

I also intend on going back and catch up with blog posts on all the building I did before I left.

Posted by Chris on June 1st, 2007 in Events, General | No Comments

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RoboteQ 3500 code 8 fixed

Drive system jerkiness is all fixed. The problem was the AX3500 and not a Vex compatibility issue. The board had a dry joint on the main power control tab which was causing a short. The speed controller thought the battery was low which cause the fail safes to kick in and turn everything off to avoid damaging the Mosfetts.

I’d gone back and forth on the phone with RoboteQ for a few days, and finally they just overnighted me a new board which fixed the problem instantly. While I was removing the cables to send the old board back the tab connector popped off the board totally.

In the process of troubleshooting the problem, they also convinced me to reconfigure my batteries to have a dedicated 12V supply to the board rather than using a single shared 12V supply for everything. They explained that the symptoms I was seeing were very similar to a low battery problem due to the motors drawing too much current.

I’m probably going to keep the batteries separate for now, but will have to rethink the wiring and my fuse block as I was hoping to just get away with one battery feed which also made charging easier.

The real worrisome thing is he’s way too fast and really dangerous. He can zip around at lightning speeds and can plow through most obstacles because of his weight. I may need to have a fast/slow switch.

He’s also shacking himself to pieces and has already dropped several screws.

Posted by Chris on May 13th, 2007 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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