• Tinymovr alpha Available

    Yannis19 hours ago 0 comments

    Tinymovr is entering alpha testing phase, and you are invited to participate! Sign up below to get a super-early bird Tinymovr R3.2 Board or Dev Kit:


    Tech specs:

    • 3-phase brushless motor controller with Field Oriented Control
    • Input Voltage: 12 - 26V, XT30UPB connector, 35A continuous phase current
    • PAC5527 Integrated MCU+Gate Driver (150MHz Cortex-M4F w/ 128k flash, 32k RAM)
    • MA702 absolute position magnetic encoder with 12.5 bit resolution
    • FDMD8530 mosfets, 30V 1.25mΩ max. rDS(on), mosfets rated for 127A continuous
    • CAN bus and serial (TTL) connectivity, SWD header for debugging and flashing firmware.
    • 20kHz switching and control frequency
    • Board Dimensions: 40mm x 42mm x 10mm(approx height)

    The price of the alpha boards will be $39/39€, plus shipping costs (includes Tinymovr, diametrically-magnetized magnet and 1x DF-13 to female header cable). You will need your own means of talking CAN with the controller, a 3-phase brushless motor, a way of securing the magnet on the motor axis and Tinymovr on the motor, and a 12-26V power source.

    There are also dev kits available for $119/119€, plus shipping costs. Dev kits include Tinymovr + diametrically magnetized magnet + high quality T-Motor 4004 motor integrated in a compact stand, a Canable-compatible CAN Adapter and assorted power and signal cables and wires. You'll need a micro USB cable and a 12-26V power source.

    Please note that currently the amount of Tinymovr boards/dev kits is limited to one per person. In later batches it will be possible to purchase more boards.

    Please note that we are only able to ship to addresses in the EU, US, UK and Canada.

    Estimated shipping is beginning of August 2020.

    Following form submission you'll be contacted via email for arranging payment and shipment.

    Have fun building awesome robots!

  • Production updates, availability, open source etc.

    Yannis5 days ago 0 comments

    There are a lot of important news to share :). Here they are in no particular order:

    1. I’m currently making an attempt at moving PCB assembly of the first Tinymovr batches in house. For those new to the project, assembly of previous batches was outsourced to Chinese manufacturers. While this is a safe and painless option, it is becoming increasingly challenging to realize the vision of Tinymovr as a low-cost but fully-featured servo motor controller, due to import taxes and customs fees. At the same time, PCB assembly prices in EU are sky high. Therefore, I decided to move assembly of the first prototype batches in house. Got the first PCBs from Aisler a few days ago and built two prototype boards. The boards have been tested with phase currents up to 20A and angular velocities up to 300000CPR/s (around 2100 rpm). I’ll be building a few more in the next days, at the same time trying to optimize assembly. I am so far confident that this is a viable option. I’ll reconsider outsourcing production if and when production scales to justifiable numbers.

    Here below the first home-grown Tinymovr :) :

    2. The CAN Bus transceiver swap outlined in previous posts has been a success. It has vastly improved connection reliability, and reduced MCU power draw (since it is powered directly from VBus) and thermal performance.

    3. There are questions regarding open sourcing of PCB schematics/drawings and firmware, so I think it’s time to clear things up for everyone:

    • Tinymovr drawings and schematics will NOT be open sourced or available for purchase. Maybe in the future. Not right now.
    • The firmware WILL BE open source, licensed under the GPL v3. There are still things to sort out in the firmware before releasing but I expect that by the end of July the it will be available in Github.

    4. There are also questions regarding availability of Tinymovr. If the in-house assembly experiment goes as planned, my goal is to have a limited alpha run beginning in the next 2-3 weeks. I’ll probably include options to order just the Tinymovr boards as well as dev kits that will include motor, CAN Bus adapter and programmer (most probably a J-Link EDU Mini). The alpha boards and kits will be distributed at a price near the cost of the board, components and materials. This means that the price of alpha boards/kits will be lower than the price of production Tinymovr, when released. The boards and kits will be thoroughly tested before being sent out. 

    5. I’ve been doing some performance validation mainly looking at switching transients and ripple current. Below I attach the relevant scope shots. 

    Below is seen around 3V overshoot on the rising edge and 5V on the falling.

    In the grab below there is a 200mV ripple at 18A phase current, using 3x 68uF 30mOhm ESR polymer capacitors. 

    6. I've complete the quadruped robot based on Tinymovr R3.1 boards. I'm glad to report that, using the 3D printed actuators the motor phase current is less than 2A at stance. Here a short video below:

    I’m really excited to be reaching an important milestone in this journey, roughly a year and a half after my first design attempts at Tinymovr. I hope this project will be able to foster a strong community and ultimately make creating awesome robots easy and affordable!

  • Firmware improvements - CAN Protocol, Improving Position Tracking

    Yannis06/13/2020 at 20:06 0 comments

    In the last post I covered improvements in the hardware side of Tinymovr R3.1 that resulted in a minor revision R3.2. This post will go over improvements on the Tinymovr firmware performed in the past couple months. 

    CAN Bus Protocol

    Implementation of CAN communication is now complete, and Tinymovr is fully operable through CAN. In the protocol I designed I’ve decided to stay as close as possible to the CANSimple protocol, adopted by the ODrive community, for compatibility reasons. Of course, it was not possible to fully conform to that protocol, as there are differences in hardware and features. However, in the approach I've taken I've tried to match the functionality of critical CAN commands (such as setting of states, setpoints and parameters). In addition, in order to stay compatible I've tried to extend the message content of some commands, instead of replacing; for instance, the State endpoint (0x03) returns an array that contains the error as a first element but also the controller state and control mode. If you are interested in the error only, you can just grab the first item in the returned tuple. 

    Below is a table with the commands (endpoints) in more detail:

    Byte Offset
    State0x03RError (uint8)
    State (uint8)
    Ctrl Mode (uint8)
    CAN Config0x05RCAN ID (uint8)
    kbaud Rate (uint16)
    Set CAN Config0x06WCAN ID (uint8)
    kbaud Rate (uint16)
    Set State0x07WState (uint8)
    Control Mode (uint8)
    Encoder Estimates0x09RPosition Estimate(float)
    Velocity Estimate(float)
    Set Position Setpoint0x0CWPosition Setpoint (float)
    Velocity FF (int16)
    Current FF (int16
    Set Velocity Setpoint0x0DWVelocity Setpoint (float)
    Current FF (float)
    Set Current Setpoint0x0EWCurrent Setpoint (float)0
    Set Limits0x0FWVelocity Limit (float)
    Current Limit (float)
    Iq Estimate and Setpoint0x14RIq Estimate (float)
    Iq Setpoint (float)
    Limits0x15RVelocity Limit (float)
    Vbus0x17RBus Voltage (float)0
    Position and Velocity Gains0x18RPosition Gain (float)
    Velocity Gain (float)
    Set Position and Velocity Gains0x19WPosition Gain (float)
    Velocity Gain (float)
    Device Info0x1ARDevice info register (uint32)0
    MCU Cycle Timings0x1BRBusy Cycles (uint16)
    Total Cycles (uint16)
    Save Config0x1CW----
    Erase Config0x1DW----
    Motor Info0x1ERMotor Calibrated (uint8)
    Motor R (uint16)
    Motor Pole Pairs (uint8)
    Motor L (float)

    The endpoints that are read (R) work by the client sending a request to transmit (RTR) and Tinymovr sending back the corresponding message. Note that this is an early protocol draft, and subject to change.

    Position Tracking Improvements

    The encoder/observer infrastructure has been vastly improved as well. Here, I’ve been dealing with the problem of diminishing floating point accuracy as the position setpoints reach large values, due to the limited 23-bit significand of single precision floats. This is an issue that has come up from time to time in various message boards, but afaik no concrete solution is available up till now.

    To address this issue, there are two sub-problems that need to be addressed: The first problem concerns the estimation of the rotor angle in order to derive electrical angle and ensure accurate commutation. This is easily achieved by using a separate angle estimate that is wrapped to [0, 2pi). The second problem is a bit more complex and entails accurately tracking the rotor position value on the position axis. The issue here is that at large values the estimate of rotor position is increasingly quantized, due to the rapidly diminishing accuracy of floating point representation. Consider as an example the value 5000000 (5*10^6), which is a representable number in IEEE 754 single-precision floating point variable format. The next representable number, is 5000000.5. This is barely adequate to represent the observer rotor position estimate, and it only gets worse as the values increase. In tests that I did at such rotor positions, the effect due to quantization is that the velocity...

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  • Dealing with (and fixing) an unexpected glitch

    Yannis05/31/2020 at 12:23 0 comments

    In this post I wanted to focus on Tinymovr firmware improvements and plan out the next steps, however an unexpected glitch had me spending all my development time on it and thus the rest of the updates have been pushed back a bit.

    Last week I put together a “torture test” for Tinymovr with the aim of testing several aspects such as position tracking, torque generation, commutation in higher angular velocities, communication etc. The test consisted of reading encoder estimates and commanding random position increments ranging from 0 to 2π (0 to 8192 encoder ticks) at random intervals ranging from 5ms to 100ms.

    During the test I’ve noticed that in some cases the motor jumps around at velocity limit, and towards positions far beyond commanded ones. Monitoring the CAN traffic I found that some messages sent by Tinymovr contain garbage position values. They are not frequent (on average one in 5000), but they are certainly deal-breakers for high-frequency communication. Moreover, the issue only affected messages sent by Tinymovr, the ones received were always pristine. 

    Long story short, after discovering this I engaged in a week-long investigation to find the root cause. CAN having strong error detection and all, it is unlikely that this error originates in the bus itself. I thus focused on the parts before and after the bus. I quickly dismissed the receiver side (consisting of an Arduino and a MCP2515 breakout, connected through short, shielded wiring) after successfully testing it with another CAN device. In addition, I knew that with the exact same setup and the previous Tinymovr R2 boards there were no errors in communication at all. Therefore I focused on Tinymovr itself.

    One thing I did notice was that the PAC5527 controller itself was relatively warm to the touch. Not so much that it would burn your hands but it would be uncomfortable to the touch after a few seconds. Disabling all peripherals and setting the MCU to sleep mode revealed a 30mA current draw at 12V.  The PAC5527 on Tinymovr powers two external devices and a led through its VSYS LDO: the led draws 5mA, the magnetic encoder is supposed to draw 12mA at 3.3V and the CAN transceiver is supposed to draw 10mA at 5V at recessive state, but also a whopping 40mA when setting the line to dominant state! This is of course reasonable if one remembers that CAN has 120Ohm termination resistors and a 5V potential difference between high and low states when bus dominant, which gives a minimum current draw of 5/120 ~= 0.04, but it was something that admittedly I did not consider in design.

    Taking a look at the datasheet, the VSYS LDO mentions a max external load of 50mA at 5V, which is higher than the combined 27mA when recessive, but not higher than the combined 57mA when dominant! It is therefore possible that the excessive current required during CAN bus transmission introduces voltage drops that in turn cause memory or I/O related issues, as well as excessive heat due to the stress on the LDOs. At last, we have a plausible scenario! :) 

    This also corroborates with the observation that the previous R2 boards running without errors, as, according to the PAC5523 dataset, the PAC5523 LDO can supply up to 330mA total, and excluding the 60mA max per internal LDO, there are 80mA left for external loads.

    In order to mitigate I took a few steps to minimize current draw as much as I could given the current design:

    1. Increase encoder SPI frequency as much as possible without introducing errors, to minimize the time spent by the processor in waiting encoder data. Currently it is set to 12.5MHz
    2. Increase CAN Bus frequency to 1MHz from 250kHz, to minimize the time the transceiver has to hold the line in the dominant state (and thus request more current). Admittedly this seems one of the few cases where *increasing* the baud rate results in less errors… :D
    3. Use large heatsinks where possible
    4. Remove the led! Currently the led consumes just...
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  • Tinymovr R3

    Yannis05/21/2020 at 18:01 0 comments

    Tinymovr R3 boards have recently arrived from China and I've been busy testing and improving things all over. Bottom line, they perform very well so far!

    The new MA702 encoder really makes a difference as angular position tracking is now super responsive and able to handle even the most vigorous accelerations. Due to the improved dynamic tracking performance, commutation is also more efficient, as the electrical angle is tracked much more precisely. The advertised mean accuracy of 11.5bits is easily achieved and even surpassed with a NdFeB N35 magnet at around 1.5mm distance from the chip, and with the addition of a Luenberger observer I get an accurate (low noise) 13bit position estimation (8192 CPR).

    The new PAC5527 controller also makes a difference since it enables the input voltage to go up to 30V, limited by the power transistors (FDMD8530). I have tested the board up to 26V input and 15A phase current with reliable performance. More tests pending :) 

    For safety reasons, however Tinymovr will be rated to 24V. In addition, PAC5527 allows for software slew rate control, using which and after some experimenting I ended up with much better commutation with less ringing. 

    Tinymovr R3 has more capacitance than it's predecessor with 8x 10uF ceramic capacitors and 3x 4.7uF on the shunt resistor high side, however these will be replaced with a combination of ceramic and electrolytic in R3.1. R3 also features CAN Bus, UART and SWD connections, each of which is broken out to DF-13 connectors, however to manage compoment costs R3.1 will only break out CAN Bus to DF-13, while others will be available as through-holes on board. In addition, there are through holes sized to accommodate a XT-30UPB connector that can be mounted on either side of the board. 

    Here's the board mounted to the test stand together with a 4108 380kV motor:

    That’s it for now, but stay tuned for the next post very soon where I will discuss test results and firmware development, together with some good news :)

  • Tinymovr blog post, first R3 units soon delivered

    Yannis04/19/2020 at 19:33 0 comments

    Hi everyone, here's a short update on Tinymovr.

    I've posted a new blog post over at backyardrobotics blog, outlining the development of Tinymovr up till now, in a more informal manner.

    I've designed a new leg actuator for the quadruped robot that is more compact and completely encloses the electronics. Preview below:

    Finally, I received note from the PCB manufacturer that the new R3 boards are on their way. I do expect a delay given the circumstances, but let's hope for the best :)

  • R3 in production, First Tinymovr integration to robotic leg

    Yannis03/23/2020 at 19:07 0 comments

    Let me start this log by wishing everyone good health in these extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed strict rules that we are mostly unaccustomed to, however it is crucial that we remain patient and not deviate from our individual responsibilities in preventing further spread of the virus.

    With most regions in China already recovering from the health crisis,  PCB manufacturers are now able to undertake orders with a predictable time schedule, albeit inevitably with some delay. Having this in mind, I am happy to inform that I have sent the latest Tinymovr design, R3, to the PCB manufacturer as of yesterday. The boards are expected end of April/early May.

    The R3 has several changes from the previous revision, featuring a Qorvo PAC5527 MCU, a MPS MA702 magnetic angle sensor, high quality TDK ceramic caps, compact DF13 connectors all over and holes for mounting XT30UPB power connector. Also, the pads for the motor leads are wider than in the previous release.

    In addition to the above, I'm happy to report that the two remaining Tinymovr R2.1 boards in my possession are now integrated in the robotic leg that I mentioned in the previous log. Apart from some rotor synchronization issues arising from encoder limitations (outlined in previous posts), the leg seems to have no issue lifting 670g, with a maximum armature current of 8A:

    Stay tuned for the next update!

  • R3 Production Schedule, CAN Bus Improvements, Robotics Demo

    Yannis02/23/2020 at 21:29 0 comments

    The ongoing health crisis in China has affected PCB production and induced significant delays in PCB manufacturing and assembly. PCBWay, the manufacturer of Tinymovr prototypes, has announed delays of up to 30 days for small batch prototype runs. This is in addition to potential delays in shipping that are likely to be encountered.

    Even though design of Tinymovr R3 is complete and has been carefully reviewed, I've decided to postpone sending the board to be manufactured until things settle down a bit and regular schedule is restored. This should incur a delay of about a month or so, which, in addition to a month between submitting design to receiving prototypes, should place the next round of Tinymovr boards in my hands late April 2020.

    Taking advantage of this intermission, I've been working on a few improvements on the comms-side of Tinymovr, implementing a better CAN-Bus protocol that allows dynamic endpoint maps much like ODrive does. This goes in hand with an application I've been developing for interfacing and configuring Tinymovr from a PC/Mac, Tinymovr Studio. 

    As soon as I achieve some progress in this, I'm planning a robotics demo as a follow up to demonstrate application of Tinymovr. The demo will feature a 2DOF robot leg that uses Tinymovr R2 in both DOFs, with daisy-chained power and comms.

    Here's a preview of the mechanical assembly, which is almost ready:

    This is a dual-belt-in-series arrangement that is heavily influenced by the Solo quadruped robot of the Open Dynamic Robot Initiative. The belt transmission achieves a 1:10 reduction in a compact package that fits well to the elongated form of the leg itself. The plan is to have Tinymovr R3 integrated in the leg assembly, right opposite the motor, where the encoder magnet is found. The first order of things is to get some simple kinematics working, and following that maybe try to implement some dynamic movements such as jumping.

    Stay tuned for more updates!

  • R2.1 Testing and Next Revision

    Yannis01/28/2020 at 16:43 0 comments

    I've just finished testing a bunch of Tinymovr R2.1 boards, and results look promising, save for a few issues I have discovered along the way. 

    The following functional aspects are fully tested and working in this latest revision:

    • 3-phase PWM MOSFET driving at 20kHz
    • Current sensing ADC for all three phases
    • MA730 absolute encoder readings over SPI at 1MHz, encoder observer with velocity output
    • Motor control loop at 10kHz (position, velocity, current control, position limiting, current limiting, velocity-dependent current limiting)
    • Calibration of resistance, inductance and absolute encoder offset
    • Overcurrent protection, undervoltage protection
    • UART communication with simple protocol for configuration
    • CAN Bus communication with comprehensive protocol and error handling. Bidirectional messaging tested up to 1kHz, @ 500kHz CAN bus speed.
    • Basic configuration saving and loading to/from NVRam

    In the following video, CAN bus at 500kHz is used for bidirectional communication. Initially,  the arduino issues a calibration command and checks if successful. Then, it sends a series of position commands at random intervals, and also requests position and velocity information at a rate of 500Hz, which is then retransmitted via Arduino serial and plotted using Serialplotter.

    I’m planning a demo of a fully integrated (motor+controller) 2DoF robot leg, which will use 2x daisy-chained Tinymovr boards. More on that in future updates.

    During my testing I’ve encountered a series of issues, briefly outlined below:

    The first issue is with the encoder. This document by MPS describes an aspect of the MagAlpha encoder series that I have overlooked. In a nutshell, MagAlpha series encoders include a digital filter that introduces a tradeoff between encoder resolution and bandwidth. The MA730 used in Tinymovr has a high time-constant filter that allows for a 14-bit resolution but limits the bandwidth to 23Hz, according to the above document. In high acceleration scenarios, this makes the reported position lag behind significantly. Since the electrical angle is computed from the encoder, this also affects motor efficiency, and in some cases even throws the control loop out of whack. 

    In the video above, you may notice some oscillations around the velocity setpoint, which are more profound in higher velocities. I have pinpointed this to be caused by the combination of motor cogging torque and encoder filter time-constant.

    To mitigate such issues in the next revision, I’ll be using a lower 12-bit encoder, the MA702, which however has shorter time-constant filter that allows a reported 400Hz bandwidth. This should be sufficient for all but the most demanding acceleration scenarios. 

    Another issue is with the power stage. It seems I miscalculated the values of the resistors that control slew rate and the board suffers from significant ringing during switching. Ringing is clearly visible in the oscilloscope, especially during switching at zero torque.

    Even though it would be straightforward to just replace the resistors, I’ve decided a more radical change for the next revision that will hopefully bring more benefits. Qorvo recently released PAC5527, an MCU that is much like the PAC5523, however it has many of the external components found at the power stage embedded in the die. PAC5527 has a software adjustable slew rate and can work with input voltages of up to 48V.

    Replacing the PAC5523 with the PAC5527 would bring several benefits to Tinymovr, the most important of which are:

    • Higher rated input voltage range (48V up from the current 20V)
    • Easier configuration of power stage parameters
    • Reduced component count, which translates to more flexible board layout.

    The higher rated voltage will also warrant changes to several passives, but also to the FETs which are currently rated for 30V.

    While the above seem to require fundamental design changes, the fact is that all replacement parts are pin-compatible with existing ones, save...

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  • R2 arrives, size comparison

    Yannis01/18/2020 at 15:42 0 comments

    Tinymovr r2 PCBs have recently arrived from China. In the meantime I've been improving the firmware, and at the present motor control (position, velocity and current) as well as CAN Bus and UART connectivity are fully functional.

    Below is Tinymovr R2 next to a one Euro coin and a 4108 motor for size comparison.

    New motor testing bed with UART, CAN Bus connections and oscilloscope probes.

    As mentioned previously, this board revision replaces the AS5047 encoder for the MA730, which comes at a significantly lower cost. In addition, the power stage includes larger shunt resistors and 2oz copper traces, allowing a max calculated current of 30A continuous (with proper mosfet cooling).

    Stay tuned for more videos of the board in action!