Flicking through the pages of a hobbyist electronics mag,
there are stepper motor drivers for £18 and LCD drivers
including display, also for 18 pounds. Both kits are based on
For those of us who like to "Roll our own", (isn't that all of
us?) it would seem that the cost of manufacturing our
own Quotient Mistress, using off-the-shelf professionally
produced circuit boards, is about £36.
** Magenta Electronics Ltd, page 240, "Everyday Practical
Electronics", April 2003 edition.
You can indeed buy those kits from Magenta (and I bought and assembled
them myself in the early days of my experiments with stepper motors -
they have long since been discarded, having served their useful but
very limited purpose), and separately, each kit will allow you to
drive a stepper or an LCD display (but not both together). They are
great for learning how PICs work & experimenting with LCD and stepper
motor driving, but that's about it, and for anyone that has the
interest I would recommend them as a cheap way of finding out more
about these fascinating devices.
As I am sure you are perfectly well aware, but conveniently choose to
gloss over, there are some significant differences between what you
would be able to do with these 2 kits and what DivisionMaster can do:
- Once you have interfaced the LCD to a PIC 16F84 (needs minimum of 5
I/O lines) and the stepper drive (the way they do it, using full phase
drive, they use 4 I/O lines), you have unfortunately run out of pins
on the 16F84 to drive a 16-key keyboard (needs another 8 I/O lines
which you haven't got unless you move up to the bigger PICs, like the
40-pin devices in the 16F8XX series and the 18FXXX series). Of course,
you could go for a twin-processor approach, which would give you a
total of 26 I/O lines between the two PICs, in which case, good luck
to you as you try to partition the functionality you need across the 2
PICs and devise a suitable communications protocol to connect them
together (which would cost you at least 2 more I/O lines of course).
- DivisionMaster has a bipolar (not unipolar) output stage capable of
driving motors at up to 2A/phase, as opposed to the 1A unipolar drive
on the Magenta kit. So you would have to factor in the 2A/phase
H-bridge circuitry & decoding logic, and while you're at it, the means
of controlling the motor current from the PIC, which DivisionMaster
can do; with the simple unipolar drive circuit used on the Magenta
kit, the only way to adjust the motor current is via fixed resistors
in series with the motor coils.
- The PIC 16F84 they use in the kits is a 4 MHz part (there is a 10
megs part available these days, but they don't use it in the kits to
keep the cost down). Consequently, the step rates it is capable of
generating will be between 1/4 and 1/8th of the step rates that can be
had with the bigger PICs that can be clocked at 20 or 40 MHz.
DivisionMaster can generate a pulse rate of up to 10,000 pulses/second
(actually, it can do significantly better than that, but that is the
maximum that can be programmed in from the keyboard).
- The 16F84 has a very small amount of program memory (only 1K), so
you would run out of memory space long before you had created anything
remotely like the range of functions and features that DivisionMaster
supports. At the last count, my firmware takes 2K to store the
character strings for driving the LCD display, and the maths
libraries for LCD display, keyboard access, and 8, 16, and 32-bit
fixed point arithmetic, and that is before you have written a line of
- The PIC 16F84 has no non-volatile RAM, so (unlike DivisionMaster),
there is no way for it to remember any operating parameters from one
day to the next. So you will have to factor in a bit of external flash
RAM in your design to cope with that, unless you want to enter the
operating parameters every time you use the machine, on that keyboard
you can't drive because you haven't enough I/O lines. And of course,
there's no space on the Magenta boards for adding NV RAM chips or
their supporting components.
- The kits from Magenta don't include a power supply, let alone one
capable of generating the necessary 1A/phase to drive the motor - you
have to source that yourself. Or you could of course use Magenta's
bench PSU kit - variable output up to 25V at 2.5A, which is just the
job - as the Magenta stepper kit is a simple unipolar drive, the PSU
will need to be able to source 2A continuous at whatever voltage you
choose to use, as the step sequence involves 2 motor coils being
energized at the same time. I have bought & built one of their bench
PSUs, and it works extremely well. Kit price for the bench PSU is a
very reasonable £65 by the way.
- You have also conveniently neglected to mention the cost of the
keyboard hardware, a suitable case, mounting hardware, plugs &
sockets, interconnecting cables, keyboard membrane...etc., none of
which are provided in the Magenta kits.
- To make any sense out of these kits over and above the trivial
sample programs they contain, you would need to provide yourself with
the software and hardware tools to program them to do anything other
than the rather trivial pre-programmed functions that they perform
"out of the box". Magenta sell a variety of programmer kits - you're
looking at a minimum of £26 (again, don't forget the cost of the power
supply, which is an extra £4 with these kits) for a parallel port
connected programmer. However, make sure you don't make the mistake of
trying to use any of these tools that are designed for connection to a
parallel port of a PC if you are using NT or any of its derivatives
(WIN 2K, XP etc), because you will find that they don't work, as NT
doesn't allow applications direct access to the I/O ports. Magenta's
"Icebreaker" system (which uses a PC serial port & works on NT) is
great for breadboarding PIC projects by the way - £39 with power
supply, but it only works with their own specially programmed 16F877's
and the upper 4K of memory can't be accessed, so it wouldn't help you
with the '84's. FED (http://www.fored.co.uk ) will sell you a nice
serial port connected PIC programmer for about £45 plus the cost of a
PSU, or one fully built for USB connection (no extra PSU needed) for
£95. They also do very nice software development tools, but you're
talking another £50+ on top of their programmer prices.
- And when you're done cobbling these 2 kits together, don't forget
the EMC testing you need to do for CE compliance. And no, the fact
that you build it yourself & it is not for resale doesn't exempt you
from the legal obligation to comply with the CE regs, as I am sure you
understand from your ham radio experience. So if your home-built
stepper driving device causes interference that screws up your
neighbour's sensitive electrical equipment, you are liable. The most
reasonable testing house I have found to date charges around £800/day
to use their labs and services; figure on a minimum of 2 days, if you
are lucky enough that it passes first time without the need for
So, all in all, I'm not remotely worried that you are likely to give
me any competition with your kit-based "solution" anytime soon. Or
anytime before Hell freezes over, for that matter. QE definitely not
D, Old Man.
However, yet again, I must thank you for the additional publicity you
are giving my company's products, and on behalf of Magenta's owner
(who is a friend of mine, by the way), thank you very much for
advertising their products too.
So you choose another in the range, or conceive of
functional partition between two of them? All fairly
trivial stuff. If you think otherwise, perhaps that is indicative
of inexperience on your part which may contribute to
your excessive costs?
...so now you're changing the rules (as usual). You started this
particular thread by stating:
"For those of us who like to "Roll our own", (isn't that all of
us?) it would seem that the cost of manufacturing our
own Quotient Mistress, using off-the-shelf professionally
produced circuit boards, is about £36."
Now, having had it pointed out to you that this was total cr@p, you
start talking about using a different chip. Where are the hobby board
kits to support that? apart from in your imagination?
One really has to ask whether your contribution quoted below
is a serious contribution to a discussion amongst hobbyists
seeking to produce something by their own efforts?
It seems to be a somewhat childish rant to me.
"you're changing the rules (as usual)"? This is a thread
exploring how we the hobbyists might do things for ouselves
much cheaper than the "cynical" (your word) traders would
charge us for the same thing. You yourself have contributed
many articles over the years persuading the hobbyist to do just that.
"changing the rules (as usual)"? Not at all. In a design project
carried on by the NG, we will get to our final design by discussion;
a proposal is made, a discussion ensues, and a conclusion is reached.
In this case, I saw the products advertised by Magenta and proposed
them. You brought into play your experience of using them, and so
the discussion progressed. There is really no need for you to
employ such childish forms of self-expression such as you do below.
If you argue that the Magenta products are, based upon your
experience, unuseable, what do you expect to happen? That someone
in discussion with you who hasn't actually used those particular
products will gainsay you? Of course not! As the inevitable
result of your freely contributing to the design project (very
brave for a trader who suggests that he is in "competition"
with the project, I might add; good on yer!) I will react
to what you say and change my proposals accordingly.
That is normal progress in a civilsed technical forum.
For you to have introduced your experience and then
to castigate me for taking on board what you have
said is just silly. "Now, having had it pointed out to
you that this was total cr@p, you start talking about
using a different chip"? Have you been playing
with Mr.Stevenson in the school playground again?
The use of stepper motors to drive a rotary table in
the hobbyist's workshop is a low-power requirement.
1A per phase is more than sufficient. You don't move
the table unless the brake is off!
Using unipolar motors at 1A and the excessive (and
irrelevant) cost of 2A bipolar drive is no longer
The speeds necessary will more than justify L/R
If you must resort to silly childish jibes, then you
can do no better than to take on the services of
Mr.Stevenson as a tutor.
Do you mean to say that the very light duty example
that you were parading at Donnington was a con trick?
Were you not attempting to sell your goods based
upon an illustration of how simple clock wheel cutting
QED, once again.
He does do, the monthly cheques are gratefully received.
NO QED again at all. Tonys Division master was designed to output 2amp so
it wasn't a con. If it was only putting 1A out then it could have had
You program the output needed, a point you omitted off the third beer mat
in your design.
For the record I have one of these on a 6" brand new vertex table and it
draws 1.8 amps at 24 volts.
I also have one running on a large Hoffman table that weighs around 250
pounds. This one takes 75 volts at 7 amps using an external driver box.
Glad you brought up the clock wheel cutting engine that I demonstrated
on the DivisionMaster stand at Donnington. The motor used for the
dividing head is 140 oz-in, rated at 2A/phase as it happens. The other
"light duty" application was the Sherline rotary table - probably the
easiest table to drive that I have seen so far (and actually easier to
drive than the dividing head on the wheel cutting engine, as it
happens), as it has ball races on the wormshaft and on the table
spindle, versus the plain bearings approach in the Vertex tables and
on the worm shaft of the dividing head. Sherline themselves recommend
(and sell) 140 oz-in motors for that table; in reality, the 100 oz-in
motor that I used to demonstrate it works well enough, but it still
requires 1.5A/phase. All the other motors I was using on the stand
needed to be driven at between 1.5A and 2A. With the general trend
away from L/R drives towards using bipolar chopper drives, it is
increasingly hard to obtain decent motors that are rated as low as
Like I say, you clearly haven't tried to drive these sorts of machines
with stepper motors. On the other hand, I have.
A red herring. 1000 pulses per second is more than sufficient for
a hobbyist's workshop. The "Measure twice, cut once" mantra
will mean that extra speed (and the excessive costs associated
with it) will go to waste.
With a 200 steps/rev motor and a 60:1 worm, that's 12000 steps
per rev for the workpiece and a matter of only 12 seconds to
go right around. Neither here not there.
If you're buying in maths libraries then perhaps that
shows up an excessive costing and also your
inexperience? 32 bit integer arithmetic is all that
is needed, no trig or exponentials. Set your minimum
"integer" value to be 0.001 (or even a tenth of that)
and Bob's your uncle! 8 and 16 bit arithmetic is well
handled by 32 bit routines.
I looked at your glossies - the "functions and features" that
you supply are trivial extensions of each other and ably handled
by a well-factored set of routines..
Sure, there are memory limitations in some microcomputers,
choose whichever in the range is appropriate once you've
produced your design. All very trivial, again.
Far from irrelevant. I have several customers now that need to use
their DivisionMaster controller to drive multiple tables/dividing
heads. They want to be able to store several sets of config values
precisely so that they don't have to scratch around setting the
controller parameters for different speeds/drive ratios/motor current
settings whenever they move to a different device. And as it happens,
most of the ones that want that feature are hobbyists. So that
capability will go into the next version of the firmware.
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