Convert Linux into an Embedded System

by on June 4, 2015

pc104 computer

Hi all Running Linux on your embedded system can be great for giving you a stable base, lots of tools, and you can often solve problems with a quick google search. I define embedded as any custom-built computer system, not only tiny devices. In many cases you can develop on the computer itself for ease […]

Robots taking our jobs, Are you prepared?

by on May 21, 2015

Kambeitz

Hi all Continuing on with posts from the recent RoboUniverse show in New York, I want to talk about Robots, Jobs, and Education. On the last day one of the primary talks was from Dennis Kambeitz at EZ-Robot. The topic was Preparing our workforce for a robotic world. I am going to try to hit […]

RoboUniverse New York 2015 – Initial Reaction

by on May 13, 2015

robo universe sponsors

Hi all I attended the last day (5/13/2015) of the RoboUniverse conference and exhibit in New York City. It was a good experience and I got to hear some interesting talks. I am usually deeply involved in the technical aspects of robotics, so it was interesting hearing about some of the other aspects. This was […]

Book Review: Implementation of Robot Systems by Mike Wilson

by on April 24, 2015

implementation robotic systems

Hi all Today I am reviewing Implementation of Robot Systems by Mike Wilson. This is a book about how to integrate robots into the manufacturing process. In this book Mike Wilson takes you through the process of deploying and developing your robotic systems since “All successful projects require a methodical approach to project planning.” By […]

Software Engineering Principles

by on April 6, 2015

Fix Bad Code

Hi all I have often thought about what the proper software methodology should be for the various robots that I build. My thoughts have evolved over time as I have seen these tool work. I do not have any formal software engineering training, however these are things that I have seen, heard, read, etc.. that […]

RoboUniverse New York – May 11-13, 2015

by on March 30, 2015

Robo Universe

Hi all Click here to see initial reactions after the event! RoboUniverse 2015 is happening May 11-13 in New York. I plan on being there and would love to meet up with others who are there. Please let me know if you plan on attending. I am waiting to see the full exhibitor list as […]

Lubrication: Dry vs Wet – Oil vs Grease

by on March 25, 2015

grease gun

One thing that is often looked is lubrication (lube). Changing your lubrication and selecting the proper type can dramatically modify the performance of your system. This change of lubrication was one of the primary reasons MSL was delayed from launching to Mars. Improper lubrication can cause your mechanical parts to wear out and fail. It […]

TOUGHBOOK: The Super Rugged Laptop Teardown

by on March 20, 2015

TOUGHBOOK

Hi all Today I have a Panasonic Toughbook CF-18 that I will have the opportunity to tear down and see just what makes these computers so rugged. Please keep reading for the details of scan through for some nice pictures (you can click an image for the larger version). The computer weighs 4lb 10.8 oz […]

Developing Trust in Autonomous Robots Seminar from Michael Wagner

by on March 2, 2015

ASTAA reliability method

Hi all I recently had the opportunity to hear a talk from a colleague that I have worked with many times over the last bunch of years. The talk was all about how to build safe and robust systems. This is a critical topic that we often pass-over but needs to be addressed if robots […]

Camera & Lens Selection

by on February 12, 2015

camera specs

Choosing a camera for your robot or machine vision system can be confusing. It is important to determine your requirements and then figure out how to achieve that between the camera and the optics. The first thing that most people talk about is resolution. The classic resolution of a camera is based on pixels; such […]

Transporting your Robot

by on January 29, 2015

highway transportation

Throughout my career I have had to ship different robots to different locations around the world. Here is a little bit about what I have learnt about transportation. The 3 basic ways for a robot to travel are by land, by air, and by sea. Typically by truck (I guess there are also trains, but […]

Controlling Brushless DC motor with no Encoders

by on December 29, 2014

hall detection

This is just a quick post on controlling DC brushless motors with no encoders. This post applies to brushless motors that typically use hall sensors for commutation. This post does not apply to the hall-less ESC (electronic speed control) motors that typically run at very high speeds and are used for things such as quadcopters […]

Incremental Encoder Selection

by on December 19, 2014

quadrature encoder

Hi all Just a quick post on incremental encoders. Incremental encoders are good for speed control and can be used for position control when we have a homing routine to get absolute position, or the system is constrained to less than one rotation. One way an incremental encoder can also be an absolute encoder is […]

Batteries

by on December 8, 2014

battery

Hi all Today I want to talk about batteries. However before I begin there are a few terms I want to clarify. So here we go. Terminology Cell – This is where the chemical reaction takes place which produces electricity. The characteristics of the cell are determined by its chemical formulation and its construction. Battery […]

Robot Motion (Path) Planning Overview

by on December 2, 2014

motion planning example

This post is going to be a summary of the different motion planning (ie. route finding) algorithms that are commonly used. I am not going to detail any of the particular algorithms, but rather give you a launchpad for finding a suitable algorithm for your application. You should remember that often you will mix and […]

Motors: Active, Reactive, and Apparent Power

by on November 10, 2014

power beer analogy

There are a bunch of confusing powers involved when we look at motors, especially with DC brushless motors. When your boss comes and asks you to measure the electrical power that your motor is using, it is often not straight forward. Typically the easiest way to get the current used by a motor is to […]

Grounding & Avoiding Ground Loops

by on November 3, 2014

Ground Loop

Ground loops are often discussed but less often understood (I am far from being an expert in this). I have seen several cases where a robot malfunctioned or a sensor did not work due to bad grounding. For example if you have a a 0-5V signal and also have a “noisy” ground then the signal […]

Copley Motor Controller Review

by on October 22, 2014

Copley controller

Hi all This is a post about the Copley Controls motor controllers. For this review I will be using a ACJ-055-09 (55Vmax and 9Apeak) motor controller (I love when product names mean something useful) with a 3 phase DC brushless motor. This is a good controller for distributed motion control. Copley makes several versions of […]

Drawbar Pull vs Rim Pull

by on October 13, 2014

rim pull

Hi all Many people get confused between what drawbar pull is and what rim pull is. Many people also use the terms interchangeably. Drawbar Pull – Pull available from the vehicle (think pulling from a hitch in the rear of the robot) Rim Pull – Pull available at the rim of each driving wheel (some […]

For Profit Technical Education Experience (ITT-Tech)

by on October 6, 2014

For Profit

There has been a lot of talk recently about for-profit education. Most of it is negative and a lot of it is true, however there are also some good things about for profit education that is often overlooked. This post is about the good, the bad, and the ugly that I have experienced at a […]

Wheel & Grouser Design

by on September 29, 2014

LRV Wheel

For many robots the wheels are an afterthought however they are essential for letting the robot drive around. Another thing that is often neglected is choosing the proper grousers for your wheel. Most of the design parameters for wheels and grousers are based on experience, intuition (which may or may not be correct) and qualitative […]

PID Control (with code)

by on September 22, 2014

PID equations

Hi all PID controllers are the workhorse of the controls world. While there are many other control strategies out there PID is probably the most common (unless you count human control) outside of just setting a setpoint. There are many advanced control strategies out there but in most cases they will do similar or worse […]

Ubuntu Boot Automatically After Failed Shutdown – Stuck at Bootloader

by on September 15, 2014

Ubuntu

Hi This is going to be a very short post about a Ubuntu boot issues (I know, very sexy topic). Many of the robots I work on are running Ubuntu and this is a very annoying “feature” that you might want to disable. The problem with versions of Ubuntu from the past few years is […]

Soldering Tutorials

by on September 8, 2014

soldering

Hi all Here are a few soldering tutorials that might be of interest to you. These first two are your day-to-day standard soldering methods. There are many of these types of videos online. This next set of tutorials is for high reliability “proper” soldering techniques. This is actually why I am writing this post. These […]

Mars Rovers

by on September 1, 2014

mars rovers

Hi all It is surprisingly hard to find a list of the technology used in the mars rovers. Here is a quick post summarizing some of the technology used in the NASA JPL Mars rovers. The list is only partialy complete since I do not have all of the information. Please leave comments below to […]

Environmental Sensing and Monitoring

by on August 25, 2014

Weather Station

Hi all There are many different types of sensors that can be used for monitoring environmental data. In this post I will focus on natural environmental sensors. By natural I mean I mostly naturally occurring phenomena such as sunlight and temperature. I will mostly ignore things like chemical detection and radiation (the bad kind) detection. […]

Computer Field Recovery Kit

by on August 21, 2014

computer repair

Hi all So I got a question about what I bring to the field with me when I am taking a robot out for testing. The simple answer is everything that I might need. Here is a list of the basics that a carry with me. I have a box labeled Computer Recovery Kit that […]

Position Tracking: Total Station

by on June 13, 2014

leica total station

Tracking the position of a robot is difficult to do accurately, especially when you need to track position in a variety of locations. GPS is not accurate for small movements and can have jumps as the position estimate changes. One good solution is the Leica Total Station. The Total Station can measure a robots position […]

Book Review: Disaster Robotics by Robin Murphy

by on May 22, 2014

disaster robotics

One of my personal interests is in disaster robotics. I like them for two reasons. The first is that I like the idea of being able to try and save people (I know I could have become a doctor). The other reason I like robots is that they need to operate in “extreme terrain and […]

LIDAR (Laser Scanner) Review Comparisons

by on May 15, 2014

LIDAR's Used

This is part of a series of posts talking about some of the common LIDAR’s used in robotics. At the end of these sensor profile articles there will be a final post that compares the sensors based on data collected by each of the sensors. Posts: Evaluating LIDAR Guide LIDAR Fundamentals SICK TiM551 – LIDAR […]