Pololu Blog (Page 22)

Welcome to the Pololu Blog, where we provide updates about what we and our customers are doing and thinking about. This blog used to be Pololu president Jan Malášek’s Engage Your Brain blog; you can view just those posts here.

Advanced hobby servo control pulse generation using hardware PWM

Posted by Jan on 28 April 2011
Advanced hobby servo control pulse generation using hardware PWM

So far, I have discussed a very simple circuit and a very simple microcontroller approach to generate the control pulses needed to control hobby servos. For some applications, those methods are sufficient, but we often want either to control many servos or to do something in addition to controlling servos, and that is when the limitations of the simple approaches and the demands of the servo interface become more apparent. In this post, I will move on to some more sophisticated techniques to generate servo control pulses. Continued…

Simple microcontroller approach to controlling a servo

Posted by Jan on 10 March 2011
Simple microcontroller approach to controlling a servo

Today, I want to discuss the microcontroller equivalent of the simple servo control circuit I presented last time. As I mentioned then, the circuit is about as simple as it can be, yet it requires eight components to arrive at a sub-optimal servo control waveform. Some of its deficiencies, such as the slow rise time of the pulses, can be addressed by slightly more advanced circuits that might implement an astable multivibrator using an integrated circuit such as the famous 555 timer. In terms of part count, the 555-based servo controller might be a bit better than the two-transistor approach, but the 555 has many transistors inside it. As long as we are comfortable categorizing a component with many transistors inside it as a single part, we might as well skip the 555 and go straight to a low pin-count microcontroller, which has thousands of transistors inside it and which will allow us to make a far superior, single-component servo controller. Continued…

Simple hardware approach to controlling a servo

Posted by Jan on 23 February 2011
Simple hardware approach to controlling a servo

For the last several posts, I have been writing about how hobby servos work and demonstrating the operation of devices made for controlling servos, such as RC receivers and serial servo controllers. That should have given you a good idea of the kinds of control signals we must create if we are to control servos with our own hardware. Today, I am moving on to the subject of controlling servos ourselves, and I will begin with a simple hardware approach. Continued…

Servo control interface in detail

Posted by Jan on 9 February 2011
Servo control interface in detail

Last time, I gave a basic introduction to the simple pulse interface for sending commands to servos. In this post, I want to explore some of the details and ramifications of the servo interface in a bit more depth. I’ll be using the Mini Maestro 12-channel servo controller, which offers a lot of servo control flexibility, and a current probe with my oscilloscope to illustrate servos’ responses. Continued…

Electrical characteristics of servos and introduction to the servo control interface

Posted by Jan on 3 February 2011
Electrical characteristics of servos and introduction to the servo control interface

So far, I have been talking about servos largely from the perspective of their typical use. While I hope I have provided a decent foundation about their intended use and some idea of what is inside a servo, these are things you could learn from hobby stores and taking apart a few servos. Today, I want to move on to a discussion of the electrical characteristics of servos, with the control interface as the primary topic. From the servo manufacturers’ perspective, the control signal can be an internal detail, so discussing it means we are moving on to a realm that is less officially documented. I will try to keep things general and back up my claims a bit where practical, but some details might not apply to all servos. Continued…

Servo, servo motor, servomotor (definitely not server)

Posted by Jan on 28 January 2011
Servo, servo motor, servomotor (definitely not server)

Now that the cat’s out of the bag about RC servos having motors inside (it was a very transparent bag), it’s appropriate to emphasize that servos are not “servo motors” and that “servo” is not short for “servomotor”. Servo is short for “servomechanism”, whereas servo motors are motors intended to be used in servos. It’s important to understand the distinction because we should care about names and communicating well; making the distinction between the terms will also help emphasize why servos are so special. Continued…

Why we don't have comments on our product pages

Posted by Jan on 25 January 2011
Why we don't have comments on our product pages

A customer recently wrote: “I think you really need to add comments from users under each product (like sparkfun does). Makes it easy to review good/bad about a project and ask a question not in docs.” I rejected the idea when some of our developers pushed for comments on our web site a few years ago, and upon reconsideration, I am still firm in my opposition. Continued…

Gettin' all up in your servos

Posted by Jan on 21 January 2011
Gettin' all up in your servos

Having introduced servos and their role in a typical hobby radio control application, I will now focus on the servo itself: its parts, what is inside, and a bit of how it works. We will look at a few different servos along the way to better understand what servos have in common and how they differ. Continued…

Introduction to servos

Posted by Jan on 14 January 2011
Introduction to servos

Hobby servos are small, modular actuators developed by the radio control (RC) hobby industry for remote manipulation of everything from miniature boat rudders and car steering linkages to model airplane flaps and toy parachutist release mechanisms. The RC market is large and competitive, which has led to a proliferation of servos that have been optimized for characteristics including size, speed, torque, and price. This modularity, variety, ubiquity and cost-effectiveness of servos make them attractive generic actuators for small robots and other electromechanical systems. Continued…

Baby Orangutan Hand-Held Tic-Tac-Toe

Posted by Ryan on 10 January 2011

This hand-held Tic-Tac-Toe game is powered by a Pololu adjustable boost regulator and controlled with a Pololu Baby Orangutan B-328.