Roboteq Introduces Intelligent Robot Motion Controller

Roboteq has released a new, wireless-enabled motion controller that can be used to design both full- and semi-autonomous robots with a highly accurate control capability and custom functionality. The "most unique feature" of the SBL1360, a miniaturized version of the company's MBL1650 controller, is Basic Language Interpreter that can execute more than 50,000 Basic instructions per second, allowing for the development or scripts for custom functions or automated systems without the need for an external PLC or microcomputer, Mike Peterson, product marketing manager at Roboteq, told Design News.

"This is a simple and powerful, basic-like programming language that allows the users to add all sorts of functionality to the controller," he said, adding that it's also what makes the SBL1360 intelligent. "Extremely few products have that capability. Absolutely no other has it in controllers of this price range." Roboteq sells the controller for $225.

Together with motor-hall sensors that can measure speed and traveled distance accurately, as well as other features, the controller allows for the development of fully or semi-autonomous robots. Engineers can design these robots by connecting the controller's serial port to single board computers, wireless modems, or WiFi adapters. Additionally, by using CAN bus, up to 127 controllers can be networked on a single twisted pair network. Roboteq currently has customers using the product in robotics and small-vehicle applications, Peterson told us.

The controller accepts commands from a number of sources, including analog pedal/joystick, standard R/C radio, USB, CAN, or RS232 interface. It can operate the motors in open-loop or in closed-loop speed or position mode with a 1 kHz update rate.
Physically, the SBL1360 is compact, with a 70mm x 70mm, board-level open-frame design. An aluminum bottom plate allows for sufficient heat dissipation for operation without a fan in most applications, while mounting the board and its bottom plate directly against a metallic chassis can achieve additional cooling. The controller has a voltage operation up to 60V, which is "unusually high for a small product," Peterson said.

To prevent a power surge or overheating, the SBL1360 features intelligent current sensing that will automatically limit the power output to 30A in all load conditions. The controller also includes other protection against overheat, stall, and short circuits.

In terms of inputs and outputs, the controller includes up to four analog, six digital and five pulse inputs, with two 1.5A digital outputs for activating brakes or other accessories. The controller also includes nearly 80 optimization parameters that engineers can configure, such as programmable acceleration or deceleration, amps limits, operating voltage range, and use of I/O.

To configure, tune, and exercise the motor, Roboteq offers a free PC utility. The controller also can be reprogrammed and updated with the latest features in the field by downloading new operating firmware from Roboteq's website.

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