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commonly sent in a serial data format. A sequence of bytes sent from the computer or microcontroller is decoded by the servo controller, with each byte corresponding to a servo attached to it. Servo controllers typically come with application notes and sample programs for popular computers and microcontrollers, but to make sure things work it s very helpful to have a knowledge of programming and serial communications.
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Servos are designed to be used with rechargeable model R/C battery packs, which put out from 4.8 to 7.2 volts, depending on the number of cells they have. Servos allow a fairly wide latitude in input voltage, and 6 volts from a four-pack of AAs provides more than enough juice. As the batteries drain, however, the voltage will drop, and you will notice your servos won t be as fast as they used to be. Somewhere below about 4.0 or 4.5 volts the servos will be too slow to do you much good, and they may not even function. But what about going beyond the voltage of typical rechargeable batteries used for R/C models Indeed, many servos can be operated in an intermittent fashion with up to about 12 volts, with few or no bad aftereffects. However, most servos will begin to overheat with more than 9 or 10 volts, and they may not like operating for long periods of time without a cooling off period. Unless you need the extra torque or speed, it s best to keep the supply voltage to your servos at no more than 9 volts, and preferably between the rated 4.8- to 7.2-volts range. Of course, check the data sheet that comes with the servos you are using and note any special voltage requirements.
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References to the Grateful Dead notwithstanding, all servos exhibit what s known as a dead band. The dead band of a servo is the maximum time differential between the incoming control signal and the internal reference signal produced by the position of the potentiometer. If the time difference equates to less than the dead band say, five or six microseconds the servo will not bother trying to nudge the motor to correct for the error. Without the dead band, the servo would constantly hunt back and forth to find the exact match between the incoming signal and its own internal reference signal. The dead band allows the servo to minimize this hunting so it will settle down to a position close to, though maybe not exactly, where it s supposed to be. Dead band varies between servos and is often listed as part of the servo s specifications. A typical dead band is 5 microseconds ( s). If the servo has a full travel of 180 over a 1000 s (1 2 ms) range, then the 5 s dead band equates to one part in 200. You probably won t even notice the effects of dead band if your control circuitry has a resolution lower than the dead band. However, if your control circuitry has a resolution higher than the dead band which is the case with a microcontroller such as the Basic Stamp II or the Motorola MC68HC11 then small changes in the pulse width values may not produce any effect. For instance, if the controller has a resolution of 2 s and if the servo has a dead band of 5 s, then a change of just one or even two values equal to a change of 2 or 4 s in the pulse width may not have an effect on the servo.
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The bottom line: choose a servo that has a narrow dead band if you need accuracy and if your control circuitry or programming environment has sufficient resolution. Otherwise, ignore dead band since it probably won t matter one way or another. The trade-off here is that with a narrow dead band the servo will be more prone to hunt to its position and may even buzz after it has gotten there. (Hint: the way to minimize this is to stop the stream of pulses to the servo, assuming this is practical for your application.)
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