blog; Motor Controller Options for 2015

Motor Controller Options for 2015
Blog Date:
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 08:50

Link to Blog

Please see the note below from FRC Kit of Parts Manager, Kate Pilotte, regarding motor controllers for 2015.

Hi all,

The Motor Controller landscape for the 2015 FRC season is going to be changing, and we’d like to share a few details in advance of Kickoff to give you a heads up. We normally only provide advance information on the upcoming season when necessary, but we think these details fall into that category.

Victor, Talon, and Jaguar Motor Controllers will be legal for the 2015 season and compatible with the new control system. A selection of these controllers will be available in the 2015 Kickoff Kits and/or through FIRST Choice.

The manufacturers of these motor controllers are, however, discontinuing them, and our understanding is the only ones available for purchase are those already in distribution.

Cross the Road Electronics and Innovation First International (IFI) have been working together on new motor controllers. They’ve published a joint press release about this collaboration and are sharing more information about the new products here.

We are sending new motor controllers to the Beta Teams for evaluation for legality in the 2015 season. While these two new controllers will not be in teams’ 2015 Kickoff Kits, we want to use the beta program to collect feedback on the new motor controllers that will enable us to decide if the new motor controllers will be listed as legal motor controllers for the 2015 FRC season. Based on initial testing results, we don’t believe there will be an issue with approving them for use in 2015, but teams should know the final decision has not yet been made.

The first controller is the Victor SP, a PWM motor controller. The second controller, the Talon SRX, is a CAN enabled motor controller with additional communication protocols and PID control. It is in development now, and will be shared with beta teams upon completion. Technical information for both devices is posted here.

Beta test tasks will be updated as needed to accommodate testing and evaluation of these devices. Meanwhile, questions about these devices can be posted to FIRST’s 2015 FRC Beta Test Forum, or emailed to CTRE or VEX.

Here’s a document with more info about the controllers.And WOW I like the size

And here’s the VEX product page with some other specifics. And the product page for the Talon SRX

And one that sums up pretty much everything.

Wow I really love how much smaller these are, hopefully everything works out and they’re available this year.

Stupid question. I don’t see any screw terminals on the info sheet, how do leads connect to the motor controllers?

One of the listed features is:

Robust embedded power & output cables will never shake loose during a match

So the cables are embedded, similar to CIMs.

Not sure how I feel about this yet. On one hand, it will ensure that the cables don’t come out of these controllers. On the other hand, it means we either have less reusability by permanently splicing the cables, or the same problem we currently have by using an intermediate connector.

I also have never had a big problem with cables getting jiggled loose from the existing controllers with a proper crimp.

This is an interesting announcement. The old controllers are no longer made and the new controllers are not legal yet. Did I read that correctly?

David

This might help visualize it.
This is the Victor SP the Beta teams received to test. The specs say the final will be black anodized, and the cooling fins are covered in this early version.
http://www.team358.org/files/programming/ControlSystem2015-2019/images/med_VictorSP-2.jpg http://www.team358.org/files/programming/ControlSystem2015-2019/images/med_SpeedControllerSideBySide.jpg

The new controllers probably will be available, but it’s not offical and will depend on results of beta testing (though it seems they most likely will end up being legal)

Yeah, that struck me as weird, too. However, with FIRST opting to go into somewhat of a limbo, I think the fact that is not “approved” is only a formality at this point.

  • Sunny G.

I really love the embedded cables. It allows you to put the speed controllers in areas where you wouldn’t have clearance for a screwdriver.

Neither company will continue production of the Victor 888, Talon SR, or Jaguar, but these devices will continue to be available while remaining inventory lasts.

Let’s hope this doesn’t result in a massive shortage of motor controllers in 2015.

The controllers have integrated leads (e.g. ‘pigtails’) of 5.5 inches. This means you can put them near the PDB and then need to have an extra connection to get power to the motor or put them near the motor and have an extra connection to get to the PDB. Unless the motor is close enough to the PDB.

[LEFT]Wow, those things are bloody tiny!!!

I’m still skeptical about having permanent cables, but I can see the benefits. Namely the PWM cable will never fall out again, and it will require significant talent to cross make the wrong connections between M+, M-, +12v, and GND.

I’m curious as to how AndyMark fits in with all this. With the Talon being discontinued and it seems like both the Victor SP and Talon SRX being distributed by VEX, will AndyMark find another controller? Or will the be able to distribute them as well?

Can’t wait to hear more from the beta teams!
[/LEFT]

I am curious to see what kind of connectors are on the CAN leads.

I hope it would be within the relaxed rules about repairing speed controllers to replace the cables if necessary. Many teams still have PWM cables getting eaten by drivetrains.

I have lost count of the number of times I have helped teams debug their robots and found issues with how they had attached to their screw terminals, or had totally removed a screw and let debris fall in. The integrated pigtails are a great solution to this problem and will let teams find a connector that works for them while leaving all internal circuitry of the controller hermetically sealed.

Sure, some small percentage of speed controllers may have their leads compromised by being eaten by a mechanism (or being clipped by an overzealous freshman), but the cost reduction more than compensates for this.

Removing the screws on most motor controllers creates debris within the motor controller as a consequence (i.e. it doesn’t have to fall in, it is already there). If I recall correctly, both Jaguar and Victor (at least 884) use captive screw terminals. When the screws are removed, little bits of the removed screw are left behind. This was a bigger problem for Jaguar due to the lack of conformal coating (before VEX manufacture).

I wonder if FRC would consider brushless motors & controllers in the future. Since the popularity of quadcopters exploded, there are tons of cheap optionsavailable

If they run into a problem and these end up not being legal, I foresee a motor controller shortage next year. I’m glad we have about 20 talons, which should be enough for next year.

Also, not sure how I feel about the pigtails. Especially since they are only #12 gauge. I would have preferred to see #10 gauge, or a version with screw terminals for the teams that want to use them.

The screw terminals would have dictated a larger packaging.

We were planning on leaving anderson pigtails on each end of EVERY speed controller going forward on 973, glad they made that decision for us essentially.

It’s different, but I don’t see it being a problem. If we had pigtails for 10+ years then switched to screw terminals people would be bothered in the other direction.

I wouldn’t be too worried. CIM motors come with even smaller #14 gauge wires, and teams have been fine with this. If you’re very concerned with performance, you can trim the pigtails very short, and you’ll end up with a very small voltage drop.