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New products: Motoron M2T256 (I²C) and M2U256 (UART) dual motor controllers

Posted by Kevin on 21 December 2022
Tags: new products

The Motoron family keeps growing! We’re happy to announce the release of the Motoron M2T256 Dual I²C Motor Controller and the Motoron M2U256 Dual Serial Motor Controller. Unlike previous Motoron controllers, these boards are “micro” versions that fit the ability to drive two motors (at up to 48 V and 1.8 A) into a minimal, compact form factor. They have the same ability to be individually addressed as the other Motorons, allowing many of them to be controlled independently while connected to the same bus.

A Raspberry Pi Pico on a breadboard using a Motoron M2T256/M2U256 Dual Motor Controller to control two motors.

The M2T256 is controlled via I²C like all of our previous Motorons, but unlike all the others, the M2U256 offers logic-level serial (UART) communication to provide an alternative option for applications where an asynchronous serial interface is preferred. The M2U256 supports the Pololu serial protocol, letting it share a serial line with our other compatible serial controllers (including brushed motor controllers, stepper motor controllers, and servo controllers). Its firmware also includes some options that can help you use it on an RS-485 network (requires addition of external transceivers).

The M2T256 and M2U256 both measure only 0.6″ × 0.8″ and have nearly the same pinout; in fact, both of these Motoron versions use the same printed circuit board with only minor differences in components. (For example, a resonator is only present on the M2U256 because it needs more accurate timing for asynchronous serial communication.) Both versions are available either with header pins soldered in or with headers included but not soldered.

Motoron M2T256 Dual I²C Motor Controller, bottom view.

Motoron M2U256 Dual Serial Motor Controller, bottom view.

The Motoron M2U256 is the latest in a succession of compact motor controllers we’ve produced over the years that use an asynchronous serial (UART) protocol, beginning with one of our very first products, the Pololu Dual Serial Motor Controller. Using this interface made a lot of sense in the past because it was one of the most straightforward ways to communicate with devices using higher-level commands. However, some of the most popular embedded platforms today make it difficult: many Arduino boards use the UART for serial programming, which can conflict with other connected devices, and a Raspberry Pi can output bootloader messages over serial or unexpectedly scale its UART frequency along with its CPU speed.

Meanwhile, I²C has become more popular and easier to use on microcontrollers over time, and it has features like open-drain lines and built-in support for addressing that simplify working with several devices on a single bus. This was the reason for the Motoron family’s initial focus on I²C, which was a departure from our tradition of making serial motor controllers, but the M2U256 reflects our thinking that there are still some reasons to use asynchronous serial. For example, it’s still easier to connect a PC to a serial device (with a USB or RS-232 adapter) than to an I²C device. We expect to make more UART Motorons in the future, too.

Pololu Dual Serial Motor Controller.

Pololu Micro Dual Serial Motor Controller

Pololu qik 2s9v1 dual serial motor controller.

Here is our full lineup of Motoron controllers to date, encompassing both the new “micro” boards and the previously-released expansion boards for Arduino and Raspberry Pi:

Motoron motor controllers
micro versions

M2T256

M2U256
Control interface: I²C UART serial
Motor channels: 2 (dual)
Absolute max
input voltage:
48 V
Recommended max
nominal battery voltage:
36 V
Max continuous
current per channel:
1.8 A
Available versions:
Motoron motor controllers
Arduino and Raspberry Pi form factor versions

M3S256



M3H256

M2S24v14



M2H24v14

M2S24v16



M2H24v16

M2S18v18



M2H18v18

M2S18v20



M2H18v20
Control interface: I²C
Motor channels: 3 (triple) 2 (dual)
Absolute max
input voltage:
48 V 40 V 30 V
Recommended max
nominal battery voltage:
36 V 28 V 18 V
Max continuous
current per channel:
2 A 14 A 16 A 18 A 20 A
Available versions
for Arduino:
M3S256 M2S24v14 M2S24v16 M2S18v18 M2S18v20
Available versions
for Raspberry Pi:
M3H256 M2H24v14 M2H24v16 M2H18v18 M2H18v20

New Products: U3V16Fx Step-Up Voltage Regulators

Posted by Ben on 2 December 2022
Tags: new products

We are excited to introduce our new compact and efficient U3V16Fx family of boost voltage regulators, which can generate higher voltages from input voltages as low as 1.3 V (the minimum startup voltage is 2.7 V, but they will operate down to 1.3 V after that). It’s awesome how much power these deliver in such a tiny package! It’s a little difficult to quickly convey the power or current capabilities of boost converters, since the output power is limited by the input current (which can be up to 2 A with this new family), but we usually care about the output current, which is inversely proportional to the ratio by which you are boosting the voltage. For instance, if you are tripling your voltage from 3 V to 9 V, the maximum possible output current would be one third of that 2 A maximum input (assuming 100% efficiency). Continuous currents will be a little lower than peaks, and once you factor in real world efficiency (typically 80-95%), you can expect these kinds of maximum currents:

Efficiency is also a bit hard to capture without a ton of graphs, but here’s an example from the 12 V version:

Typical efficiency of 12V Step-Up Voltage Regulator U3V16F12.

The U3V16x family includes seven versions with fixed output voltages ranging from 3.3 V to 15 V:

These new regulators are the same size as the popular U3V12Fx boost regulators, which we had to discontinue due to key components becoming obsolete, and they offer superior performance, so they should work as drop-in replacements for those older regulators in most applications.

New products: DRV8434A and DRV8434S stepper motor driver carriers

Posted by Claire on 10 October 2022
Tags: new products

Our selection of compact stepper motor driver carriers is expanding with the addition of three new boards based on the DRV8434A and DRV8434S from Texas Instruments. They feature stall detection, adjustable current limiting, over-current and over-temperature protection, and 11 microstep resolutions (down to 1/256-step). They operate from 4.5 V to 48 V and can deliver approximately 1.2 A continuous per phase without a heat sink (up to 2 A peak). The DRV8434A version uses a standard GPIO interface for configuring microstepping and stall detection and a potentiometer for setting the current limit, while the DRV8434S versions use SPI to configure microstepping, stall detection, decay modes, and the effective current limit.

Two DRV8434S carrier versions are available, one with a potentiometer for adjusting the maximum current limit and one with the maximum current limit fixed at 2 A; on both of these, the actual current limit can be scaled down to some percentage of the set maximum through SPI. There are 16 evenly spaced scale settings available, which corresponds to increments of 125 mA on the version with the fixed 2 A maximum. For lower-current applications that would benefit from finer current limit resolution, we recommend the version with the potentiometer. For example, if you set the maximum to 500 mA with the pot, you can then use SPI to scale the current limit down from there in increments of 31 mA.

All carriers are available with and without header pins soldered. The following table compares the key differences among the three versions:


DRV8434A

DRV8434S
(Potentiometer for
Max. Current Limit)

DRV8434S
(2A Max. Current
Limit)
Configuration: I/O pins SPI
Control interface: STEP and DIR pins STEP and DIR pins or SPI
Stall detection: through GPIO through SPI
Current limit: Potentiometer
setting (0–2 A)
Potentiometer setting
for max. (0–2 A),
scaled with SPI
setting (%)
2 A fixed max.,
scaled with SPI
setting (%)
Decay modes available: 1 8
Available versions:

One of the most exciting features of these new chips is their integrated stall detection. We make carriers for a few other stepper motor drivers that provide back EMF outputs, such as the AMIS-30543 and High-Power Stepper Motor Driver 36v4, but processing those signals for stall detection is complex. On the DRV8434A and DRV8434S, the back EMF processing is integrated into the chip and a learning mode is provided to make stall detection simpler and more accessible. Even so, these drivers’ stall detection functionality might not work well in every application, and we have some notes on the product pages with tips on getting it to work (such as using hardware PWM to generate a steady step signal).

Minimal wiring diagram for connecting a microcontroller to a DRV8434A stepper motor driver carrier (1/128-step mode).

Typical wiring diagram for connecting a microcontroller to a DRV8434S stepper motor driver carrier.

The DRV8434A carrier was designed to be as similar to our popular A4988 and DRV8825 stepper motor driver carriers as possible, and it can be used as a drop-in replacement for these in many applications because it shares the same size, pinout, and general control interface. The DRV8434A always operates with a decay mode that TI calls “smart tune ripple control”, which tries to minimize the ripple current through the motor coils for smoother stepping and reduced audible noise in many cases. If additional flexibility is required, the DRV8434S offers a choice of eight decay modes, configurable through SPI; these include slow, mixed, and fast decay as well as the more advanced smart tune dynamic decay and smart tune ripple control modes.

TI also makes a DRV8434 (with no letter A or S at the end) in the same family of drivers. This version doesn’t have the stall detection feature or SPI, but it gives you the same choice of eight decay modes that the DRV8434S does. Why don’t we have a carrier board for the DRV8434 then? Well, we do have the boards, but with the extra long lead times right now, it could still be a while before we have the chips. (These are parts we ordered in June 2021, so more than 16 months ago now!)

DRV8434A Stepper Motor Driver Carrier, bottom view with dimensions.

Our DRV8434A carrier’s printed circuit board is designed to work with the DRV8434 too, and that’s why some of the pins are labeled with two names on the silkscreen. So, for those of you interested in a DRV8434 carrier, those will be coming some day!

New product: LSM6DSO 3D Accelerometer and Gyro Carrier

Posted by Kevin on 9 September 2022
Tags: new products

We’ve just released a new LSM6DSO 3D Accelerometer and Gyro Carrier! ST’s LSM6DSO is a combination of a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope into a single chip, offering acceleration and rotation rate readings in the ranges of ±2 g to ±16 g and ±125°/s to ±2000°/s through I²C or SPI. This board is mostly an update of our older LSM6DS33 carrier that had most of the same capabilities, although the LSM6DSO features a number of improvements over its predecessor, like lower noise, a higher maximum output data rate for the gyro, and the option to use MIPI I3C (a communication standard intended as an advanced, but backward-compatible, replacement for I²C).

The LSM6DSO additionally supports operation in specialized modes with a secondary interface, allowing it to act as a master (sensor hub) on a second I²C bus or provide an auxiliary SPI slave interface that is useful for image stabilization applications. We’ve increased the width of the carrier board to 0.5″ to bring out those secondary interface pins and let it plug into a breadboard nicely:

LSM6DS33 3D Accelerometer and Gyro Carrier with Voltage Regulator, labeled top view.

LSM6DSO 3D Accelerometer and Gyro Carrier with Voltage Regulator, labeled top view.

LSM6DSO 3D Accelerometer and Gyro Carrier with Voltage Regulator in a breadboard.

Other than the extra pins and the different mounting holes, our LSM6DSO board is pretty much a drop-in replacement for the LSM6DS33 board. We’ve updated our LSM6 Arduino library to support the new chip too, so any code that was written for the LSM6DS33 can probably be modified to work with an LSM6DSO without too much trouble.

New product: Motoron M3H256 Triple Motor Controller for Raspberry Pi

Posted by Kevin on 24 May 2022

Our Motoron M3H256 Triple Motor Controller for Raspberry Pi is now available! The M3H256 is a stackable I²C motor controller that can drive up to three brushed DC motors bidirectionally at voltages between 4.5 V and 48 V and continuous currents up to 2 A per channel. Unlike its M3S256 sibling, which is designed as a shield for an Arduino, the Motoron M3H256 is intended to stack on top of a Raspberry Pi (Model B+ or newer), similar to a HAT (Hardware Attached on Top). With an I²C address that can be configured uniquely for each board, a stack of Motorons let you control many motors at once without taking up lots of GPIO pins and PWM outputs from the Pi.

A robot with three omni wheels and motors controlled by a Raspberry Pi with a Motoron M3H256 Triple Motor Controller. A D24V22F5 regulator powers the Raspberry Pi.

If you decide not to plug it into a Raspberry Pi, the Motoron M3H256 can also be used in a breadboard or another custom setup with your own wiring:

An Arduino Micro on a breadboard using a Motoron M3H256 to control three motors.

Motoron M3H256 Triple Motor Controller for Raspberry Pi pinout.

The Motoron M3H256 is available in three different configurations similar to its Arduino shield counterpart: you can get one fully assembled with stackable headers and terminal blocks already soldered, a kit that lets you pick which of the included connectors to solder in yourself, or the board alone if you already have or don’t need connectors and standoffs.

And to help you get started using the Motoron with a Raspberry Pi, we have a Python library you can use to configure the M3H256 and send it commands:

import motoron

mc1 = motoron.MotoronI2C(address=17)
mc2 = motoron.MotoronI2C(address=18)

# Clear reset flags to allow Motorons to run
mc1.clear_reset_flag()
mc2.clear_reset_flag()

# Set up acceleration limits for Motoron #1
mc1.set_max_acceleration(1, 200)
mc1.set_max_acceleration(2, 200)

# Set up acceleration and deceleration limits for Motoron #2
mc2.set_max_acceleration(1, 75)
mc2.set_max_deceleration(1, 250)
mc2.set_max_acceleration(2, 80)
mc2.set_max_deceleration(2, 300)
mc2.set_max_acceleration(3, 75)
mc2.set_max_deceleration(3, 250)

# Drive the motors

mc1.set_speed(1, -100)
mc1.set_speed(2, 100)

mc2.set_speed(1, 300)
mc2.set_speed(2, 200)
mc2.set_speed(3, 50)

We’re sure there are plenty of applications where the convenience and scalability of Motorons will be useful. What kind of projects can you think of that would make good use of one (or several)?

For more information about the Motoron M3H256, see the product pages and the comprehensive user’s guide.

New product: VL53L5CX Time-of-Flight 8×8-Zone Distance Sensor Carrier

Posted by Kevin on 16 May 2022
Tags: new products

I’m excited to announce the release of our new VL53L5CX Time-of-Flight 8×8-Zone Distance Sensor Carrier! Over the past several years, STMicroelectronics has introduced a number of FlightSense distance sensors, starting with the VL6180X, that use time-of-flight (TOF) measurements of infrared laser light to measure distances. Each new sensor has been more capable than the last (usually offering an increased range), but the VL53L5CX is more than just another incremental upgrade. What makes the VL53L5CX really special is its ability to take readings of multiple targets across a grid of multiple zones, allowing you to generate a depth map with up to 8×8 resolution and 4 m range.

A plot of a coffee cup as detected by a VL53L5CX time-of-flight 8×8-zone distance sensor.

Compared to sensors that only give a 1D measurement, the VL53L5CX does demand more from a microcontroller to support its operation as a 3D lidar. Initializing the sensor through I²C and processing its data requires a lot of RAM and program memory, so it is not practical to use the VL53L5CX with most 8-bit MCUs like the Arduino Uno. (The same was true for the VL53L3CX, which shares the VL53L5CX’s multi-target capability but does not have multi-zone capability.) We found that the Raspberry Pi Pico’s RP2040 microcontroller worked well for interfacing with the VL53L5CX, and other similarly powerful 32-bit controllers like an ESP32 should also work.

It’s fun to compare our VL53L5CX carrier with our other ST time-of-flight sensor boards because even though the boards are the same size (and pin-compatible), the VL53L5CX component itself is significantly bigger than its predecessors. We also switched from using 0603-size surface-mount resistors (0.06″ × 0.03″, or 1.5 mm × 0.8 mm) to 0402-size parts (1 mm × 0.5 mm) to help everything fit in the same form factor, and that makes for even more contrast with the large IC. As we refine our manufacturing abilities to let us work with more challenging parts like these, it’s nice to have more options for making things even more compact. (When can we try some 0201 parts?)

New products: DRV8874 and DRV8876 motor driver carriers

Posted by Kevin on 19 April 2022
Tags: new products

We’ve expanded our selection of motor drivers again with the release of some compact carrier boards for TI’s DRV8874 and DRV8876 motor drivers, which feature current sense feedback and adjustable current limiting. These three ICs and their boards are all very similar, differing mainly by the amount of current they can handle: in a TSSOP chip package, the DRV8874 delivers up to 2.1 A continuous on our carrier board and the DRV8876 does 1.3 A. The DRV8876 chip is also available in a smaller QFN package, so for a lower-current and lower-cost option, our DRV8876 (QFN) carrier can deliver 1.1 A continuously. All three versions can drive a single brushed DC motor at voltages from 4.5 V to 37 V.

DRV8874 Single Brushed DC Motor Driver Carrier (top view).

DRV8876 Single Brushed DC Motor Driver Carrier (top view).

DRV8876 (QFN) Single Brushed DC Motor Driver Carrier (top view).

The DRV8874 and DRV8876 drivers offer a choice of control modes that includes phase/enable (PH/EN) and direct PWM (IN/IN) as well as independent half-bridge control, which lets you drive two motors unidirectionally. With their wide operating voltage range and current sense/current limiting added in, this combination of capabilities results in some unusually versatile motor driver boards, especially considering their small size. (But if you need something that works with even higher voltages, consider our similar DRV8256E and DRV8256P carrier boards too, though those don’t provide current sense feedback.)

Comparison of the DRV8874, DRV8876, and DRV8256 motor driver carriers

DRV8876 (QFN)

DRV8876

DRV8874

DRV8256E
DRV8256P
Motor channels: one
Min. operating voltage: 4.5 V
Max. operating voltage: 37 V 48 V
Max. continuous current(1): 1.1 A 1.3 A 2.1 A 1.9 A
Peak current: 3.5 A 6 A 6.4 A
Current sense feedback? 2500 mV/A 1100 mV/A none
Active current limiting: adjustable
Size: 0.6″ × 0.7″ 0.6″ × 0.6″
1-piece price: $5.95 $6.95 $9.95 $12.95 (E)
$12.95 (P)
1 On Pololu carrier board, at room temperature and without additional cooling.

New product: Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield

Posted by Kevin on 31 March 2022

We’re excited to announce the launch of our new Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield! This I²C motor controller is designed to plug into an Arduino or Arduino-compatible board and control up to three bidirectional brushed DC motors at voltages from 4.5 V to 48 V with continuous currents of up to 2 A per channel. However, what really sets the Motoron apart from our other motor shields is that you can easily stack multiple boards to control even more motors at once!

Unlike basic motor driver shields that are best for driving just a few channels using the Arduino’s hardware PWM outputs, the Motoron M3S256 has its own on-board microcontroller with an I²C interface, letting you communicate with a stack of many controllers using only two I/O lines. Each Motoron can be configured to have a unique I²C target address, ensuring that every shield can be addressed individually and every motor can be controlled independently. For synchronized motion, you can even signal all the motors on several controllers to change speed at the same time with a single I²C command.

We provide an Arduino library for the Motoron that makes it easy to send it commands and configure its many settings, including motion parameters and error handling options. Working with multiple Motoron controllers is as simple as calling a few functions once you have set up their I²C addresses:

// Set up acceleration and deceleration limits for Motoron #1
mc1.setMaxAcceleration(1, 80);
mc1.setMaxDeceleration(1, 300);
mc1.setMaxAcceleration(3, 50);

// Set up acceleration and deceleration limits for Motoron #2
mc2.setMaxAcceleration(2, 50);
mc2.setMaxDeceleration(2, 200);
 
// Drive the motors
 
mc1.setSpeed(1, -800);
mc1.setSpeed(2, 100);
mc1.setSpeed(3, -100);
 
mc2.setSpeed(1, -400);
mc2.setSpeed(2, 50);
mc2.setSpeed(3, 300);

Alternatively, if you are not using a microcontroller board with the standard Arduino form factor, it is almost as easy to use the Motoron on a breadboard.

A Raspberry Pi Pico on a breadboard using a Motoron M3S256 shield to control three motors.

The Motoron M3S256 is available in three versions with different connector options:

Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield for Arduino (Connectors Soldered).

Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield Kit for Arduino.

Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield for Arduino (No Connectors).

You might wonder why the assembled version comes with 3.5mm-pitch terminal blocks soldered in when the through-holes are spaced 5 mm apart. The answer is that the smaller 3.5 mm terminal blocks allow for more clearance when the shields are stacked, reducing the risk of shorting them to each other, but we still designed the board with bigger holes and wider spacing for maximum flexibility.

For more information about the Motoron M3S256, see the product pages and the comprehensive user’s guide. We have plans to expand the Motoron family with more versions including Raspberry Pi-compatible form factors and higher-power models, so expect more announcements soon!

New products: S13VxF5 step-up/step-down voltage regulators

Posted by Ben on 14 February 2022
Tags: new products

We have released three new members of the S13VxF5 regulator family:

These lower-current variations are much smaller than the existing 3A Step-Up/Step-Down Voltage Regulator S13V30F5, but they can handle continuous output currents of 1 A, 1.5 A, and 2 A, respectively, with efficiencies from 85% to 95%. Like the S13V30F5, these smaller units accept input voltages from 2.8V to 22V and feature under-voltage lockout, output over-voltage protection, and over-current protection as well as thermal shutdown and soft-start, but they do not have reverse voltage protection or a disable input.

Each member of the S13VxF5 family has a fixed 5V output, and the components are optimized for different current capabilities. With the S13V20F5 in particular, we are offering a variant with a much more expensive inductor to squeeze out the most power we can in the smallest package.

The Zumo gets a graphical display too: new Zumo 32U4 OLED Robot!

Posted by Kevin on 23 November 2021

Our 3pi+ 32U4 robot got an upgraded OLED display earlier this year, and now it’s the Zumo’s turn with the release of our new Zumo 32U4 OLED Robot!

In many ways, this new version is just like the original Zumo 32U4: it’s a versatile tracked robot designed to be a capable Mini-Sumo competitor, but with enough sensors and extra features to enable lots of other applications. The Zumo 32U4 OLED adds to that versatility by replacing the original LCD (liquid crystal display) with a high-contrast graphical OLED display. With this monochrome 128×64 screen, you can present high-density data displays to help you analyze the Zumo’s status and sensor readings, or you can add some flair to your Zumo by showing eye-catching graphics.

We’ve updated our Arduino library for the Zumo 32U4 to add OLED display support as well as an LCD compatibility layer (the same way we did for the 3pi+), letting you easily convert existing programs to run on the OLED version or write new programs that will work on both old and new robots.

As with the LCD version, the new Zumo 32U4 OLED robot is available as a kit (with motors not included so you can select your own to customize performance) or as a fully assembled robot with your choice of 50:1, 75:1, or 100:1 motor options

Assembled Zumo 32U4 robot.

Assembled Zumo 32U4 OLED robot.

New Products

5V, 2A Step-Up/Step-Down Voltage Regulator S13V20F5
Motoron M1U256 Single Serial Motor Controller
Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield for Arduino (No Connectors)
Motoron M2H24v16 Dual High-Power Motor Controller for Raspberry Pi (Connectors Soldered)
8-AA Battery Holder, 2×2×2 Arrangement
DRV8434A Stepper Motor Driver Carrier (Header Pins Soldered)
DRV8874 Single Brushed DC Motor Driver Carrier
Motoron M2S18v20 Dual High-Power Motor Controller Shield for Arduino (Connectors Soldered)
Motoron M3S256 Triple Motor Controller Shield Kit for Arduino
4-AA Battery Holder, 2×2 Arrangement
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