RC servo motors are used in a wide variety of robotic and radio control applications, and are basically a maker’s best friend. They are cheap, easy to get ahold of and relatively reliable for resisting and correcting for external disturbances that interfere with the operation of the device they are powering. However, they are often limited in their ability to produce accurate motion, unlike more robust industrial servos that are capable of highly precise and advanced motion control. Unfortunately that accuracy and precision comes at a cost, often close to $1000 each, that makes them relatively prohibitive for the average maker.
For the last few months Hackaday user Joe Church has been developing an affordable, Arduino compatible, open-source, industrial servo motor called Mechaduino. Not only is it extremely affordable, but it could be used in a ton of projects and could bring a new level of accuracy and stability to machines like desktop 3D printers. The Mechaduino is a self-contained motion control platform that makes it easy to build custom servo mechanisms of all kinds. It was designed to make highly sophisticated mechatronics applications easy to achieve, and it can easily be used as a drop-in servo motor for motion control robots like 3D printers or CNC machines.
The reason most industrial servo motors are so expensive is because they are generally developed for custom uses or in small batches, which drives up the price. They also typically include expensive, high-resolution optical encoders and multiple pricey circuits and electronics. However, the Mechaduino was designed to adapt standard stepper motors like the NEMA 17 or NEMA 23 and use high resolution magnetic encoders and a single control chip that would do everything on a single PCB. It was also designed to be completely Arduino compatible, so the firmware is accessible, easy to use and program.
Church always said that once the development of the Mechaduino was complete he would bring it to Kickstarter, and a few weeks ago that was exactly what he did. The Mechaduino Powerful open-source industrial servo motor campaign was launched on June 29, and was only looking to raise $7,500. The campaign’s rather modest goal was because all of the development has already been completed; all Church needed to do was get enough backing to make the bulk purchases of the parts less of a financial risk. Currently the campaign has blown past its original funding goal and is sitting at close to $30,000 with almost 200 backers, so it seems he didn’t need to worry about the financial risk part.
By pledging the campaign $45, backers will receive the Mechaduino PCB, which they can easily adapt to their own stepper motors. For a pledge of $60 backers will receive a single, fully assembled Mechaduino servo motor. A pledge of $130 gets backers 3 fully assembled Mechaduino PCBs, while $174 will get them 4, $218 gets them 5 and $425 gets them 10. A pledge of $175 will get backers 3 fully assembled Mechaduino servo motors, $234 gets them 4, $292 gets them 5 and $575 gets them 10. Church and his company Tropical Labs are estimating that they will be able to deliver the PCBs and the servo motors by September 2016.
The fast turnaround time is due to the development of the final designs already being complete, and Church says that the Mechaduino PCBs and servo motors that backers receive will be nearly identical to the first assembled test batch that they already have working. They also have all of the parts that they will need to assemble the Mechaduino hardware pre-selected and simply need to know how many to order. Lately a lot of Kickstarter campaigns have been a pretty big risk, but the campaign for the Mechaduino seems to be about as close to a sure thing as you can get. You can check out the Mechaduino Kickstarter campaign here, and you can learn more about the device’s development on Hackaday and on the Tropical Labs website here. Discuss further over in the Mechaduino Kickstarter Campaign forum at 3DPB.com.
Here is the Mechaduino Kickstarter campaign video: