SparkMax smoking and melting

Hi all, my team’s robot’s SparkMax connecting to one of our drive Neo motors started smoking after roughly 5 minutes of use. Prior to the SparkMax burning, the drive was being extremely jumpy and inconsistent when applying full throttle immediately. Can someone help us identify what had occurred in this case?

The magic smoke got out!

For what it’s worth, this is not a common failure mode for most FRC parts. Five minutes of normal usage definitely won’t do that.

If it got hot enough to melt the case, I wouldn’t trust anything on the inside of that controller to do anything meaningful now.

I’d reach out to REV directly. They may be able to RMA it, or might like to do some triage on it?

In any case, it’s gonna need replaced.

The two things that come to mind to check prior to powering the robot on after a replacecment:

  1. In your code (or in the REV hardware manager), what type of motor was configured to run? Does it match with the physically attached motor type? (brushed vs. brushless) If it was plugged into a NEO, I expect all configs to reference brushless motors, not brushed.
  2. Have you confirmed everything was wired up per manufacturer recommendations?

I’d also replace the motor itself, and see if REV wants that too. The brushless motor, integrated sensor, wiring, and controller all work as a single unit. Faults in one can easily manifest with symptoms in another.

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First thing: stop using that controller if you still are.

Check all the settings on the other controllers, ensuring they match (unless you’re mixing coast and brake, that should be fine).
Check over everything in your wiring, which looks like a bit of a rats nest tbh. Little nicks or wiring mistakes can be easily hidden and overlooked in that situation.
From there, you’re gonna want to systematically test and isolate everything you can, pulling the other controllers to bench test, testing the drive with a fresh set of controllers, swapping drive motors, etc.

This could be everything from a mechanical to an electrical or software or firmware issue, or even just a bad controller or motor.

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+1

@Riftiro please zip us an emaill (support@revrobotics.com) with some more details (the configuration for the SPARK MAX, motor and mechanism it is connected to, etc ) and an order number we can work on diagnosing the issue.

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We have had that happen to a motor (neo 550) without the data cable connected. I wonder if there is a correlation?

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In our experience, the SparkMAXes can get pretty hot even in normal operation. We have mounted them tightly to a heat sink of some sort. E.g. we made our gearbox plates bigger and zip-tied the controllers to it.

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We have found that at times we do something funny and need to restore factory defaults on the spark maxes even though the setting appear to be correct. If a motor starts misbehaving that is now one of the things we check because it so easy, and our code reconfigured the motor how we need it on init.

I think something we used to do that screwed the config settings up was not remove the can bus from the roborio before plugging in a USB if we wanted to test something with the hardware client. That was a silly mistake on our part of having two things try to communicate with a spark max - we don’t do that anymore obviously.

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