PD Board and Talon/Victor Alternatives

Hi All!

I have been working on a project outside of an FRC robot and I have been looking for a Power Distribution Board alternative as well as a good alternative for controlling motors other than the Talon and Victor Motor controllers.

I looked into the old Chief Delphi forums, but they seemed to be primarily focusing on cRio and RoboRIO alternatives. I’m planning on using either a Raspberry Pi or an Arudino for the project, depending on what my requirements were for the PD Board and motor controller alternatives.

I know I will be needing output capabilities similar to the PD Board, but a little less: 12V at 5-20A output.

I figured, as many teams in the off season look for alternatives to their normal control system because of funds, this would also be helpful information for them as well.

Thanks for the help!

With 5-20A per circuit, your best bet is going down to the auto parts store and getting a fuse block. They are available with various numbers of fuses, usually using the standard automotive blade fuses, which I believe to be compatible with the FIRST small breakers. If you were looking for larger circuits (e.g. 40A), I would look for a MAXI fuse block sold on-line for high-end stereo and similar systems.

Another good place to look is in a marine shop or in the marine equipment section of your local hardware store. Marine departments and auto shops are great places to locally source FRC and FRC-similar electrical items.


Motor controllers: I’m using the SPARK controllers controlled by an arduino (using the servo class) for a small project this summer. If you’re looking at smaller motors, you may be able to use a motor controller shield for arduino. (I believe there are other shields out there that have slightly higher current capability, but I don’t recall seeing any in the 20A range.)


Controller: I understand that the Pi does not have any hardware PWM circuitry, making it a poor choice to operate a motor controller. I’m planning both a pi for vision processing and an arduino (leonardo compatible) for the hardware control side of my summer ball launcher.

For power I think these are the right choice…

Depending on your needs, you could go without a fuse on each line and just have a fuse on the batter (see FTC).

Thank you guys for all the quick help and the suggestions!
I did a little more research after you guys gave some pointers.
I never even thought to look in an auto shop for a fuse block! The idea never crossed my mind.
I also looked into the raspberry pi pwm capabilities and found a 16 Channel PWM driver from Adafruit (https://www.adafruit.com/product/815) that could probably suffice to expand the PWM capabilities.

I have looked into using the Spark Motor Controller and the Arduino Motor shields too. The Spark is probably the most cost effective motor controller for those current levels, huh?

For the fuse block that ajlapp posted, does that work like an FRC PDB? (I obviously do not have much experience with fuse blocks ha ha) Like you have a main power in and then it branches out with the fuses as needed for motors?

Thanks again! Chief Delphi is quite an amazing community!

Found these after a quick google search: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/_453__182__Speed_Controllers_ESC-20_30A.html

Spark is excellent for it’s price, but if you’re only doing 20A it’s a bit overkill for you.

The ones you linked are mostly for brushless motor controllers, unfortunately. Hobbyking is also notorious for bad service and poor quality, not to mention 2 week+ ship times.

To OP: You can probably buy H-bridges rated for the currents that you need.

I’ve had nothing but great experiences with HK. I just ordered some stuff from them on Monday and their regular shipping got it here yesterday. They recently opened a new warehouse in the US, so ship times should be a lot better than they have been before.

Oh yeah, I heard about the West US warehouse. Normally I have ordered from the NY warehouse in the past when I can. Interesting that you managed to get stuff that fast; the last time I ordered from them a few months ago it took 15 days.

I’ve ordered batteries, motor controllers, motors, and battery chargers from them. I’ve had successes and failures with ESCs, motors are usually decent quality (but don’t take abuse well), and chargers are 50/50. The cheaper chargers they sell are not worth it.

My advice is to go to a more reputable store, but if you want to take the chance HK is fine. If you have any RC buffs in your area then consulting them can help.

For the fuse block that ajlapp posted, does that work like an FRC PDB? (I obviously do not have much experience with fuse blocks ha ha) Like you have a main power in and then it branches out with the fuses as needed for motors?

Exactly. You supply the size of the fuse desired on each line. The unit I linked has a common ground bus as well.

Thank you guys for all the help!
I think I definitely got what I needed!

I will post to Chief Delphi if I need anymore help. Thanks!!

Depending on the project and packaging space, you could also doinline fuses.

Here you could get a nice quantity of them for reasonable price.

I would say this is the Anti-Distribution board solution.

Though if you want a more common ground, you could run your returns through a buss bar like this.

To be fair though, your PDB or PDPs do a lot more than just act as distribution and fusing elements.

They also have more stabilized voltage outputs and the new Cross the Road unit works with your system to do all kinds of neat data logging and what-not.

Some good key-words to search are:

Bus bars, terminal blocks, fuse blocks.

If you are only looking for on/off capability, Automotive Relays may be an option for powering things like motors.