Fred Eady

Fred's Articles

Get Your Motors Runnin’
November 2013
Spinning a couple of motor shafts and positioning a hobby servo has never been easier. The combination of the Digilent motor shield, 32-bit Uno32, and ready-to-roll MPIDE motor shield library takes all of the pain out of robotic motor control.

Tibbo Trouble
August 2013
With Tibbo, you can write a few lines of Basic code and exchange data with peers and hosts via the Internet. The Tibbo EM500 is perfect for retrofitting devices with serial ports for use on the Internet. How can you implement it in your next bot build?

Interface and Communication Techniques to Control the World (or, at least H-bridges)
June 2013
In the mechatronic world, it’s all about control. See how to gain worldwide dominance using some simple CCS C code, a Wi-Fi module, and a handful of Microchip silicon.

Go Mod With Your Mobile
January 2013
What do you get when you give your robot a GPS module, a microSD card, and a temperature probe? A robot who knows where it's going and can tell you where it's been. Depending on where your robot is or is going, it may be wrapped up in an overcoat or sporting a Hawaiian shirt.

Finding NEMO10
October 2012
Every microcontroller that exists can be instructed to produce an RS-232 data stream. However, a microcontroller may not be robust enough to handle a TCP/IP stack. If your robotic device can speak RS-232, the NEMO10 can be used to translate the resultant RS-232 data stream into a TCP/IP packet.

Electronic Messaging With Your Robot
September 2012
Water and things electrical normally don't mix. That's probably why you never see a robot lick a stamp. Electronic messaging is the safer solution for a robot that wants to put a note in your mailbox. This time around, we'll explore what it takes to have your mechanical animal put an electronic note in your inbox.

A Radio For Robots
June 2012
This radio module can act as an RFID device, a key fob, and a wireless serial link. It also has 16-bit cyclic redundancy checking, motor noise tolerance, and networking capability, so it’s truly a robot’s radio.

Meet the Perfect Solderless Breadboard
January 2012
Take a closer look at Digilent’s Electronics Explorer and how you can use it as a microcontroller stimulus generator and virtual logic monitor.

A Play Day With Sunray
November 2011
So many radios ... so little time. This month, Fred takes you to his sandbox. An RF sandbox, that is. However, you won't find any shovels or buckets in this box. And, the building material isn't sand. It's silicon building blocks that have been specifically engineered to emit radio waves.

Meet the Swiss Army Knife of Robotics: the Cerebot 32MX7 — Part 2
August 2011
This time, you’ll tailor the Microchip TCP/IP stack to drive a PmodWiFi module. Plus, you’ll also customize the USB Host portion of the Applications Library to help persuade the Cerebot 32MX7 to host a USB thumb drive.

Meet the Swiss Army Knife of Robotics: the Cerebot 32MX7
July 2011
Whether it be robotics, remote control, telemetry, Internet services, CAN networking, or an I/O intensive application, the Digilent Cerebot 32MX7 board plugs physically and logically into the center of the action.

Make Your Robot’s Wires Extinct
June 2011
Find out about a new 8051-based powerhouse that will allow you to lose the wire connection to the microcontroller in your robot.

Give Your Robot the Bootloader
April 2011
Bootloading provides a very useful layer of control. Once the base bootloader code is loaded into your robot’s program Flash, you can read, write, and erase it without having to use a hardware programmer.

Harvest Energy for Your Robots With the EnerChip
March 2011
Once you understand how energy harvesting works, you can apply this knowledge to your own low power robotic projects.

Control Your Steel Army With the RPM3
February 2011
The Radio Packet Modem 3 is not your average embedded radio. You can communicate with one steel soldier or a whole platoon.

Experience the Emperor Pinguino
January 2011
Pinguino is an Arduino-like board based on a PIC microcontroller. This article explores some of the features of the EDTP Electronics Emperor version ... and only hits the tip of the iceberg.

Rate the eM8 — Part 2
December 2010
You can’t build robot smarts if you can’t speak the language. Or, in this case, speak the languages. We’re about to continue our port of the eM8 assembler application to CCS C.

Rate the eM8
November 2010
Microcontrollers aren’t always the most clever electronic components in a robotic design. In the case of the eM8, the abundance of basic circuitry consisting of some common CMOS latches, decoders, and multiplexers complete the design.

More Room for Your Robot Stuff
October 2010
One never visualizes hard drives and microcontrollers in the same thought process. About 10 B.M.C. (Before MicroSD Card), relatively large capacity hard drives and Intel microprocessors were the norm. These days, the MicroSD card has brought the storage capacity of yesteryear's hard drives to the microcontroller bus. Today's microcontroller can control as much data storage in the space of a couple of quarters as the first personal computers could with a full-sized hard drive.

The Wasp Embedded Processor Takes the Sting Out of C
September 2010
If you’re already a C expert, you’ll be interested in the hardware discussed here. If you’re a hardware guru and want to know more about how C and an AVR microcontroller can work together for your robotic projects, there’s something for you too.

Getting Down to Some Basics of Using C
August 2010
Mechanically-inclined roboteers tend to gravitate towards the hardware side of things for solutions. However, they’ll soon C the beauty of having the tool of programming in their arsenal.

See How Easy Coding a Rotary Optical Encoder Can Be
July 2010
Fellow roboteers ... cast your fear aside and join me as I give you everything you need to add an optical encoder to the input end of your robotic projects.

Add a Transceiver to Your ZeroG Trainer
June 2010
Expand your Trainer project from last month by adding a transceiver to the mix.

Go XBee - Pro With Your Robot Control
May 2010
Learn how to monitor systems, display status via an LCD, activate relays, drive solid-state relays, and flash status LEDs, all via the top of a tiny wire antenna.

Look Who’s Talking!
April 2010
Explore this simple method that lets you and your robot play together in a wireless world.

Explore the New ZervoG Technology to Go RoboWireless
March 2010
Now your grazing piece of iron can let you know if its battery voltage is low or you can use it as a roving interactive Web server.

The ?OLED-128
February 2010
High-quality color graphics for your mechatronic creation are just a serial port away. Microchip’s new P32MX microcontrollers have six serial ports to choose from. This month we’ll use one of them to drive a 4D Labs ?OLED-128-G1 Display Module.

Digilent’s Robot Starter Kit
January 2010
Once we sort through this new kit, we'll get a joystick, three momentary pushbuttons, and a pair of LEDs up and running.

December 2009
Meet Digilent's 32-bit PIC32MX-based learning tool that will serve as a controller for things like your robot's servos. Plus, there's a ton of peripheral modules for things like joysticks, LCDs, LEDs, and switches, to name a few.

November 2009
By the time you finish reading this article, you'll not only have a couple relay/solenoid/LED driver circuits in your pocket, you'll be able to read and interpret standard pneumatic symbols, as well.

CCS Mechatronics
October 2009
This time we'll take a look at the softer side of robot construction and write some basic machine control component code using Custom Computer Services' C compiler.

CCS Robotics
September 2009
Custom Computer Services is now offering a robotics development kit ... see what’s all inside!

Doing Big Things With Little Micros
August 2009
This month, we’re going to move away from the mechanics of robotic arts and focus on basic electronic principles that can be amplified to form the soul of a subservient mechatronic being.

Implementing a Low Speed, Low Cost Commmunications Protocol: Part 2
July 2009
Our goal this month is to assemble a set of software routines to take advantage of the LIN protocol we learned last time.

Implementing A Low Speed, Low Cost Communications Protocol
June 2009
LIN is a relatively young network topology used in automobile mechatronics. See how you can apply it to your robotic needs.

The Super Stepper Driver
January 2008
I love writting for SERVO. Why? ... Because I get to put together all kinds of neat stuff. And, when I’m done playing with my new garage-brewed toys, I get to show them to you and tell you all about them. So, get your soldering irons hot and stuff your face into that illuminated desktop magnifier. We are going to build an intelligent stepper motor controller from scratch that is based on the Allegro MicroSystems A3979. ...

Building a Stepper Mottor Controller | Part 1
February 2008
That figures as for the past six months, I’ve been working on an embedded project that is dependent upon the motion provided by the shaft of a stepper motor. So, it would be an understatement to say that I’ve been heads down in the design and implementation phases of deploying the embedded motor control application I’ve been sleeping with for the past six months. Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to build up and test various stepper motor control circuits. I’m on the verge of building ...

Building a Stepper Mottor Controller | Part 2
March 2008
Now that I have a Minebea 29SM-K series 1.8°-per-step stepper motor shaft spinning back and forth on the bench, I figured it might be a good time to sit down and tell you how I persuaded an STMicroelectronics L6208PD to push current through the Minebea’s stepper motor coils. Unfortunately, I can’t provide a visual play-by-play of my Minebea’s alternately spinning motor shaft. However, I can give you a description of the hardware and software stuff you will need to make your motor spin under ...

Gecko “Vampire”
April 2008
“In Transylvania, cloves of garlic, sharp wooden stakes, hawthorn branches, and a cross are just a few of the necessary tools one needs to combat vampires ...” Running water, daylight and holy silver bullets are also potent vampire killers. If your vampire pest was once a mortal human being (most all of them were), every vampire killing tool I’ve just called out will do the job. However, if your vampire smells of silicon and steel, forget about getting any killer results from the garlic and ...

Managing Your Mobile Monkey
May 2008
As a robotician,think about all of the neat things that you have direct access to by way of the pages of SERVO. For instance,Parallax offers a variety of sensors that include a PIR (Passive Infrared) sensor,a color sensor, and a combination temperature/humidity sensor to name just a few. Digging deeper into a SERVO magazine I’m reading at the moment reveals a company called Maxbotix that is offering an ultrasonic sensor they call MaxSonar. If you want to sense with IR, you have the resources...

Building A Sonar System
June 2008
I’ve always wanted to do an ultrasonic ranging project. So, guess what we’ll be talking about and building up this month? Ultrasonic ranging is a great way to add eyes to your mechanical animal. I’ll bet you didn’t realize that there is an off-the-shelf ultrasonic ranging product out there that allows you to tune those “electromechanical eyes” to your robot’s environment. If you scan the pages of SERVO carefully, you’ll come across a company called MaxBotix. They produce a line of ultrasonic...

Big Mamma Gear Motors
July 2008
This month, we’ll pull together what it takes to design, build, and code a heavy duty DC motor driver module. First, we’ll look at the electrical theory behind the DC motor driver electronics. Then, we’ll build up the DC motor driver module’s “intelligence” and meld it with the DC motor driver’s “brawn.” If all of that passes the smoke test, we’ll code a simple RS-232 interface, which will allow you to control the big DC motor with simple serial commands. The DC motor driver IC of choice for...

The CPLD Servo Driver
August 2008
The hobby servo is an amazing device. The typical hobby servo is a collection of plastic or metal gears driven by a DC motor, which is under the control of a specialized motor driver IC and a feedback potentiometer. Back in the day, one would find hobby servos in most every model airplane and model boat. If you really put a brain cell to it, radio-controlled model planes, cars, and boats are actually specialized types of robots that depend greatly on the controlled motion provided by a hobby...

Bring Up Your Own Mesh Network
September 2008
Despite what most folks think, the science of robotics is not based on mobility and motion alone. Say the word “robot” to most anyone on the street and they will assimilate the word robot to a mobile humanoid-like mechanism that has superhuman intelligence and strength. In reality, Earth-bound robots have the ability to weld, cut, saw, drill, wash dishes, wash your underwear, wash your car, and cook your dinner...

A Digital RF DataLink
October 2008
Wire is a wonderful thing. There’s not much that is more reliable than a short piece of stranded or solid copper wire between the ends of an electrical connection. However, there are situations where electrically tying devices together with long runs of wire is impractical. Light does a good job of replacing copper when the conditions are right, but if one needs to move electrons reliably over a relatively long distance there’s no better conductor than the Earth’s magnetic field...

The Universal Motor
November 2008
Electric motors come in a seemingly endless variety of shapes and sizes. If you’re into robots and mechanical devices that move about freely, DC (Direct Current) motors capable of operating on battery power are almost always your most practical motor choice. However, not every robot created by man or alien is a fully mobile Robby running around on forbidden planets. If your robot is a stationary collection of nuts and volts that’s at home working next to a wall outlet, you may be able to use...

Learning To Drive: The BLDC Motor
December 2008
If you were to go back and survey past SERVO articles that I have written, you would probably conclude that I have this thing about motors and motor drivers. For instance, we recently tackled Universal Motors and constructed a Universal Motor controller. I also presented more than one SERVO stepper motor controller project. In these pages, we’ve driven linear actuators, rotated hobby servo rotors, and built circuitry to oversee the direction and speed of simple brushed DC motors...

BLDC Hardware | Part 2
January 2009
Manually rotating the shaft of my Anaheim Automation BLY171S-24V-4000 BLDC motor with my fingers isn't making it. So, I've scrounged up and assembled some electronic components that I intend to use to force the BLDC motor shaft to rotate in lieu of my motor-shaft-driving fingers. If you take a look at the specifications for the BLY17 series of brushless DC motors, you'll see that every motor in the family has differing characteristics. With that, it will be useless for me to whip up a ...

BLDC Hardware | Part 3
February 2009
It's time to get cerebral with our BLDC motor project. However, before we transition our fingers from spinning the BLDC motor shaft to tapping out some BLDC motor code, I have a confession to make. Before I relate my experiences, though, let's have a moment of silence for the fallen Microchip TC4428 and Fairchild NDS9952A parts that are littered all over my workbench under a cloud of "magic smoke.”

Robot Projects
March 2009
Robotics and electronics go hand in hand. If you're also a Nuts & Volts reader, you know that we assembled a working Silicon Laboratories-based USB microcontroller interface in the Nuts & Volts Design Cycle column. This month, we're going to pull that Nuts & Volts USB project into RoboLand and put its resources to work in a mechatronic kind of way...

Unwinding the AX-12+ Communication Protocol
April 2009
I love to write robotic driver firmware and scratch build PIC microcontroller-based robotic hardware to run it. In this edition of SERVO, we’re not only going to sharpen our driver authoring skills, we’ll also get some flight time on the handle of a soldering iron...

Coding the Buffered Communications Subsystem
May 2009
Lately, making things robotic move under the control of a PIC microcontroller has been my business. As we continue the Dynamixel AX-12+ coding task we embarked upon last month, we will also explore what it takes to coax a Microchip PIC18F2620 to drive the Dynamixel RX-28 and RX-64 robot actuators, which operate on a multi-drop RS-485 link.