I finished soldering Open-BLDC V0.1 boards and took some pictures while doing so.
After connecting it to the power everything seems to work properly and nothing is burning. That is really good news.
One little thing that is bothering me. The board draws 60mA, what is a value that I expected. The 5V linear regulator gets really warm. I am not sure if that will be a problem or not. But I did not find any other problems or screwups yet, even the big MOSFETs can be soldered using a simple soldering iron. It takes some time though, because the board and the MOSFETs are monstrous heatsinks.
More news coming up as soon as I start playing around with the software.
I assembled the basic STM32 circuitry of Open-BLDC and it works. I also made a video showing the logic board and blinking around. I know it is a bit pointless but I love blinking LED’s! 😉 I wrote the software using libopenstm32.
Over the last two weeks many things happened. I found out that there is a really open-source and open-hardware quadrocopter project in the wild. It is called booz and is part of the paparazzi project. Code and schematics just as board layouts are under the GPLv2 or later license. That is really awesome news.
This project is intended for research and universities so the boards are using BGA parts that are difficult to solder for a mere mortal, and there is some lack in documentation. That is why some other people and me started a project called openmulticopter. The basic idea is to create and maintain a completely open-source quadrocopter/multicopter platform for everyone. As a multicopter does not consist only of the control electronics but also contains parts like remote control receiver, brushless motor controllers, a frame, and so on, we tried to combine many open-source parts that are already out there. Just take a look into the wiki for more details.
Some highlights of open-source components that we have chosen so far are:
There is still a lot of work in front of us, but I am really happy with the progress we are making. If you are interested in contributing just drop into the #openmulticopter IRC channel on Freenode, or write an email to the mailing list.
Some time ago I announced the Open-BLDC project in the Mikrokopter Forum, the post, that you can find here inspired a very interesting Discussion. One of the topics were PWM Schemes and why one should think about them. The most important reason is efficiency. Most controllers to use H_PWM_L_ON or H_ON_L_PWM schemes. An alternative is PWM_ON_PWM scheme which prevents currents through freewheeling diodes connected in parallel to the MOSFET’s. The freewheeling diodes have higher losses then a MOSFET. I am really asking myself why it is not used. One reason I can think of is that this scheme has 12 steps instead of 6 and therefore is more difficult to implement and BEMF measurement for commutation detection may be more complicated.
Another approach to the efficiency question may be using fieldvector control. This involves a sinusoidal pwm scheme and current measurement on the phases. Using that way of control should decrease torque ripples which are typical the other schemes mentioned above. It also involves a lot more work on the firmware side.
I started building a rig for testing the efficiency of the different schemes. It involves a harddisk platter connected to the motor and two harddisk magnets. At the end I will have a eddy current break and can measure how much current is needed to achieve a specific rotation speed. I hope that this way I will be able to make a more or less scientific comparison of control approaches.
If you have a motor controller I would be really happy if you could take an oscilloscope and record the voltages on the phases. I am really interested what control schemes others use.
As you already know I have layouted the Open-BLDC boards. I was not sure if everything fits mechanically. So I took some cardboard and created a mechanical mockup. It really looks good! It is darn stable (even though it is only cardboard and not FR4) and the screws fit snugly. I think we are getting really near to a state where I can order some boards.
You can take a look at some images attached to this post.
It has been again a long time since the last post. (I have the feeling to repeat myself here)
There have been some news on the Open-BLDC front. I have been on Motodrone two weeks ago. Because I took the plane to get there I realized that it will be too difficult to take the breadboard prototype with me. So on a short notice I soldered together a smaller version using smd parts. As an extra feature this prototype includes Allegro hall based current sensors. These will enable us to investigate vector control (aka. field-oriented control).
At first it worked perfectly. Sadly after some tests I burned two of the three bridge drivers. I only had one spare to replace, so I could not work on the software for long. Today I got replacement bridge drivers. Now I should have enough spare ones to compensate for more burning. 😉 So no news on the vector control front yet.
Open-BLDC Logic Board V0.1
Open-BLDC Powerstage V0.1
But I was not lazy while waiting for the replacement parts. I finalized the circuit and routed the logic board and powerstage. The powerstage was more or less straight forward but I am not very happy about the size and dimensions. I just am not sure if it is fittable on a standard Quadrocopter. Still it should be good enough as first etched prototype.
A much bigger challenge was the logic board. I somehow came up with this crazy idea to constrain the size of it to 45mm X 20mm. Still after many many hours of struggling with that puzzle I managed to squeeze all parts and wires into 45.5mm X 21mm! Yes you are right I am pretty proud of myself. I am still a routing beginner so the result seems to be good for me. 🙂
Now I have to wait so some other people review the work I did to try decreasing the amout of possible bugs in this boards. (If you like you can clone the repository here and check the stuff out, and give feedback on the mailinglist. (please subscribe before posting! :/ )) When I feel confident enough I will order some boards for testing and we can finally concentrate more on the software. 🙂
Yes the motor sounds like a truck. The reason is that I am making forced commutation (not detecting the right time to commutate but do it in fixed time) and the PWM duty cycle is higher then it should be. This way the motor is just jumping between the magnets and has a lot of vibrations.
The second video is a demo of sensorless commutation detection.
We are using a novel way without a virtual crosspoint. (you can read it up in this paper) We do it even a little bit differently then described in the paper, there are no comparators and latches. What we do is condition the signal to be in the range of 0V to 3.3V and sample it with the ADC at the right times. This is probably the simplest way to do something like this in the STM32. One can now play around with the data that the ADC delivers. I think there is a lot of stuff that can be done using such an approach.
In the video you may also wonder why it is so loud. Well the PC fan that I just forced onto the rotor is not really the best payload, also it is not balanced well and the bearings in the motor are not the best anymore because of the unbalanced load. ^^ I am also using the simplest and worst PWM scheme that I know of. The so called H PWM L ON scheme.
You can also see in the video that the motor is pretty robust to external disturbances when running in the commutation detection closed loop. Still I am sure that it can be improved. (If you are interested the sourcecode running this can be seen here)
If I am not mistaken then only current measurement is missing in the circuitry. When that is done then I can design the first etched prototype of Open-BLDC. WOOO! 🙂
P.S. If you have any comments/ideas feel free to write them in the comment section. ^^
It has been a pretty long time since my last post. But do not worry there is happening a lot “behind the scenes”. Well not so much behind them because I commit everything I do to the github repository (http://github.com/esden/open-bldc). If you want to follow the progress you can also subscribe to the commit mailinglist and/or the discussion mailinglist. Feel free to write on the mailinglist if you have any questions or just catch me on #uavp channel on the freenode network. (I think that are enough channels of communication 🙂 )
Ok back to the topic. Last week I was able to turn a bldc motor the first time using the bread board prototype of the power stage, the STM32 Olimex H103 evaluation board and firmware that you can find in the repository. The basic PWM scheme that is used by most controllers is implemented and works pretty well. I am also trying out other PWM schemes that may improve efficiency. You may ask why I am doing it now and not after I made a real hardware prototype of the system. The answer is pretty simple. I have to see if and how it is possible, to make sensorless commutation detection, when using different PWM schemes. I had to realize that the schemes have a big influence on the signals that can be captured.
As soon as I have more results I will make a video showing the current state and how the controller behaves when using different approaches. So stay tuned!
Cheers, and I hope hearing from you too in the comments! 🙂