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CIRCUITS FOR CONTROLLING A SERVO
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control board in the servo, saving you the hassle. This is one of the key benefits of using servos with computer-controlled robots.
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CONTROLLING A SERVO VIA A 555 TIMER
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You don t need a computer to control a servo. You can use the venerable 555 timer IC to provide the required pulses to a servo. Fig. 20.7 shows one common approach to using the 555 to control a servo. In operation, the 555 produces a signal pulse of varying duty cycle, which controls the operation of the servo. Adjust the potentiometer to position the servo. Since the 555 can easily produce pulses of very short and very long duration, there is a good chance that the servo may be commanded to operate outside its normal position extremes. If the servo hits its stop and begins chattering remove power immediately! If you don t, the gears inside the servo will eventually strip out, and you ll need to either throw the servo away or replace its gears.
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CONTROLLING A SERVO VIA A BASIC STAMP
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The Basic Stamp II is a popular microcontroller used to interface with various robotic parts, including servos. The Stamp, which is discussed in more detail in 31, can directly control one or more servos. However, the more servos the more processing time is required to send pulses to each one (at least, not without resorting to some higher-level programming which we ll leave to the Stamp-specific books). Fig. 20.8 shows the hookup diagram for connecting a standard servo to the Basic Stamp II. Note that the power to the servo does not come from the Basic Stamp II, or any prototyping board it is on. Servos require more current than the Stamp can provide. A pack of four AA batteries is sufficient to power the servo. For proper operation ensure that the grounds are connected between the Stamp and the battery pack. Use a 33 47 F capacitor between the V and ground of the AA pack to help kill any noise that may be induced into
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+6 vdc Servo +V connection R1 270K R2 20K R3 10K C1 0.1 7 3 IC1 555 6 2 1 5 C2 0.1 Servo ground connection R5 2.2K b e R4 10K 8 4 c Q1 2N3904 Servo signal connection
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FIGURE 20.7 A 555 timer IC can be used to provide a control signal to a servo.
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+V for BSII +6 vdc Any I/O pin Servo Gnd Basic Stamp
Ground for Connected +6 vdc servo grounds power Ground for +V BSII power FIGURE 20.8 Hookup diagram for connecting a servo to a Basic Stamp II
the electronics when the servo turns on and off. See 31 for suitable code that you can use to command a servo using a Basic Stamp II.
USING A DEDICATED CONTROLLER
R/C receivers are designed with a maximum of eight servos in mind. The receiver gets a digital pulse train from the transmitter, beginning with a long sync pulse, followed by as many as eight servo pulses. Each pulse is meant for a given servo attached to the receiver: pulse 1 goes to servo 1, pulse 2 goes to servo 2, and so on. The eight pulses plus the sync pulse take about 20 ms. This means the pulse train can be repeated 50 times each second, which we earlier referred to as the refresh rate. As the refresh rate gets slower the servos aren t updated as quickly and can throb or lose position as a result. Unless the control electronics you are using can simultaneously supply pulses to multiple servos at a time (multitasking), the control circuitry can no longer effectively send the refresh pulses (the continuous train of pulses) fast enough. For these applications, you can use a dedicated servo controller, which is available from a number of sources, including Scott Edwards Electronics and NetMedia (see Appendix B, Sources, for addresses and Web sites). Dedicated servo controllers can operate five, eight, or even more servos autonomously, which reduces the program overhead of the microcontroller or computer you are using. The main benefit of dedicated servo controllers is that a great number of servos can be commanded simultaneously, even if your computer, microcontroller, or other circuitry is not multitasking. For example, suppose your robot requires 24 servos. Say it s an eight-legged spider, and each leg has three servos on them; each servo controls a different degree of freedom of the leg. One approach would be to divide the work among three servo controllers, each capable of handling eight servos. Each controller would be responsible for a given degree of freedom. One might handle the rotation of all eight legs; another might handle the flexion of the legs; and the third might be for the rotation of the bottom leg segment. Dedicated servo controllers must be used with a computer or microcontroller, as they need to be provided with real-time data in order to operate the servos. This data is
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