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New product: Dual G2 High-Power Motor Drivers

Posted by Jan on 15 November 2017

We sell a lot of motor drivers, which makes sense since you usually need motors to build robots, and motor drivers tend to be the kind of product you cannot really build yourself on a breadboard. One of our more popular products is the dual VNH5019 shield for the Arduino:

Pololu dual VNH5019 motor driver shield, assembled and connected to an Arduino Uno R3.

That product is based on ST’s massive VNH5019 motor driver chip, which is a successor to the VNH3SP30 driver we initially started selling back in 2005:

Older version of the High-Current Motor Driver Carrier.

When I first heard of the chip (at one of the first LVBots meetings), it seemed like someone must have misremembered the spec since it was inconceivable for a single integrated chip to deliver 30 amps. And to some extent, that was valid—you would have to do a lot of extra thermal management work to get 30 A out of that chip without it overheating. But the chip really could do in excess of 10 A, which was still amazing; the real limitation was in voltage, especially if you tried to use PWM at any moderate frequency. The VNH2SP30 was better about PWM frequency, letting us get to 20 kHz, but it had an upper operating limit of 16 V. The VNH5019 raised this to 24 V, getting us tantalizingly close to the 24V rail many would like to use. The problem is that 24 V is the limit, and we really need to be able to operate higher than that to account for the usual variations in nominally 24V power setups.

As far as I know, there is no integrated circuit that can deliver over ten amps at 24 V nominal (i.e. at least 30 V max); for that kind of power, you need to go to H-bridges with discrete MOSFETs. We have had those as stand-alone products for a while, too. But those still leave you with a lot of wiring to do if you want to drive two motors, which is typically the minimum for a mobile robot. The new product family we just released makes that easy by providing two high-power motor drivers in one Arduino shield-type package:

Pololu Dual G2 High-Power Motor Driver 24v18 Shield for Arduino.

Pololu Dual G2 High-Power Motor Driver 24v14 Shield for Arduino.

As you can see from the pictures, the main difference in these Dual G2 High-Power Motor Driver Shields is in the MOSFETs: the white boards have larger, 5×6mm MOSFETs, and the blue boards have smaller, 3×3mm MOSFETs. These correspond to the two versions of the individual drivers:

Pololu G2 High-Power Motor Driver 24v21 and 24v13.

(The higher-power version on the left has the MOSFETs on the back side of the board.) We also offer each board with 30V and 40V MOSFETs, for four total options. The new dual motor drivers perform similarly to our single-channel G2 units, and like the single channel carriers, all of these dual drivers feature current sensing and an adjustable current limit that could be used to detect and protect against stall conditions. These are the individual performance points:


Dual G2 High-
Power Motor Driver
18v22 Shield

Dual G2 High-
Power Motor Driver
18v18 Shield

Dual G2 High-
Power Motor Driver
24v18 Shield

Dual G2 High-
Power Motor Driver
24v14 Shield
Absolute max
input voltage:
30 V 40 V
Max nominal
battery voltage:
18 V 28 V
Max continuous
current per channel:
22 A 18 A 18 A 14 A
Default active current-
limiting threshold:
60 A 50 A 40 A
Current sense
output:
10 mV/A 20 mV/A

For drivers like these, power (heat) dissipation is generally the limiting factor. The copper area around the MOSFETs on both the white and blue versions of the drivers are about the same, so the lower-current blue units perform better then their smaller single channel G2 counter-parts, while the higher current white drivers do worse than the smaller single channel G2 carriers (which also use four layer PCBs for better performance). The power ratings we provide are the maximums without additional heat sinking or air flow and at room temperature. Please note that the boards will be extremely hot at those maximum currents, and the available current will be lower if the ambient temperature is higher.

Since many Arduino boards do not support higher input voltages, the new dual drivers also incorporate a 1A switching regulator so that a single higher-voltage supply can power the motors and Arduino. We have an Arduino library to help you get up and running quickly. And for those who want to use the board without an Arduino, all of the motor control connections are also brought out to a row of 0.1″ headers on one side of the board.

(And for those of you wanting to use this kind of driver with a Raspberry Pi, we have a Raspberry Pi HAT form-factor version coming soon!)

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