Calling all Electronics Wizards and Open Source Hardware enthusiasts to help me fix my Motor Controller…

Okay. So, i’m a little embarrassed that this thing is still not working. I’ve made cool progress on it over the years, but not the part that matters… that it actually works. This should not be that hard. Since it’s basically an HIP4081A beefy full h-bridge controller and an Arduino it should not be all that complicated. I think what i need to do is just spend some money on known good components and true schottky diodes and mosfets and just breadboard this thing out. Once i can get this reliably working on a breadboard i can come back to the PCB design stuff. I know last time i messed with it i had a few PCB wiring issues and when i was testing the h-bridge i could only get one side to turn on. The other side was shorting out somehow.

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Having said that, i’m still pretty happy with the overall PCB design and direction that is heading. I really enjoy the two PCBs that plug into each other via male and female headers ans sockets. I just put up my files (in their old unkempt state) onto GitHub for version tracking and in true Open Source Hardware fashion for others to hopefully help collaborate with me on this. I really really really want to see this thing work someday and turn into a cool motor controller that people use all over to build cool robots and stuff with in the near future.

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So, please… If you are good with electronics and electronic theory, especially motor control, if you are an open source enthusiast, if your good with git, if you are good with EagleCAD, if you have an interest in a cool Open Source motor controller based on MOSFETS, if you were a user of the old FIRST Robotics, VEX Robotics, or IFI Victor 884s or 885s that this design is based on (now a defunct product to my knowledge), if you’d like a motor controller you can hack, use I2C or add a CAN bus or some other device such as a current sensing circuit, or who knows what else, then PLEASE PLEASE Help Me! Help me get this thing working and ready for market and usability and hackability. I’m not ashamed to ask for help or to admit that i need it. I’m proud of how far i got with as little electronics knowledge as i do have, but concede that there are so many other people out there that can help!

 

 

 

I have uploaded the last freeze of this project onto a new github project for you all to easily get the source files here: https://github.com/keen101/XYZZY-Motor-Controller

I’ve also designed a neat little 3d printable base to keep this thing from shorting out. And i will track down the other design files that are relevant or that this design is based on in the next couple days / weeks.

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*Bonus Offer: I have several old PCBs of V. 1.0 laying around. For anyone willing to help me with this project i would be willing to send you up to 3 copies of the top and the bottom boards each to play with (while supplies last). There are i think at least two potential PCB trace errors (that i can’t remember what at the moment) that are on the boards, but hey, free boards and it’s not that hard to cut a trace or two and rewire if needed. You would just need to obtain the needed mosfets, diodes, arduino, and HIP4081A h-bridge driver chip to work on the project. Heck, i’m even willing to entertain replaccing the HIP4081A chip to a different one if there are any better or cheaper options that do basically the same thing. Please Help 🙂

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Preview: Upgraded Bread Machine Incubator TR444 [in progress…]

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Ok. So! Back to hardware / electronics projects!! Yay!

This is a preview for an upcoming post. I am currently working on upgrading my Hacked Breadman Breadmachine TR444 Incubator from a previous project. I’m adding some RGBW neopixel LEDS from Adafruit for light. It will have a button to change lighting sequences from White to red/blue to purple, to blue, to black. All the colors one would need to 1. see into the machine. 2. Color LEDs to grow seedlings for gardening. 3. blue which may come in handy for bacteria cultures? IDK. maybe not. But whatever. I currently have the arduino code for the light sequence working.

I will also be adding a fan for circulation. I 3D printed the fan holder. I may or may not have a button to control the fan. I will have a big red button to start the incubator cycle (37 Degrees C for bacteria / fungal petri dishes). And i am considering another button for a programmed Dry Heat Sterilization routine. As mentioned before, according to Wikipedia:

The proper time and temperature for dry heat sterilization is 160 °C (320 °F) for 2 hours or 170 °C (340 °F) for 1 hour.

I also think i will be integrating my Chronodot real-time clock for use with this dry heat sterilization routine and possibly some other incubating cycle as well. Cool! Fun stuff! Lets get working!!

p.s. post in the comments if these are the kind of projects you’d like to see more of of! 🙂

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Bitten by the Electronics Bug

So recently I’ve been bitten by the project bug again. And quite a bit by electronics hobby-type stuff again in particular, though not exclusively. More blog posts and updates to come soon.

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On the left is my old homemade DIY arduino based avr high voltage programmer made on old Hewlett Packard Engineering Protoboard based off of Jeff’s original design that i made in 2011. On the right is my brand new updated model named the AVR HV Rescue Shield 2 from MightyOhm.com. It’s main function is to help reset the fuses on AVR chips when you program them wrong. My old one came in handy and has saved a few chips from time to time. The new one obviously is better, mostly because now that i’m tinkering more with attiny85V chips i now have a High Voltage Rescue shield for them too, though it also does not require an external 12VDC power source as it has some sort of built in surface mount step up voltage chip.

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So as briefly mentioned above i’ve been tinkering with trying to program attiny85v AVR chips. I’ve dug out my old trusty USBtinyISP AVR Programmer and I’ve recently gotten a Sparkfun Tiny AVR Programmer.

What i’m really intending to do is make a shrunk down version of my old Mystery Project by re-purposing and reprogramming my Adafruit TV-b-gone kit. I just need to get the frequency right. I’m starting by seeing if i can compile and upload the tvbgone AVR/arduino code to a blank attiny85 first. If i can do that i can work on changing the code. So far though i haven’t gotten the AVR fuses correct yet to use the tvbgone’s external 8mhz oscillator, though i think the program has uploaded correctly. That’s why i needed the HV Rescue Shield 2 mentioned above.

In addition, i finally ordered the parts to finish my DIY Arduino MENTA boards. They are cool Adafruit designed Arduino compatible boards that fit into an Altoids mint tin.

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Some of the other items I’ve been tinkering with have been Raspberry Pi’s, including various Linux-based Operating Systems including Raspian (a debian based distro), Octopi (debian running Octoprint – 3D printer software), and RetroPie (an emulator to play old roms for NES, SNES, Playstation, Atari, Gameboy, and other popular gaming systems). The tiny $5 Raspberry Pi Zero. Tinkering with automatic plant lights and a gardening moisture sensor. And my fancy new SparkFun Vernier Interface Shield an upgrade to interface my Vernier sensors with Arduino. More on that in another post soon!

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I also recently ordered a USB cable in order to salvage a scrounged barcode scanner that my brother saved from the Barnes And Noble dumpster. The USB cable works! Now i just need to figure out a use for it. Not bad for a $10 cable on ebay to a functional $200 value barcode scanner.

Gardening with Conductive Helical Coils 2016

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So despite the blog and my internet presence being quite mute as of late i actually have been up to quite a lot. My homemade Lulzbot Mini 3d Printer this summer was a success, amd i have constantly been improving it. At some point i will take some photos of it’s final progress. A few of my pea breeding crosses from last year were successful, including one i’m excited to grow again which is a cross of the Purple Passion dark purple seeded pea (which is a small genetically weak pea variety) with another stronger pea variety. That should produce something really cool in the coming years. And this fall and next spring i’m experimenting with school by going through a Precision Machinist course and am learning how to use milling machines, lathes, and CNC equipment to produce Aerospace quality components. Not sure if that’s something i want to do long term, but they are skills i’m interested in and can use throughout my life. So that’s new.

Anyway though, as a throwback or a revisit to my post in 2010 titled “Do Plants Really Need Sunlight?“, which has actually been one of the most visited posts on my blog over the years, i finally got around to building a few of those coils that sounded so interesting.

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Conductive Helical Coil around the stem of a plant

So the basic premise or idea behind using a coil of wire with electricity is that it produces a small amount of electricity or a magnetic current through the air. This is the same idea Nicola Tesla was after all those years ago when his imagination was captured with the idea that everything could have wireless electricity. And in many cases his dream has come true with an ever increasing amount of technology these days using induction to wirelessly power or heat things. The basic premise of applying this technology to plants comes from an article i read once that talked about how researchers were able to measure a small direct current from trees in a forest by placing nails in them. They then had ideas about placing nails in many trees and hooking them up together to power small electronics like a battery or cell phone charger, or a smoke alarm. Basically all plants (and maybe all living things) produce a bioelectric field of energy. If one can tap this field to harvest electricity, then why cant we tap into it and feed these plants with extra electricity to help them grow.

One question i asked in my old blog post was if plants even need sunlight at all as long as they are getting some form of energy to grow. I still haven’t done an experiment to test that idea, but it’s still an interesting question. Because it makes me wonder if there are ways plants could be grown in complete darkness.

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Regardless, this summer i finally built a prototype plant coil. I built it rather late in the season, so i really wasn’t able to give it a good test. My original plan was to plant 3 or 4 genetically identical tomato plants near each other in the relatively same soil with at least one plant being the control. I was then going to observe over the course of the summer f the tomato plants within the coils had larger and better growth than the control. That was plan anyway, i just didn’t quite get to it.

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You can see here we were trying to use a volt meter and another coil to see if we could detect that our coils were working. We weren’t having much success with the meter in the beginning and i don’t remember if we did later after increasing the power supply a bit. But in theory you should be able to measure with a second coil.

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I placed it on three smallest tomato plant clusters in the very late planted tomato patch. Interestingly enough, the three plants it happens to be on might be the only three blue tomato genetic varieties that survived my haphazard tomato disasters this year. Since placing the coils on these plants i have noticed an improvement in them and they have since catched up to the growth of the other tomato plants in that spot. Although at the same time i did also make a furrow and started watering them more. But even so i’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that the coils did help them go from “runt” status to catching up to the others. I may yet get a few tomatoes from the larger two before winter hits. Thanks to Gilbert for providing the motivation to actually build this project. And a thanks to the Homegrown Goodness plant breeding forum where i get so many of my adventurous gardening and plant breeding ideas. You guy’s are the best and a continual inspiration to me. Read more: http://alanbishop.proboards.com/thread/8623/breeding-tower-potato-ideas-wanted?page=13#ixzz4LoiDtFZE

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So, while my experimentation was a bit haphazard this year i think i still did ok. It was a fun project that went from an interesting patent to a cool project idea in my head and at the back of my mind, to a fully functional project / prototype. Plus i think these coils look cool. haha.

But it makes me wonder what other cool patents are out there that i can exploit, reverse engineer and build to experiment with. One of my next projects i think will go the opposite route and will be heavily steeped in Open Source as i think i will try and build a “Food Computer“. Basically it’s a small climate controlled aeroponic grow box. It should allow me to continue my plant breeding efforts even in the winter which is really what i want. Plus it will allow me to learn more about this “urban gardeng”, “vertical gardening”, and “aeroponic” stuff. I can’t wait to get back to pea, bean, and tomato breeding even though the summer and fall are waning fast. I think i’m going to repurpose my 2ft x 2ft t-slot frame that i was intending to turn into a large 3D printer and/or CNC mill. But it’s still going to be a long time before i finish that project, so i figured hey why not actually use it for something useful in the meantime! So.. that’t the plan.. 😀

 

 

Continuing Progress on the XYZZY Motor Controller

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I think i’ve finished the design for the XYZZY Motor Controller, which for me is a big statement. I embarrassingly probably even said it before too. But anyway both the top board and the bottom board are done in Eagle Cad and i think i’m satisfied. The top board relatively stayed the same since it’s design was fairly sound. All that was needed was a few safety diodes for the mosfets, some led’s, and some minor resistors which were not critical. The bottom board was another story however.

It required a complete redesign except for the basic underlying parts. Many of the items i had on the board were just potential “goodies” that were extraneous and non-critical, so i removed them. Not only did it help remove extra unrouted wires, it helped clear up some much needed room. In the end i ended up with some extra room that i turned into a tiny proto board area that i’m quite pleased with. Along the way i fixed a few errors on the schematic and routed things nicer than they were before. I think all that it needs now is to order up some PCB’s and do some more testing and programming.

The only things i would like to change are the screw terminals. The ones that are on the schematic now are much too small for a large amp motor. The problem is i can’t seem to find an Eagle Cad footprint for one. I may have to end up creating my own part in eagle cad eventually. If you know of one please let me know in the comments below! I’m looking for something like these: photo1, photo2, photo3.

The XYZZY Motor Controller is a modular open source hardware mosfet speed controller h-bridge. It has been designed to be able to handle high current motors with the parallel mosfet design. It has been designed to be hackable and DIY accessible (hence the all through hole design). It has been designed for flexibility. Since it has been created with the hope in mind of a built-in arduino brain it can be easily programmed for many things. I’ve routed one PWM capable I/O port to function as a PWM directional input (modeled after the IFI Victor 884 servo input design). But one feature i’m happy to include is an easily accessible I2C port. This port gives the motor controller many potential abilities. One idea is to use the I2C port to expand it’s capabilities (such as a current sensor), or i think it would be cool to use I2C to daisy-chain several motor controllers together to help save wiring and to provide real-time feedback to a master microprocessor or computer. Another cool “feature” is that possible boards could be fixed with half the parts. If for example the mosfets died for some reason, but the bottom components were fine (or vice versa) you could use the good parts with other good parts. Since my old top board is basically the same i plan to test it with a new bottom board sometime in the near future. I expect it to work fine.

The schematics are somewhat rough. I’ve tried to clean them up as best i can. But don’t expect them to be pretty. The reason one schematic has floating wires going nowhere on one side is that at one point these were part of one schematic. To create the two board system with the pluggable pin headers i had to split them into “two projects” at one point in time.

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If you would like a copy of the current Eagle Cad files please let me know. This is an Open Source Hardware Design. I would love to see these in the wild or even improved versions of it. Perhaps someone with surface mount experience can create one with smaller parts. More prototype testing to come soon, i hope! 🙂

Update (9-15-15): I’ve updated it again only slightly. I’ve changed the resistors to have bigger pads using the adafruit eagle cad library parts, and instead of screw terminals i’ve decided to use spade connectors or quick disconnects. These make it less cumbersome to disconnect motors and power and no loosing of screws, but also saves space (which was more critical). I couldn’t find a library that had a spade connector already, i had to make it myself. It actually wasn’t too hard.

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Updating and perfecting the XYZZY Motor Controller

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I’m working on finishing and perfecting an old project of mine (by a few years). The XYZZY Motor Controller (H-bridge). The old design was only somewhat functional. Enough to prove proof of concept (barely), but i want a sleek, finished version that people can actually use. So i’m working on perfecting this prototype design. I’ve just updated several things on the top board, and i think it’s done. The biggest issue was a pretty major design flaw which was that i forgot to add the safety diodes for motor kickback. In simple terms that meant that when the motor stopped turning or i switched it from forward to backward the electrical energy would destroy the Mosfets! …oh.. noo… Yup.

Not to worry, they are there now. I will be wiring them in manually to some of my old prototype boards to test soon. This design is progressed enough to update it to V1.0 instead of Rx.x number. Although the top board is finished, the bottom board needs quite a bit of work and possibly major redesigning. from the looks of my old design for the bottom board it looks like one feature i wanted to implement was an I2C bus. That would make it cool to connect them together and then to a microprocessor to monitor them in real-time. The only sensors to monitor at this point was the inclusion of a crude temp sensor and monitoring the RPM of the fan. Although i was hoping to build an arduino chip built in. When i eventually purchase new PCB’s i think this revision is finally deserving for the color red! Although purple or black would look pretty sick too. Any comments are welcome.

This is an Open Source Hardware Design.

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