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Pololu Blog (Page 4)

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.

Popular tags: community projects new products raspberry pi arduino more…

Tito-Stretch: a Pi Wars robot by Hitchin Hackspace

Posted by Jon on 4 June 2019

For the second year in a row, Team Hitchin Hackspace and their robot, Tito-Stretch, placed 4th overall in the Pi Wars! They did this at the Advanced/Pro level, which is Pi Wars’ most challenging competition category. (In case you haven’t heard already: Pi Wars is an international robotics competition that focuses on Raspberry Pi-controlled robots.) The video above features Tito-stretch high-tailing it through the obstacle course event. The team’s speedy performance allowed them to climb to the very top of their division, which is a step above their 2nd place finish in 2018’s obstacle course event.

Tito-Stretch is the latest iteration of the hackspace’s competition robot, which has evolved in name and form over the last few years. As we understand it, the team named the original version of their robot Twenty Two Over Seven (22/7 is one way to approximate pi), abbreviated that to TTOS, and then affectionately transitioned to calling the robot “Tito”. Later, the team lengthened their robot and accordingly appended “-⁠Stretch” to the name.

The designers/builders of Tito-Stretch: Pi Wars team Hitchin Hackspace.

Tito-Stretch on a desk.

Tito-Stretch on gravel.

The Tito-Stretch chassis is a 3D-printed design that uses a pair of skateboard bearings in a way that decouples the front and rear parts of the chassis, allowing each part to roll independent of the other. This passive articulation allows the robot to more consistently maintain all four wheels as solid points of contact on uneven terrain. When assembled, the chassis parts clamp down onto four 12V 25D mm gearmotors, and a VNH5019 motor driver controls each motor. A 5V regulator steps down the voltage of a 3S LiPo and powers a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+, which is the brain of the operation. The team can remotely control their robot with Bluetooth controllers (they currently use a PS4 controller, but have used other devices in the past), and various accessories like a few VL53L0X time of flight distance sensors help enable autonomous navigation. You can find code for Tito-Stretch, and older versions of Hitchin Hackspace’s Pi Wars robots, on their GitHub page.

Great job on your competition this year, Hitchin Hackspace! We hope to hear more about your robots in the future!

New high-gear ratio Micro Metal Gearmotors

Posted by Ben on 3 June 2019
Tags: new products
New high-gear ratio Micro Metal Gearmotors

Our Micro Metal Gearmotors are now available with 380:1 gearboxes, offering a new high gear ratio option between our existing 298:1 and 1000:1 versions. Unlike the 1000:1 gearmotors, which uniquely require a longer, more expensive gearbox to achieve such a big reduction, the 380:1 gearboxes fit everything in the same volume as all our lower gear ratios, so they are the same price as those lower-ratio versions and they work with all our micro metal gearmotor brackets.

What really sets these new units apart from our other gear ratios are their stainless steel gearbox plates, which are more durable than the ubiquitous brass ones, especially in applications with non-negligible radial loads. They also look way cooler! Continued…

Distributor Active Robots attends micromouse challenge at Swansea University

Posted by Emily on 28 May 2019


One of our UK distributors, Active Robots, recently had the opportunity to attend a micromouse competition at Swansea University in Wales. Students at the competition used many Pololu parts purchased through Active Robots including our laser-cut RRC01A chassis, 50:1 micro metal gearmotor LP, 42×19mm Wheel Pair, and 3/8″ Plastic Ball Caster.

Traditional micromouse competitions usually involve small autonomous robots competing to see which one can solve a maze the fastest. Swansea University’s competition didn’t include maze solving, but instead involved three tasks that the robots had to complete: line following, obstacle avoidance, and combat. You can read more about what the micromouse competition entailed and Active Robots’ visit on their blog.

Memorial Day Sale

Posted by Emily on 23 May 2019


We are having a Memorial Day sale all weekend long with site-wide discounts of up to 25%! Check out the sale page for more information. Please note that we will be closed Monday, so orders placed after 2 PM Pacific Time Friday, May 24 will be shipped on Tuesday, May 28th.

New 5:1 Glideforce light-duty linear actuators

Posted by Ben on 21 May 2019
Tags: new products

We have filled out our line of 5:1 Glideforce Light-Duty Linear Actuators to include all of Concentric’s available lengths by adding 2″, 6″, 8″, and 10″ versions, with and without feedback, to our existing 4″ and 12″ options. The low gear ratio makes these our fastest (but weakest) linear actuators, capable of lifting up to a few dozen pounds at speeds up to 1.7″ per second (44 mm/s) at 12 V. For stronger but slower options, we have versions available with a 10:1 gear ratio or 20:1 gear ratio.

This brings our total selection of light-duty actuators to 36 options:

Actuator
Type
Max
Dynamic
Load
No-Load
Speed
@ 12 V
Max-Load
Speed
@ 12 V
Current
Draw
@ 12 V
Nominal
Stroke
Length
With
Feedback
Without
Feedback
Light-Duty
(LD) 5:1
15 kgf
[34 lbs]
4.4 cm/s
[1.7″/s]
3.6 cm/s
[1.4″/s]
1.2 A –
3.2 A
2″ LACT2P-12V-05 LACT2-12V-05
4″ LACT4P-12V-05 LACT4-12V-05
6″ LACT6P-12V-05 LACT6-12V-05
8″ LACT8P-12V-05 LACT8-12V-05
10″ LACT10P-12V-05 LACT10-12V-05
12″ LACT12P-12V-05 LACT12-12V-05
Light-Duty
(LD) 10:1
25 kgf
[55 lbs]
2.8 cm/s
[1.1″/s]
2.3 cm/s
[0.9″/s]
1.2 A –
3.2 A
2″ LACT2P-12V-10 LACT2-12V-10
4″ LACT4P-12V-10 LACT4-12V-10
6″ LACT6P-12V-10 LACT6-12V-10
8″ LACT8P-12V-10 LACT8-12V-10
10″ LACT10P-12V-10 LACT10-12V-10
12″ LACT12P-12V-10 LACT12-12V-10
Light-Duty
(LD) 20:1
50 kgf
[110 lbs]
1.5 cm/s
[0.57″/s]
1.2 cm/s
[0.48″/s]
1.2 A –
3.2 A
2″ LACT2P-12V-20 LACT2-12V-20
4″ LACT4P-12V-20 LACT4-12V-20
6″ LACT6P-12V-20 LACT6-12V-20
8″ LACT8P-12V-20 LACT8-12V-20
10″ LACT10P-12V-20 LACT10-12V-20
12″ LACT12P-12V-20 LACT12-12V-20

New products: ACS724 current sensor carriers

Posted by Ben on 17 May 2019
Tags: new products

We now have new current sensors based on Allegro’s ACS724, the successor to the ACS714 that we have been using for many years. The ACS724 offers a number of exciting improvements over the ACS714, including more current range options (up to ±50 A!), over twice the sensitivity for the ±5 A version, a higher bandwidth for faster response times, and differential Hall sensing for substantially reduced interference from ambient magnetic fields. In quick tests, we saw a variation of around 1% of the full range just from changing the orientation of the ACS714 in space (because of the Earth’s magnetic field), while the ACS724 output stayed steady regardless of orientation. We also tried bringing a small magnet close to each sensor, and its effect on the output was many times smaller on the ACS724.

These bidirectional and unidirectional current sensors are a simple way to gain fundamental insight into the performance of your system. You can use them for closed-loop torque control of actuators, tracking power consumption over time, or even as inexpensive current probes for an oscilloscope. They output an analog voltage that varies linearly with the current passing through them, and because they use the Hall effect to measure the current, they offer full electrical isolation of the current path from the sensor’s electronics. This method of sensing means the sensor can be inserted anywhere into the current path, including on the high side, and because their current path resistance is on the order of 1 mΩ or less, they have minimal effect on the rest of the system.

Five different current ranges are available:

Together with the Broadcom ACHS-712x current sensors we released last month, this brings our full current sensor lineup to thirteen sensors:


ACS709 Current
Sensor Carrier

ACS711EX Current
Sensor Carriers

ACS714 Current
Sensor Carriers

ACS724 Current
Sensor Carriers

ACHS-712x Current
Sensor Carriers
Sensor IC: ACS709 ACS711EX ACS714 ACS724 ACHS-712x
Current range / sensitivity(1): ±75 A / 28 mV/A ±15.5 A / 136 mV/A
±31 A / 68 mV/A
±5 A / 185 mV/A
±30 A / 66 mV/A
0–⁠10 A / 400 mv/A
0–⁠30 A / 133 mV/A
±5 A / 400 mV/A
±20 A / 100 mV/A
±50 A / 40 mV/A
±10 A / 185 mV/A
±20 A / 100 mV/A
±30 A / 66 mV/A
Path resistance: 1.1 mΩ 0.6 mΩ 1.2 mΩ 1.2 mΩ 0.7 mΩ
Bandwidth 120 kHz 100 kHz 80 kHz 120 kHz 80 kHz
Vcc range:(1) 3 V–5.5 V 3 V–5.5 V 4.5 V–5.5 V 4.5 V–5.5 V 4.5 V–5.5 V
Size: 0.82″ × 0.9″ 0.7″ × 0.8″ 0.7″ × 0.8″ 0.7″ × 0.8″ 0.7″ × 0.8″
Special features: configurable
over-current threshold,
low-voltage operation,
high bandwidth
over-current fault pin,
low-voltage operation
Differential Hall sensing
rejects common-mode fields,
high bandwidth
1-piece price: $9.95 $3.25 $9.95 $9.95 $4.95
1 Sensitivity based on when Vcc is 5V.

Introductory special

As usual, we are offering an extra introductory special discount on the ACS724 current sensor carriers, to help share in our celebration of releasing a new product. The first hundred customers to use coupon code ACS724INTRO can get up to five units for just $5.55 each!

Video: How to Say Pololu!

Posted by Emily on 8 May 2019
Tags: pololu videos

The name Pololu is simple, but over the years, we’ve noticed some customers mispronouncing our name or hesitating to say it. And if you can’t say our name, how will you tell your friends about us? So if you are unsure about how to say Pololu, I hope this little video will help you out:

New product: Silicone Tires for Pololu wheels

Posted by Jon on 1 May 2019
Tags: new products

Silicone Tire Pair for 80×10mm/90×10mm (left) and 60×8mm/70×8mm (right) Pololu Wheels.

We have recently had several requests for just the tires from our largest Pololu wheels, so here they are! The silicone tires are available in two sizes, with the smaller tire working with our 60×8mm and 70×8mm wheels and the larger tire working with our 80×10mm and 90×10mm wheels. The tires are intended primarily as replacement parts for our wheels, but they can also be used as nicer tires for other similarly sized wheels, such as the 2-5/8″ plastic wheels for Futaba servos.

Laser-cut teapot coasters

Posted by Claire on 24 April 2019

This past weekend my mom hosted a tea-themed baby shower for me, and after looking around and not finding any party favors I liked, I decided to make my own custom laser-cut teapot-shaped coasters for it. To get started, I searched some free vector file sites for a vector file of a teapot that I liked and could easily prepare for laser-cutting with CorelDRAW. I chose this one designed by Freepik. Once loaded into the software, I resized the teapot and added text. I personally really like cork as a coaster material since it keeps the cup from slipping and absorbs moisture well, so I also picked up some 1/8″ cork place mats from IKEA.

Evidently, cork is not a material we are asked to laser-engrave very often, so I had to do some experimenting with the engraving settings before cutting out prototypes.

I generally liked the look of the first draft, but realized that at 4 inches total width it was too small to be practical (and readable). In addition, the handle of the teapot was fairly fragile since the cork was only an eighth of an inch thick. Below you can see the first draft of the cork teapot in the upper left. It is missing the small circular embellishment at the base of the handle.

Comparison of different test coaster sizes.

For the second draft, I increased the size to about 5.5 inches, edited my file to thicken the areas of the teapot where the handle connects to the base, and started playing with different acrylic backings to make the coasters more durable and colorful. I tried a version with an outline around the cork teapot and one that fit directly beneath the cork.

In the end, I went with the sleeker acrylic with no outline, though most of the others I consulted here preferred the mirrored outline shown on the left above (despite my insistence that it looked like a magic lamp). I cut out a variety of colors and glued them to the back of the cork with rubber cement.

All in all I think they came out well (though I could have made the attachment for the small circle at the bottom of the handle even thicker), and they were definitely a big hit at the party!

If you want to try your own laser cutting project, submit a quote request here!

New product: DB15 Screw Terminal Adapter for MCP23X/26X Advanced Motor Controllers

Posted by Jon on 19 April 2019
Tags: new products

DB15 Screw Terminal Adapter for MCP23X/26X Advanced Motor Controllers with included hardware.

DB15 screw terminal adapter mated to an MCP266 Advanced Motor Controller.

We are now carrying a DB15 Screw Terminal Adapter for MCP23X/26X Advanced Motor Controllers. The adapter breaks out connections from the DB15 connector to a set of screw terminals, making accessing those pins easier during prototyping. It is designed specifically to work with the MCP Advanced Motor Controllers that feature a DB15 connector: the MCP233, MCP236, MCP263, and MCP266. However, it could also be used as a generic breakout board for other hardware that uses the same connector, like old computer joysticks or MIDI devices (where it is called a game port).

New Products

6-Pin Female JST SH-Style Cable 12cm
6V, 5.5A Step-Down Voltage Regulator D36V50F6
15:1 Micro Metal Gearmotor MP 6V
6.3:1 Metal Gearmotor 37Dx65L mm 24V with 64 CPR Encoder (Helical Pinion)
6.3:1 Metal Gearmotor 37Dx65L mm 12V with 64 CPR Encoder (Helical Pinion)
ACHS-7125 Current Sensor Carrier -50A to +50A
100:1 Metal Gearmotor 37Dx73L mm 24V with 64 CPR Encoder (Helical Pinion)
6.3:1 Metal Gearmotor 37Dx50L mm 12V (Helical Pinion)
5V, 5.5A Step-Down Voltage Regulator D36V50F5
RoboClaw 2x60A Motor Controller (V7)
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