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Wheelchair Motors Part 2: Service

Cleaning, Replacement Parts & Reassembly

Housing Cleaned
Housing Cleaned

The housing of the contaminated motor was left to soak in diesel for a few hours to loosen the grok, this has come very clean. I couldn’t have used a stronger solvent here – the magnets are glued in place in the steel housing, I certainly didn’t want them coming loose!

Brushboxes
Brushboxes

Next into the diesel bath are the motor end bells with the brushgear. Attack with a stiff brush cleaned these up very well, some cotton buds served to clean out the brass brush holders.

Armatures After Skimming
Armatures After Skimming

Here are both armatures, having had their commutators resurfaced. I’ve completely removed all traces of the wear caused by the contamination, luckly the commutator bars are very heavy on these motors so can take quite a bit of wear before there’s not enough left to skim. I’ve not yet pulled off the old bearings, but they are all going to be replaced with new SKF bearings, as they’ve been contaminated with grok over the years of use. I’m also going to uprate the front motor bearings to rubber sealed instead of metal shielded, to help keep lubricant out of the motors if the gearbox seals ever fail again.

Gearbox
Gearbox

The gearboxes have been cleaned out with some elbow grease, assisted by a long soak in petrol, I’ve refilled them here with engine oil as temporary lube & to flush out the last remains of the old grease & solvent. The worm wheel in these boxes is bronze – so a GL4 gear oil will be required. (Some Extreme Pressure additive packs contain sulphur, and will readily attack copper alloys, such as brass & bronze).

Commutator End Bearings
Commutator End Bearings

Here’s the armatures, after the new SKF sealed bearings have been fitted to the commutator end, above, and the drive end, below. These will cause some extra drag on the armatures, and slightly higher power consumption as a result, but keeping the crap out of the motors is slightly more important.

Drive End Bearings
Drive End Bearings
Fresh Commutator Skim
Fresh Commutator Skim

The commutators have been lightly skimmed with abrasive cloth, and finished with 1500 grit emery. The armature on the right has been run for a short time to see how the new brushes are bedding in.

Old Seal Removed
Old Seal Removed

Finally, the old oil seals are pulled from the gearboxes. The worm gear bearing on the inside is actually a sealed version, with the external oil seal providing some extra sealing. I haven’t changed the gearbox bearings, as they seem to be in good order, this might get done at some point in the future.

New Oil Seals
New Oil Seals

The new seals ready to be driven into the bores.

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Arduino Milliohm Meter Build

During the rebuild of the wheelchair motors for the support trolley, I found myself needing an accurate milliohm meter to test the armature windings with. Commercial instruments like these are expensive, but some Google searching found a milliohm meter project based around the Arduino from Circuit Cellar.

Circuit Diagram
Circuit Diagram

Here’s the original author’s circuit diagram, paralleling nearly all of the Arduino’s digital output pins together to source/sink the test current, an ADS1115 ADC to take more accurate readings, with the results displayed on a jellybean 128×64 OLED module. The most expensive part here is the 10Ω 0.1% 15ppm reference resistor, R9.
I decided to make some small adjustments to the power supply section of the project, to include a rechargeable lithium cell rather than a 9v PP3 battery. This required some small changes to the Arduino sketch, a DC-DC boost converter to supply 5v from the 3.7v of a lithium cell, a charger module for said cell, and with the battery voltage being within the input range of the analogue inputs, the voltage divider on A3 was removed. A new display icon was also added in to indicate when the battery is being charged, this uses another digital input pin for input voltage sensing.
I also made some basic changes to the way an unreadable resistance is displayed, showing “OL” instead of “—–“, and the meter sends the reading out over the I²C bus, for future expansion purposes. The address the data is directed to is set to 0x50.

I’ve not etched a PCB for this as I couldn’t be bothered with the messy etchant, so I built this on a matrix board instead.

Final Prototype
Final Prototype

Since I made some changes to both the software and the hardware components, I decided to prototype the changes on breadboard. The lithium cell is at the top of the image. with the charger module & DC-DC converter. The Arduino Nano is on the right, the ADC & reference resistor on the left, and the display at the bottom.
The Raspberry Pi & ESP8266 module are being used in this case to discharge the battery quicker to make sure the battery level calibration was correct, and to make sure the DC-DC converter would continue to function throughout the battery voltage range.

Matrix Board Passives
Matrix Board Passives

Here’s the final board with the passive components installed, along with the DC-DC converter. I used a Texas Instruments PTN04050 boost module for power as I had one spare.

Matrix Board Rear
Matrix Board Rear

The bottom of the board has most of the wire jumpers for the I²C bus, and power sensing.

Matrix Board Modules
Matrix Board Modules

Here’s both modules installed on the board. I used an Arduino Nano instead of the Arduino Pro Mini that the original used as these were the parts I had in stock. Routing the analogue pins is also easier on the Mini, as they’re brought out to pins in the DIP footprint, instead of requiring wire links to odd spots on the module. To secure the PCB into the case without having to drill any holes, I tapped the corner holes of the matrix board M2.5 & threaded cap head screws in. These are then spot glued to the bottom of the case to secure the finished board.

Lithium Charger
Lithium Charger

The lithium charger module is attached to the side of the enclosure, the third white wire is for input sensing – when the USB cable is plugged in a charge icon is shown on the OLED display.

Input Connections
Input Connections

The inputs on the side of the enclosure. I’ve used the same 6-pin round connector for the probes, power is applied to the Arduino when the probes are plugged in.

Module Installed
Module Installed

Everything installed in the enclosure – it’s a pretty tight fit especially with the lithium cell in place.

Meter Top Cover
Meter Top Cover

The top cover has the Measure button, and the OLED display panel, the latter secured to the case with M2.5 cap head screws.

Kelvin Clips
Kelvin Clips

Finally, the measurement loom, with Kelvin clips. These were an eBay buy, keeping things cheap. These clips seem to be fairly well built, even if the hinges are plastic. I doubt they’re actually gold-plated, more likely to be brass. I haven’t noticed any error introduced by these cheap clips so far.

The modified sketch is below: