Saturday, March 1, 2008

B9 Electronics: The Inside Story Part 4 - The Torso

There is a lot of stuff that goes in the torso so lets start with the most basic question. Where is the power coming from and how will you split up or handle different voltage requirements for all of the electronic gadgets inside the torso? The answer is this: A 12v 12ah gel cell battery in the torso & a few 12v distribution boards. Now before we go any further let me say that I thought of using a slip ring to bring power from the tread section to the torso but I had to rule it out because of the way I am doing the hip rotation. The drive is off center and has an over sized gear cog which obscures the center of the CSS. I did look at the figure 8 procedure to accommodate such situations but However I still want to be able to do a 360 rotation. This defeats the reason for a slip ring. I also though of running wires up from the base and then have enough slack to be able to handle several 360 degree rotations but I just didn't feel the need for that. Most of the time I will not be doing a 360 degree rotation of the torso.
The distribution boards were originally created for the R2D2 builders group by Dan Stuettgen. I convinced Dan to change his board to include a few 3.3v connections for both rows of teeth lights making them more suitable for our club. Those boards should be showing up very soon. The additional change will also help the R2 group for those wanting the USB powered devices so this change helps everybody out (don't you just love inter-club cooperation)!!
The Torso Lights
Lets start with the belly lights. I have the lighting kit by Tom Wisnionski for the belly and chest lights. This kit is not for the faint at heart! There is something to be said for just doing basic wiring of the lights with flashing bulbs (but I have never been known for doing what's easy! ) This kit allows you to vary the blinking pattern and speed of the lights. This kit uses 6v bulbs. I put 6 volt bulbs in the brain, chest, finger and belly lights. It requires a degree of intense wiring but the instructions are (for the most part) clear and easy to follow.
The Dial Lights (chest lights) and the programing bay light hook up to Tom's board as well.
The teeth lights use the NKK lighted switches part number 633-215kkw016b1jb-r0 at Those are the ones used in the replica robots. The lighted portion of the switch requires a 3.5v power source so be careful you DO NOT go above that. If the LED blows in this switch you need to get another switch because the LED's can not be replaced; and at 22.95 each that can get very expensive, very quickly.
The Neon
The neon that I use is the 16 row neon that was sold by Craig Reinbrecht. Craig only sells the 12 row neon now. Another vendor (Dennis Wilbur) sells a 12 row neon as well. Mine is connected to a Tech 22 model 8000 neon power supply (which needs 12v to operate correctly). While we are on the subject, let me show you the correct way to connect the 2 neon halves.If you look on the B9 website Craig has a diagram on what to do but his example shows a 1 piece neon. As you can see the wiring of the neon is like 1 continuous loop for the 2 halves. However describing it just isn't enough. It helped me to actually see what it looked like. So here it is.
I also discovered that soldering the high voltage wires to the neon is not a very good idea because the heat from soldering can damage the neon. It is best if you just use wire nuts.
Also, when testing the unit if you get a strobing effect or a flash of light then it is most probably because the wire leads you are using are too long. Neon is very sensitive to voltage and resistance. I have found consistently that if use VERY short test leads you will get a successful test. But in any event you should test each section of the neon first to make sure it lights up well. Then when you connect the 2 together the length of the test wire leads will make a tremendous difference in a successful test or not. It would be best if you would use the special high voltage wiring because your 12v power source is generating 8,000 volts. If you see a "beading" of neon then you will need to use the supplied diodes to correct that. Make sure you only apply the diodes to the upper section of the neon. Please note that there is a solid black line that denotes the orientation or flow of electricity through out the neon. Please make sure you have the correct orientation of the diodes or the beading may still continue.
The Bubble Lifter
The bubble lifter uses a GWS777 6BB Robotic servo. This servo can lift over 20 lbs but only if the servo is externally powered with a 6v battery or some other power source. This amount of power is necessary to lift everything above the radar section and be able to move it up or down quickly. A fast bubble movement is imperative if you are to replicate the synchronous of bubble "attitude" when the robot when asking or saying certain phrases. The auxiliary power device that the GWS servo would plug into is shown in the picture to the right.
The Sound System
I decided to use the CF3 sound system by ACS Control Systems Inc. It is the sound system I use in my Astromechs. These typically run around 179.00 plus any additional IO input cards, sand cards and external power supplies if your robot uses AC power only. It is a beauty and easy to use. It can handle as many as 48 contacts (which is what mine has) that can trigger various sounds and contact closures remotely, automatically or in response to other contact closures, IR devices (active and passive), etc.. It has an interchangable SAN card that can hold any amount of sounds files wether they are WAV or MP3. It even has a scripting routine along with background files that can be played (the robot sound).
To trigger sounds without the need of a computer I included a couple of 12 channel RF remotes from Cold Fusion to activate those sounds while he is mobile. These can be found on eBay for as low as 24.95. This is a great little remote that has a teriffic range (500 feet unobstructed). So my robot could be way ahead of me and he could respond to the crowd and no one would see who is controlling him.
Arms and Claws
Now you may have noticed that I conspicuously left out the motorized arms and claws. This will be a surprise that you will only see at the build off. I will show you the customized controller board that I had made but that is it for now.... muhahahahahaha ..oh sorry...that was my Dr. Evil laugh coming out.... :)

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