Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Some tips on using the Smart 2 Wheel Arduino Robot chassis

I'm a big fan of these basic 2 wheel chassis.  They're cheap to buy.  I've seen them on eBay for less than £6.00 without the batter holder.  There is enough space on them an Arduino or PiZero with a motor controller alongside the battery pack.
2 wheel smart robot chassis
They're usually listed as "2 Wheel Smart Robot" with the word Arduino added in there somewhere even thought they are not Arduino specific.  I think it's there to improve SEO for all the people making their first robot using an Arduinio.  Also, they are not smart, there is no intelligence provided.  They usually come with  tachometer encoders for the wheels, but you need extra electronics to read them.

I've used these chassis a few times and these are some gotchas that I'd to figure out.

1. The perspex is clear
If the perspex is opaque or brown in colour then this is a layer that can be pealed off.  It's there to protect the perspex.  You can leave it on but it's supposed to come off.

2.  The caster goes to the back.
Even though most of the pictures you see show the caster wheel at the front this is really a drag wheel and should be at the back of the bot.
The fact the caster spins means if it is put at the front then you're pushing against the caster when turning.  It's like having a wobbly shopping trolley.  Easier to pull behind you than push in front. Also, you can see from the image the (correct) front has more mounting options for sensors which makes sense.

3.  The battery box can be screwed on the underside
All pictures I've seen always have the AA battery box on the top.  Makes sense as gravity will keep the batteries in.  But, if needed the battery box can be screwed to the underside of the deck giving more real estate on the top for other components.

4.  The connections on the motors are very fragile
Where you solder the wires to the motors is very fragile and prone to snapping off if put under any strain.  So, it's best to put in place some strain relief.
The easiest and without needing any additional hardware is to knot the two wires around the plastic fastener holding the motor in place.  In this way if someone pulls on a wire or it gets snagged it doesn't put any pressure on the actual connection on the motor.

Strain relief on the motor wiring

Some final thoughts

I've used these motors with L298N as well as L9110s motor controllers.  Both work great.  The L298N is bigger and really over specced for these little motors so the L9110s is more than capable of driving them.
The cheap L9110s board only has one GND connection and assuming using a different power supply for the motors and the controller (Pi/Arduino) you'll need to tie the GND from the different power supplies, the controller and the L9110s together.  I usually use one of the additional GND pins on the controller.  Arduino Uno has three GND pins, the Arduino Nano has 2 and the Raspberry Pi has 8.

L9110s - only one GND connection

I've heard reports that as the gears are plastic they can be shredded.  A lot of fast reversing with a decent power supply can put the cogs under a lot of strain.  This is one of the main compromises for the price.  So, either limit the speed at which the motors can change direction or be ready to replace the motors.

These little yellow motors look like they're all the same, but the gearing inside them can be different.  If you do need a replacement motor you may not get the same gearing ratio which would affect the ability of your robot to go in a straight line or just move consistently.

Even with all this I think these kits are a great start.  They're easy to put together.  Reliable (enough), powerful (enough) and cheap so a great place to start.
Add an Arduino Nano and an L9110s with a small breadboard to connect everything together and you have a capable platform to develop from for less than £10.00.
You can then add ultra-sonic sensors, line following sensors, infra-red remote control, Bluetooth interface, or even the tachometers to measure speed and lots more...
Giving an easy and cost effective introduction to robots.
This may not be the chassis you finish with but it's definitely a good place to start.
And if you're already thinking of upgrades there is a 4 wheeled version as well for not much more.

4 Wheel Smart Chassis

Happy roboting.

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