Tag Archives: 3dprint

Gear testing fixtures

The qdd100 servo uses a planetary geartrain as the transmission reducer. This consists of an outer ring gear, an inner sun gear connected to the rotor as the input, and 3 planets connected to the output. The tolerances of these gears directly impacts the performance of the servo, namely the backlash and noise.

To date, I’ve been hand-binning these and testing each servo for noise at the end of production. To make that process a bit more deterministic, and with less fallout, I’ve built up a series of manual and semi-automated gear metrology fixtures to measure various properties of the gears.

Some of the simple ones are just tools to hold micrometers in convenient locations relative to gears or meshing gears, like this one to measure the OD of the ring gears at various points:

Or this one to measure the meshing of the sun gear with a rack gear:

Or this one to measure the meshing of a ring gear with a reference sun gear:

Semi-automated tools

As I went to use these techniques for production, manually measuring the gears both was tedious, and still not as useful as it could be. It wasn’t feasible to do more than record a minimum and maximum when measuring a gear by hand, and for some parameters, measuring it at many points around the circumference is helpful. Thus, I’ve started on some automated gear testing fixtures.

The first is one that tests sun gears against a reference planet:

This has a few pieces. The motion platform is a moteus devkit motor with a reference planet gear attached. This spins a “test” sun gear which rests on a linear rail. Then a dial indicator is positioned to record the position of the carriage. An arduino connects to the SPC data port on the dial indicator to programmatically read the position. I used a technique similar to this forum post, except that my iGaging dial indicator runs off about 3V, so I didn’t bother with a separate pull down transistor and just toggled the REQ pin between input and output low to initiate readouts. That meant I could just plug the 4 wires directly into the Arduino.

When this runs, the reference planet is spun through small increments and the micrometer reading is captured at each point. This measures the “double flank” mesh distance of the gear pair. Here, the indicator spring applies a pressure to the test gear, forcing it to mesh with the master gear.

To make this work, I characterized the reference planet gear by running a reference sun gear (which is a 20 tooth M0.5 gear), at all 20 different phases relative to the planet. Then I took the median of the distance across all the runs as the “reference curve” for this planet.

Then test gears are measured relative to that reference curve. That shows the delta between the center distance at each point and the reference distance, so should be relatively well calibrated for the fact that my master gear is not perfect, nor mounted perfectly concentric. Here is a plot from the same gear taken four times at different phases, shifted laterally to compensate for the phase difference and shows that it is relatively consistent and repeatable.

The process is unfortunately slow, primarily because the dial indicator SPC port only emits data at 2Hz, and it takes about 2 readings to settle after each motion. I was using 8 points per planet tooth for the above plot, which works out to 320 total samples per evaluation. At 1.5s per sample, that is around 7 minutes per gear! Fewer points still give reliable results, at a corresponding reduction in fine resolution.

Forgiving the slow speed, this does seem to give profiles that are repeatable to within about 10 microns, which is good enough for the binning I am doing now.

New machine(s) day, more Prusas

This is somewhat belated, but only recently have I actually gotten them all set up in the desired configuration. Welcome to the newest members of the mjbots factory line, another 2 Prusa MK3Ss! That makes 4 total, now all neatly lined up in a row:

The first two have had a greater than 60% duty cycle over the 3 years I’ve had them, and situations kept coming up where I was blocked on 3d printer bandwidth. For now at least that need is sated.

Microscope mount

I’ve been using a relatively inexpensive microscope for SMD soldering work for some time, connected via HDMI to a 24″ monitor.

For the price, I’m definitely happy with it, but as I’ve been doing more soldering work, I’ve become less happy with the mounting stand. The arm it mounts to often does not reach far enough to get the optics over the part of the board in question, or the base is too tall or wide to fit under it. If you want to examine something from the side, you have to tip the entire base over. I have resorted to spinning the microscope around and counterbalancing the base with a large weight, which works for some definition of “works” but only improves the reach by a little bit.

I wanted to improve the situation, so built a 3d printed mounting fixture to position the microscope head. It provides for a few more degrees of freedom than the factory issued one, and provides a lot more reach:

The tubes are held together with M4 bolts with each axis having a thumbscrew used to lock it in place. The optics can now be tilted in the pitch or roll direction, and the total reach is around 25cm, up from the stock 7cm.

The only parts I had to purchase uniquely were these 14mm tubes from amazon, some thumbscrews used to tension each of the clamps, a steel plate used to weight the base down, and a new LED lamp. I already had sufficient M4 heat set inserts and mounting bolts to fit everything else together. Here’s a photo from before I had the actual steel weight plate installed:

Another foot failure

The first feet I built for the quad A0 lasted for maybe an hour of walking before snapping off. The current design, has been much more robust – completing a lot of intensive walking and jumping. However, all things must fail:

Looking at the failure, I was surprised I used so little material in the region in question. For now, I just made it 4x thicker and we’ll see how long that lasts, although ultimately it may need to be a different design or machined instead of 3d printed.

quad A1 chassis updates

I finally got around to fixing a number of minor glitches in the quad A1’s chassis recently.

1. The raspberry pi is now far enough away from the left panel that you can connect the HDMI if you choose.


2. I no longer have vestigal studs for the pre quad A0 junction board on the other side.


3. The switch got moved down to between the legs.


4. So that the entire top surface can be used for mounting things if necessary (note the additional inserts at 160mm diameter).


5. And finally I added a shielding on the inside to cover up the guts on the left and right side.



Nothing too significant, but I had a running list and it was getting long enough that I figured it made sense to finally knock them off.


New Mech Warfare turret

Another of the tasks I’ve set for myself with regards to future Mech Warfare competitions is redesigning the turret.  The previous turret I built had some novel technical features, such as active inertial gimbal stabilization and automatic optical target tracking, however it had some problems too.  The biggest one for my purposes now, was that it still used the old RS485 based protocol and not the new CAN-FD based one.  Second, the turret had some dynamic stability and rigidity issues.  The magazine consisted of an aluminum tube sticking out of the top which made the entire thing very top heavy.  The 3d printed fork is the same I one I had made at Shapeways 5 years ago.  It is amazingly flexible in the lateral direction, which results in a lot of undesired oscillation if the base platform isn’t perfectly stable.  I’ve learned a lot about 3d printing and mechanical design in the meantime (but of course still have a seemingly infinite amount more to learn!) and think I can do better.  Finally, cable management between the top and bottom was always challenging.  You want to have a large range of motion, but keeping power and data flowing between the two rotating sections was never easy.

The legacy turret

My concept with this redesign is twofold, first make the turret be basically an entirely separate robot with no wires connecting it to the main robot and second, try to use as many of the components from the quad A1 as I could to demonstrate their, well, flexibility.  Thus, this turret will have a separate battery, power distribution board, raspberry pi, pi3 hat, and a moteus controller for each axis of motion.  These are certainly overkill, but hey, the quad A1 can carry a lot of weight.

The unique bits will be a standalone FPV camera, another camera attached to the raspberry PI for target tracking, a targeting laser, and the AEG mechanism, including a new board to manage the firing and loading functions.

A static rendering

And here’s a quick spin around video:

More to come…

quad A1 leg updates

When I first designed the full rotation leg, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of torque in the knee joint.  Despite the fact that my first force based IK showed that when the legs are immediately under the body, the knee joint carries the entire load of the robot, I still managed to not add any reduction there.

The initial design used a 1:1 ratio, because that allowed me to use the same single piece 3d printed gear design I had used before.  A 28 tooth gear with 5mm pitch resulted in a gear that was larger than the output plate on the qdd100 servo, so it could just be bolted directly on.  To work with a smaller number of teeth, I had to split the gear into two parts, connected by pins, as the gear is now smaller than the qdd100 output plate.

The old knee pulley

And the new one

So that I could use the same belts, I extended the upper leg about 8mm, and while I was at it, extended the lower leg by 15mm to make the overall leg a bit more symmetric.


We’ll see shortly how this works out when printed and assembled.