Archive for August, 2011


Straight RazEr in Atlanta

Aug 28, 2011 in Project Build Reports, Straight RazEr

Straight RazEr is the first of the “travel fleet” to see action in Atlanta. It’s also the first to be broken and then on-the-spot modified.

First, the video. Straight RazEr was brought to Georgia Tech for testing and to meet with its nemesis Safety Razor.

The first thing to notice is that the front fork on SR is no longer layered, flakey deliciousness. I repeated the build cycle using identical conditions to when RazEr rEVolution’s front fork was constructed – namely, getting rid of breezes and incidental airflow in the build environment by placing a large trash bag over Make-a-Bot as it was building. The build turned out much better, with less warping and no layer splits. I wicked ultrathin CA glue into suspicious areas anyway, just to shore it up. Additionally, the geometry of the fork was changed so it was much thicker at the pin joint.  Like RREV, this front fork has not been problematic through high speed sidewalk running. I suspect a high seam or curb will still take it out, but it would probably also take me out.

An afternoon of test running caused me to become totally fed up with the low-hanging front. Every turn was a waiting game of sorts since any ground disturbance would cause scraping. So, being close to the Atlanta Hipster District Atlantic Station, I just went to Target and grabbed a standard Razor A scooter to perform a “neck swap” of sorts.

The base of operations was Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio, roughly equivalent to an upmarket version of MITERS that has departmental support (if you couldn’t tell by the two commercial 3D printers in the background… a third is to the right offscreen) since it is used for classes too.

I had anticipated that the A would be a direct swap with the A3.

It quickly dawned upon me that this was not the case. The A and A3 appears to have diverged design lines some time back, and the parts are no longer an exact swap. In particular,

  • The steering tube is a different diameter on the A. It’s slightly smaller (visible in the picture), but the fork still passes through. The headset bearings are a different size too.
  • The folding joint is just narrow enough on the A to not admit the A3 neck. Conversely, the A3 joint is just wide enough such that the A neck has substantial wiggle and the locking pin does not reach the detent positions.
  • And worst of all, the bolt pattern is slightly narrower on the A folding joint. The length of the rectangle is the same, the width was not. While I could have fiddled with the metal a little to get things to fit, this was more trouble than I found worthwhile.

RazEr rEVolution used an older version of the A which had the exact same geometry, so that swap was a trivial operation. However, the A and A2 line appears to have evolved further than the 125mm wheeled A3.

I will try to get an A2, which also has the modular front fork, to see if it shares geometry with the A or A3.

It somehow worked. You don’t really want to know how.

I ended up adjusting the shoulder screw on the end of the locking pin so it cleared the folding joint base (retaining the A3 base). Next, I just used the A headset bearing on the A3 fork and tube – this means the headset bearings are really not seated in the races, but more on the top edge. Whatever, it’s not a high speed joint anyway, right!?

Anyways, the result after all that is about another inch of ground clearance. Unfortunately by this time the sun had already set and the drive chain had already been broken apart, so Straight Razer will just have to wait for another day.

Straight Razer, Part 2: It Goes Straight!

Aug 21, 2011 in Project Build Reports, Straight RazEr

Straight RazEr made an appearance today at the August Swapfest, alongside tinykart, in the usual MITERS weird-vehicles-at-Swapfest fashion. The previous day was a steady effort to finish the vehicle that lasted about 28 hours – great, because the day before I slept what amounts to an entire day so that puts me about where I should be…. right? Overall, I declare this thing done. It works great for what it was designed to do: go really fast in a straight line. The minimum speed dictated by the pickup of the Turnigy controller is something like 8 miles an hour. The acceleration is even more brütal and uncontrollable than melon-scooter after that.

I have yet to clock the top speed of this thing since there wasn’t enough of an open stretch (that’s totally flat) to hit top speed, but the numbers show a top speed of about 35 miles per hour.

Since the back half is structurally done, it’s time to mount the front. The front end of this thing is stolen off another Razor A3. They come up for cheap on eBay all the time, and honest is the fastest way to get a folding joint, handlebar set, and most importantly the steering neck, for small scooters. The A3 and other front suspension Razor scooters also have the advantage of removable front forks, meaning you can swap yours for an ugly blob of plastic too.

The downside? There’s like 10 scooter back ends at MITERS now. Two of them made it into Fanscooter – perhaps it’s time to start making custom vehicles that only use the back ends. \

Here’s a rolling frame only shot of the thing. The first thing that I noticed is that the front end is low. Now, while this gives the cool drag racer look, it will be very hard to turn properly. RazEr rEVolution had the same problem; both arise from the fact that the Razor A3′s folding joint has a taller riser tube (that meets the steering tube) than the regular A series.  The difference is about an inch of length.

I ended up switching RREV to a standard A folding joint while keeping the modified A3 fork. I might have to do the same for this if I want it to be remotely rideable – then again, the point is to not do anything besides go straight, right?

Alright, back to work. I chucked the motor in the Bridgeport (actually, just the shaft) and put the requisite flats on the shaft for proper set screw interfacing. I also had to remove the faceplate and redrill/tap the mounting holes for M6 X 1 screws.

Why? Because I keep thinking these Turnigy 80mm motors have 6mm mounting holes. In reality they have M5 threaded holes. I even specified clearance holes for M5 screws in the model of the vehicle. So clearly I’ve measured this before, but for one reason or another ordered 6mm bolts.

Well, as long as I have 6mm bolts, might as well use them.


The sprocket is a stock McMaster #25 sprocket with a 3/8″ bore. I bored this out to 12 millimeters, then made a spacer that put it exactly where the model dictated. Because way more power than specifications allow will be flowing through the chain drive, I wanted to make sure those sprockets are well-aligned.

Here’s the completed drivetrain. As usual with waterjet-cut sprockets, this needed a bit of a brute-force run-in period to “deburr” the sprockets and flatten out the taper a little – this time, it was accomplished just by kick-scooting around while the chain was under high tension.

Ihad to edge-machine the large drive sprocket because it was too thick. This was done by gripping the inside bore using an almost-closed lathe chuck with standard inside jaws – I was lucky that the bore was large enough to fit over said chuck.

Next, I put together the wheelie bar. This was easy, since it amounted to making some oversized standoffs. The small skate wheel is on an 8mm axle which is end-tapped and mounted to the side bars.

With the drive and motor mounts complete, it was time to start wiring up. Slightly bad picture, but I cut off the bright red handlebar grips and replaced them with a twist throttle and matching other-side-grip-thing. In retrospect, I should have kept the thumb-style throttle I usually use. But again, it’s supposed to be stupidly uncontrollable.

The battery is mounted to the underside of the top plate using sticky-back velcro. I added some strips of insulation foam on the bottom such that the bottom plate is also pressing up with some force when it is closed – no batteries are hanging by only velcro here. The balancing leads will usually be stored in the position shown, but periodically I can access them through the slot in the side.

Note to self: wires are big,

I didn’t really think of how much volume the wiring would occupy when I designed the Upper Deck of Turnigy Mounting. As it turns out, alot, especially if they are 12 and 10 gauge silicone insulated wires. There’s almost no space inside and I definitely had to push down on the top plate pretty hard to close it up. I can’t imagine the thing getting any airflow in this condition – so maybe it’s time for an air scoop on the top!

The electronics on this thing are utterly stock and simple – as close to the way my Scooter Manual dictates as possible. This is the cheap Hobbyking servo tester chopped and screwed to accept the analog throttle voltage input, and heat shrunk. There’s no added filtering or complications on it.

The electronics are mostly just stuffed inside behind the battery, though the big 5v BEC module is attached using velcro too. More strips and blocks of foam were added over these parts so they are also supported by the bottom plate.

And a shot of the totally finished back end, from the motor side. I like the way the motor is mounted – barely visible, and from afar looking like it’s just part of the frame.

And at Swapfest!

My “impossible to ride” conjectures were proven mostly right – turning is difficult because the vehicle can only tilt a few degrees from vertical until the low front end bottoms out. It does not handle any terrain. And oh yeah, the acceleration. Dear god, the acceleration. Test video will come soon – the videos shot today were mostly unimpressive because of terrain and people. I need to get into a basement freight corridor or a parking garage and just beast it.

Oh yeah:

This is what happens when you slam down the front end from an epic wheelie launch, if your front fork is made of shady 3d printed plastic.

Oops. Guess I’ll be changing that.

Straight RazEr

Aug 20, 2011 in Project Build Reports, Straight RazEr

I’m going to take a break from updating all the 17,000 other things that are being worked on this week to announce yet another new thing. It’s a ground vehicle this time, and you can tell because it’s almost done already and isn’t lingering in software and half-assed broken hardware hell like the two air objects. I’ve in fact been working on it the most this week. But because the dev work on this vehicle has been going on for a while and includes things done months prior, this post will be abnormally long and pictureful.

Back in April, I went to the Véhicules Ecologiques et des Energies Renouvelables (EVER…it’s like CERN) conference with RazEr rEVolution in tow as a presentation prop, a part of Shane and I presenting somewhat legitimately on the construction of small electric vehicles as an educational initiative (and because it’s cool). At the “two-wheeled time trials/drag race/meetup” event after the conference proper, the hub motor scooters performed admirably against full size electric bicycles being used with pedal assist. Now, this being a totally unorganized “race”, I’m not complaining about the fact that the pure EV lost to the human-assisted EV, but I started thinking of how to build the most stupidly fast small scooter there can be, just to troll any further drag racing events.

Back in the hotel room, I immediately begin CADing what would be known as the Straight RazEr project. The idea was to stuff melon-scooter‘s power and sheer uncontrollable launch into a frame not much larger than RazEr. The vehicle would clearly no longer be hub motor propelled. I was fine with that. The final vehicle weight would still be 18 to 20 pounds and it would have a design top speed of 30 miles per hour, and use 5 inch wheels

This is what I came up with before I passed out in the hotel room.

I pre-emptively modeled in 5 inch Colson wheels because of their softness – durometer 65A – and width. This thing was going to look meaty with the 2″ wide wheels, and it would also have great improved ride over RazEr’s concrete-hardness wheels. But that was about as far as I got. The CAD sat untouched for several months after that because I figured I already had enough things to build. EVER faded out of memory and the reactionary desire to never, ever be beaten by anyone at a small EV race again tapered off.

Until a few weeks ago.

After my presence in Atlanta for the Mini-Maker Faire was confirmed, and wanting to bring to the table a little competition for my Georgia Tech rival, I decided to dig this design back up. Melon-scooter itself would be too large and unwieldy to bring. It’s also my general commuter vehicle, so it’s kind of dirty and beat up.  The design progressed in a few days from the above mostly-geometric representation to:

Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve put in some prospective hardware and modeled the drivetrain. Most frame stitching and t-nuts have been added too.

The overall length of the vehicle is around 28 inches from a vertical plane tangential to the front wheel to the back of the frame, not counting the wheelie bar. I guess that’s a curb-to-curb length. The frame is a little thicker than RazEr rEVolution to give more breathing room to the batteries – an identical-to-RREV 12S2P A123 (WTF BBQ TLA) battery.

A little more modeling and a closeup of the rear end. I’m going to try a little harder to make this waterproof – one bad trait of melon-scooter is its very rudimentary open-air motor and drivetrain, making wet operation of the vehicle very uncomfortable. I’m not concerned about the electronics, but the belt, tire, and motor all sling water and road garbage over my back and legs.

To this end, the controller will sit near the motor in a little tray-like internal separation device that separates it from the elements. This will be a 3d printed piece. On the other side of the wall sits the battery and assorted switchgear.

A size comparison with RazEr rEVolution. The front forks are just copied and pasted for representation only. The vehicles are functionally the same length, minus the epic wheelie bar of Straight RazEr and the bulk of the rear end. I like to think of it as a epic power hump.

last week

We jump into fabrication with the usual picture of waterjet abuse.

I had purchased several large plates of 1/4″ aluminum for cheap on eBay the week prior, so it only made sense to just blitz it all out in one day. There was enough 1/8″ aluminum scrap in the machine room to avoid having to use any new metal.

These cuts all feature the assembly trick I used on Make-a-Bot, which is purposefully offsetting the waterjet nozzle such that the entire part is made smaller (and internal features bigger). The total taper across this machine (which does not have a fancy 5 axis head or tilty thing) on a 1/4″ thick part with average quality is about 0.004 to 0.005″. Therefore, setting the nozzle roughly 2 to 3 thousandths inwards makes everything slip-fit together nicely without sanding or filing.

Of course, I had a derp moment.

Some times, the lines on the surface of a part model are in fact just another part sticking into it and overlapping in the software. It is not in fact a slot you modeled to accept the part. With enough inattention, this flaw makes it through to production.

Result? Oops, need to manually make a slot there. This is a retention plate for the folding hinge, so it’s a pretty damn critical piece to mess up.

Test assembly of the frame…

I also made a battery for this thing concurrently with refinishing the RazEr battery. This time, the balance cables were routed more intelligently – I actually like how they run between the valleys of the cells. This ensures no wire is hovering or being mashed against a cell interconnect.  This battery was also wrapped with Epic Heatshrink – now from Hobbyking. The pack was charged and balanced by 4chan. That thing is so handy I can’t imagine how I lived without it.

While all this was going on, MaB was pushing through the internal separator device. I printed it in 2 halves, since a one-shot would have ended in sadness. There is some corner pulling on the ends, since it’s inevitable in a part this big. Considering that it spanned the entire build surface, I think MaB did quite well.

Here’s the ISD mounted in place.

I’m using a custom plate sprocket this time, so I designed a hub that links it to the 5″ rear Colson wheel. It was carved out of 2″ aluminum round in about 3 hours counting numbskulled mistakes and running back and forth between 2 shops exchanging parts, tools, and measurements.

Because this was a relatively large piece needing good finish and tolerance, I elected to use Bertha, the auto garage lathe (now 1 of 3). It’s a Rivett 1030 type machine that sounds like a small diesel truck. It’s refreshing to knock off 0.200″ in a single pass for once.

Before starting on the heavy metalwork, I set MaB printing the Epic Front Fork, similar to RREV’s fork. There are some slight geometry differences to accomodate the wide 2″ Colson wheel.

This is what happens when you update your part but not the exported DXF drawing for waterjetting. Oops – one bolt circle on the sprocket, newer bolt circle on the hub.

For some reason, this took me three tries to get right. The second set of holes were foiled when I realized my indexing fixture wasn’t fixed to anything. I had forgotten to tighten the table bolts on the milling machine.


The third set of holes worked.

While MaB was finishing the front fork, I made these bearing sleeves for the front wheel. I could have maybe… I don’t know, used flanged bearings? The Colsons have a weird 1.185″ internal bore, and I chose to kept the wheel stock instead of boring the wheel to something more common and using stock bearings.

Here’s both ends of the scooter. Maybe I can be hardcore like Amy and make a tinyscooter that has that exact wheelbase. Hmm…

Notice the cement holding the fork together. This build failed because the filament tangled while I was machining and caused one missed layer. I caught it about mid-way through and forced the Z axis back down one layer, but the adhesion ended up being poor. This fork has been designated bad, and is only being used for modeling and fitting purposes. It’s not seeing the street – not with a glue joint holding the axle in.

Oh yeah, axles – they’re stock McMaster-Carr steel shafting, drilled and tapped appropriately. Nothing too special there.

With the battery made, drivetrain mostly done, and electronics being bone stock, this thing ought to be running pretty soon.

Straight RazEr is named after the antithesis of the safety razor, the original shaving tool/murder weapon, the straight razor. And the fact that it will be really good at going straight – and that’s about it.

Pre-Everything Updates, August 18

Aug 19, 2011 in Bots, Land-Bear-Shark, Pop Quiz 2, Project Build Reports, RazEr rEVolution

I’ve been slowly knocking down the amount of half-taken-apart projects that have been taking up table space at MITERS. The usual shipping delays and distractions means I’m a little behind where I want to be,  but it’s not yet concerning. In other words, nothing has yet gone horribly wrong.

As of today,

  • Fix Überclocker!
  • Repair RazEr battery!
  • New motor controllers for LBS!

Pop Quiz 2

I received my shipment of carbon fiber from Dragonplate and proceeded to cut the top and bottom panels out on the same day. The CF this time is 0.023 instead of 1mm, so I lose some stiffness in the frame. I’m not quite sure why I chose the thinner panel actually – the scrapped PQ2 frame had 0.039″ CF top and bottom plates.

This was certainly one of the cleanest CF cuts I’ve made to date. I took several precautions this time to minimize delamination around holes and pierces, including fully double-sided-taping the carbon fiber to a solid wooden panel. Previously, I have either just clamped the CF to wood or taped the CF to a waterjet brick. The full support of the wood layer beneath the CF helped immensely – these cuts have almost no delam areas. The other methods would either allow the CF to flap up and down or still leave high percentages unsupported on the bottom.

The upside to this method is that I get a cute MDF billet Pop Quiz out of the process at the end. This was the backing for the carbon fiber after I stripped off the wet tape.

With Pop Quiz’s frame all printed and the CF panels cut, it’s mostly a matter of sitting down and assembling the thing. I got the VEX motor controllers in and also found my spare Spektrum BR6000 from who knows how many robots ago. Because PQ will be an experiment in using the VEX controllers, I’m going to rewind the weapon motor for 7.4v (2S) operation.

RazEr rEVolution

RazEr is officially all closed up and working again – the only thing the battery needed in the end was a charge and balance. God I love A123 DeWalt drill cells. What other kind of battery doesn’t mind getting zero-volted for a month straight? I don’t doubt that I have had some lifecycle and capacity loss because of the extended flattening, but RazEr is not a very high current system anyway.

This is what the battery looks like after I ripped off the layers of soda bottles insulating the pack. There are 2 balance leads, but no actual power connections associated with them – my balance-capable chargers can’t charge through the balance connector only. So this whole pack was kind of unserviceable from the start.

It also has bare balance wires passing directly over cells, something I recently learned was a very bad idea.

The resolution for this pack was pretty simple – add those power connections. The two Deans connectors represent the upper half and lower half of the cell. This enables it to be balance-changed by 4chan every once in a while to keep the cells level.

To insulate the balance cable better, I laid a layer of rubber cement underneath them. That will at least immobilize the wires and also keeps them, for the most part, out of potential electrical contact. Due to RazEr’s limited internal width, I couldn’t reroute the cables to the paper sides of the cell, which is what I would like to have done.

The final result, after coating with Real Giant Heatshrink!!! instead of more Mountain Dew bottles. Working with this was very refreshing – this is the massive thick rubbery PVC shrink often used for enormous power cable repair and the like. It actually doesn’t look like I threw it together in 5 minutes.

The Advanced Beast-it-troller

They’ve arrived.

From last update, the independent-input H-bridge version of the Beast-it-troller is now ready for assembly. Both of my Digikey orders for required parts, most crucially the IR2183 gate drivers, arrived the same day. Will it work?!

I also ordered (and received, too) a spare CIM motor to replace the toasted one in the left side drive. With luck, Land-Bear-Shark will be running (…again) for this upcoming Swapfest.

It’s Time for Shenanigans

Aug 16, 2011 in Bots, Land-Bear-Shark, Pop Quiz 2, Project Build Reports, Überclocker Remix

Alright, now that I’m settled in 900 miles from civilization out on the west side of the MIT campus (seriously, how do people live out here?), it’s time to comprehensively update everything. Dragon*Con is now in approximately 2 and a half weeks. So, the flying objects have been temporarily suspended in favor of two more immediate goals which I mentioned briefly before.

1. Getting the robots running again, since I ain’t going to no Dragon*Con Robot Battles without no robots.

2. Repairing some of the random vehicles, since they (along with the robots) will be exhibited at the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire hosted at Georgia Tech in a few weeks.

I’m just going to start laundry-listing everything. First, the most interesting of the upcoming builds, a rework of Pop Quiz 2.

This was the state of the robot as of two weeks ago:

Yeah. It’s kind of trashed.

PQ2 hasn’t seen any action since Robot Battles 2008, and it lasted about 20 seconds in the arena then. So how on earth did it get so destroyed? Mostly because I kept pulling parts from it and then stuffing them back without closing the bot up. I’m sure it’s also been dropped a few times, and I might have also landed Clocker on it a few times too. Pretty sad overall; while the frame is perfectly workable, I don’t like the way the frankenmotors worked out (and one of them has been missing from the start). The offset wheel axles mean that I can’t just directly swap in a micro gearmotor or similar without making the wheels much larger. Oh, and all 4 lithium cells are dead. It’s a little easier to just start over.

What few people know is that PQ2 has been up for revision several times before, each time I ended up pursuing something else instead.  I designed a new version of the robot to be built for the 2009 Robot Battles, but didn’t get around to finishing it.

This version was to have a waterjet-cut aluminum frame and replace the frankenmotors with Sanyo micro gearmotors. I even got around to cutting the frame:

It was made out of 1/2″ aluminum  with the intention of machining it down to 10mm (.39″). Now that I look at it again, I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to be done.

Actually, no – I do know. I was going to actually make a fixturing block for it and then meticulously machine it in sections, taking out a subset of the fixturing screws as needed. And then I was going to turn the head of the Bridgeport mill 45 degrees to machine and drill the holes in the front. Then I was going to flip it over and carefully use a boring head to make the inset in the center for the motor mount.

I remember being hardcore like that. But now, in 2011, there’s a better option.

YES! It’s another excuse for me to abuse Make-a-Bot. For a while, I’ve thought that ABS plastic should be durable enough to withstand 1lb and 3lb arena combat. So this is a thought experiment (turned physical) that will use a fully 3DP frame, with carbon fiber top and bottom plates as before. The drive motors are still Sanyo micro gearmotors, and the wheels will be machined plastic things with silicone tubber tubing tread. \

Here’s the entire frame being fired off at once. 5 x 5 inches is still with MaB’s build envelope. However, given the geometry of the part, I didn’t expect this to turn out well – MaB has no climate control, so large parts still tend to warp. Especially a 5 inch long solid bar.

I stopped the build after noticing that two corners were coming up. Because the robot is so short, a millimeter of curl would spoil the ground clearance and wheel contact.

The solution was to just split the frame into 4 quadrants, such that the longest continuous span was 2.5″. This relieves much of the stress from the parts not being in thermal equilibrium. In the best case scenario, I’d have MaB in a closed heated cabinet at about 120 degrees Celsius or more. Then I could also make cookies in it!

With all four frame quadrants made, I’m just waiting on carbon fiber sheets and spring steel to arrive.

I might also rewind the weapon motor to run on 7.4 volts instead of 14.8. Originally, I did it to avoid running high current in the robot, instead choosing to run a higher voltage for the same power. After building vehicles, on something this small, the difference is trivial. Using the lower voltage would mean the Sanyo motors will be much happier (they’re native 5 volts!) and I’ll have a chance to try out these VEX controller units, which are the cheapest small robot control option I’ve seen, ever.


Suffering another loss last year due to my lack of care for detail and “baaaah, it will be fine”, ‘clocker is actually functional otherwise. The left side gearbox slipped my inadequate press fit on its output shaft early in a match, leaving the bot mostly handicapped through the tournament.

I took the bot apart to extract the gearbox, but also to clean everything up and tighten screws. It was missing a receiver (which after some digging, turns out I borrowed to use on the cute little prototype Coasterbot), and one of the Victor 883s was not responding to signal. I found out why it wasn’t receiving signal very quickly after extracting it and pulling the servo cable out: the entire internal header inside the Victor came out with it.

Oops. Solution: Make a short servo cable pigtail that passes through the cable shroud so I can still connect to it. After this, it worked fine.

The gearbox fix was quick and simple: press out the spun output shaft from the planetary carrier, throw it on a lathe, and carefully knurl it. The knurling increases the outer diameter of the shaft slightly by introducing ridges and valleys. Then shove it back in with a tanker-load of 609 Loctite, some of the stiffest retaining compound there is. Knurling also helps make threadlocker and retaining compound adhesion stronger due to the same reason – it seeps into the gaps and is therefore able to coat more surface area.

I have no pictures from the knurling process since it was done at another shop (MITERS not having a knurling attachment for the Old Mercedes)

Past putting the robot back together (and driving it into everything at full speed, repeatedly), Clocker will not have any modifications made. I might turn the clamp motor around so it has more travel available, however – right now, if I don’t pay attention to where the clamping arm is, it tends to wedge itself in the highest position and the motor is then unable to free itself.

Clocker and Pop Quiz are the only robots I intend on bringing this year – NK got banged up nicely last time, and I haven’t rebuilt it yet.

RazEr rEVolution

Ahh, RazEr. This thing has just been *working*, though I’ve only really brought it out for demo events because of its concrete-hard wheels. However, Maker Faire ATL is a demo, so it’s time to turn the power on and test it for functionality…

…wait, what do you mean I left it powered on?

Yup, RazEr’s battery is now completely flat after being left on for what must have been a month or more. I need to take it apart anyway – the way the pack is set up, it’s impossible to charge using my R/C multichargers. I split the pack into 2 strings of 6 A123 cells (but run in series for 12 cells), however I neglected to break out the middle connection so I can actually like… charge it as two packs. Or balance it, or do anything really. This should be a quick operation.


Another one of my finished things that just works, Segfault has also been a demo piece for most of this year also. The breadboarded controller is becoming incrementally more flakey, however – probably because breadboard. Sudden direction changes or even slowing down/speeding up quickly tend to cause noise which appears as a jerk in the wheels. I can anticipate and compensate, but it’s enough for me to no longer let other people ride it.  I have a desire to put the controller on an actual printed circuit board that’s fully integrated so there’s less messy wiring, but that is unlikely to happen in the next week.

However, it does need some minor mechanical attention. The steering column potentiometer is heavily biased rightwards from when I replaced it. The left side gearbox for some reason tends to slip its output shaft (What’s with me and half-assed gearboxes?) which, fortunately, is not a Charles-induced manufacturing fault this time. Segfault uses 2 Banebots P80 type gearboxes, and the last stage planetary carrier is connected to the output shaft with a double-D flatted bore, which seems to be prone to axial misalignment. Usually I can kick the left wheel back in and it reseats fine – not a critical mechanical problem, but still annoying.


You know I couldn’t leave this thing alone for long. Last time, I said I wouldn’t touch it until Winter. However, seeing as how it just rained, it’s now chilly outside, so I declare Winter.

As usual, I will preface a LBS post with a new motor controller. Another new motor controller.

What’s different this time? Well, besides it being the densest through-hole board I’ve designed to date (because why not), it uses the IR21834 gate drive chips. Watch that number there – it’s the independent input version of the 21844 I am fond of. This means the high and low sides are switched independently, but it still has built-in deadtime.

This frees me from the implicit braking of synchronous rectification if I’m too lazy to implement current control (which I am). I’m more accustomed to freely coasting vehicles, which the implicit syncrec of the 21844 does not let me do unless there is a current sensor and current control loop (such that the motor controller output voltage matches the motor’s back EMF)…but that’s more software.

With the 2183, I should be able to drive the high side switches only, while otherwise keeping the low side switch from  turning on immediately afterwards. This would let a vehicle, say RazEr, coast freely. Regenerative braking can still occur if I command it.

A vehicle like LBS doesn’t coast at all due to the high friction of the tracks, but this controller will be a chance to test the 2183 before I put one in a more serious application like RazEr. It’s already been sent out to Retarded Circuits for fab and should be here later this week.

I’ll also need to perform battery and motor surgery as outlined previously, but this should be coming down with me too.