Pololu Blog (Page 30)

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.

New product: Adafruit Pi Case

Posted by Ben on 23 May 2014

We are expanding our selection of products from Adafruit, and the latest addition is the Adafruit Pi Case, a stylish protective enclosure for the Raspberry Pi. And to celebrate, we are dropping the price of our Raspberry Pis!

Closed Monday, May 26

Posted by Paul on 23 May 2014

We will be closed on Monday, May 26 in observance of Memorial Day. Orders placed after 2 PM Pacific Time on Friday, May 23 will be shipped on Tuesday, May 27.

New products: sub-micro plastic planetary gearmotors & compatible wheels

Posted by Jon on 22 May 2014
Tags: new products

Need a “little” help with your next electronics project? Get it up and running with our sub-micro plastic planetary gearmotors! Measuring a minuscule 6 mm in diameter and weighing just over a gram, these gearmotors are even smaller (and much lighter) than our popular micro metal gearmotors.

26:1 sub-micro plastic planetary gearmotor next to a micro metal gearmotor and a LEGO Minifigure for size reference.

Our sub-micro plastic gearmotors are available in two gear ratios: 26:1 and 136:1. Click on those ratios to learn more about each motor!

Motor accessories

While there are no mounting holes, their cylindrical bodies makes them perfect for snapping into 1/4″ (6 mm) fuse clips, and their small scale makes it easy to affix them with tape or glue. We are also now carrying tiny 14 × 4.5 mm wheels, which are compatible with the sub-micro plastic gearmotor output shafts.

26:1 sub-micro plastic planetary gearmotor being held by a 1/4″ (6 mm) fuse clip.

Sub-micro plastic planetary gearmotor with a 14×4.5mm wheel.

But, Jon, what can I do with such a tiny, adorable motor?

I’m glad you asked! The way I see it, you really only have two options:

  1. Spin something really tiny and adorable.
  2. Make something tiny and adorable like this line follower made by Pololu engineer Kevin (blog post coming soon!):

I’m just kidding; there are definitely plenty of interesting things that can be made with these motors. We can’t wait to see what you use these motors for!

New product: Metal servo horn for HD-1235MG giant servos

Posted by Ben on 19 May 2014
Tags: new products

We are now carrying metal servo horns that work with Power HD’s ultra-high-torque HD-1235MG giant servos, which can deliver a whopping 560 oz-in (40 kg-cm) at 7.4 V. If you want to get the most power out of your HD-1235MG, I recommend substituting one of these anodized aluminum horns for the included plastic horns.

New distributors in Singapore and Colorado

Posted by Paul on 16 May 2014
Tags: distributors

We are happy to announce two new Pololu distributors:

Sun Light Electronics Pte Ltd is an electronics supplier in Singapore that was founded in 1992. They specialize in “ICs and transistors”, but as you can see from their website, they now carry far more than that, including a large selection of hobby, robotics, and prototyping products.

Virtuabotix, in Colorado Springs, CO, is an electronics hardware manufacturer and distributor. They specialize in open-source hardware and have their own family of Arduino-compatible boards called Versalino. Virtuabotix also sells products through storefronts at Amazon, Newegg, and eBay.

See our growing list of almost 200 distributors to find one in your area.

Custom optical encoder signal processing board for the Zumo

Posted by Jon on 16 May 2014

Erich, a professor at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland, posted to our forum about a circuit he designed for the robots he’s building based on our Zumo chassis for his embedded system programming course. His Zumos are retrofitted with our micro metal gearmotors with extended backshafts and optical encoder board. The custom circuit he designed converts the analog output of our optical encoder boards to digital waveforms, which makes them more easily interpreted by microcontrollers and other devices. His board uses a Digital-to-Analog Converter (Microchip’s MCP4728) and four op-amps (Microchip MCP6004) to generate the modified quadrature output. The DAC can be controlled directly over I²C and can be calibrated automatically. After verifying that it works, Eric ordered a bunch more boards to use in his course:

One of Erich’s fully soldered optical encoder boards with attached 3-tooth wheel.

This oscilloscope capture compares the processed encoder output (top) with the raw output voltages of the optical encoder board (bottom).

A bunch of signal processing PCBs!

Erich’s optical encoder signal processing board with components populated.

We look forward to seeing how they work with the Zumos!

You can read more about Erich’s signal processing boards on this blog post from his website. You can follow the progression of the robots used in his course by visiting these forum posts:

March 2013: Zumo Robot with FRDM-KL25Z Board

September 2013: Zumo Robot with Pololu Plug-in Modules

October 2013: Zumo Robot with Pololu Plug-in Modules, assembled

December 2013: Zumo Tournament Videos

New products (and demo): Force-sensing linear potentiometers and resistors

Posted by Claire on 15 May 2014
Tags: new products

We are now carrying four exciting new sensors from Interlink Electronics:

The two force-sensing resistors (or FSRs, for short) are short-tail versions of the small, circular FSRs we already carry, which allows them to be integrated into applications with tighter space constraints. These sensors act just like variable resistors that depend on the applied pressure, so you can put them into a simple voltage divider circuit and measure the force on them with a single analog-to-digital (ADC) microcontroller input.

0.6″-diameter short-tail force sensing resistor (FSR) next to a 0.6″-diameter FSR with a standard tail.

The two force-sensing linear potentiometers (or FSLPs) take the force-measuring functionality of FSRs and add in the ability to detect the location of the force, all while being an entirely passive component that is incredibly easy to use.

The two force-sensing linear potentiometers (FSLPs).

These FSLPs are exciting because they enable fun new touch interfaces, not only for you to interact with your project but for your project to interact with the world. We decided to make a quick demo for the Las Vegas Mini Maker Faire 2014 to show just how easy it was to do something cool with this sensor. The video at the top of this blog post shows the demo in action.

In the demo, a 4.0″×0.4″ FSLP is used with an Arduino Uno R3 to meassure the position and pressure of the user’s finger. (For applications where space is tight, smaller modules like our Arduino-compatible A-Star Micro can be directly substituted for the Uno.) Using the strip requires four connections to a microcontroller and one additional resistor. Two of the required connections must be analog inputs. Four connections for one sensor might seem like a lot to deal with, but step-by-step procedures in section 5 of the sensor’s integration guide (513k pdf) make it easy to get the sensor working, and the Arduino code used in this demo is available on github to help get you started. A diagram of the connections made between the sensor, Arduino, and LED strip in this demo are shown below.

The connections shown in the diagram also work with the shorter 1.4″×0.4″ FSLP (referred to as “standard FSLP” in the integration guide), though the pin numbers that correspond to each of the sensors outputs (SL, D1, and D2) are different for the two sizes of FSLP. The pin numbers for each FSLP can be seen in Figure 9 of the FSLP Integration Guide. In the guide the 4.0″×0.4″ FSLP is referred to as a “10 cm FSLP”.

Once the Arduino reads the position and pressure data from the sensor, it sends signals to a WS2812B addressable LED strip that control the number of LEDs that turn on and their color. The further along the strip your finger moves the greater the number of LEDs that light up, and the more pressure you apply the more the color of all the LEDs changes from blue to red.

To make the demo easy to transport and able to be left on all day, a 9V wall adapter was used to power the Arduino and 5V step-down regulator. The power connections from the regulator’s 5V output to the power input of the LED strip were also simplified by using a DC barrel jack to terminal block adapter and a DC barrel plug to terminal block adapter. The structure of the demo was laser cut from 1/8″ clear acrylic, and aluminum standoffs were used as spacers.

If you guys do something cool with our force-sensing linear potentiometers or resistors, we’d love to hear about it!

Nick Moxley's DIY racing simulator

Posted by Brandon on 14 May 2014

Nick Moxley made a DIY seat mover (with two degrees of freedom) and shared his build on our forum. This racing simulator is powered by two of our Jrk 12v12 USB Motor Controllers with Feedback and controlled from the popular XSimulator software. The picture below shows Nick’s jrk motor controllers, which he modified by adding heat sinks for additional cooling.

This is one impressive build that I highly recommend checking out, especially if you are interested in making your own DIY racing simulator. You can find details about the parts he used (including where he found some of them) as well as many pictures documenting different parts of his build in Nick’s post on the Inside Sim Racing forum. A shorter version of this can be found in Nick’s post on our forum.

Tutorial: How to program a Zumo robot with Simulink

Posted by Kevin on 14 May 2014

We posted about a Simulink library for the Zumo robot recently, and now a tutorial that teaches you how to use that library to program a Zumo robot with Simulink is available on the Adafruit Learning System. The guide walks you through setting up a Simulink model to make the Zumo follow a specific trajectory, then loading the generated code onto the Zumo to see it run.

Related post: Zumo robots programmed with Simulink by MathWorks

Zumo robots programmed with Simulink by MathWorks

Posted by Kevin on 8 May 2014

MathWorks, the producer of technical computing software including MATLAB and Simulink, has released a Simulink library for the Zumo robot. The library provides blocks that represent all of the sensors and peripherals on our Zumo robot for Arduino, making it possible to program an Arduino-controlled Zumo robot using Simulink.

These Simulink-programmed Zumo robots have made a few appearances on MathWorks’ MakerZone blog. This article discusses the math behind programming a robot to follow a line, modeling the control system as a harmonic oscillator.

MathWorks also used several Zumos as part of a demonstration at the Robot Zoo, part of the 2014 Cambridge Science Festival. You can read more about their Zumo demonstration, as well as their other robot exhibits, in their recap of the event.

Related post: How to program a Zumo robot with Simulink

New Products

Magnetic Encoder Disc for 20D mm Metal Gearmotors, OD 9.7 mm, ID 2.0 mm, 20 CPR (Bulk)
Magnetic Encoder Pair Kit for 20D mm Metal Gearmotors, 20 CPR, 2.7-18V
Magnetic Encoder Disc for Mini Plastic Gearmotors, OD 9.7 mm, ID 1.5 mm, 12 CPR (Bulk)
Romi 32U4 Control Board
RoboClaw 2x15A Motor Controller (V5D)
25:1 Metal Gearmotor 20Dx41L mm 6V with Extended Motor Shaft
63:1 Metal Gearmotor 20Dx43L mm 6V with Extended Motor Shaft
488:1 Metal Gearmotor 20Dx46L mm 6V with Extended Motor Shaft
156:1 Metal Gearmotor 20Dx44L mm 6V with Extended Motor Shaft
313:1 Metal Gearmotor 20Dx46L mm 6V with Extended Motor Shaft
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