Conduct a symphony of servos with these USB servo controllers

Conduct a symphony of servos with these USB servo controllers

Posted on 18. Mar, 2011 by in Misc Modules

Whether you're building a robot, actuating a doorknob, or just need any other electronically controllable physical movement, hobby servos will usually do the trick thanks to their availability, low cost, and relatively high precision. But how do you control one or even two dozen of them simultaneously through your computer?

Controlling a large number of servos via a computer over a USB port is not something the average hobbyist will be able to whip-up in an afternoon. That's why we're interested in the Pololu Maestro series of USB servo controllers.

The Maestro controllers come in four models which control 6, 12, 18, or 24 servos simultaneously with only a single USB connection to your personal computer. Or, if you're not using a computer, you can also use standard serial protocols or even on-board scripting.

The modules give independant speed and movement control over each servo. This makes the Maestro controllers perfect for projects like amateur animatronics (think Halloween haunted houses) where you have several servos acting in unison to create the movement of a monster or scene. And, the controllers can be programmed using a simple scripting language, so you don't need to have a computer attached, which makes them even more perfect for this type of application!

Some features of the Maestro USB Servo controllers include:

  • Three control methods: USB, TTL (5V) serial, and internal scripting
  • 0.25μs output pulse width resolution (corresponds to approximately 0.025° for a typical servo, which is beyond what the servo could resolve)
  • Pulse rate configurable from 1 to 333 Hz
  • Wide pulse range of 64 to 4080 μs
  • Individual speed and acceleration control for each channel
  • Channels can be optionally configured to go to a specified position or turn off on startup or error
  • Alternate channel functions allow the channels to be used as:
  • General-purpose digital outputs (0 or 5 V)
  • Analog or digital inputs (channels 0 – 11 can be analog inputs; channels 12+ can be digital inputs)
  • One channel can be a PWM output with frequency from 2.93 kHz to 12 MHz and up to 10 bits of resolution
  • A simple scripting language lets you program the controller to perform complex actions even after its USB and serial connections are removed

So, if you need just one or two servos, or a whopping TWO DOZEN (!!) for your next project, give the Pololu USB Servo Controllers a look. They're reasonably priced, depending on the model, from $20 to $50, and slightly less if you prefer a full or partial kit.

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