You are currently viewing a selection of posts from the Pololu Blog. You can also view all the posts.
I am excited to announce the release of our new Zumo 32U4 Robot Kit, a complete Arduino-compatible robot kit based on the ATmega32U4. We have, in some sense, been working on this robot for about seven years.
One of our major long-term goals at Pololu is to be making complete robots, and many of the parts we make are stepping stones toward that goal. The first real step toward the Zumo started back in 2008, shortly after we started carrying our micro metal gearmotors, when we released the compatible wheels shown at right. The intent was that they could be used with either tires or tracks and optionally with encoders, and that eventually they would be a part of our own robot.
A few years later we had assembled enough parts to release the Zumo chassis. We planned to use this as the base for a complete robot, but by releasing it first as a component, we got to see the community do a lot of interesting things with it. (Check out this Raspberry Pi Zumo, for example.)
It was not until 2012 that we were able to announce a complete robot, the Zumo Robot Kit for Arduino, which combined all of these parts with a new board containing a boost regulator, motor drivers, and inertial sensors. The board works like an upside-down shield: you plug an Arduino onto the top of the robot. We released a compatible reflectance sensor array soon after that, making it possible to use the Zumo for everything from mini-sumo to maze-solving.
So we sort of had a new complete robot, but it was not quite complete enough for us, since it still required a separate Arduino, which we did not manufacture. Also, the upside-down shield configuration blocked a lot of space for expansion and prototyping, we lacked a good solution for obstacle/opponent sensing (that’s important for mini-sumo!), and we had received lots of requests for encoders, which are hard to squeeze into the available space. A lot of our effort in 2013 and 2014 went toward components that we thought could be used on a more complete Zumo, such as smaller quadrature encoders and 38 kHz IR proximity sensors. And developing our A-Star 32U4 line of Arduino-compatible controllers based on the ATmega32U4 helped integrate the Arduino functionality directly into the robot.
So finally we had all the pieces available to make a new, much more capable Zumo that would be completely Pololu, the Zumo 32U4 robot:
The Zumo 32U4 incorporates many features of the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV, including an ATmega32U4 microcontroller with an Arduino-compatible USB bootloader and a step-up/step-down voltage regulator system. There is a handy 8×2 character LCD on top and a buzzer for simple beeps and music. Like the Zumo Robot for Arduino, our kit includes dual motor drivers, a complete 9-axis IMU, and line sensors, but the new integrated quadrature encoders and proximity sensors make this a far more capable platform.
We are initially offering the Zumo 32U4 robot only as a kit. Soldering is required, and it is intended for more advanced or ambitious electronics builders. There are a number of build options – two different kinds of IR LEDs are included and you choose your motor gear ratio – and the construction gives you opportunities to show off your craftsmanship. Some Pololu engineers, for example, have been 3D-printing custom LED holders that mount onto the blade of their Zumos. The Zumo is also expandable; almost all of the I/O lines of the ATmega32U4 and the power and ground nodes are available on arrays of through-holes at the sides and front of the board, and with its low-profile design (you can remove the LCD) there is plenty of room to build on top.
While we hope we have left enough room for physical customizations, the programming, with all the sensing options, is where you can really give your robot personality and make it your own. Modulate the IR emitters for more precise opponent detection, use the accelerometer to detect a bump or a flip (sans LCD, the Zumo can drive upside down), measure distances with the encoders, measure turns with the gyros, … we are looking forward to see what you will come up with!
As we gain experience with the Zumo 32U4 robot and collect feedback from the community, we plan to release more supporting materials and offer assembled options. Our goal is to get it to the point where we can recommend the Zumo to anyone looking for a high-performance programmable robot – hobbyists, students, educators, and others – so stay tuned! Please check out the product page for more details about the robot, and take a look at our example code on GitHub.
Engage your brain as well as your heart this Valentine’s Day by picking up some of our perfectly matched pairs of products at a sweet discount. From Friday through Sunday we will have more than 100 items on sale at up to 20% off. You can find all the deals on our Valentine’s 3-Day Sale page.
It has been snowing on and off today in Las Vegas, but luckily the weather was not bad enough to delay our last product release of 2014: the A-Star 32U4 Prime SV. We hope that this and the other A-Stars we released this year will help bring success to your projects in 2015. Thanks for your business and support in 2014, and Happy New Year!
The A-Star 32U4 Prime SV, our newest A-Star, is an Arduino-compatible board with a switching regulator that allows an input voltage range of 5 V to 36 V. Like the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV we released earlier this month, the A-Star 32U4 Prime SV shares the pinout and form factor of the Arduino Leonardo and should work with compatible shields.
What really sets the A-Star 32U4 Primes apart from competing products is their power supply system based on high-efficiency switching regulators, which allow plenty of power to drive your microcontroller and lots of peripherals over a large range of input voltages. The A-Star 32U4 Prime SV uses the Intersil ISL85410 1-Amp buck regulator, a more powerful relative of the regulator on A-Star 32U4 Mini SV. So you get 1 A at 5 V over most of the SV input voltage range. (We recommend an input voltage of at least 6 V.) And since a switching regulator draws less current as the voltage increases, you can get a lot more out of higher-voltage power supplies and battery packs. In a typical usage scenario, if you power your project with a 12 V battery, the A-Star 32U4 Prime SV will draw about half the current of a competing product with a linear regulator – and last twice as long on a single charge.
|A-Star 32U4 Prime power distribution diagram.|
Like the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV, the SV has a bunch of features designed to make it easy for you to make use of the power. The TPS2113A USB power mux allows you to safely and seamlessly switch between a battery and USB power (up to 1.5 A using a powerful enough USB supply), without the limitations of diodes or fuses. We included a handy power switch for your external power input, extra connection options in case you don’t want to use the standard DC power jack, extra access points for the important power nodes VIN, VREG, 5V, and 3V3, and big power and ground buses.
The A-Star 32U4 Prime SV includes all the same peripheral features as the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV: battery voltage monitoring, three user pushbuttons (sharing the MISO, RXLED, and TXLED lines), a buzzer optionally controlled by digital pin 6, a connector for an HD44780-based character LCD, and – on some models – a microSD card slot that works with the Arduino SD library. Here is an SV with all the optional peripherals installed:
You can purchase this configuration pre-assembled as Pololu item #3115, or get it with almost everything but the LCD as Pololu item #3114. (You can still install an LCD yourself later.) For other configuration options, please see the individual product pages below or the A-Star 32U4 Prime SV category page.
We will be closed for Christmas on Thursday, December 25 and for New Year’s Day on Thursday, January 1, so orders placed after 2 PM Pacific Time on the 24th or 31st will be shipped on the following Friday. Additionally, FedEx Ground does not ship on the 24th (today).
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
In case you missed our Black Friday Sale or are just looking for a last-minute deal before Christmas, check out our year-end inventory reduction sale!
The A-Star 32U4 Prime LV is the newest member of our A-Star family of programmable microcontroller boards. This is the first Pololu board with the familiar Arduino shape: it shares the pinout of the Arduino Leonardo and should work with Leonardo-compatible shields. With some code changes, this A-Star can also serve as a substitute for the similar Arduino Uno in many projects. However, there is a lot more to it than Arduino compatibility!
Unlike the Uno and Leonardo, the A-Star Prime has an efficient 5 V switching regulator and a seamless USB power switching circuit. This “LV” model uses the same power circuit, based on the Texas Instruments TPS63061 and TPS2113A, as the A-Star 32U4 Mini LV. Like that board, the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV can operate from 2.7 V to 11.8 V and supply about 1 A at 5 V, safely and efficiently switching between USB and external power without the limitations of components like fuses or diodes. It also includes a power switch, multiple power input connection points, and optional battery voltage monitoring, making it convenient to use in a variety of power supply scenarios. Here is a diagram of power distribution on the board:
As you can see in the pictures, there are few extra rows of pins next to the normal Arduino headers. The point of these is to give you more connection options: we have included an extra access point (on a 0.1" grid) for most of the pins, as well as extra power and ground buses. The power buses are unconnected by default, so you could, for example, wire VIN directly to a bus and solder in servo connectors in one place (the LV regulator works great on a four- or five-cell NiMH pack), while having another bus run at 3.3 V to power an array of low-voltage sensors. As another example, these buses are a convenient place to add your own custom pull-up or pull-down resistors.
There is a lot of space available in this form factor compared to the typical Pololu breakout board, and we hate to waste space, so we packed it with extra, optional peripherals:
You might recognize some of the optional peripherals from our line of Orangutan Robot Controllers and the 3pi Robot. These are features that we have found really handy in our projects over the years: three user pushbuttons (sharing the MISO, RXLED, and TXLED lines), a buzzer for beeps and simple music (optionally controlled by digital pin 6), and a connector for an HD44780-based character LCD. You can enable just the features you want with jumpers; the ones you do not use will not interfere with shields or other electronics. On some models, we are also including a microSD card slot that works with the Arduino SD library, so you can easily turn your A-Star Prime into a datalogger or access large scripts and media files.
Here is what the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV looks like with all optional peripherals installed:
This configuration is available pre-assembled as Pololu item #3109, while a configuration including pretty much everything but the LCD is available as Pololu item #3108. (You can still install an LCD yourself later.) For other configuration options, please see the individual product pages below or the A-Star 32U4 Prime LV category page.
We just released 3.3 V, 6 V, 7.5 V, and 9 V versions of our D24V25Fx regulators, previously available only in a 5 V version. The D24V25x is a family of step-down regulators that take an input voltage as high as 38 V and have a typical maximum output current around 2.5 A. For more information, take a look at one of the items listed below or check out our step-down voltage regulators category page.
When the Raspberry Pi Model B+ was released last month, one of the most exciting features for us was the availability of a second hardware PWM output that can be used for motor control (previously, only a single hardware PWM output was available on the Model A and Model B). Two is a really useful number for robot builders, since that’s what you need for a basic robot platform, so we thought it would be a great time to make a dual motor driver kit for the Raspberry Pi.
The new Pololu DRV8835 Dual Motor Driver Kit for Raspberry Pi B+ is a minimal, low-cost motor driver expansion board based on the Texas Instruments DRV8835 dual motor driver, one of our favorite motor driver chips for small robots like the Zumo because of its excellent combination of size, cost, and performance. We carry a basic breakout board for this chip and just released an Arduino shield based on the DRV8835 last week.
|Pololu DRV8835 dual motor driver kit (assembled) on a Raspberry Pi Model B+.|
When assembled, the board plugs into a 2×17 block of pins on the Raspberry Pi GPIO header. Power and motors are connected to a separate block of pins, and you can use the included terminal blocks for easier wiring. The board takes an input voltage of 2 V to 11 V and provides two bidirectional motor channels capable of 1.2 A continuous or 1.5 A peak. You can also reconfigure the board for a single channel with twice the current.
Bonus feature – power your Raspberry Pi from your motor supply!
The Raspberry Pi requires a regulated 5 V supply, which is usually provided via the Micro-B USB power port. This is fine for a stationary setup, since you can just use a USB wall power adapter. On a battery powered Raspberry Pi-based robot, however, you need to somehow incorporate your own 5 V regulator capable of supplying about 500 mA. To help simplify your project, the motor driver kit includes a connection point for a three-pin regulator with the standard VIN-GND-VOUT pinout.
In the picture below you can see a complete setup using the motor driver board and our Step-Up/Step-Down Voltage Regulator S7V7F5 to drive two Pololu plastic gearmotors and power the Raspberry Pi from a set of four AA NiMH cells. This regulator is a good match for the range of input voltages of the DRV8835, though below about 4 V you might need something with higher current capability.
|Driving motors with an assembled Pololu DRV8835 Dual Motor Driver Kit for Raspberry Pi B+. A step-up/step-down regulator provides 5 V to the Raspberry Pi.|
For more information, including schematics, pinout diagrams, and example Python code, see the product page.
We are excited to announce the addition of two new motor drivers to our selection of Arduino shields: the Pololu DRV8835 Dual Motor Driver Shield for Arduino and the Pololu A4990 Dual Motor Driver Shield for Arduino. These miniature shields are low-cost, basic dual motor drivers for your Arduino or Arduino-compatible board. When connected to an Arduino, each provides two channels of bidirectional PWM motor control suitable for driving small brushed DC motors. The boards include various handy features like reverse protection, multiple power and motor connection options, and the ability to customize some of the pin mappings. Our open-source libraries provide a convenient way to get started controlling these motors with an Arduino.
Selecting a motor driver shield
|Pololu DRV8835 Dual Motor Driver Shield for Arduino, top and bottom sides.|
|Pololu A4990 Dual Motor Driver Shield for Arduino, top and bottom sides.|
The main practical difference between the shields is their input voltage range, so most people should probably select a shield based on their desired power supply. Here are some details:
Our DRV8835 shield, based on the DRV8835 motor driver from Texas Instruments, has an input voltage range of 2 V to 11 V and can deliver a continuous 1.2 A (1.5 A peak) on each channel. It is suitable, for example, for battery-powered robots similar to the 3pi or Zumo. As a bonus feature of our shield, you can parallel the motor outputs to get a single channel with twice the current capability.
Our A4990 shield uses the Allegro A4990 and is specifically intended for higher-voltage applications, such as projects powered by a 12 V or 24 V battery. It has an input voltage range of 6 V to 32 V and can deliver a continuous 0.65 A (0.9 A peak) per channel. The A4990 can detect and signal a variety of errors like over-temperature and short-circuit, allowing more sophisticated control and monitoring.
Basic breakout boards available
Congratulations to our summer interns!
If you carefully inspect the back of the boards, you will notice “TKern” and “izzyg” etched in copper. These inscriptions commemorate the internships of Ted Kern and Ismael “Izzy” Gomez, Las Vegas natives who were indoctrinated in Pololu design philosophies this summer while creating these new products. We wish Ted and Izzy good luck as they head/return to college at CMU and MIT!