Speed Controllers: Which is best?

Our team’s robot uses Victors exclusively as our speed controllers because they are smallest and cheaper than Jaguars and Talons.
However, I have seen many teams using Jaguars and Talons a lot instead of Victors. I have seen some people use Spikes a lot as well.
Which type of speed controller works best and why? Which is the best quality/most durable? Which one does your team use the most?
I’m trying to decide if our team should switch next year or stick with Victors.
Thanks! :slight_smile:

For the record, spikes are not “motor controllers” per say…they’re relays, and generally used as on/off switches for certain motors (R52 for more information)

Our team used Talons this year, and we are immensely satisfied with the result. The linear response and small footprint is incredible, not to mention how it is an enclosed motor controller so we don’t have to worry too much about shavings and dust and whatnot.
As far as using Jaguars, the only reason to continue using them right now would be an inventory of them or if your team is particularly fond of CAN/2CAN.

For my team we use jags on our practice bot and talons on our competition bot. The first thing we notice was the big difference in the speed of the drivetrain. Then we notice the difference in the flywheel. We ran the same set up on both drivetrain and flywheel just with different speed controllers. On our flywheel with talons we would hit dead center in the 3 pointers but with jags we notice a ft drop in height of shot.

So… for us we will stick with the talons from now on.

This is a very difficult question to answer, and there really is no “right” answer. Some pro’s and cons of each way we have to control a motor:

  • Spike: Good for low-current (less than 20A) motors that just need on/off control. Small footprint and the fact that many teams have a dozen of them laying around from previous year’s kit of parts make them popular.

  • Victor 884: These have been around forever, and many teams have a ton of them as a result. While they provide variable speed control, the result is the least-linear option available. This has caused many teams to move away from using them for the drive train, or situations that require precise, varied speed control. They’ve seen a lot of abuse, and have held up well over many years.

  • Victor 888: This is brand new this year, has the same footprint as the 884, and provides a much more linear response. Due to their newness, we don’t have much experience with them.

  • Jaguar: These have been around for a few years. They offer some enhanced features with the use of CAN (encoder/potentiometer inputs, limit switch inputs, feedback from the controller concerning the amount of current draw, etc) that teams have made great use of, although these features can all be had with some extra programming or sensor effort if you’re using other controllers. They have the biggest footprint, which isn’t the best. Some teams (like mine) haven’t had any reliability issues with them over 4 years, while others have complained about them and sworn them off.

  • Talon: Also brand new this year, they don’t have much run time. They offer a completely enclosed controller, which should help prevent damage from metal shavings. The heat sink on them allows you to run them without fans, although fan use is recommended for high-current situations (like the drive train). They have a footprint similar to the Victors.

We used all Talons this year, and absolutely love them. We only had 1 burn out, and that was due to someone accidentally powering it backwards (fed 12V from a battery into the output terminals), which would kill any of the speed controllers. We have fans on all of them as a precaution against burning any out, although we probably only need them on the drive train. The small footprint allowed us to fit twice as many on our board as we could have with Jaguars, which was a necessity due to space constraints in our design.

Anyone care to comment on what might be the cause of this?

All I can really speak to are Victors - the Victor 888 is everything the Victor 884 was, with linearity. It is just as reliable under extreme conditions. We used 888s on our drive this year and enjoyed the greater low speed controllability and general “smoothness”, moreso than other years with the 884. If you’re using PWM, they are certainly a worthy choice.

If I had to guess, my money would be on differences in calibration between the controllers used.

We are using talons for the drivetrain of our robot, and haven’t had any issues yet (fingers crossed). We’ve vacuumed a lot of metal shavings and haven’t had any problems at all. No fans either.

We use Talons and love them. No problems whatsoever. Believe it or not the Talons are even smaller than the Victors.

My team uses jaguars for our drive train we vary the other speed controls depending on the motor that we use. We also use the spike specifically for our compressor to control our pneumatics.

I know that my team uses talons for our drive train because they are linear and the drive train usually is what other things are getting attached to and so it helps that they are closed instead of susceptible to things getting in them.

Neutrino used Victor 888’s this year, pretty similar to your standard old 884, reliable as long as you don’t get metal shavings near them.

Unfortunately we blew a MOSFET on one during the finals at Greater Kansas City (not sure if it was metal shavings or something else), resulting in us calling in a backup to avoid getting DQed.

Why would you get DQd? Changing a Victor is allowed without reinspection, as it is just replacing a failed part. Calling a backup over a blown Victor is a fairly drastic measure, IMO.

Weren’t able to get it changed fast enough, and timeout was already used, so it was either get DQed for not keeping up with time, or call in backup.

Had to run back to pits to track one down. Needless to say, I plan to have a spare victor on the cart at North Star.

If you have room and weight, you can always mount the spare victor on the robot itself, so if it ever happens again you just switch the output and PWM to the spare one and you are up and running again. We did that in 2011 and it saved us during the Finals.

The cause is almost certainly the fact that Jaguars and Talons use different ranges of control. With the same PWM signal, a motor connected to a Jaguar will run slower than one connected to a Talon. If the same program is used, then either the Talon will reach full output before full power is commanded, or the Jaguar will never reach full output.

The software needs to respect the different speed controller hardware requirements.

Mounting wouldn’t be too much of an issue as they are all held on with 3M Duallock, but not a bad idea never the less.

Don’t forget the various speed controllers have varying abilities to keep their signal cables in. And as they age, the springiness decreases and cables are more prone to fall out.

Talons have the clear advantage of being able to securely hold PWM cables in. Or if you use CAN with the Jaguars, the RJ connectors click in too.

We had some issues keeping PWMs in our spikes which were mounted upside down, which cost us some climb points. We put some tape on the PWM heads (to make it about 0.02mm thicker) and it fit snugly into Jaguars, and was better (but not perfect) with spikes. Other than that, we put an abundance of tape around it to hold it in, but not an ideal solution.

Also, I dislike spikes because there is a small gap between the casing and the the pins to slip in and get severely bent if pressing it in too hard (as was kind of required with the added tape). Also they’d fall apart because they’re just held together with a simple plastic snap thing. Buuut they’re small and are great if you just need on/off.

I haven’t played with Victors in this regard though, so I don’t know how well they hold their cables.

Victors aren’t the greatest at holding PWM cables, we typically put a dab of hot glue where the cable connector meets the housing. If a swap is necessary a knife or flathead screwdriver can remove the glue rather quickly.

We used talons for the drivetrain and victor 888s for our shooter wheels. Last year we had problems with CAN, so the talons’ PWM security is greatly appreciated. Though its something of an art to put them in quickly.
We are using victor 884s as backups for the talons at competition.