FRC Blogged - Motor Controllers

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 12:11

Motor Controllers

You may have noticed that traditional retailers of the Jaguar motor controller have either stopped selling Jaguar or have limited inventory. This blog post is to explain why and what you can expect going forward.

First, what I think you are most interested in knowing: the Jaguar will continue to be an available and legal motor controller for the 2013 FRC season.  Please understand that full, detailed rules will not be disclosed until Kickoff, and supersede all other documentation – like blog posts.  However, you can be assured that Jags will be legal.

Now, some background. The Jaguar motor controller was developed and designed by FRC mentors who worked for a company in Texas called Luminary Micro. Jaguar was offered as an alternate motor controller with different features for FRC and adopted in to the FRC control system and the FRC Kit of Parts. Shortly after the release of Jaguar, Texas Instruments purchased Luminary Micro and integrated Jaguar in to the Texas Instruments product line.

Texas Instruments recently offered to license Jaguar to FIRST for free, and FIRST accepted. This means that the Jaguar design, software, firmware – everything - is free for FIRST to use in and modify for FRC.  Although the Jaguar design is open source already, this allows FIRST access to certain proprietary components such as source code, etc.

Because FIRST doesn’t have the resources to maintain and service a full product line in-house, we released a Request for Quote earlier this year soliciting a partner who could continue Jaguar as a product for FRC. Several excellent companies responded with compelling proposals. Ultimately FIRST partnered with Innovation First (IFI) for Jaguar production and distribution.

Since then, Texas Instruments has worked with IFI to transfer documentation, fixtures, knowledge, code, etc. to IFI so that they can effectively adopt Jaguar.

Going forward, IFI will be manufacturing, selling, supporting, and donating Jaguars to the 2013 Kits of Parts. There are two notable changes in the Jaguar motor controller for the 2013 FRC season. First, the PCB will be conformal coated. Second, the firmware will be modified to remove the current limit protection (this is for black Jaguars only and will not apply to the grey Jaguars). Details about the product itself will be posted on the IFI website here: http://www.vexrobotics.com/products/vexpro/217-3367.html

Regarding the 2013 Kit of Parts, IFI is generously donating 2 Victors and 1 Jaguar to each Rookie Kickoff Kit plus a motor controller Product Donation Voucher (PDV) for two motor controllers to all 2013 FRC teams. Ultimately, the PDV allows teams to choose between getting 2 Victors, 2 Jaguars, or one of each, based on the team’s motor controller preference, for the cost of shipping.

While Texas Instruments no longer supplies Jaguars, they will make every attempt to honor the warranty provided through the specific supply channel upon the completion of a product review using their quality tracking process.

FIRST is excited about this new opportunity for more customization of kit items. We are very grateful for the support and generosity from both Texas Instruments and IFI to make this new initiative successful. Thank you to these two important suppliers - this commitment to FIRST illustrates that they truly support our mission.

I’ll blog again soon.

Frank

Comments

Is it possible to get some info on other motor controllers a little early too? For example, the Victor 884 has been legal in the past, but now they're releasing a Victor 888. Will the 888 be legal this year? If so, will the 884 still be legal, given that teams likely have significant numbers of these still?

Also, Cross The Road Electronics released a new motor controller called "Talon" recently that appears to provide extremely similar functionality to the Victor and Jaguar. Is there any chance this will be legal this year as well?

Jon, I'm glad you liked the info. Unfortunately, this is all the information we're releasing about motor controllers at this time.

In previous years there have been issues with the Jaguars and the window motors provided in the kits. As far as I know the only real solution found was to use Victor speed controllers instead of Jaguars.

Are the Jaguar team at TI or IFI aware of this problem? are they planning to address it?

Thanks!
-Leav
(Israel)

Hi Leav, these are technical details I can't answer. You might try posting on some of the forums FRC teams use to get some help.

Frank, this is very good news. I was prepared to order 10 last Sunday and stopped. Digi-Key and TI flagged them as obsolete on their sites. I contacted TI and they stated FIRST was going to blog on this. There is a learning curve but our team used these with great success. CAN provided flexiblity to our program options and reduce wiring. We used 3 different moter control modes that reduced sensors and complexity. To control FOD we applied air filters. We used two wire CAN bus to eliminate a common ground fault condition, implemented fault detection in software to bypass failed Jag's, etc.

Good to hear that the Firmware will be updated, this will make the Jaguars MUCH more useful. One issue I would like to see addressed with the Jaguar design is the RJ connectors. The ones from previous years (but still the newer black model) had very low quality RJ connectors for the CAN/RS232 connections. It would only take a few times of connecting/disconnecting before the spring pins/wires would begin to bend and no longer make effective contact. We struggled with this to the point that we eventually removed the Jaguars from our system because the connections were too unreliable.

Is the conformal coating just for the SMT devices on the board? If the TO220's are conformally coated we may have a thermal issue as they are meant to be cooled by the fan. Add a layer of conformal coating and the fan may not be enough for proper cooling. For that matter, it's probably worth looking into swapping the MOSFETs for something newer and with a lower Rds(on).

The information is slightly misleading. Although TI's Jaguar had open source firmware, it was ONLY for the Jaguars that were NOT available for FIRST. The FIRST Jaguar version's firmware was deliberately changed to include a safety dropout when communications was lost, and modification or inspection of the FIRST Jaguar firmware was not released for general consumption. I know because I've been wanting to look at it and was denied. If this is no longer the case, this would be great news. I've been wanting to better understand the FIRST firmware -especially in the area of CAN communications.

Hi Robert. The FRC version of the Jaguar includes a safety feature that we wish to remain intact. We will not be releasing the source code for the FRC version of the firmware to teams. However, The open source Jaguar firmware is nearly identical to the FRC specific version with the exception of the safety feature. Taking a look at the open source version may help you understand what's going on under the hood.

Where could we find information on the frequency (or period) range, for the PWM signal, of a Jaguar, Victor or Talon motor controller. And the accompanying min/max range values (approximately), i.e. with a Jaguar connected to an Adrino Uno, we found at 50Hz, the min value was 33 (max reverse) and the max was 45 (max forward).

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