Tag Archives: stepper motor

Stepper Motor Controller Rev B

Looks almost like the first version

This board may look familiar to some of you. Because at first glance, it looks just like its older brother described here: Dividing Head Controller. But many things have been improved in Revision B.

Changes are only visible from the back side

It has also found new use cases. Depending on how it is programmed, it can be applied wherever a stepper motor needs to be driven from a user interface or PC. So while it was first designed specifically to drive a dividing head, it is actually quite universal.

Re-designed power supply on the left

Now what’s new? First of all, the power supply has been improved to accept input voltages in the range of 6 – 60 volts instead of 6 – 30 volts previously. For me, this was one of the main reasons for the upgrade. The stepper motor I’ve used for the dividing head lacked a bit more torque at higher RPMs when operated from 24V. This new version has allowed me to use a 48V supply which has solved all the torque problems.

A more powerful microcontroller on the left and the new flash chip on the right

The other main upgrade is a more capable microcontroller, a PIC18F47J53. Together with a 32Mbit flash chip, this allows for a USB bootloader. It enables firmware updates without any specialized hardware or software. Any PC with a USB port will do, no matter the operating system. Watch this video for a demonstration of how it woks.

Since the stepper controller behaves just like a USB drive when connected to a computer, it also allows users to customize their device by simply editing a config file that resides on that drive.

Besides the fan output, there is now also an output for a mechanical brake. But despite the labelling, these are simply open collector outputs, with flyback diodes included, capable of driving around 1 amp. So depending on the software, they can be used for any other purposes.

Three devices during programming and testing

The remaining features are unchanged: There is still a 4 x 20 characters LCD display and two nicely hardware-debounced rotary encoders. There is still a buzzer, EPROM memory, reverse-polarity protection, an on-board temperature sensor and an input for an external temperature sensor (or any other analog input signal in the 0-3.3V range).

Desktop application for the dividing head

And there still is that USB port. But with the USB bootloader and the config file, this USB port has become much more useful. And I’v also spent some time writing software so that the device can be controlled from a (Windows) PC.

A different desktop app for a different use case. But absolutely identical hardware.

And as I’ve mentioned, the board has found new use cases that use application-specific software but absolutely identical hardware. And the modular design of the software allows for the most of the software to be re-used so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel whenever you have a new application for this device. You don’t have to re-do all the heavy lifting required for USB or smooth motion control. A few changes to the user interface and the corresponding API will typically cut it.

All the hardware and software is open source, ready for you to use, improve and adapt. It’s all on GitHub so let me just share the various repos:

Hardware:
https://github.com/soldernerd/StepperMotorController

Bootloader:
https://github.com/soldernerd/StepperMotorController_Bootloader

Firmware:
https://github.com/soldernerd/StepperMotorController_Software_RevB

Desktop applications:
https://github.com/soldernerd/RotaryTableApp

Dividing Head Controller

This post ist about the CNC conversion of a manual dividing head aka indexing head. If you’re not familiar with that kind of equipment, there’s a wiki page here.  One makes use of interchangeable indexing plates and and the internal worm gear to accurately divide the circle. Parts like cogwheels and the like can be machined this way. A video of the finished project can be found here on my youtube cannel.

The downside is that a high level of concentration is required to not mess things up. Often a single distraction is all it takes to ruin a part. Besides the fact that constantly changing indexing plates can get tedious. So I decided to mount a stepper motor to that indexing head and to design a controller to take care of that motor.

There are many affordable and well-designed stepper motor drivers out there so I decided to use one of those rather than building my own. So an external driver takes care of translating the 5 volts logic step / direction signals into the (typically 12, 24 or 48V) power signals required to drive the stepper motor. What this circuit does is to provide a user interface and to generate that step / direction signal.

I decided to use this motor driver from Planet CNC that comes with a 2×5 pins 100-mil header for the logic signals. So I also put such a connector with a corresponding pin-out on my board. Then a single ribbon cable (provided with the motor driver) is all it takes to hook up the driver.

The user interface consists of a 4×20 character LCD display and two rotary encoders with push buttons. The display is a Midas MCCOG42005A6W that I have used in several of my other projects before. It is very compact and comes with an I2C interface which saves quite a few pins on the microcontroller. There is also a buzzer to provide some acoustic feedback on button presses and the like. If it enoys you, you can always turn it off in software.

As in all my designs, the rotary encoder signals are nicely debounced in hardware as described here.

The board runs on a 24V supply that is also used to drive the motor. The microcontroller, a Microchip PIC1826J50, runs on 3.3 volts. Furthermore, the motor controller requires a separate 5V supply to power its logic. So I first designed a switching converter that generates a 5V output from any input voltage in the range of 6 to 30 volts. A linear regulator then produces 3.3 volts out of that 5V rail to power the PIC and other on-board logic. Unfortunately, a bug as creeped into my PCB layout – hence that fix with a piece of wire just below the coil.

With the PIC running on 3.3 volts and the motor driver at 5 volts, I also had to provide some logic-level conversion.  A 74AHCT125 line driver / buffer and a few resistors take care of that.

The PIC also comes with a USB interface so that the board could be controlled remotely from a PC. All the hardware for that is present on the board but I haven’t written any software for that yet. Most of that can be copy-pasted from other projects such as the solar charger but I simply haven’t done any of that yet.

Finally, there is a temperature sensor and a fan output on the board. I’m not currently using it but if there is need for a fan for the motor driver and/or the power supply, you can connect a fan directly to this board and have it temperature controlled. For the fan output, the buzzer and the display backlight are driven by a TPL7407L that already includes the free-wheeling diodes necessary to drive inductive loads such as a fan.

I’ve mounted all the power supply, the motor driver as well as this board in a nice, compact case that I bought at a flea market earlier this year.

Nice, solid ground connections are provided to all relevant components. The USB connector is accessible from the back through an extension cable.

The other USB connector belongs to the motor driver and is used for configuration.

Finally, the two knobs for the rotary encoders were turned out of aluminum at the lathe.

The rest of it is mainly mechanics. This may seem somewhat off-topic on this blog but expect to see more of it in the future 😉

Here are the parts required for the mechanical part of the CNC conversion. With the exception of the two cog wheels for the timing belt, they are all machined out of aluminum on a manual mill.

First, a spacer is mounted using three existing, M5 threaded holes.

The main body is then screwed onto this spacer and the cogwheel is mounted.

The hub of the cogwheel was turned out of steel and then press fitted to the aluminum cogwheel. This provides for a firm, true-running.

Then the motor with the 22 tooth sprocket can then be mounted together with the 15mm HTD-5M timing belt. Together with the 44 teeth cogwheel on the other end, this provides a 2:1 geering. The dividing head’s internal worm drive adds another factor of 90:1.

Since the motor, a Sanyo Denki 103 H7823 1740, has a resolution of 200 steps per revolution, this translates to a very convenient 0.01 degrees per full step.

Now all that is left to do is to fix the cover plate. As usual, all the relevant files are on github:

RaspberryPi Robot

It’s been almost two years since I did (or at least started) this project but I never sat down to document it. That’s what I want to do today. As the title says it’s about a little robot based on a RaspberryPi. Like many of its kind it is driven by a pair of stepper motors each driving a wheel directly attached to the respective motor axis. At the back there is another smaller, pivotable wheel to keep the robot in balance.

Here’s a video of the finished robot in action, running a simple demo program demonstrating the various functions.  By the way, I’ve started a youtube cannel to share these kind of videos. I’m not really a video guy so this text and photos blog will stay my main medium but some projects like this robot, videos are a welcome addition.

Yes, I’m well aware that many similar designs already exist out there I could just go out and buy a kit like this. But making my own sounded more interesting so when I was looking for a Christmas present for my godson of sorts I did just that.

Above is a close-up of the main PCB that I’ve designed and built for this project. The idea is simple: There is a PIC16F1936 microcontroller that communicates with a RaspberryPi over I2C. The PIC then handles all the low-level details of controlling a pair of Allegro A4982 stepper drivers. These work at up to 35 volts, handle up to 2 amps of current and can hence drive much more powerful motors than the relatively small NEMA 17 size motors I’ve used here. They are easy to use and feature microstepping up to 16th steps.

Besides the two stepper drivers there is a ULN2803 providing 4 power outputs capable of driving up to 1 amp each. The ULN2803 includes free-wheeling diodes so these outputs could be used to directly drive somethingn like a relay or a DC motor. But at least for now these outputs drive some RGB LEDs at the front as well as a buzzer.

The original idea was to power the RaspberryPi  from the 5V linear regulator on the board and then draw the power for the PIC from the RaspberryPi’s 3.3 volt rail. Since the PIC uses only a few milliamps that’s entirely possible.

Unfortunately I haven’t given that setup a lot of thought before building the board. Of course, when powered from something like 12V, the LM2931 regulator gets way too hot when powering a RaspberryPi that pulls a few hundred milliamps. So I’ve sacrificed one of my solar charger RevC boards that includes two very powerful USB charging outputs.

During testing and debuggin I’ve used a small 12V AC/DC converter screwed to the bottom side of the robot. Once more or less completed I’ve changed the power supply to an old 3-call (11.1V) LiPo battery from a RC helicopter. It’s no longer fit for flying but still adequate to power this thing for a few hours.

The entire structure is laser-cut from 5mm medium-density fiberboard and held together with M2.5 torx screws with square nuts. M2.5 square nuts measure precisely 5x5mm so that goes together rally nicely. I’ve added and changed a few things as I went along, drilling extra holes to mount the blue PCB for the power supply, the LEDs, to hold the battery in place and some other things. But the structure as such works very nicely. It’s relatively simple if you have some place to do laser cutting (try your local fab lab…) and is inexpensive and sturdy.

The weels are laser-cut from the same material and are sized to measure precisely 200mm in circumference. That’s handy since the steppers feature 200 steps per rotation. 

 

That’s about it, most of the relevant files are on github. The OpenSCAD files for the laser cutting are not so just let me know if you’re interested in them. I’m happy to share them, too. Here are the links for the software and hardware, respectively.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments.