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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:

 

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Quick Tool Review – Engineer PA-09 Crimping Pliers

For a while now I’ve been attaching terminals such as Molex KK Dupont, & JST PH to wire ends with a lot of patience & a very fine soldering iron, however this method takes a lot of time, and with terminals like Dupont types, the terminal won’t fit into the connector body properly unless it’s crimped correctly. Official tools from the likes of JST or Molex are hilariously expensive, (~£250 for the Molex KK tool), and each tool only does a single connector series, so these are out of the picture. The cheapest available tool (~£40) for these types of terminals is the Engineer PA-09:

Engineer PA-09
Engineer PA-09

These are simple crimping pliers, with no niceties like a ratchet mechanism, but nonetheless they work very well for the cost. The PA-09 can handle terminals from 1mm-1.9mm, there is another tool, the PA-21, which crimps terminals from 1.6mm-2.5mm. The fit & finish is good – proper steel (S55C high carbon steel according to Engineer), not the steel-plated-cheese that most cheap Chinese tools are fabricated from, the handles are solid & comfortable.

Handles
Handles

The rubber handles are press-fit onto the steel frame arms of the pliers, and don’t slip off readily.

Die Head
Die Head

The dies are well formed in the steel, and seem to be machined rather than stamped on a press, however the black oxide finish hides any machining marks. The smallest 1mm dies do seem to be a little fragile as they’re so small, so wouldn’t take much abuse without shearing off.

Crimped Molex KK Pin
Crimped Molex KK Pin

Here’s a Molex KK pin that’s been crimped with the PA-09. The insulation crimp has pierced the insulation slightly, but this isn’t much of a problem. The conductor crimp is nice & tight, and everything is small enough to fit correctly into the plastic connector body. The trick with these tools is getting a feel for when the crimp is done – squeeze too tightly & the contact deforms, not tightly enough & the wire will just pull out of the terminal. The official tools also crimp both the conductor & insulation at the same time, and they also hold the terminal in place while the wire is inserted. In these cheaper tools, the crimps are done separately, but they do hold on to the contact securely enough for the wire to be inserted properly with your spare hand.

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Wheelchair Motor Service Part 1: Teardown & Inspection

Trolley Propulsion System: Wheelchair Motor Units

So it’s time to get the propulsion system underway for the trolley, a pair of wheelchair motors were sourced for this, from HacMan. Since I don’t know how many hours are on these units, or how they’ve been treated in the past, I’m going to do a full service on them to ensure reliability. I decided on wheelchair motors due to their extreme ruggedness & heavily built components – this project when complete is going to weigh in at about 150kg!
I suspected something was amiss with one of the motors from running them under no load: the left hand wheelchair motor was heating up to the point of being too hot to touch, so this one at the very least needed some investigation.

Motor Disassembly & Assessment

Rear Cover Removed
Rear Cover Removed

With the back cover removed from the motor the electromagnetic brake is revealed. This engages when power is removed to stop the motor freewheeling, which even though it’s a wormdrive box, it will do readily if backdriven.

Electromagnetic Brake Assembly
Electromagnetic Brake Assembly

The brake is rated 6.7W at 24v DC.

Brake Disc
Brake Disc

The brake disc is just visible between the plates of the brake here, with some green dust worn off the disc. When power is applied, the top disc, just under the magnet on top, is pulled upward against spring pressure away from the brake disc, which is attached to the motor armature.

Brake Disc
Brake Disc

Here’s the brake disc, removed from the motor. There’s only a little wear here, as I’d expect – these brakes don’t engage until the motors have come to a complete stop.

Brake Actuator
Brake Actuator

The steel disc above the magnet acts as one of the friction surfaces of the brake.

Brake Solenoid
Brake Solenoid

Finally, the solenoid is at the back, partially potted in resin. The strong coil spring in the centre applies the brakes when power is disconnected.

Gearbox Grok
Gearbox Grok

Removing the top of the gearbox reveals the state of the internals – There’s no wear at all on the gearset, but the lubricant is totally manky. The external oil seals have been leaking for some time, letting water in and grease out. The emulsified result is revolting! These gearboxes have a wormdrive first stage, the worm gear is underneath the left hand gearset. Steel spur gears then do the final gearing to the output shaft. The output gear is splined onto the output, and can slide along the shaft out of mesh – this is the freewheel clutch mechanism. At the moment it’s all obscured by the disgusting lubricant.

Input Shaft Seal
Input Shaft Seal

Here’s the failed seal on the left hand gearbox, the face damage was done by petrol immersion to clean everything up. (The seal is already compromised, so I’m not fussed about solvents eating the remaining rubber). The motor shaft is joined to the gearbox input by a rubber coupling.

Output Shaft Seal
Output Shaft Seal

The output shaft seals seem to be still OK, there has been some seepage past the collar that the shaft rides in, but nothing more. This can be resealed with some Loctite bearing sealant. The sleeve is held into the gearbox by the wheel hub when in operation, but this doesn’t seal the gap unfortunately. I don’t know why the manufacturer didn’t just machine the shaft to that larger diameter, instead of using an extra sleeve to accommodate the seal.

Bore Seals
Bore Seals

The bore seals covering the ends of the shafts are also fine, which is a good thing, since I can’t seem to find replacements for these anywhere. The input shaft seals will be replaced on both gearboxes though.

Motor Contamination
Motor Contamination

The oil seal must have been leaking for a long while! This is the gearbox end of the wheelchair motor frame, completely clogged with grease. Luckily only a small amount has made it down past the armature to the brushgear.

Damaged Commutator
Damaged Commutator

The commutator of this motor is badly damaged, and the brushes are very worn. This has been caused by the gearbox oil seal failing, and contaminating the motor internals with lubricant. The undercut between the segments is all but gone – filled with an abrasive mixture of brush dust, copper dust & old lubricant. Some repair work will be required here.

Second Motor
Second Motor

Here’s the brushgear removed from the second wheelchair motor, this one looks much more normal, and there’s not as much wear on the brushes or the commutator. Just the usual coating of brush dust.

Armatures
Armatures

Here’s both armatures together, with the contaminated one on the right, after some cleaning to remove most of the greasy old grok & brush dust from everything. The windings on the damaged left hand wheelchair motor haven’t darkened, which I would expect from severe overheating damage, so I’m hoping this armature is OK, and won’t require a rewind. Using an ohmmeter on these windings doesn’t tell me much – there’s only 7 turns of 0.86mm (20AWG) magnet wire in each coil, so they read as a dead short anyway. There was some leakage between the windings and the core before I cleaned things up – this was in the high (28+) megohms range, but this seems to have cleared now I’ve given things a real good cleaning.

More to come when new bearings & seals arrive!