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[DPRG] How to protect TETRIX motors

Subject: [DPRG] How to protect TETRIX motors
From: Karim Virani karim at compuguru.com
Date: Wed Feb 20 23:34:01 CST 2013

Wow..wow.  And I thought we had it bad.


We can't do counter-tension because the range of movement is so great -
almost 360.  The joint we have the most issues with is the elbow.  It never
stalls just because of the natural payload - only when it hits the physical
limit of movement.  And we'd thought we'd taken precautions against this,
but keep invalidating our code-based precautions without meaning to.  We are
planning to add another task to monitor if position has stopped changing
while driving the motors and perhaps override the PID control when that
happens.  That plus physical limit switches should hopefully help us out.


From: dprglist-bounces at dprg.org [mailto:dprglist-bounces at dprg.org] On Behalf
Of Greg Needel
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 11:30 AM
To: dprglist at dprg.org
Subject: Re: [DPRG] How to protect TETRIX motors


I hate these motors with a passion. Admittedly I have never used them in
FTC, but for the minibot associated with FRC in 2011 but I am directly
responsible for ~30 motor deaths. The only thing I can advise is design you
gearing correctly and avoid stalling the motors. Use surgical tubing to act
as counter weights to reduce the load on the motors for arms and lifts. In
the drivetrain, tell you driver to avoid defensive actions which required
locking up the wheels. It is possible to replace the inductor if it goes,
just make sure that you attach the cap back in the right orientation or you
can alter the performance of the motors.  



On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM, David Jannke <david at proboticsamerica.com>

Hey Karim, do you have the part number from the part on this:
wer_cable/2135 ? It looks like cutting the heatshrink and replacing just the
part that starts failing would be easy enough. They might be available from
Mouser pretty cheap too. Admittedly you don't end up eliminating the problem
entirely but cheap expendable fuses are better than expensive ones. 


From: Karim Virani  <mailto:karim at compuguru.com> <karim at compuguru.com>
To: dprglist at dprg.org 
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 2:44 PM
Subject: [DPRG] How to protect TETRIX motors

So I've grown to love/hate TETRIX as a prototyping system for robotics. VEX
might be better - I'm not in a position to judge, but we went with TETRIX
because it continues our investment and experience in NXT hardware and
sensors.  Mostly, (expense aside) I think it's great.

My biggest beef with the platform, though, is the motors.  The standard DC
motor is called a 12 volt and is meant to run off a 12v nominal NIMH battery
pack, which usually runs 14v on a fresh charge.  


These motors burn out easily.  My robotics team has just burned up its 6th
motor. At 30 bucks a pop this feels like a racket.  They burn up within one
second of hitting a stall condition.  In my book, I don't think these motors
should be rated for 12 volts if they're going to burn up that fast.  I don't
think they'd ever be considered in the automotive industry.  Am I off target
with this opinion?  

None of the motors driving our wheels has had a problem - the wheels will
typically lose grip before stalling the motors.  The motors used on our arm,
though, are susceptible to stalling when the end of travel is hit.  We have
encoders on the motors and have profiled the arm's legal limits and have
those limits built into the software.  But remember that I'm working with
middle school kids who are still learning and far from cautious.  Limits
have been disabled by errors in coding and/or by invalid startup conditions.
And the limits don't help when getting stalled by other barriers in the

So we need to know how to protect these motors.  TETRIX produces an optional
thermally protected wire harness for these motors:

These are actually supposed to work more like a circuit breaker.  They are
supposed to reset automatically once the power goes to zero.  They did
indeed protect the motors.  But in our experience, after they've been
triggered once or twice they begin to progressively drop the voltage to
levels where the joints might barely move. This behavior, before it was
understood, cause havoc with our attempts to tune our PID constants.  So
they're actually more like expensive disposable fuses.  I'd rather figure
out a cheap and reliable fuse to try out.

So as a software guy, I'm pretty clueless with electronics.  I'm not sure
what we need.  I believe fast blow fuses aren't right for inductive loads,
but a slow blow might be too slow to protect these fragile motors.  I want
something that trips within half a second (or less) at stall but otherwise
permits the motors to drive well above no-load conditions. Are there medium
speed fuses?  Is that something Tanner's would carry?  What values should I
choose?  Is there some other kind of option?  AFAIK there is no current
sensing ability in the HiTechnic motor controllers - and it likely wouldn't
be legal in FTC to add such circuitry.

Here's a thread that has some specs for the motors:

Greg Needle participated in that thread and posted this link to the
semi-official specs for these motors:
3> &d=1294973
note how they didn't measure but rather extrapolated the stall figures.  I
can't actually say what load will fry them.

Thanks for any and all advice,


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David Jannke
Probotics America

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