Pololu Blog (Page 3)

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.

Arduino library for Sharp distance sensors

Posted by Ryan on 6 April 2017

Julien de la Bruère-Terreault (also known as DrGFreeman on the Pololu Forum, creator of the Custom Mini Sumo robot and the Romi and Raspberry Pi robot shared on this blog) made “SharpDistSensor” an Arduino library for analog Sharp distance sensors. If you’re running a recent version of the Arduino IDE, you can install it with the Library Manager. The library reads the sensor’s analog voltage output, filters the data, and converts it to a distance measurement. By default it is calibrated to work with the Sharp GP2Y0A60SZLF analog distance sensor 10-150cm 5V, but you can calibrate it to other analog Sharp distance sensors (if you can fit a power function or a fifth order polynomial to the voltage vs distance response of your sensor). Pull requests are welcome for supporting other Sharp distance sensor models!

The readme, library code, and example sketches are available in the GitHub repository.

Custom laser cutting for retro-gaming TV enclosure

Posted by Ryan on 5 April 2017

One of our customers used our custom laser cutting service to cut the birch plywood panels for his retro-gaming TV system that he sells on Etsy. The birch panels are stained with shellac. The system runs on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, to which you can connect (not-included) controllers with Bluetooth or USB. The Raspberry Pi’s Ethernet port, SD card slot, and 4 USB ports are accessible in the back.

Semi-autonomous 14-DOF quadrupeds using Mini Maestro

Posted by Ryan on 4 April 2017

Customer Lujing Cen’s team built two semi-autonomous 14-DOF quadrupeds using Mini Maestros for their high school class project at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science. The project syllabus includes making two separate robot designs and three total robots that work together. These quadrupeds were the “pack robots” described in the syllabus. An 18-channel Mini Maestro USB servo controller controls the twelve leg and two head servos. The project code includes a rewrite of Pololu’s Maestro C# USB SDK library in Python. The robot uses a camera and an RFID scanner to track its targets.

For the complete project documentation including more pictures and videos, see their GitHub project page. Lujing also posted about it on the Pololu Forum.

FEETECH High-Torque Servo FS5115M

Posted by Ryan on 31 March 2017
Tags: new products

We added the FEETECH High-Torque Servo FS5115M to our expanding RC servo selection. This standard-size analog servo has a stall torque of 215 oz-in (15.5 kg-cm) at 6 V, more than twice the torque of our standard-size servos with plastic gears thanks to its powerful motor and all-metal gear train. This higher torque requires more power: this servo can draw bursts of current in excess of 3 A at 6 V, about three times higher than a typical standard-size servo. The output shaft is supported by two ball bearings for reduced friction.

Comparison to the Power HD 1501MG high-torque servo

This servo is a lower-cost alternative to the 1501MG from Power HD, which has nearly identical dimensions and similar performance. The two servos should be generally interchangeable for most applications. The picture below shows both the FS5115M and the 1501MG side by side:

Expect more new FEETECH servos in the coming weeks!

How to make a Balboa robot balance, part 3: encoders

Posted by Paul on 30 March 2017


How to make a Balboa robot balance, part 3: encoders

This is the third post in a series about how to make a Balboa 32U4 robot balance. Last week I talked about inertial sensors, especially the gyro. In this post I will talk about the Balboa’s built-in encoders, which allow accurate measurements of motor speed and distance.

To get your Balboa to balance, you will soon need to create a balancing algorithm, a program that takes sensor input and computes the appropriate motor speed settings to keep the robot upright. So far our only inputs, both from the gyro, are the rate of rotation and current angle of the robot. These are not quite enough to make a good balancer. To see why, suppose that your program tries to balance by holding the angle at a constant 90°. If your definition of 90° is even slightly off-balance, the robot will need to keep accelerating, driving faster and faster to maintain it, until it reaches top speed or hits an obstacle. You might be able to account for this by using the motor output settings themselves as an input to your algorithm, but this is difficult, especially at the low speeds used for balancing. Also, even if you can avoid accelerating, your robot will gradually drift in one direction or the other. The Balboa’s encoders are valuable additional sensor inputs that allow you to measure how fast the wheels are actually turning, so you can directly control acceleration and drift. As a bonus, encoders are great for driving straight, precision turns, and navigation. Continued…

Line-following robot and mini-sumo main board from tdrobótica.co

Posted by Ryan on 30 March 2017
Tags: distributors

One of our distributors in Colombia, tdrobótica.co, has developed a line-following robot kit and a mini-sumo main board kit.

The first kit includes everything you need to build a sleek line-following robot. It uses an Arduino-compatible A-Star 32U4 Micro as the main controller. It also uses a DRV8833 Dual Motor Driver Carrier, two Pololu micro metal gearmotors, brackets, and a 3/8″ ball caster.

The second kit is also based on the A-Star 32U4 Micro and DRV8833 carrier, and it includes much of the electronics needed to build a custom mini-sumo robot, including a buzzer, a voltage regulator, and an IR receiver for controlling it with a TV remote. It has two DRV8833 carriers, each with their channels paralleled to drive a total of two motors. There are connection points for 7 digital sensors (up to 5 can be analog).

tdrobótica.co’s mini-sumo main board kit.

For more information (in Spanish), see the line-following robot kit and a mini-sumo main board product pages.

FEETECH Ultra-High-Torque, High-Voltage Digital Giant Servo FT5335M

Posted by Ryan on 29 March 2017
Tags: new products

We added the FEETECH Ultra-High-Torque, High-Voltage Digital Giant Servo FT5335M to our expanding RC servo selection. This giant-scale digital servo can deliver twice the torque of our strongest standard-size servo, offering up to 550 oz-in at 7.4V or 480 oz-in at 6 V. This torque requires significant power: the FT5335M can draw bursts of current over 9 A at 7.4 V, and unlike typical hobby servos, has an operating voltage range of 6 V to 7.4 V.

FEETECH Ultra-High-Torque, High-Voltage Digital Giant Servo FT5335M compared to a standard-size servo.

The FEETECH Ultra-High-Torque, High-Voltage Digital Giant Servo FT5335M has an all-metal gear train.

This servo is a lower-cost alternative to the very similar 1235MG from Power HD. The two servos are approximately the same size, though the mounting hole spacing differs between the two, and they have almost identical performance specifications. The output shaft of the 1235MG is supported by two ball bearings while the output shaft of the FT5335M is supported by bushings. The picture below shows both the FT5335M and the 1235MG side-by-side:

Expect more new FEETECH servos in the coming weeks!

Aluminum standoff for Raspberry Pi

Posted by Ryan on 29 March 2017
Tags: new products

We are now carrying the Aluminum Standoff for Raspberry Pi: 11mm Length, 4mm M2.5 Thread, M-F. The 11 mm body length is just right for mounting expansion PCBs or HATs with standard-size female headers on a Raspberry Pi. The male M2.5 threads extend another 4 mm past the standoff body, and the female M2.5 threads extend at least 6.35 mm into the body. We carry M2.5 nuts and 6 mm M2.5 screws separately.

Two of these standoffs are needed to mount a Raspberry Pi on a Balboa 32U4 robot:

Balboa 32U4 Balancing Robot with 80×10mm wheels and a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

We also carry a 11 mm standoff with longer, 6mm threads. (We do not recommend these for the Balboa because the threads hit the robot chassis.)

Romi and Raspberry Pi robot

Posted by Ryan on 28 March 2017

Forum user DrGFreeman has been busy making robots. I wrote earlier about his Custom Mini Sumo robot; now here is his Romi Chassis and Raspberry Pi robot. It solves mazes using a webcam to do line tracking and intersection identification. This robot is a great example of how a variety of Pololu robot parts can combine into an attractive and functional robot. A black Romi chassis kit provides the base for the robot, to which DrGFreeman added a encoder pair kit and ball caster kit. An A-Star 32U4 Robot Controller SV with Raspberry Pi Bridge drives the motors and monitors four Sharp GP2Y0A60SZLF analog distance sensors and the Romi encoders. The robot controller and the Raspberry Pi communicate via I²C and are elevated above the chassis on a narrow Pololu RP5/Rover 5 expansion plate.

DrGFreeman is also working on a mast for three VL53L0X time-of-flight distance sensor carriers that he plans to add for simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM).

For more videos, pictures, and details, see the forum thread. The robot’s Raspberry Pi (Python) and Arduino code is available on GitHub.

New 5V step-up/step-down voltage regulator S9V11F5

Posted by Ben on 27 March 2017
Tags: new products

Our newest step-up/step-down voltage regulator, the S9V11F5, takes input voltages between 2 V and 16 V and increases or decreases that voltage as necessary to produce a fixed 5 V output with a typical efficiency of over 90%. (Note that it requires a minimum of 3 V to start up, but it can operate down to 2 V once it is running.) It can temporarily deliver peaks of around 2 A, and the maximum continuous output current depends on the input voltage as shown in the graph below:

The ability to raise or lower the input voltage makes this regulator especially well suited for battery-powered applications where the nominal battery voltage is close 5 V, such as when using four NiMH cells, since the battery voltage transitions from above 5V to below as the battery discharges. The wide input voltage range is also great for applications where you want a lot of flexibility in power supply choice or for systems powered by alternative energy sources like solar or wind, where the output voltage can vary a lot.

With a wider input voltage range and its ability to deliver more current, the S9V11F5 is a higher-performance alternative to our popular S7V7F5 buck-boost regulator, all while being even smaller in size thanks to its double-sided assembly.

For more information on this regulator, visit the S9V11F5 product page, and for other regulator options, you can take a look at our full selection of step-up/step-down regulators, step-up voltage regulators, and step-down voltage regulators.

New Products

Addressable RGB 16x16-LED Flexible Panel, 5V, 10mm Grid (SK9822)
Addressable RGB 150-LED Strip, 5V, 5m (SK9822)
FEETECH Ultra-High-Torque, High-Voltage Digital Giant Servo FT5335M
Aluminum Standoff for Raspberry Pi: 11mm Length, 4mm M2.5 Thread, M-F (4-Pack)
Wall Power Adapter: 12VDC, 1A, 5.5×2.1mm Barrel Jack, Center-Positive
Sanyo Pancake Stepper Motor with Encoder: Bipolar, 200 Steps/Rev, 42×24.5mm, 3.5V, 1 A/Phase, 4000 CPR
Wall Power Adapter: 5.25VDC, 2.4A, 20AWG MicroUSB Cable
RoboClaw 2x60A Motor Controller (V6)
FEETECH High-Torque Servo FS5115M
Addressable RGB 8x32-LED Flexible Panel, 5V, 10mm Grid (SK9822)
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