Saturday, 14 August 2010

Another Servo problem solved

Not much progress on Freshwater for a few weeks because another problem arose with the servos used for points and uncoupling magnets. As I was adding more and more servos to the layout, I started getting problems switching on the power. On switch-on, the servos would move rapidly, hitting the physical limits of the mechanisms they are attached to, and carry on trying to drive past them. The current drawn by all the servos was collapsing the voltage from 16V AC down to about 3 volts. All this was happening before the PIC microcontrollers had time to initialise and bring the servos under control, and the voltage then dropped below the PIC operating voltage, so they stopped doing anything.

Consulting the Merg forums, I was advised to add some pull-up resistors to the servo signal lines. Apparently this stops the switch-on spike which sends the servos trying to reach their end limits long enough for the PIC microcontrollers to initialise and start sending sensible control signals to the servos. The pull-up resistors are 10k ohm, large enough not to affect normal operation. A change to the PIC software to speed up the initialisation process was also suggested, but has not been necessary. Having added the resistors, everything seems to be operating correctly again.

So, now I just have to build one more servo operated uncoupling magnet set and the electrics under the layout are done. Then I can start ballasting the track. Other jobs in the queue are:

- building a lighting gantry
- adding backscenes, and a transportation case
- replacing the temporary control switch box with a proper control panel (using CBUS kits to allow route setting)
- building a larger fiddle yard now the GJ challenge constraints are out of the way
- creating buildings and scenery

Ian Morgan