You are currently viewing a selection of posts from the Pololu Blog. You can also view all the posts.
Here at Pololu we love USB and put a USB port on most of the microcontroller boards that we make. One of the lovable things about USB is that it provides a convenient power supply, but making good use of USB power presents a board design challenge: many of our products can be powered from either USB or an external source (e.g. batteries) and require a circuit to select between the two power sources. We call this circuit a power multiplexer, or just power mux.
A simple power mux like the one we use on the Wixel consists of a pair of diodes with a MOSFET that automatically disconnects the less-preferred power source. You can see another instance of the diode mux in the Orangutan SVP schematics (99k pdf). This works, but the forward voltage drop of the diodes can cause the output of the mux to be too low to power 5 V devices.
In the maker community, 5 V is very popular since it is the voltage standard used by numerous devices from Arduinos to Sharp Distance Sensors. Unfortunately for us, 5 V is not important for modern consumer devices like mobile phones, which operate at much lower voltages, so there is not much reason for semiconductor manufacturers to build the kind of devices that we need for good 5 V power multiplexers.
The USB power mux on many Arduinos uses a MOSFET, and does not suffer from the forward voltage drop problem, but it allows current to flow into the USB port in some situations, a potentially dangerous violation of the USB specifications.
So we were excited to find the FPF1320, a chip from Fairchild that implements a better MOSFET-based power mux circuit. The FPF1320 switches up to 1.5 A of current at 1.5 V to 5.5 V with an insignificant voltage drop, and it blocks reverse current into either of the sources. This chip seems like a great solution for USB power and other power-switching situations. Its tiny size, however, makes it inaccessible to most hobbyists:
That’s where we come in! We have made the FPF1320 available on a carrier board that breaks out all of its lines onto breadboard compatible pins and implements a minimal circuit to support automatic power switching. Our carrier board also breaks out a USB Micro-B connector to support USB power-switching applications. This diagram shows how the carrier would be used in a typical USB application:
Power multiplexers are useful for more than just USB. For example, many devices can be powered by both batteries and an external power jack, with external power preferred when it is available. Our FPF1320 carrier can be connected to two non-USB power supplies:
Building a good power mux is a challenge, and the FPF1320 is not a perfect solution. One frustrating thing about it is that it is disabled (powered off) by default, and enabling it required us to build an additional power mux into the circuit! As you can see in the schematic below, we used the double-diode technique to drive the EN line high:
The diodes, unfortunately, take up more board space than the FPF1320 itself.
While typical applications involve USB and 5 V, our carrier is designed to work over the full range of input voltages supported by the FPF1320; therefore, extra consideration might be required to ensure glitch-free transitions between power sources. Specifically, we designed it to “prefer” one of the power supplies whenever it is present. The board will allow the preferred supply (and hence the output) to drop to 1.5 V or lower before switching, even if a better alternate source is available. Unfortunately, this guarantees that the voltage will always drop to below 1.5 V when switching from the preferred to the alternate source. The chip is capable of a seamless transition, and a more sophisticated application might involve monitoring the levels of both input voltages and switching in an intelligent way. You can also adjust the behavior to match typical applications using a few additional resistors or other components. Our carrier brings out the SEL line to make these kinds of modifications possible in your application.
For more information, see the FPF1320 Power Multiplexer Carrier product page.
We’ve started selling USB versions of these two RoboClaw motor controllers from Orion Robotics:
These new RoboClaws add a USB serial interface to the other three control interfaces available (TTL serial, RC, and analog inputs), but are otherwise identical to the V4 RoboClaw 2×15A and 2×30A controllers that we previously offered. Like their predecessors, they can drive a pair of brushed DC motors with up to 15 A or 30 A, respectively, at voltages from 6 V to 34 V. Integrated dual quadrature decoders make it easy to create a closed-loop speed control system; analog feedback is also supported for closed-loop position control.
We have added a compact, powerful new NEMA 17-size stepper motor to our wide selection of stepper motors. This 42×38 mm stepper motor is available with a standard 5 mm D-shaft for general-purpose use, but perhaps more exciting is the version with a 28 cm threaded rod, which turns it into a linear actuator capable of precision open-loop position control. This latter version has the stainless steel lead screw built right into the stepper motor, so there is no need to deal with extra hardware such as shaft couplers and set screws, and the copper alloy traveling nut with mounting holes is included. Raise your next project to new heights with the precision (40 µm per full step) and control of a stepper motor!
Please see the product pages for more information:
For other options, you can take a look at our full selection of stepper motors.
This data logger shield from Adafruit provides an easy way for your Arduino to save data so you can process and analyze it later. It accepts any SD card formatted with a FAT16 or FAT32 file system, and it includes a real-time clock (RTC) for accurate timestamping of your data. Lots of documentation and resources are available from Adafruit to help you get started with the shield.
For more information, see the Adafruit Data Logging Shield for Arduino product page.
This UL-certified AC-to-DC converter gives you an easy way to deliver up to 1 A to your USB-powered device from a US-style AC electrical socket. It has been specifically designed to supply 5.25 V instead of 5 V to help ensure that the device it is powering receives close to 5 V even when the current draw is high. This converter is safe for use with USB-compliant devices.
This adapter does not include a USB cable, but it features a USB “A” port that you can plug a standard USB cable into, which makes it great for transitioning your project from USB to wall power.
For more information, see the 5V wall power adapter product page.
The Hydra is a triple-output power converter from CH Robotics designed to make it easier to get the power you need for your next project. The Hydra can quickly give you access to three independent, software-configurable DC output voltages to power your system. The easy-to-use Smart Power Supply Control Software makes it quick and simple to configure and control the Hydra’s outputs from your computer via USB. Bench-top power supplies can be large and bulky, but the Hydra fits in the palm of your hand and can also be configured from a user-programmable microcontroller via serial. This flexibility makes the Hydra a great fit for a large variety of projects, whether you are building an industrial system or a small mobile robot.
For more information, see the Hydra product page.
Get a FREE copy of Elektor magazine’s January/February issue with your order while supplies last. To get your free issue, enter the coupon code ELEKTOR0114 into your shopping cart. The magazine will add 8 ounces to the package weight when calculating your shipping options.
For other issues and more information, see our Free Elektor Magazine Offers page. All issues are now available for shipping worldwide!
After having been out of the short-range Sharp GP2D120XJ00F analog distance sensor for a while, we are happy to have a higher-performance replacement: the Sharp GP2Y0A41SK0F analog distance sensor. The newer GP2Y0A41SK0F has the same physical dimensions, pinout, and 4 cm to 30 cm operating range as the original GP2D120XJ00F, but it offers a much higher update rate and lower average current draw. This sensor is an inexpensive and easy way to add close-proximity rangefinding or obstacle detection to your electronics or robotics project.
For longer-range analog rangefinders and shorter-range digital distance sensors, check out our full selection of optical rangefinders.
Earlier this month we introduced our new line of powerful U3V50x boost regulators; now we have a similarly powerful family of S18V20x step-up/step-down voltage regulators to go along with them! We are especially excited about these regulators, which have a wide 3 V to 30 V input voltage range, typical efficiency of 80% to 90%, and maximum output current of approximately 2 A when the input voltage is near the output voltage.
Step-up/step-down regulators like the S18V20x work with input voltages that are less than, equal to, or greater than the output voltage. This makes them especially well suited for battery-powered applications where the nominal battery voltage is close to the desired output voltage, and the actual battery voltage transitions from above the output to below as the battery discharges. For example, these regulators make it possible to get a steady 12V from a 12V battery or a steady 6V from five NiMH cells, which can be over 7 V when fully charged and below 5 V when drained. These regulators are also great for applications where having a very wide operating voltage range is desirable, such as projects where you want a lot of flexibility in power supply choice or in systems powered by alternative energy sources like solar or wind, where the output voltage can vary greatly.
The S18V20x family includes versions with fixed 5 V, 6 V, 9 V, or 12 V outputs and versions with adjustable 4 V to 12 V or 9 V to 30 V outputs. All of them feature built-in reverse-voltage protection, over-current protection, thermal shutdown, and an under-voltage lockout that keeps the modules from behaving erratically when the input voltage gets too low.
The compact boards (0.825″ × 1.7″) have four mounting holes for #2 or M2 screws and can be assembled with the included 5mm-pitch terminal blocks or 0.1″ header pins.
Modulated IR detectors typically used for remote control of household electronics have long been used in robot sensors because they are small, cheap, and very sensitive while still blocking out unwanted interference. However, part of what makes the modules so good for remote control is their complex automatic gain control (AGC) circuitry that adjusts the sensors’ sensitivity to ambient lighting conditions to give clean, digital outputs in a variety of environments. Unfortunately for those using the modules for other purposes, all of that magic is internal to the modules and leads to two shortcomings: we cannot know how strong the optical signal is because we do not know the gain value, and we cannot have consistent behavior because we cannot control how the AGC behaves.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to find out about Vishay’s new IR modules designed specifically for sensor applications. They have two basic versions: one with a fixed gain that is constantly super-sensitive, and another one with a predictably-varying AGC that lets you know how bright the incident IR is. We used the fixed-gain units on the IR proximity sensors we released earlier this year, and we plan to make more products that use these unique sensors. In the meantime, we are happy to offer the through-hole versions of these sensors so you can start playing around with them to make your own sensor systems. Here are the two parts:
Those IR proximity sensors I mentioned earlier work nicely with these new sensors since our boards include a high-brightness LED with a 38 kHz modulation circuit, so you can use several of those with these new IR detectors to make sophisticated sensing solutions in which you enable one emitter at a time and monitor the reflections with all the other sensors.
US toll free: 1-877-7-POLOLU ~