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1 MechE Book # 3



An Introduction to:


The Robotics And Innovation

Club (T.R.A.I.C)
College Of Engineering Roorkee

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2 MechE Book # 3

Chapter 1


From the start, DC motors seem quite simple. Apply a voltage to both terminals, and
weeeeeeee it spins. But what if you want to control which direction the motor spins?
Correct, you reverse the wires. Now what if you want the motor to spin at half that
speed? You would use less voltage. But how would you get a robot to do those things
autonomously? How would you know what voltage a motor should get? Why not 50V
instead of 12V? What about motor overheating? Operating motors can be much more
complicated than you think.

1.1 Voltage

You probably know that DC motors are non-polarized - meaning that you can reverse
voltage without any bad things happening. Typical DC motors are rated from about 6V-
12V. The larger ones are often 24V or more. But for the purposes of a robot, you
probably will stay in the 6V-12V range. So why do motors operate at different
voltages? As we all know (or should), voltage is directly related to motor torque. More
voltage, higher the torque. But don't go running your motor at 100V cause thats just not
nice. A DC motor is rated at the voltage it is most efficient at running. If you apply
too few volts, it just wont work. If you apply too much, it will overheat and the coils
will melt. So the general rule is, try to apply as close to the rated voltage of the motor as
you can. Also, although a 24V motor might be stronger, do you really want your robot
to carry a 24V battery (which is heavier and bigger) around? My recommendation is do
not surpass 12V motors unless you really really need the torque.

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1.2 Current

As with all circuitry, you must pay attention to current. Too little, and it just won't work.
Too much, and you have meltdown. When buying a motor, there are two current ratings
you should pay attention to. The first is operating current. This is the average amount of
current the motor is expected to draw under a typical torque. Multiply this number by the
rated voltage and you will get the average power draw required to run the motor. The
other current rating which you need to pay attention to is the stall current. This is when
you power up the motor, but you put enough torque on it to force it to stop rotating. This
is the maximum amount of current the motor will ever draw, and hence the maximum
amount of power too. So you must design all control circuitry capable of handling this
stall current. Also, if you plan to constantly run your motor, or run it higher than the rated
voltage, it is wise to heat sink your motor to keep the coils from melting.

1.3Power Rating

How high of a voltage can you over apply to a motor? Well, all motors are (or at least
should be) rated at a certain wattage. Wattage is energy. Innefficieny of energy
conversion directly relates to heat output. Too much heat, the motor coils melt. So the
manufacturers of [higher quality] motors know how much wattage will cause motor
failure, and post this on the motor spec sheets. Do experimental tests to see how much
current your motor will draw at a desired voltage.
The equation is:

Power (watts) = Voltage * Current

Increase voltage and measure current until the power is about ~90% below the given
power rating.

1.3Power Spikes

There is a special case for DC motors that change directions. To reverse the direction of
the motor, you must also reverse the voltage. However the motor has a built up
inductance and momentum which resists this voltage change. So for the short period

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of time it takes for the motor to reverse direction, there is a large power spike. The
voltage will spike double the operating voltage. The current will go to around stall
current. The moral of this is design your robot power regulation circuitry properly to
handle any voltage spikes.

1.4 Torque

When buying a DC motor, there are two torque value ratings which you must pay
attention to. The first is operating torque. This is the torque the motor was designed to
give. Usually it is the listed torque value. The other rated value is stall torque. This is the
torque required to stop the motor from rotating. You normally would want to design
using only the operating torque value, but there are occasions when you want to know
how far you can push your motor. If you are designing a wheeled robot, good torque
means good acceleration. My personal rule is if you have 2 motors on your robot, make
sure the stall torque on each is enough to lift the weight of your entire robot times your
wheel radius. Always favor torque over velocity. Remember, as stated above, your torque
ratings can change depending on the voltage applied. So if you need a little more torque
to crush that cute kitten, going 20% above the rated motor voltage value is fairly safe (for
you, not the kitten). Just remember that this is less efficient, and that you should heat sink
your motor.


Velocity is very complex when it comes to DC motors. The general rule is, motors run
the most efficient when run at the highest possible speeds. Obviously however this is not
possible. There are times we want our robot to run slowly. So first you want gearing - this
way the motor can run fast, yet you can still get good torque out of it. Unfortunately
gearing automatically reduces efficiency no higher than about 90%. So include a 90%
speed and torque reduction for every gear meshing when you calculate gearing. For
example, if you have 3 spur gears, therefore meshing together twice, you will get a 90% x
90% = 81% efficiency. The voltage and applied torque resistance obviously also affects


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Chapter 2.
Whats a Servo?
2.1 Intro to Servo.

A Servo is a small device that has an output shaft. This shaft can be positioned to specific
angular positions by sending the servo a coded signal. As long as the coded signal exists
on the input line, the servo will maintain the angular position of the shaft. As the coded
signal changes, the angular position of the shaft changes. In practice, servos are used in
radio controlled airplanes to position control surfaces like the elevators and rudders. They
are also used in radio controlled cars, puppets, and of course, robots.

A Futaba S-148 Servo

Servos are extremely useful in robotics. The motors are small, as you can see by the
picture above, have built in control circuitry, and are extremely powerful for their size. A
standard servo such as the Futaba S-148 has 42 oz/inches(as per datasheet, damn why do
they work in metric!!) of torque, which is pretty strong for its size. It also draws power
proportional to the mechanical load. A lightly loaded servo, therefore, doesn't consume
much energy. The guts of a servo motor are shown in the picture below. You can see the
control circuitry, the motor, a set of gears, and the case. You can also see the 3 wires that
connect to the outside world. One is for power (+5volts), ground, and the white wire is
the control wire.

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A servo disassembled.

So, how does a servo work? The servo motor has some control circuits and a
potentiometer (a variable resistor, aka pot) that is connected to the output shaft. In the
picture above, the pot can be seen on the right side of the circuit board. This pot allows
the control circuitry to monitor the current angle of the servo motor. If the shaft is at the
correct angle, then the motor shuts off. If the circuit finds that the angle is not correct, it
will turn the motor the correct direction until the angle is correct. The output shaft of the
servo is capable of travelling somewhere around 180 degrees. Usually, its somewhere in
the 210 degree range, but it varies by manufacturer. A normal servo is used to control an
angular motion of between 0 and 180 degrees. A normal servo is mechanically not
capable of turning any farther due to a mechanical stop built on to the main output gear.

The amount of power applied to the motor is proportional to the distance it needs to
travel. So, if the shaft needs to turn a large distance, the motor will run at full speed. If it
needs to turn only a small amount, the motor will run at a slower speed. This is called
proportional control.

How do you communicate the angle at which the servo should turn? The control wire is
used to communicate the angle. The angle is determined by the duration of a pulse that is
applied to the control wire. This is called Pulse Coded Modulation. The servo expects to
see a pulse every 20 milliseconds (.02 seconds). The length of the pulse will determine
how far the motor turns. A 1.5 millisecond pulse, for example, will make the motor turn
to the 90 degree position (often called the neutral position). If the pulse is shorter than 1.5
ms, then the motor will turn the shaft to closer to 0 degress. If the pulse is longer than
1.5ms, the shaft turns closer to 180 degress.

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As you can see in the picture, the duration of the pulse dictates the angle of the output
shaft (shown as the green circle with the arrow). Note that the times here are illustrative,
and the actual timings depend on the motor manufacturer. The principle, however, is the

Thats all about the servo, because the next step is about programming the servo.
Remember that a servo motor has mechanical constrains that prevent it servo going
beyond 180 degrees. But if the constrains are removed, than the servo can act as a very
powerful dc geared motor.

No one can say how much a servo can consume as it consumes variable current varying
with applied load. So always drive a servo with a powerful current source otherwise you
may end up with an empty battery and a grim look on your faces with thinking it was
working good till now, why did the speed reduced suddenly?

Also they are a bit costly.

So burning a servo in the name of higher goals of researching and experimenting is not
always wise until you have some extra servo to spare.

There are also stepper motors, but they dont have a good torque( enough to turn a paper in a
printer), but have an excellent precision, they require a detailed work, a written tutorial
will be an injustice to them.

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What drives these machines? It cant be some magical portion of Narnia or you cannot
expect them to work on their own! Well batteries prove out to be a good option to
energize them is with batteries. On smaller scale we can go with SMPS or adapters, but
they have their own limitations that I want you to discover on your own (no spoon
feeding). To overcome these limitations and also to use batteries at places where AC-DC
converters are prohibited, here is a short intro to batteries.

Go to (or something of this sort!) to know in depth about


We all know what batteries are, why dont we get down straight to business,..

3.1 Alkaline batteries (TV remote batteries)

These are the most common, easiest to get, and cheapest too. However they
are useless, dont buy them. They have low power capacities, are heavy, have
trouble supplying large amounts of current in short time periods, and get
expensive to constantly replace. The same goes for Zinc-carbon batteries,
which suck even more.

3.2 Fuel Cell

Fuel cell batteries are finally here for robot
builders! Although they are still probably too
expensive for most hobbyists (~$400 to be
imported from US+ shipment charges extra abt
3000/-). The technology is rapidly improving,
so only a few more years until they become
cheaply available. Fuel cells are heavily being
pursued in research by companies who want to

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out do the lithium batteries and make billions of

dollars. Basically a fuel cell is a tiny engine the
size of a battery, and refillable with methanol or
ethanol. They are expected to have a two to
three times improvement in energy density over
todays Lithium-ion batteries. However it has
been estimated that Lithium Ion batteries
themselves will probably be developed to have
twice the energy capacity as they have today.
3.3 Lead Acid batteries(WHAT WE

Lead Acid Batteries were developed in the

late 1800s, and were the first commercially
practical batteries. They remain popular
because they are easy and inexpensive to
manufacture. Rechargeable lead-acid
batteries have been available since the 1950s
and have become the most widely used type
of battery today.
So what does this mean for you? Motorcycle
lead acid batteries work great for larger low
performance type robots. They are great for
solar power robots too. Best of all, they are
cheap and available off the shelf. Just
remember that lead acid batteries have the
serious problem of being very large and
heavy, need to always be kept charged, and
do not have the high discharge rates as the
more modern batteries.

There are three main types of lead acid batteries. Wet Cell (flooded), Gel Cell,
and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM). The Gel Cell and the AGM batteries are
specialty batteries that typically cost twice as much as a premium wet cell.
However they store very well and do not tend to sulfate or degrade as easily or as
easily as wet cell. There is little chance of a hydrogen gas explosion or corrosion
when using these batteries. Gel Cell batteries, which are best used in very deep
cycle applications, still are being sold but AGM batteries are typically better. In
most cases AGM batteries will give greater life span and greater cycle life than a
wet cell battery.

80% of all battery failure is related to sulfation build-up. This build-up occurs
when the sulfur molecules in the electrolyte (battery acid) become so deeply
discharged that they begin to coat the battery's lead plates. The buildup will
become so bad that the battery will die. There are several things you need to

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remember when managing lead acid batteries to prevent battery failure. First,
make sure they always remain fully charged. This means recharge as often as
possible, and no partial recharging either. Next, batteries not used for awhile will
slowly discharge internally, so you need to make sure they are kept fully charged
often. For some batteries several times a week. Also, really hot temperatures or
subzero temperatures are bad too. And make sure you always use the proper
charger and charging rate for the right type of battery. Call the manufacturer if

3.4 Lithium (Li-ion)[Available in india

but costly]
Li batteries are the new standard for portable
power. Li-ion batteries have the same high energy
capacity as NiMHs, power output rates of
NiCads, and weigh about 20%-35% less. They
also have zero memory effect problems,
meaning you can recharge whenever. Although
lithium batteries are the most advanced for
portable power, they are also usually the most
expensive. Prices have been significantly
dropping lately however, and I predict NiMH and
NiCAD types soon becoming obsolete. They are
made out of totally non-toxic material, making
them safe for cute squirrels and pretty trees. Just
remember, lithium ignites very easily, and forms
large quantities of hydrogen when put in contact
with water, so don't shoot at it or blow it up or
anything of that nature. Also, fire extinguishers
are usually water based, so dont use them on
lithium battery fires. Bad stuff will happen. There
are also lithium polymer batteries. This battery
type has extremely high current output
capabilities (30A+), but less power density than
lithium ion batteries.

3.5 NiCad (Nickel Cadmium)

batteries[available having costs between lead
acid and Li batteries]

These are good for small to medium size range robots.

They have the highest current output, are more
affordable than NiMH's, and can be recharged within
one or two hours. However recharging NiCad batteries
is a black art. Ever notice how some older cell phone
batteries just do not last as long on a single charge as

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when you first bought it? This is called memory effect.

A NiCad, over many charges, can only store less and
less energy after each recharge. To prevent memory
effect, whenever you wish to recharge your NiCad, you
must first fully discharge it. Just hook up both battery
leads to a cute kitten until it stops moving. I guess a
motor would work too . . . And remember, NiCad
batteries contain toxic cadmium stuff, so save a squirrel
and recycle/dispose of it properly.

3.6 NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride)

NiMH batteries are really neat. Older cell phone
batteries were often NiMH. You can recharge
them as much as you want, they have good
current output, and have the highest energy
capacity. I would recommend them for small
size robots and for powering circuits. Note,
NiMH batteries usually take like 10 hours to
recharge depending on various factors. Also,
some NiMH batteries have a high self-discharge
rate. In other words, leave it for a week or so,
and you will find an entirely discharged battery.
But fortunately NiMH battaries can last many
more cycles than your typical NiCad battery.

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Chapter 4
Other Actuators

note: I have never actually used an AC motor, so feel free to correct and verify this
information, just based on some of past re-searches and course work.

Unlike DC motors which work using a single constant current, AC motors run under 3
phase current. To have 3 phase power on a robot, you either need a big bulky/expensive
DC->AC converter, or you must tether it to a wall socket. You probably won't use AC
motors unless your robot is stationary, such as a robot arm or robot pancake maker.
Unless you want the pancake maker to also walk your dog or something . . . But here they
are anyway:


Polarized (current cannot be reversed)

Typically from 120-240V AC, usually to match mains power
Higher voltages generally mean more torque, but also require more power
Rarely used on mobile robots due to power requirements
note: A universal motor has brushes like a DC motor, but will operate on AC or DC


When buying a motor, consider stall and operating current (max and minimum)
Stall Current - The current a motor requires when powered but held so that it does not
Operating Current - The current draw when a motor experiences zero resistance
It is best to determine current curves relating voltage, current, and required torque for
When a motor experiences a change in torque (such as motor reversal) expect short
lived current spikes

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Current spikes can be up to 2x the stall current, and can fry control circuitry if
Use diodes to prevent reverse current to your circuitry
Check power ratings of your circuitry and use heat sinks if needed

Power (Root-Mean Squared Voltage x Current)

Running motors close to stall current often, or reversing current often under high
torque, can cause motors to melt
Heat sink motors if not avoidable


When buying a motor, consider stall and operating torque (max and minimum)
Stall Torque - The torque a motor requires when powered but held so that it does not
Operating Torque - The torque a motor can apply when experiencing zero resistance


Motors run most efficient at the highest possible speeds

Gearing a motor allows the motor to run fast, yet have a slower output speed with
much higher torque
Remember that torque determines acceleration, so a fast robot with poor acceleration is
really a slow robot
If uncertain, favor torque over velocity


More efficient than DC motors

Typically most efficient at rated voltage and frequency
Use gearing (opt to buy motors with built-in gearing or gear heads)

Control Methods

Modifying the AC frequency can alter speed and torque

Encoder - device which counts rotations of wheel or motorshaft to determine velocity
for a control feedback loop
Tachometer - device which measures current draw of motor to control output torque

This circuit will allow you to control the speed of an AC motor.

The bridge rectifier produces DC voltage from the 120VAC line.
A portion on this current passes through the 10K ohm pot.
The circuit comprised of the 10k pot rated at 3W+, the two 100 ohm resistors and the

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50uf capacitors delivers gate drive of the SCR.

The diode D1 protects the circuit from reverse voltage spikes.
The ratings of the bridge rectifier and the SCR should be 25 amps and PIV 600 volts.
The diode D1 should be rated for 2 amps with PIV of 600 volts.
The circuit can handle a load up to 10 amps. The SCR should be very well heat sinked.


note: I have never actually used a brushless motor, so feel free to correct and verify this

What is a brushless motor? How is it different from a brushed motor? Brushless motors
are more power efficient, and significantly reduced electrical noise, and last much longer.
But they also have several disadvantages, such as higher prices and the requirement for a
special brushless motor driver.

4.2.1 Voltage
Like all motors, the torque of a motor is highly dependent on the input voltage - higher
the voltage, higher the torque. Like all other motors, brushless motors also run on an
optimal voltage - check the datasheet. If you apply too high a voltage, the coils could
melt for all the heat, and if you apply too little voltage, torque could be quite low.

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4.2.2 Current

When buying a motor, consider stall and operating current (max and minimum)
Stall Current - The current a motor requires when powered but held so that it does not
Operating Current - The current draw when a motor experiences zero resistance
It is best to determine current curves relating voltage, current, and required torque for
When a motor experiences a change in torque (such as motor reversal) expect short
lived current spikes
Current spikes can be up to 2x the stall current, and can fry control circuitry if
Use diodes to prevent reverse current to your circuitry
Check power ratings of your circuitry and use heat sinks if needed

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Closing Words:
This concludes with the section and chapter of statics in mechanical engineering that
must be enough for each one of us to do a little force analysis in our robot building. Its I
believe the last tutorial from the Mechanical series.
So all the best with your machine building and keep up the good work!!!
If you have doubts please mail at and add it to your g-talk for
online doubt removal sessions and other notifications.
Also keeping with the times the club has decided to have an ONLINE NOTICE BOARD
Follow us on twitter to remain updated with the world.
Also join us on Facebook to get updates. Account name is Traic coeRoorkee

We would love to hear about the mistakes ,if any in the book and suggestion for future
expansion of the tutorial and get a proper feedback and help in improving it further.
(I Know that the graphics are too naive, so if you don't like them, please don't complain.
It would be nice of you to make some and mail them to me so that I can replace them as
soon as possible.)

The Robotics And Innovation Club
College Of Engineering Roorkee

Digitally signed by
Vatsalya Sharma
DN: cn=Vatsalya

Sharma, o, ou,
email=vatsalya., Vatsalya Sharma
Dept of MechE

College of engineering Roorkee
Is the autor of this tutorial

Date: 2010.08.05
21:04:18 +05'30'

ActuatorsandEnergizers T.R.A.I.C