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[10] What Robotics related products are there?

[10.1] Sensors
[10.1.1] Cameras
[10.1.2] Inertial, Acceleration and Heading sensors
[10.1.3] Rangefinding devices
[10.1.4] Force/torque, accelerometers, tactile
[10.1.5] Sonar sensors
[10.1.6] Pan/tilt mechanisms
[10.1.7] Measuring 3 or 6DOF position
[10.1.8] Measuring linear motion
[10.1.9] Interfacing sensors
[10.2] Actuators
[10.2.1] RC-Servos
[10.2.2] Shape Memory Materials
[10.2.3] Other Actuators
[10.2.4] Stepper Motors
[10.2.5] Controllers
[10.3] Imaging for Robotics
[10.4] Wireless Communication
[10.4.1] RF Modems
[10.4.2] RF Video
[10.4.3] RF Ethernet
[10.5] Robot Parts: Suppliers and Sources

[10] What Robotics related products are there?

Robots are amazingly interdisciplinary; systems are comprised of mechanics, electronics, hardware and software and issues germane to all these catagories. As a result, the design and constructions of such systems requires a corresponding variety of components and parts.

This section provides information about products available for some of these areas.

[10.1] Sensors This list covers only the most frequently requested types of robot sensors. These include point-range sensors, cameras, and acoustic devices. See Sensors magazine directory for a large and comprehensive list. This list covers the following:

[10.1.1] Cameras
[10.1.2] Inertial measurement devices and gyros
[10.1.3] Rangefinding devices
[10.1.4] Force/torque, accelerometers, tactile
[10.1.5] Sonar sensors
[10.1.6] Pan/tilt mechanisms
[10.1.7] Measuring 3 or 6DOF position
[10.1.8] Measuring linear motion
[10.1.9] Interfacing sensors

[10.1.1] Cameras

There are a large number of cameras on the market and even many consumer products such as the smaller camcorders are inexpensive and suitable for some imaging applications. I'll try to list some different and unusual ones here. Note that although some of these cameras are very small many of them are appended to a large box of electronics via a cable that supplies power and transmits video. For mobile applications DC power inputs may be an issue as well. I've also included servo-lens products as well in this section.
CCTV Corporation
280 Huyler St. South Hackensack, NJ 07606 tel: 201.489.9595 tel: 800.221.2240 fax: 201.489.0111

CCTV makes a number of small CCD surveillance cameras. Some as small as a pack of cigarettes that sell for less than $300. Small cameras -- 'Pincam' 1.5"x1.5"x.75" pinhole camera for $200. MOD-250 and MOD-275 are all single PC board cameras with wide angle 3.6 mm lenses 514x491V resolution, and composite outputs. Other cameras come in unique enclosures for surveilance (e.g. cigarette packs, clocks, smoke detectors).

P.O. Box 85623
San Diego, CA 92186-5623
tel: 619.277.6700 X225
fax: 619.277.0221

Cohu makes a number of solid state cameras including board level and remote head devices. The 1100 series is designed for OEM use. It outputs standard RS-170 with 768x494 CCD resolution. 10cmx4.5cmx1.6cm w/o lens. Other units include the 550 series Intensified Monochrome CCD Camera for low-light applications. The 4110 has digital output (eliminates pixel jitter), The 6X00 series are small monochrome remote head cameras and the 8000 series cameras are color remote head devices. A variety of ouputs are available includeing NTSC, RGB, PAL/Y-C. A high resolution unit, the 8410 series, provides 1134x486 pixels (850 horz TV lines)

DAK Industries
8200 Remnet Ave
Canoga Park, CA 91304
tel: 800.325.0800 (ordering)
tel: 800.888.9818 (technical)
fax: 818.888.2837

DAK sells all kinds of gadgets for the home and business. One device is a security camera that is smaller than a credit card (length and width) and 38mm deep. B/W 251,904 pixels, 60 degree lens and built-in microphone. Has built-in IR transmitters for seeing in total darkness. $199 for camera, 20m cable, AC adapter and stands. Other packages include monitors and two-camera switcher for $299 total. Extra cable is $29.90

Dalsa Inc
605 McMurray Rd.
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2V 2E9
tel: 519.886.6000

Modular cameras -- you choose the entire configuration from the CCD device to the video output format. Known for their large selection of high speed, high sensitivity and high resolution CCD chips (up to 25 million pixels on a single chip CCD).

Edmund Scientific
101 E. Gloucester Pike
Barrington, NJ 08007-1380
tel: 609.573.6250 order
tel: 609.573.6260 customer service Edmund Scientific Catalog has some very nice looking minature CCD cameras. They have several models ranging from $230 to $495 list, b/w and color with 1/2" or 1/3" CCD's. All are board level and require external power supply.
Electrim Corp.
P.O. Box 2074
Princeton, NJ. 08543
tel: 609.683.5546
fax: 609.683.5882

Offers digitial cameras and acquisition cards in an integrated system for use with PC's. The EDC-1000C is a complete image acquisition system with a 751x488v resolution camera that supports 24 bit color for $950 (including the PC interface card). The EDC-1000HR is the monochrome version. A recently released system (11/94) offers a ADSP2101 DSP on board the acquisition card.

Elmo Mfg Corp
70 New Hyde Park Rd.
New Hyde Park, NY 11040
tel: 516.775.3200
tel: 800.974.ELMO
fax: 516.775.3297

Micro-sized cameras including a 12mm color unit, the UN411E. The ME441E is a remote head B&W ccd camera for machine vision applications. 17mm, 14g. Wide variety of features including electronics shuttering, field/frame modes, interlace and non-interlace etc.

Gateway Electronics, Inc.
8123 Page Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63130
tel: 314.427.6116

Ultra Minature Camera $149.50. 1.6" X 1.8" X 1" with a 3.6 mm wide angle lens a 1/3 CCD sensor 380 lines of resolution and electronic sutter time of 1/60 - 1/50,000 sec. 12 VDC Video Camera and monitor combination 9" solid state monitor. This is a closed circuit camera monitor system that runs on 115 VAC. There is also a microphone in the Camera. $125.00

Hamamatsu Corp.
360 Foothill Road
Bridewater, NJ 08807-0910
tel: 908.231.1116
fax: 908.231.0852

Offers a linup of general purpose single CCD cameras. The C4200 is a 768x493V single CCD color camera. The C3967 is a 3 CCD remote head color camera with 786x493V resolution. They also offer off-the-shelf image improvement/enhancing hardware and CCD chips (1024x1024V)

Images Company
P.O. Box 140742
Staten Island, NY 10314
tel: 718.698.8305 Microminature B/W video camera $200.00. TV Transmitter (KIT) $45.00

Marshall Electronics
Culver City, CA
Contact: Steve Kraig
tel: 310.390.6608

World's smallest low-cost digital camera on a single chip; under $10 for volume users. It is the first commercially available image sensor to have a built-in A/D converter. The Digital Video Camera Chip, VVL1070 delivers a digitized B&W image through processor-compatible serial and parallel ports. The IC uses a proprietary CMOS sensor technology developed by VLSI Vision Ltd., which also is developing a whole series of single-chip EIA cameras that will be shortly introduced to the American market.

The chip features a 160 x 160 pixel array. Pixel size is 10.5 x 10.5 microns. All circuitry to drive and sense the array is packaged in a single Optical Quad Flatpak. The digital converter provides an 8-bit digital output for serial or parallel interface. Other features include an analog output with sync pulses, wide-range electronic exposure control for use with a variety of low-cost fixed-aperture lenses and automatic black level circuitry. Power consumption is less than 100mw.

An Engineering Level Evaluation Kit is available to reduce development costs and allow designers to rapidly develop a prototype using their own defined interface circuitry. The kit includes a fully operational PCB using an LCC with glass lid mounted in an anodized aluminum enclosure with both a "C" mount 12mm lens and a wide-angle 4.3mm fixed-focus lens.

Also offers both a 330 line and 510x492v resolution miniature color cameras.

Micro Video Products
16201 Osborne
St. Westminster, CA 92683
tel: 714.842.4648
tel: 800.473.0538

Mini B/W camera $179.00 2.5x2.5x5cm and 70g. 7-14 VCD and 80 milliamps Also carry underwater cameras, and transmitter/recievers for video.

NEC America
1555 Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, TX 75038
tel: 214.751.7000
tel: 800.323.6656

Offers many types of general purpose monochrome cameras as well as a 811x508V resolution color camera with a variety of output formats (RGB, NTSC, Y/C). The TI-324A is a small high-res B/W CCD camera designed for machine vision and robotics applications. A variety of other B/W and Color CCD cameras are also made.

tel: 201.392.4576

John Gregler - sales rep

Sells a complete line of monochrome cameras and a high performance broadcast quality 3 CCD RGB color camera.

Patrick McGuire
tel: 800-335-9777 A small company (4) making cameras, wireless video transmitters.
Pulnix America Inc.
1330 Orleans Dr.
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
tel: 408.747.0300
tel: 800.445.5444 x127 Katie McVeigh - sales rep

Offers gereral purpose, reasonably priced CCD cameras. The TMC-7RGB is a 768x494V resolution color camera with electronic shutter for $1100. Many monochrome cameras are available including a high resolution 1024x1024V. The 'Card-Cam' line of cameras are small PC board cameras with simple C-mount remote heads.

Resources UN-LTD.
8030 South Willow Street, Bldg 2
Manchester, NH 03109
tel: 603.668.2499

CCD Micro Camera From Chinon. $159.00 B/W 1/3" CCD with a full 250,000+ pixels. 350 lines of resolution. Auto gain control and electronic shutter. 9 VDC at 80 milliamps. Adjustable focus 4mm, f 1.8 lens (provides 78 degree FOV, 10mm to infinity). Standard Composite video out. Weighs 14g, IR Sensitive. Also reportedly sold by by Creative Micro Electronics in Colorado. tel: 303.770.8928, fax: 303.796.0979

Sony Electronics Inc.
1200 N. Arlington Heights Road
Itasca, IL 60143
tel: 708.773.7604

Sony XC/999/999P is a nice small color CCD camera the size of a microphone. CCD resolution is 768Hx493V. The 999 is NTSC and the 999P is the PAL format. XC-75 has small camera head and separate electronics. The XC711 is a nice general purpose single CCD color camera with 768x493V resolution, but not as expensive as to XC999. The XC-711 RR is the remote head version. An appreciable lineup of monochrome cameras are offered as well.

13552 Research Blvd #B
Austin, TX 78750
tel: 512.335.9777
fax: 512.335.1925

Electronic timers and beepers, miniature cameras and transmitters. Super Circuits specializes in affordable microvideo products. One of the tiny cameras, the PC-9XS is about the size of a silver dollar, has 380 lines resolution, 1 lux rating at a price of only $149. Some of the cameras go down to .2 lux. Other products include small color cameras, ATV UHF transmitter kits, Short range transmitter sets, and other specialty video products.

Texas Instruments

TI makes a full line of cameras and CCD chips includeing linear and 2D arrays. TI makes a $35 CCD Imager, the TC-211, with 192x165 resolution. Newark Electronics sells the TC211-M for around US$50.00 See TI's Array Image Sensor Products data manual for more details. Update: Unfortunately, Telescope Making Magazine went out of business with the issue mentioned above and may be hard to find. Hope to find copy and contact author wrt to posting it.

Toshiba America
Information and Imaging Technologies Group
1010 Johnson Drive
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089-6900
tel: 800.253.5429
fax: 708.541.1927

Toshiba IK-M40A high resolution microminiature color camera. Camera head is 39mm long, 17mm diameter and weighs 16g. 1/2" CCD w/ 410,000 pixels, high sensitivity (5 lux at F1.6) and electronic shutter. RGB output standard. uses cables up to 30m. Several lenses available. About $2K.

Toshiba also makes a very small C-mount Lens color CCD camera, the IK-C40A. It is only slight larger than a 30mm cube.

Wintriss Engineering Corp
6342 Ferris Square
San Diego, CA 92121
tel: 619.550.7300
tel: 800.733.8089

Wintriss makes a 2048 pixel line scan camera that can be used for object imaging, velocity measurement and positioning with multiple cameras. Can be used to determine spped and trajectory of objects in flight. This has been used in archery applications. RS485 interface with 8Mb/sec serial data rate. Can be linked directly with Wintriss DSP boards for post-processing and communications. Price $1250.

Xillix Technologies Corporation
Suite 200
2339 Colombia Street
Vancouver B.C. V5Y 3Y3
tel: 604.875.6161
fax: 604.872.3356

Specializing in High-res CCD cameras. Product line includes a 12-bit 1317x1035 pixel resolution. Target market has been medical imaging. Full computer control and compatible with a number of image capture and display boards.

[10.1.2] Inertial, Acceleration and Heading sensors

An excellent summary technical report on this area can be found at: CMU-RI-TR-94-15 (compressed)
Modern Inertial and Satellite Navigation by Alonzo Kelly, May 1994. Inertial measurement includes such devices as accelerometers, gyros, and devices for measuring orientation or acceleration of moving vehicles. Accelerometers are devices for measuring the rate of change in velocity and can provide estimations of distance or be used to detect high forces.

Much of the initial research, development and marketing in this area were for military applications. However, markets and commercial units are now found in mass market and even consumer applications these days. This has brought the price of systems down significantly. There are several inexpensive gyros used in radio controlled helicopters. These are rate gyros, used to sense the rate of turn about a particular axis (usually vertical, for tail rotor control), and are designed to connect between an R/C receiver and a servo.

These gyros work by modifying the PWM signal that the rx produces, before it gets to the servo. The sensing is usually done by a linear hall effect device, which senses the position of a magnet on the bottom of the flywheel assembly. The gyros have both sensitivity and gain controls, and some can be switched on and off remotely. They have been used for sensing rotation about an axis for a VR headset, with some success. The big advantage is they are relatively cheap, the big disadvantage is high drift rate.

Analog Devices
One Technology Way
P.O. Box 9106,
Norwood, MA 02062-9106
tel: 617.329.4700
fax: 617.326.8703

     Analog Devices ADXL50 accelerometer.

Power Supply........................... +5V (+/- 5%)
Measurement Range...................... +/- 50g
Pre-Amp Zero-g output level............ +1.8V
Pre-Amp output span.................... +1.8V (+/-1.2V) at +/-50g
Uncommitted amp output range........... +0.25V to +4.75V
Overall Accuracy....................... 5% of Full Scale
Linearity.............................. 0.5% of Full Scale
Bandwidth.............................. DC to 1kHz
Voltage Noise (p-p)
    at BW = 0.3kHz..................... +/-0.24% of Full Scale
    at BW = 1.0kHz..................... +/-0.48% of Full Scale
Transverse Sensitivity................. 2%
Unpowered Shock Survival............... 2000g
Distributed by Newark, Hamilton-Hallmark and Active.
Andrew Corporation>
10500 W. 153rd Street
Orland Park, IL 60462
tel: 708.349.5957
fax: 708.349.5294
fax: 800.349.5444

Fiber-optic gyro. 77mm diameter by 88mm high. Analog out porportional to rotation rate. Also digital version available. Rate +/- 100 degrees/sec. Stable over -40C to +85C. Power 8-13.5VDC at 250mA. Bias drift 0.005 deg/sec (18 deg/hr). 0.63kg $1100.00 for digital version, $950 for analog.

P.O. Box 799
Valley Forge, PA 19482
tel: 610.666.3500
fax: 610.666.3509

Piezo Film Accelerometer Sensors

AHC-04-08 accelerometer/shock sensor contains three sensing elements oriented to measure acceleration in two linear axes and one angular axis. Each sensor has a dedicated channel with adjustable gain, an adjustable comparator, and selectable output control to provide either a digital or analog signal. It is a low profile surface mount chip with 14 pins. It has internal eeprom for programming the adjustable gains, and output modes.

Lower limit on the frequency response is typically about 7-13 Hz. This means if it were subjected to a steady 10 G acceleration for example, the output would rise to 10 G's then decay down to zero even though it were still at 10 G's. This is good for measuring shocks but not steady accelerations. About $30 for a single unit.

BEI - Systron Donner
2700 Systron Drive,
Concord, CA 94518-1399
tel: 510.682.6161
fax: 510.671.6590
url: Systron Donner

GyroChip - a very small solid state angular rate sensor. Based a quartz tuning fork device - all support electronics are included. Max range available: +/-10 deg/sec to +/-1000 deg/sec. Input +/- 5VDC Output scale +/- 2.5VDC. Systron Donner also makes a variety of linear accelerometers and inertial measurement products.

Solid state six axis inertial sensor. It provides analog signals for 3 axis acceleration and 3 axis rate. The package is 7.5cmx7.5cmx8cm, weighs ~600grams and takes +-15V unreg in (7W). Bias drift is on the order of 0.005 deg/sec short term (0.1deg/sec long term).

Cost is $12,000 for one or $10,000 for 2-9 (a good single axis rate gyro usually costs $6K+). Various acceleration and rate range combinations are available (up to +- 20g). Delivery is about 6wks. A new Gyrochip two is available as well. Specs aren't quite as good but it is cheaper.

Endevco Corporation
30700 Rancho Viejo Road
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
tel: 714.493.8181
fax: 714.661.7231

Variable Capacitance and Piezoresistive Accelerometers. Many models, contact Endevco for literature.

Gyration Inc.
Saratoga CA
tel: 408.255.3016
fax: 408.255.9075

Sells small vertical and directional gyros for ~$500. These are standard gimballed gyros, but the drift specs probaly aren't as good as aircraft-quality gyros. Now also sell innovative computer pointers and devices termed 'Gyroengines' that provide quadrature outputs from heading devices. Gyroengines are $3.5K

11601 Roosevelt Blvd
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
tel: 813.579.6604
fax: 813.579.6696

Honeywll manufactures the modular azimuth and postioning system (MAPS) and utilizes ring-laser gyros. (RLG). The RLG uses two beams of laser light rotating in opposite directions along a path within a sealed and enclosed cavity. As the unit changes heading, the distances the beams travel differ. This difference is can be measured and is directly related to heading. When combined with linear accelerometers the unit provides position and orientation. MAPS has an RS-422 interface, is approx 22x27x38cm and is 20kg. 100W power draw. [Rad hard and rated for howitzer gunfire!]

9212 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92123
tel: 619.565.6631
fax: 619.565.6873

Wide variety of gyros, north seekers, vertical indicators, position transducers, pendulums, magnetometers, dynamic stabilization systems, and accelerometer devices.

1701 McCarthy Blvd.
Milpitas, CA 95035-7416
tel: 800.767.1888
tel: 408.432.1800
fax: 408.434.6687

Model 3145. Signal Conditioned Temperature Compensated 0.5 to 4.5 Vdc Output. 2g, 5g, 10g, 20g, 50g, 100g, 200g ranges. $230 for 1.

Model 3140: Instrumentation grade Signal Conditioned Temperature Compensated 0.5 to 4.5 Vdc Output. 2g, 5g, 10g, 20g, 50g, 100g, 200g ranges. $295 for 1.

Model 3031: OEM Accelerometer Piezoresistive low cost Surface mount package. 2g, 5g, 10g, 20g, 50g, 100g, 200g, 500g ranges. $74 for 1.

Model 3021 and 3026: OEM Accelerometer Piezoresistive low cost. 2g, 5g, 10g, 20g, 50g, 100g, 200g, 500g ranges. Price ranges from $98-141 for 1, depending on g range.

KVH Industries
110 Enterprise Center
Middletown, RI 02840
tel: 401.847.3327
fax: 401.849.0045

also in Europe:

KVH Europe A/S
Ved Klaedebo 12
2970 Hoersholm
tel: +45(42)86 82 89
fax: +45(42)86 70 77

Nice small well-designed units that provide heading data. About $1K w/ RS232 adapter.

Lucas Control Systems Products
1000 Lucas Way
Hampton, VA 23666
tel: 800.745.8008
fax: 800.745.8004

Schaevitz Sensors, a division of Lucas, makes a variety of inclinometers and accelerometers. the S05E is a compact, lightweight, solid state accelerometer. NEMA 4 housing. DC -1KHz freq response, +/-5vdc output, vibration to 20grms, less than 500mW power.

Other linear servo inclinometers and accelerometers: acceleration ranges: +/-0.5g to +/-20g, inclinometer ranges +/-1 deg to +/- 90 deg. Operating temperatures -55C to 95C.

Lucas NovaSensor
1055 Mission Court
Fremont, CA 94539
tel: 510.490.9100

Lucas makes a 2.5cmx2.5cmx1cm (approx) accelerometer for about $200. Good noise immunity but fragile.

Murata Erie North America
2200 Lake Park Drive
Smyrna, GA 30080
tel: 800.831.9172
fax: 404.436.3030

Gyrostar piezoelectric vibrating gyroscope. Uses equilateral triangular prism with PE elements attached to faces of prism. High precision compared to other vibration gyroscopes. Measures augular velocity with good linearity. Max augular vel +/- 90 deg/sec, No hysteresis, 58x25x25mm, 45g, output is DC voltage porportional to angular rate. 22.2mV/deg/sec scale factor.

Gerhard Weiss has provided some results of experiments with the unit at []:

Pewatron AG
Hertistr. 27
CH-8304 Wallisellen, Switzerland
Tel: +41 1 830 29 44
Fax: +41 1 830 51 57

Two-axis Inclinometer. Weight: 2.3gr, voltage: 5V, current: 20mA, dimension: 12 x 12 x 7 mm, Output: 2 analog output. Sine and cosine for 360 degree, voltage swing: +/- 0.4V, Price: about $100. Rumored to have a US distributor: Dinsmore.

Dinsmore Instrument Company

1814 Remell Street
Flint MI 45806
tel: 810.744.1330
fax: 810.744.1790
Precision Navigation
1235 Pear Avenue
Suite 111
Mountain View, CA 94043
tel: 415.962.8777
fax: 415.962.8776 TCM2 Electronic Compass Sensor Module. Digital compass - incorporates 2-axis tilt sensor. NOT A FLUXGATE COMPASS - Magneto-inductive magnetometer technology. Electronic gimbaling, full 3-axis information, low power consumption 5vdc @ 6-12mA. Accuracy +/- 1 degree up to 20 degrees tilt. Approx. 6x5x3 cm. -20to70C operating temperature. RS232 interface or analog. 0-2.5V linear. 16Hz output rate. $700.

Precision's Vector-2X electronic compass module is about $50 and provides 2 deg accuracy, 1 deg resolution, 10Hz smapling, serial ouput. Another product the Wayfinder is targeted for VR tracking applications.

1465 Woodbury Avenue, Suite 201
Portsmouth, NH 03801
contact: Melvin Mark Morrison, President
tel: 207.439.3783 (fax too)
net: Quubik manufactures electro-mechanical products including an inertial measurement unit called QUBIK and a magnetic bearing. The QUBIK IMU is a very small autonomous inertial six degree of freedom sensor. The magnetic bearing provides a shaft that is free to rotate and can be a motor and ultimately a gyro. For more information about QUBIK products see Qubik
Silicon Designs, Inc.
1445-NW Mall Street
Issaquah, WA. 98027-5344
tel: 206.391.8329
fax: 206.391.0446

Capacitive Accelerometers

Model 1010, Digital output:
Produces Digital pulse train in which the density of pulses (number of pulses a second) is proprtional to applied acceleration. It operates with a single +5 volt power supply and requires a clock of 100kHz - 1MHz. The output is ratiometric to the clock frequency and independent of the power supply voltage. Two forms of digital signals are provided for direct interfacing to a microprocessor or counter. This devices comes in a PLCC package that is smaller than a penny.

Model 1210, Analog output:
Provides two analog outputs, 1-4 volts, or 4-1 volt, with O g's at 2.5 volts. The outputs can be used either differentially or single ended referenced to 2.5 volts. Two reference voltages, +5.0 and +2.5 volts (nominal), are required; the output scale factor is ratiometric to the +5 volt reference voltage.

Silicon Microstructures
46725 Fremont Boulevard
Fremont CA. 94538
tel: 510.490.5010
fax: 510.490.1119

Model 7170 series and 7130 series capacitive accelerometers. These are relatively large devices with built in ASIC signal processing.They have very good accuracy specs and are pre-calibrated. They also make pressure sensors.

Summitt Instruments
tel: 216.659.3312

Three-axis accelerometer. A tiny cube just under 2.5cm on a side. Approx $1K

Sundance Model Products
2427 W. Adrian St.
Newbury Park, CA 91320
tel: 805.498.8857

Lists a solid state gyro for model helicopters. The SSG/1 is 38mm x 38mm x 13mm and weighs 43g. Completely solid state with no motor or moving parts. Claims to draw 10% of the power of a gyro with moving parts. No drift specs.

Inclination and Tilt Sensing There are Electrolytic tilt sensors or clinometers that use a a conductive fluid, not mercury, whose resistance across various electrodes provides an analog signal proportional to tilt angle. They're not too expensive, although they do tend to have long settling times (up to a few seconds). A couple of US sources:
The Fredericks Company
tel: 215.947.2500
fax: 215.947.7464

Applied Geomechanics
tel: 408.462.2801
fax: 408.462.4418

The smallest, cheapest model is 5x5x2 cm and about $250. It has a 5-terminal electrolytic cell that can measure tilt in two axes to +-20 degrees (optional +-45 degrees). The characteristic "slosh" frequency is about 10 Hz, and it exhibits sub-second settling times and a resolution of 0.01 degrees. The output is two analog signals (X and Y, or Roll and Pitch, if you prefer). It runs off of a 9-volt battery.

[10.1.3] Rangefinding devices

Principles There are four basic techniques for distance measurement using electro magnetic radiation. These are:
  1. Pulse Timing
  2. Phase Comparison
  3. Doppler Methods
  4. Interferometry
All are used in practice for distance measurement depending on the particular application.

Pulse timing, as the name suggests, involves measuring the round time for a signal to be transmitted to a reflective surface and return.

This is the principle used in Radar, DME for aircraft, LORAN, Satellite Altimetry, Airborne RADAR Altimetry, Lunar Laser Ranging etc. Some of the newer EDM instruments used by surveyor are also using pulse timing and accuracies of +/- 5mm are possible. Most of the military range finders also use pulse timing. The GPS system uses pulse timing for coarse distance measurement. Very Long Base Interferometry (VLBI) is also a pulse timing technique where signals >from pulsars are timed from two or more radio telescopes and the difference in times of arrival are converted to intercontinental distances with a precision of a few centimetres.

Phase difference involves the use of a carrier wave which may be modulated at different wavelengths. By measuring the difference in phase between the transmitted signal and the received signal after it has been reflected from the other end of the target, the distance can be determined as an integer number (unknown) of wavelengths plus a fraction of a wavelength which is known from the phase comparison. By using a range of modulation frequencies the ambiguity can be resolved. There are many applications of this technique. A wide range of carrier frequencies are used ranging from visible through infra red to microwave and right down to VLF. Typical instruments used by surveyors have accuracies of +/-(1to2 mm +1to3 parts per million) and use infra red as the carrier. Precise positioning using GPS can be achieved by phase comparison of the carrier wave signals of the various satellites. Accuracies in position of better than 1 part per million can be achieved.

Doppler techniques were used in the earlier satellite positioning systems. The received frequency of a low orbit satellite is compared with the actual transmitted signal as a function of time. The rate of change of frequency gives the slant range between the satellite and the observer while the instant when the two freqencies are the same gives the point of closest approach. By knowing the orbital parameters of the satellite which are transmitted, the observers position can be determined.

Interferometric methods are the same as those used in the original Michelson Interferometer. It is used for metrology, high precision distance measurement over short distances (up to 60 metres) and in the definition of the metre.

There are a variety of laser rangefinding devices that have been built and used over the past decade for robotics use. The 3D devices are still large, power hungry and heavy but give very nice images suitable for fast map building and navigation work. Expect to pay over $50K for these time-of-flight devices. Most AM Lidars measure phase shift between outgoing and reflected beams. A mirror system rasters the beam forming a video-camera-like image. Some devices supply the reflectance image as well as range which is nice for corresponding the two. Comprehensive references include:

A good report on the characterization of a particular scanner is: A number of laboratory works have also demonstrated FM or chirp systems which can be highly accurate (e.g. high resolution elevation maps of coins) but these are very specialized and I don`t know of commercial devices currently.
Acuity Research
20863 Stevens Creek Blvd. #200
Cupertino, Ca. 95014
tel: 408-252-9639
fax: 408-725-1580
net: or Bob Clark,

The AccuRange 400 is an optical distance measurement sensor with a range of 0 to 16m for most diffuse reflective surfaces. It operates by emitting a collimated laser beam that is reflected from the target surface and collected by the sensor. 0.5mm short-term repeatability, RS-232 output and optional 4-20mA current loop. Also PW and analog indication of range available. Visible or IR output available. (670nm and 780nm respectively) Around $2500. 5VDC@300mA. 50KHz sampling rate.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL)
contact: Narinder Bains (
net: 905.823.9040 x6120

Laser Eye ranging system. It consists of a robotic head with a combined vision / range sensor. The sensor provides colour images and distance to an object in the centre of the camera field of view. There is of course software to process images from the camera and detect a target, to control the head, communication, nice GUIs, etc. Is being used for vehicle navigation.

From the head position you get the bearing to the target and the rangefinder provides you with the distance. Angular resolution is better than 0.05 degree, the distance can be measured up to 100m with accuracy of ~5 cm. Note that the range measurement is 1D along the camera axis.

The cost of the vision system and complexity of the software depends on your specific application: how difficult is it to detect and track your vehicle, how fast is it moving, is it possible to use special markers, is illumination constant, etc.

Martin-Schmeisser-Weg 9
D-44227 Dortmund

BCT in Germany makes laser-3D-scanners with a CAD-interface

ERIM (Environmental Research Institute of Michigan)

ERIM has built a number of custom AM laser rangefinders including those used in the ALV (Autonomous Land Vehicle) program. CMU and Martin Marietta have both used this systems in extensive work. Basic system was a 128x64 2fps 20m (ambiguity interval) system.

Erwin Sick GmbH.
Erwin Sick
Optic-Electronic Ltd.
Waldrich House
39 Hedley Road
St. Albans
Herfordshire AL1 5BN
tel: 0727/831121
fax: 0727/856767

in US:

Sick Optic-Electronic, Inc.
7694 Golden Triangle Drive
P.O.-Box 444-240
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
tel: 612.941.6780
fax: 612.941.9287 PLS-100: This device measures distance by TOF from 4 cm up to 80 m, guaranteed range of 4 m (at a black lether target), is eye-safe (IEC Class 1), takes a 180 degree scan in 20 ms, total 25 scans a second, angle resolution 0.5 degree (361 scan points in a scan). This device is build in a industrial IP65 case. And it is rather cheap (6.900,- DM + VAT, in Germany).
ESP Technologies
21 LeParc Drive
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
tel: 609.275.0356
fax: 609.275.0356

$15K LED based IR ranging system. 15cm diameter rotating scanning device with collimated LED light beam that uses phase differences to calculate distance. Range 0.6 to 6m. 2.5cm resolution, 15cm accuracy. 1Khz update rate

Hammamatsu Corp.
New Jersey
tel: 908.231.0960
fax: 908.231.1539

Hamamatsu S4282 Light Modulation Photo IC The size of a normal transistor (approx 1/4" square). It has 4 leads, Vcc, Gnd, Vout, LED. All you do is attach an IR LED to the LED lead to give you an instant IR proximity detector (the photo diode detector is built into the part). Two can be aimed at each other and they won't interfere since they'll be out of phase. They have another model with a lens over the photo diode that is claimed could be used up to 30 feet! Hammamatsu also sells a number of photo sensors like color sensors, position sensitive detectors, pyroelectric sensors.

5-38 Auriga Drive
Ottawa, ON, Canada K2E 8A5
tel: 613.727.1584
fax: 613.727.0441

Hyscan laser digitizing systems. High speed 3D surface mapping. Hyscan probe retrofits to any CMM, CNC, or any other translation device. 10,000 points/sec.

                 Model 25     Model 50
Accuracy         +/-0.025mm   +/-0.050mm
Resolution (Z)   0.003mm      0.003mm
Depth of field   40mm         80mm
Scan width       70mm         80mm
Stand-off        100mm        100mm
Size                260x110x65mm
Weight                  2.2kg

IBEO Lasertechnik
Ingenieurburo fur
Elektronik + Optik
Fahrenkron 125
D 2000 Hamburg 71
tel: 040 645 87 - 01
fax: 040 645 87 - 101

2D and 3D laser scanners. 8frame/sec, 220 degree view, 4600 points/sec. Accuracy +/- 20mm (1 sigma) from 0.5 - 500? 24W power. System specs can be configured for variety of applications

Rochester, NY
tel: 716.272.5420

Manufactures semiconductor laser diode packages and cylindrical lenses. Packages and small and rugged.

1515 South Manchester Ave
Anaheim, CA 92802-2907
tel: 714.758.0300

Odetics has made a number of smaller laser scanners. That is, smaller than their larger ERIM and Perceptron brethren. I have not heard any independent reviews of the product however.

Origin Instruments
854 Greenview Drive
Grand Praire, TX 750750-2438
tel: 214.606.8740
fax: 214.606.8741

The Dynasight sensor is a 3-D optical radar that provides real-time 3-D measurements of passive targets with sub-millimeter resolution. Automatic search and track is provided, eye-safe operation and no adjustments or alignment required. Original application was head tracking of computer users but end- effector tracking is also viable. Operatin range depends on target size 0.1-1.5m for 7mm target, 0.3-4m for 25mm target and 1 to 6m for 75mm targets. RS-232 interface. Accuracies 1mm cross range and 4mm down range, resolutions 0.1mm cross range and 0.4mm down range.

A number of labs have built light stripe devices using projected light LCD shutters and laser line projectors determine distance through geometry (as opposed to directly measuring distance through time-of-flight means) One common need is that of generating the laser line.

23855 Research Drive
Farmington Hills, MI 48335-2643
tel: 313.478.7710
tel: 800.333.7753
fax: 313.478.7059

A spin-off of ERIM, Perceptron has also built a number of AM laser rangefinders. CMU and Caterpillar have used these for map building and obstacle avoidance work in rough terrain navigation.

LASAR product - provides range and reflectance. Programmable field of view (15 to 60 deg) Vertical viewing angle from 3 to 72 degrees. Depth of field from 2 to 40 meters. Up to 1024 x 2048 pixels per image (programmable) and 360,000 pixels/second data acquisition. VME and PC-compatible interface cards available. Windows software provides starting point for custom applications. Less than $50K with a variety of performance and interface options.

Riegl Laser Measurement Systems
Riegl USA
8516 Old Winter Garden Road
Suite 101
Orlando, FL 32835
tel: 407.294.2799
fax: 407.294.3215

[company HQ is Dr. Johannes Riegl GmbH, 85 km, NW of Vienna, Austria]

Laser range finders, laser speed sensors, laser distance meters, motor scanners, laser radar systems. Pulsed laser devices. One of the neatest is the Laser Scout, which gives range, azimuth and inclination to the target and can be used with GPS to give position coordinates of the device you are pointing at. $10K. Accuracy up to +/- 10cm (depending on model)

Laser Radar Scanner (LRS 90-3) is a 1D scanner with 36 deg field of view and a +/- 3cm accuracy. 2-80m distance, $10K. There are several other distance models as well.

Schwarz Electro-Optics
3404 N. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32804
tel: 407.298.1802
fax: 407.297.1794

Schwarz makes some very nice point range laser ranging devices. These devices are slightly bigger than a soda can. About $6-12K. CMU experience for use in simulated unmanned air vehicle platform worked well. Their MARS (marine angle range system) is a rotating laser device that reflects off targets in the environment. Max range up to 1000meters using corner prisms. Accuracy +/- 1m. Erebus (Dante) Scanner used Schwarz device as base.

Zoller+Frohlich Elecktrotechnik
Postfach 1565
88231 Wangen im Allgau
Simoniusstrabe 22
88239 Wangen im Allgau
tel: (07522) 3064-67
fax: (07522) 200 36 Z+F are a spinoff from the Technical Univeristy of Munich and have developed some nice 2 and 3D scanning devices but primarily devlop the laser electronics. Initially for tunnelling inspection and verification. Two-frequency phase shift device (10/80MHz) with 15m depth of field. Resolution to .45mm, accuracy to 5mm, and 500KHz smapling rate. scanner mechanism provides 360 degree profiles and 2500 pixels/profile and 200 profiles/second. 4.5mW laser (Class 1 >3m). 3D camera provides 58 deg horz (321 pixels) and 52 deg vert (232 lines) 15-bit range value, 12bit gray level value from reflection signal. 12kg 3D unit.

[10.1.4] Force/torque, accelerometers, tactile

Force measurement provides indications of magnitude and direction of forces for use in manipulation or locomotion. A variety of control schemes have been implemented in force controlled systems to allow smooth and accurate control in situations that would otherwise be precluded without such devices. A number of load cells and acceleration measuring devices are described here:

Rich Voyles embarked on a force/torque sensor comparison many months ago and compiled some of the results in a paper that is available via the web or anonymous ftp. The paper is woefully incomplete. The JR3 sensor we borrowed was broken so we borrowed another and got limited data. The old Lord data collection is incomplete and the Assurance Technologies data is not fully included in the report. There is some data from California Cybernetics. If there is sufficient interest, we can finish the compilation. By the way, we only seek to provide the data we gathered an make no claims as to its accuracy or completeness. Use at your own risk. The opinions expressed do not represent those of Carnegie Mellon University nor any of its sponsors. Send e-mail to with the subject "More Force Data" if you read the report and would like to see it expanded. Any other comments can be put in the body. -Richard Voyles

Analog Devices
tel: 617.937.1426

Analog Devices have the ADXL50 accelerometer which comes in a 10-pin TO-5 can. It is primarily used with air-bags and has a 1994 projected price of $5 in quantities. In the Electronic Design August 8, 1991 issue it quoted the current price as $21.75 for 1000 off quantities. Analog Devices ADXL50 accelerometer.

  Power Supply........................... +5V (+/- 5%)
  Measurement Range...................... +/- 50g
  Pre-Amp Zero-g output level............ +1.8V
  Pre-Amp output span.................... +1.8V (+/-1.2V) at +/-50g
  Uncommitted amp output range........... +0.25V to +4.75V
  Overall Accuracy....................... 5% of Full Scale
  Linearity.............................. 0.5% of Full Scale
  Bandwidth.............................. DC to 1kHz
  Voltage Noise (p-p)
    at BW = 0.3kHz..................... +/-0.24% of Full Scale
    at BW = 1.0kHz..................... +/-0.48% of Full Scale
  Transverse Sensitivity................. 2%
  Unpowered Shock Survival............... 2000g

ATI Industrial Automation
(formerly Assurance Technologies)
(formerly Lord Industrial Automation)
Peachtree Center
503D Highway 70 East
Garner, North Carolina 27529
tel: 919.772.0115
fax: 919.772.8259

Largest supplier of multi-axis force sensors. Use silicon rather than foil strain gages for lower strain levels and increased life. F/T sensor ratings from +/- 15lbs to +/- 150lbs (+/- 15 in-lbs to +/- 600 in-lbs) weights are 0.4 and 2.2 lbs for the 4 available sensors. Serial or parallel digital interface or analog interface. ATI also makes robotic tool-changers and an RCC device for assembly operations. An ATI sensor is also incorporated in the Hughes SMARTee end-effector.

Bonneville Scientific
1849 W. No. Temple, Bldg E.
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
tel: 801.359.0402
fax: 801.359.0416

Array sensor system that uses PVDF ultrasonic emmitter/detector attached to an elastomer material. Time-of-flight of the pulse as it bounces off of other side of the material is porportional to distance through the elastomer. The distance is porportional the pressure on the pad. Bonneville claims it can be made thin enough for a skin and they have pictures of it being used on a robot finger picking up a washer which can be recognized on their output graphics. Example product:

Model 300 - 16x16 tactile sensor system - $5K
TOF resolution - 12.5 ns
Sheet thickness resolution - 6 microns
Pressure resolution - 0.5 psi (3.4 kPa)
Force resolution - 1g
Rubber linearity - 5-15% deviation
Overload - > 1000PSI (7000kPa)
Spatial resolution - 1.8mm
Scan rate on 16x16 pad - 240 Hz
An evaluation kit is available SE-1 Evaluation Kit - $99.00 includes SE-1 sensor and electronics. SE-1 Sensor is $42 in single quantity.
California Cybernetics
10322 Sherman Grove
Sunland, CA 91040
tel: 818.353.5991
fax: 818.951.3889

Six DOF F-T devices. Up to 1000Hz sampling rate, reportedly easy to interface.

1919 Green Road
Suite B-101
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
tel: 313.668.2567
fax: 313.668.8780

PER-force - A 6dof compact force-reflecting controller. Can be used for teleoperationor interactive graphics applications.

Need addresses
Somewhere in MA

Conductive rubber and conductive inks. You build a semi-rigid circuit board with inter-digitated fingers to apply to one side of the rubber. The rubber has a rough surface that under increasing load allows more rubber to contact. They can make rubber with all sorts of conductive properties.

Force Imaging
3424 Touhy Avenue
Chicago, IL 60645-2717
tel: 708.674.7665
tel: 800.348.3240
fax: 708.674.6355

Uniforce Force Sensors. They function similiar to a variable resistor in an electrical circuit. As a force is exerted on the sensor, the two layers of pressure sensitive material compress together and cause a change in resistance which corresponds to a change in pressure. As force increases, resistance decreases. A Uniforce experimenters kit is available for $550 and includes PC-AT card, cables, software, manual and nine Uniforce sensors in three force ranges. They have ISA boards, PCMCIA version and a PPIO version as well. Sensors available in ranges from 0-500g to 0-400kg. Uniforce sensors can be provided in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and force ranges. Software is also available to display force values in real-time.

Hughes STX
4400 Forbes Blvd
Lanham, MD 20706
tel: 301.794.5016
fax: 301.306.0963

A 6-dof end-effector with automatic load sensing and compensation. Control modes include position control (cartesian with user spec-ed poses and frames), impedence and force control modes. Programmable behaviors (sliding, hinge, move-to-touch, guarded move, follow etc), open architecture (VxWorks, VME, user-linakable libraries) and a lot more. Interfaces available included RS-232, ethernet, RS-422 and SCSI. Pretty amazing end-effector!

Interlink Electronics
1110 Mark Ave.
Carpinteria, CA 93013
tel: 805.484.8855
805.484.1331 (product support)
fax: 805.484.8989

Force Sensing resistors made from polymer thick films. Very thin. Response is approx. 1/R to force. Article in March 1993 issue of Electronics Now/Radio Electronics.

22 Harter Avenue
Woodland, CA 95695
tel: 916.661.3677

6-DOF force-torque sensors. Strain gage technology. Newer packages have all electronics built into the sensor. Make some high-force devices as well. CMU's Ambler used JR3's on all the feet with good success. Complete force torque data at 8Khz, signal digitization within sensor body, low noise susceptibility, synch serial at 2MHz, inexpensive cabling.

Merritt Systems, Inc.
435 Gus Hipp Blvd. Bldg. B
Rockledge, FL 32955
Contact: Ronald L. Remus, C.E.O.
tel: 407.632.4968
fax: 407.

Sensor Skin for Robots. The Skin is designed to assist robots working in constrained, hazardous, dynamic, or high cost environments. The system uses a whole-arm proximity sensing systems for articulated robots that provides complete voverage of the entire manipulator to ensure that every obstacle in the robots path can be detected and avoided. The proximity sensing technology is based on IR arrays which they call "SensorCells". It allows the use of IR, acoustic and capacitive (under-development) sensors in the same sensor skin. The two main components of the Skin are smart sensor modules and the flexible printed circuit board skin. Module sockets are placed at regular intervals on the flexible skin and simply plugged in by the user where required. Redundant cables carrying data and power are connected to each panel. But a minimum of four cables can be used for up to 1024 sensors.

Silicon Designs, Inc.
1445-NW Mall Street
Issaquah, WA. 98027-5344
tel: 206.391.8329
fax: 206.391.0446

Silicon Designs makes capacitive accelerometers.

Model 1010, Digital output:
Produces Digital pulse train in which the density of pulses (number of pulses a second) is proprtional to applied acceleration. It operates with a single +5 volt power supply and requires a clock of 100kHz - 1MHz. The output is ratiometric to the clock frequency and independent of the power supply voltage. Two forms of digital signals are provided for direct interfacing to a microprocessor or counter. This devices comes in a PLCC package that is smaller than a penny.
Model 1210, Analog output:
Provides two analog outputs, 1-4 volts, or 4-1 volt, with O g's at 2.5 volts. The outputs can be used either differentially or single ended referenced to 2.5 volts. Two reference voltages--+5.0 and +2.5 volts (nominal)-- are required; the output scale factor is ratiometric to the +5 volt reference voltage.

Prices start at about $100 and they offer a digital accelerometer evaluation board for $200.

Silicon Microstructures, Inc.
46725 Fremont Boulevard
Fremont CA. 94538
tel: 510.490.5010
fax: 510.490.1119

Model 7170 series and 7130 series capacitive accelerometers. These are relatively large devices with built in ASIC signal processing. They have very good accuracy specs and are pre-calibrated. They also make pressure sensors.

Spectra Symbol
3101 West 2100 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84119

Bend sensor for glove device. Their business is custom membrane controls: switches, membrane potentiometers, and the bend sensors.

[10.1.5] Sonar sensors

The time it takes for an acoustic pulse to propagate through air or water, reflect from the environment and return to a detector is porportional to the distance.

Acoustic time-of-flight devices have been around for awhile now. The ubiquitous Polaroid device is cheap and easily integrated and has has found wide use in robotic devices. Other companies have developed nice complete turnkey sonar devices though and Polaroid is no longer the only choice.

Polaroid Corporation
119 Windsor St,
Cambridge, MA 02139
tel: 617.386.3961
fax: 617.386.3966
tel: 800.225.1000 ordering
tel: 800.225.1618 technical assistance

Polaroid Ultrasonic Components Group offers two ultrasonic ranging kits:

Distance range: 0.26 to 10.7 meters
Resolution: Nominal +- 3mm to 3m, +-1% over entire range
Sonar acceptance angle: approx. 20 degrees
Power Requirement: 6VDC, 2.5 Amps (1 ms pulse), 150mA quiescent
Weight: Transducer, 8.2gm, Ranging module, 18.4 gm
Designer's Kit:
1 transducer, 1 ranging module, electronics display accurate to 1/10th meter. Cost is $169
OEM kit:
2 transducers, 2 ranging modules. $99.
Piezotransducer kit
2.5cm-1500cm +/- 1%, RS-232 port and analog output, extra real estate, $299

Polaroid has several new products as well: K-series piezo transducers and 9000 Series Environmental Transducer.

Modifying the drive circuitry:

This section describes a simple addition to the drive circuitry, the Polaroid ranging system can detect objects as close as 10cm.

The board has two extra signals: BLNK and BINH. Asserting BLNK (driving it HIGH) resets the ECHO RS-latch, and asserting BINH shortens the internal blanking interval (which is 2.38 ms by default). Thus, the solution would seem to lie in asserting BINH after a reasonable amount of time (less than 2.38 ms after asserting INIT) to detect objects closer than 1.3 feet. This doesn't work very well because BINH is very susceptable to noise, and attaching a driver to it wreaks havoc possibly because of the anomalous current sink during the transmit phase. This can be fixed by asserting BLNK during the blanking period (ie the new blanking period) while negating BINH and asserting BIHN after the blanking period while negating BLNK. This can be done easily with a one-shot or some other timing device (eg computer timer, etc).

A computer timer can be used. The timer goes HIGH tblank ms after INIT is asserted, where tblank=0.15*dist and dist is the threshold distance in inches). The timer output goes to BINH and the inverted timer output goes to BLNK. The timer output should be inverted with an LS/TTL inverter to delay the negation of BLNK, otherwise the RS latch may do weird things. [From Richard LeGrand]


Nice complete sensor package, 5 degree cone angle


Texas Instruments

At one point TI made a Type SN28827 Sonar Ranging Module. See TI Applications Notes D2780. Under $50, needs only 5VDC Not sure if these units are still manufactured but they are often in surplus catalogs. However some other products include these: See data sheets at: Data sheets available in several formats. 1. TL851, SONAR RANGING CONTROL 2. TL852, SONAR RANGING RECEIVER

[10.1.6] Pan/tilt mechanisms

A common robotic need. Most pan-tilts sold today by companies such as Pelco and Vicon are for CCTV applications for continuous scanning or remote operation. At most these will have potentiometers for feedback. A number of undersea companies make pan-tilt devices as well that are rugged and nicely packaged, but these tend to be heavier and more expensive than their terrestrial counterparts.
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL)
contact: Narinder Bains (
net: 905.823.9040 x6120

P02 pan/tilt head. High speed with digital servos (120 deg/sec), encoders and continuous rotation. Controller as well.

Brooks Support Systems
Williamson, NY
tel: 800-836-0285 contact: Frank Dickey

BSS makes a small pan/tilt unit:

4.5" high by 3.5" wide x 3.5" long
40 oz.
12V dc
operating current 150 mA
pan 359 degrees
tilts 160 degrees
Price: $3100


CameraMan is a pan/tilt device built to support any camcorder and has a wireless interface to an external remote control. 360 deg pan and 50 deg of tilt. The unit is made by ParkerVision and sold through Columbia AudioVideo (and probably other suppliers)

CCTV Corporation
315 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013
tel: 800.221.2240
fax: 212.463.9758

Standard CCTV pan-tilt devices like those from Vicon and others. Inexpensive but no computer control. $557 - $1400

Directed Perception
1451 Capuchino Avenue,
Burlingame, CA 94010
tel: 415.342.9399

Small computer controlled pan-tilt unit Model PTU-46-17.5 Weighs 1kg and can support ~1.5kg camera payload. Very nice specs: 330 deg/sec slew, 3.06 arcmin accuracy, on-the-fly position and speed changes. 11-40VDC unregulated power input, RS-232 interface. Can use RS-485 using RJ-11 to provide control of multiple PT units. Cost: $1935 Includes PT unit, controller, cable and power supply. $1800 w/o power supply.

Efston Science Inc
3350 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M6A 3A4
tel: 416.787.4581
fax: 416.787.5140

Efston is the Canadian Distributor for Edmund Scientific

Motorized Pan/Tilt platform with remote control:

   (mounts upon a camera tripod)
   - auto pan mode
   - variable speed
   - 2.75"W x 2.25"L platform with .25-20 mount screw
   - independent +- 15 degree max vertical pan
   - independent +- 90 degree max horizontal pan
   - autopan switch selectable +- 30, +- 60, +-90 degree scans
   - remote control has 20 foot cord
   -           cat # B38,485           US$215.00
   - ac adapter      B38,486           US$33.95
[1995 Catalog, page 111]
Emco Intertest Inc
27-1 Ironia Road
Flanders, NJ 07836
tel: 201.927.2900
fax: 201.927.8004

MicroPan PTX-400 very small P/T designed for remote viewing with micro-CCD cameras. Weight 115g. Height under 7cm.

10 High Point Drive
Wayne, NJ 07470
tel: 201.633.5600
fax: 201.633.5216

Fujinon CPT-10. 300 deg pan, =/- 95deg tilt. 15 deg/sec speed. 2kg. Payload 4kg. Analog input control.

tel: 615.690.5600

Instead of a conventional camera, you use one with a very wide fish-eye lens. The (very distorted) image is then sent thru a box that digitizes and processes the data in order to simulate a regular camera. You can (completely in software) pan, tilt, rotate, and zoom the image with great flexibility. $10K.

6377 Nancy Ridge Drive
San Diego, CA 92121
tel: 619.452.8903

Underwater pan-tilts including Cobra, very small design.

Remote Ocean Systems
5111-L Santa Fe Street
San Diego, CA 92109
tel: 619.483.3902
fax: 619.483.2407

Underwater P/T systems, expensive but very nicely packaged. PT-5 is a new subminature P/T device that can accomodate a small CCD color camera and mini wet&dry lights. The P/T is 13.5cm high and 10cm wide. Uses small brushless motors with harmonic drives. Radiation tolerant and corrosion resistant. 360 scan on both axes.

RSI Research Ltd.
Pacific Marine Technology Center
#3-203 Harbour Road
Victoria, BC. CANADA V9A 3S2
tel: 604.360.1025
fax: 604.360.1161

Underwater Pan/tilt devices.

Hammacher Schlemmer
Operations Center
9180 Le Saint Drive
Fairfield, OH 45014-575
tel: 800.543.3366

H-S is an upscale mail-order outfit that's been around since 1848 and has stores in New York City, Beverly Hills and Chicago. They currently show a wireless pan-tilt unit in their catalog. IR remote control, +/- 20 deg tilt and +/-90deg pan. Can be set to do continuous 90 deg panning and can even control power zoom on many camcorder models. Powered by 6V batteries built into Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo-Fisher or JVC camcorders. 8.75cmH x 11cmW x 14.5cmL AND .45kg. Item 63201B in H-S $149.95. The Picture shows the label SUNPAK and AP 200W (model number?) - [If anyone has further information on the manufacturer or other sales outlets let me know - nivek]

Hawthorne, NJ
tel: 201.423.0347

Computer controlled P/T devices - fairly large though.

TeleRobotics International, Inc.
7325 Oak Ridge Hwy Suite 104
Knoxville, TN 37931
tel: 615.690.5600
fax: 615.690.2913

An all-electronic pan/tilt/zoom resampler. That is, they put a box behind a camera with a fish-eye lens. The box has digital inputs for pan, tilt, zoom, rotation. The box resamples the video signal and produces an output as though the image were acquired by a camera with those parameters. Used as an alternative to pan/tilt devices.

Zebra Kinesis
tel: 415.328.8884
contact:Jeff Kerr

Small Pan/tilt head.

[10.1.7] Measuring 3 or 6DOF position

How do I measure the postion of my manipulator or my mobile robot?

In many applications there is a need to accurately measure the position of an end-effector (hand or gripper) or find coordinate locations on objects, or track motion, or give a time and position history of a moving object. Virtual reality applications need this kind of device to provide realtime adjustments to views that are projected to VR users. See sci.virtual-worlds for discussions on this topic. Robotics people have needed this to provide accurate assessments of manipulator motions and mobile robot positions.

An excellent paper on the subject of sensing and methods of using that information is: "Where Am I? Sensors and Methods for Autonomous Mobile Robot Localization." Technical Report, The University of Michigan UM-MEAM-94-21, December 1994." It is a comprehensive survey on Mobile Robot Positioning. This survey is over 200 pages long, has 130 illustrations and nearly 300 references, and took well over one man-year to complete. The survey is entitled "Where Am I? Sensors and Methods for Autonomous Mobile Robot Localization" A description and table of contents can be found here. To download the report go here and read this file first. Alternatively, you can look at a detailed Table of Contents from within Johann Borenstein's WWW Homepage at: Johann's Home Page Before you download the actual survey, you should read the "readme.txt" file for compatibility tips, and you should read the "um_index.wp5" file to see if you want to download all or only selected chapters of the report. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is an excellent positioning system that is useful in outdoor settings, although recent developments in Psuedolites (Pseudo Satellities) may bring GPS technology indoors and to urban envrionments. While accuracy is intentionally degraded by the US Military recent advances in differential systems and innovative tracking techniques can give 20cm real-time accuracy. Even newer techniques such as carrier-phase are bringing this figure into the mm range for real-time. See news:sci.geo.satellite-nav for full discussions of this technology.

Papers: Useful papers to solve for transforms from positioning devices for multiple reference frames:

Commercial Devices:
Blevins Enterprises
tel: 208-885-3805
contact: Nick Sewell

Blevins writes their own utilities and sell 3D digitizers starting @ around $2,400 on up to around $75,000. Software is compatible with Lightwave and 3D Studio modelling programs and will be ported to SGI and PC's soon. Provide software to talk with Polhemus, a sonic digitizer and a jointed-arm unit from Immersion.

8 Harris Court 3D
Monterey, CA 93940
tel: 408.373.1441
fax: 408.373.3582
Italian distributor:

Has 3D scanner. Cyberware has software for editing 3D models, and stitching multiple scans into a single coherent whole. Software is $5-10K each. Cyberware 3030RGB/HIREZ scanner with MM motion platform, complete with all software, training and one-year support costs [US] $75,200.

Eshed Robotics
Eshed Robotec
Israel (HQ)
tel: 03-498136
fax: 03-498889

In the US

Eshed Robotec Inc.
445 Wall St.
Princeton, NJ 08540-1504
tel: 609.683.4884
tel: 800.777.6288

Eshed Robotec BV
Oude Torenweg 29
5388 RK Nistelrode
The Netherlands
tel: +31.412.611476
fax: +31.412.613185

url: and

Eshed's V-scope allows you to measure, record, process, and demonstrate the motion of one or more bodies in one, two or three dimensions. The V-scopeTM system uses tracking technology which emits infrared signals to trigger ultrasonic response signals. This technology allows full three-dimensional tracking within a space of a few meters, with resolution of a fraction of a millimeter. See V-scope for more details.

Intelligent Solutions Inc.
One Endicott Avenue
Marblehead, MA 01945
tel: 617.639.8144
fax: 617.639.8144
contact: Jim Maddox

Intelligent Solutions Inc. was formed in Nov. of 1993 by four of the former engineers of Denning Mobile Robotics. They are focusing on building smart sensors and their first product is the EZNav Position Sensor. EZNav is a precision optical position sensor that can be used on moving platforms such as automated guided vehicles, robots, or material handling equipment. EZNav uses an eye safe scanning laser with a 360 degree field of view to measure the azimuth angle to wall mounted reference reflectors. This angle data can be used to triangulate the position and heading relative to the known target locations. EZNav is unique in its ability to use passive reflectors as well as coded electronic targets. Current work includes adding the triangulation calculations to the EZNav sensor and a new Ultrasonic based position sensor.

Target Range 30m passive up to 180m active
Abs. Accuracy +/- 0.03 degrees RMS
Scan Rate 12 per second
Data Rate 9.6k baud RS 232
Power 24 volts at 300 ma
Size 30cm Dia x 35cm High
Weight 4.5kg
An EZNav sensor with 10 passive targets costs $6,600. There is a ten percent discount for educational uses.
Kinetic Sciences
3250 East Mall
Vancouver, BC, CANADA V6T 1W5
tel: 604.822.2144
fax: 604.822.6188

Eagle Eye (TM) is a Power Macintosh application that accurately tracks specially designed passive optical targets. It can track multiple targets simultaneously in visually cluttered environments using a single video camera. For each target that it can see, it is able to determine seven parameters:

The approach we have taken is particularly well suited to docking and inspection applications. For further information, check out the Eagle Eye web page at:
NES North Electronic Systems S.p.A.
via Nazionale, 62
1-17043 CARCARE (SV), Italy
tel: +39-19-510420
fax: +39-19-512198 Distributed Local Positioning System (DLPS) is a positioning system for indoor applications in a multi-robot environment using active beacons with modulated light beams (coherent red, non-coherent IR). The localization system also allows communication by optical wireless links between hosts and robots. The system utilizes and on-board rotating unit and a set of active beacons distributed in the operating area. The active beacons are optical transponders and, optionally, transceivers connected to a IEEE 485 serial LAN.

Systems can operate up to 16m distance and with a localization accuracy under 20mm in static and 70mm in dynamic localization. DLPA was developed in cooperation with Laboratorium, DIST - University of Genoa. email:, and URL website

Polhemus Inc.
Burlington, VT
tel: 802.655.3139
fax: 802.655.1439

3Space, Isotrak, FasTrak: Electromagnetic devices for sensing xyz and rotations remotely. Limited to 1m or so radius. Sensitive to metallic objects in vicinity. Approx $3k

Ascension Technology Corporation
PO Box 527
Burlington VT 05402 USA
tel: 802.860.6440
fax: 802.860.6439

Sales: Jack Scully Technical Support: Steven Work Product is called Flock of Birds. A 6d0f measuring device. Ftp site is

Contains general literature on 6D motion tracking system. Accuracy Specifications, comments from prominent users, list of 3rd party software vendors, FAQ on tracking system, etc. Ascii text.
Technical Description of Flock of Birds (TM) 6D tracking system. In Binary WordPerfect 6.0 format.
Latest version of our User Software, including source code. Enjoy. pkzipped binary file.
Latest version of our User Manual. In Binary WordPerfect 6.0 format.
more info on files located in Ascension's FTP directory. Ascii text.
Sensitivity to metal is claimed to be on the order 5 to 10 times less than Polhemus tracker. Range and specifications are much better as well.

The Ascension Flock of Birds tracker is DC pulsed, where the Polhemus is AC magnetic field. The AC field set up standing waves in metal (conduction and ferrous) which magnify the distortion effect.

Charts provided by Acension:


Parameter                         Ascension        Polhemus     Polhemus
                                Flock of Birds     Isotrak II    Fastrak
Measurement Rate
        1 Receiver                      144             60        120
        2 Receivers                     144             30         60
        @ Max Number of Rcvrs           144             30         30
Maximum Number of Receivers              30             2          32
Number of Transmitters to                 1             1           4
Support Max Number of Receivers
Maximum Data Output Rate                312K            115K       115K
 (Baud or Bytes)
Lag Increase with Multiple              No              Yes        Yes
Range - Standard Transmitter            3'              5'*        10'*
        - Extended Transmitter          8'              N/A        N/A
Accuracy Degradation Due to:
        Conductive Metals               Low             High       High
        Stainless Steel                 None            High       High
         (300 series)
CRT Interference Rejection              Yes             No         Yes
LCD Noise Susceptability                No              Yes        Yes
Unit Cost (1 Receiver)                  $2,695          $2,875     $5,750
* Note 1: Polhemus specifies range at maximum transmitter-sensor separation distances. At these ranges, outputs will contain significant amounts of noise, which may render their measurements worthless. We will provide you with a number of references who have independently assessed actual range performance of both Ascension and Polhemus trackers.

** Note 2: For a complete discussion of latency in competitive motion trackers, contact Ascension.

     Translation range:       plus or minus 3'(8' optional) in any direction
     Angular range:           plus of minuw 180 degrees Azimuth & Roll
                              plus or minus 90 degrees Elevation
     Translation accuracy:    0.1" RMS
     Translation resolution:  0.03"
     Angular accuracy         0.5 degrees RMS 
     Angular resolution       0.1 degrees RMS @ 12"
     Update rate:             Up to 144 measurements/second
     Outputs:                 X,Y,Z positional coordinates and orientation
                              angles or rotation matrix
     Interface:               RS-232C with selectable baud rates to 115,200; or
                              RS-422/485 with selectable baud rates to 310,000
     Format:                  Binary
     Modes:                   Point or stream
     Transmitter: 3.75-inch cube (internally mounted in Enclosure or 
                  externally mounted with 10' cable) or extended range 
                  transmitter option: 12-inch cube externally mounte with 
                  20' cable
     Receiver:    1.0" x 1.0" x 0.8" cube (or optional 3-button mouse) 
                  with 10' or 25' cable
     Enclosure:   9.5" x 11.5" x 2.6"
     Power:       User provided or optional external plug-in: US/European 
     Environment: Large metallic objects in operating volume may degrade 

RSI Research Ltd.
Pacific Marine Technology Center
#3-203 Harbour Road
Victoria, BC. CANADA V9A 3S2
tel: 604.360.1025
fax: 604.360.1161

RSI Research makes a 6 DOF joystick. It has a medium workspace (about 10 cm radius) and several buttons.

Shooting Star Technology
1921 Holdom Avenue
Burnaby, B.C.
Canada V5B 3W4
tel: 604.298.8574
fax: 604.298.8580

ADL-1 6DOF tracker. Gives position/orientation measurements up to 240 times/second, with low latency (0.35 to 1.88 milliseconds.)

Abrams-Gentile Entertainment, Inc.,
244 West 54th Street,
9th Floor, New York, NY 10019
tel: 212.757.0700

Mattel marketed the PowerGlove for use in gaming (Nintendo). It tracked finger motions through small bend sensors. The Mattel PowerGlove was developed by Abrams-Gentile. The sensors themselves are simple resistors varying from about 200K to 500K ohms depending on the amount of flex.

Denning Branch International Robotics
1401 Ridge Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15233
tel: (412) 322-4412
fax: (412) 322-2040

email: Soon. Messages to will be forwarded. Denning-Branch is a merger of Denning Mobile Robotics, once located in the Boston area, and makers of human-size mobile robots since 1983, and Branch and Associates, of Hobart, Australia, designers and builders of smaller mobile robots since 1979. LaserNav Robot-mounted scanning infrared laser unit that uses wall mounted bar-coded retroreflectors or active transponders to navigate to centimeter precision in 10-meter-scale areas. $8K

Guidance Control Systems (GCS)
tel: 011 44 203 39 3911
fax: 011 44 203 39 4211
Contact: Malcolm Roberts

GCS's core group developed the rotating scanner and passive target system. Featured in several papers out of Oxford. Uses passive targets with barcodes. Targets have unique ID's and surveyed positions. Rotating laser gives angles between targets. Target positions combined with angles gives vehicle position and heading. 2Hz scan rate but clever use of dead reckoned information and kalman filtering gives very impressive results. New products go to 200-300m ranges.

Innovision Systems
30521 Schoenherr, Suite 104
Warren, MI 48093-3129
tel: 810.751.0600
fax: 810.751.0646

Innovision specialized in non-contact measurements. 2-3 dimensions. On-site, software development, leasing. They are representatives for several non-contact measurement systems. See Below.

MTI Research Inc.
313 Littleton Rd.
Chelmsford, MA 01824
contact: Ed MacLeod
tel: 508.250.4949

Update speed: 20 hz Position accuracy: +/-0.05inches (1.27 mm) This really depends on range as well. direction accuracy: +/- 0.05 degrees. 3D reference points covering up km distances. 1D, 2D or 3D feedback. Cost: About $6K-$10K for positioning system. Custom software available for graphing, updating etc. Accuracy available even when the robot is moving at several meters/sec.

Selcom Selective Electronics Inc
21654 Melrose Avenue
Southfield, MI 48075
tel: 810.355.5900
In Sweden:
tel: +46-31-878110
fax: +46-31-278992

Selective markets optical triangulation laser-based devices and laser gaging systems. They also make the Selspot tracking system. The Selspot is a two camera system that registers 3D position of IR LED's at very high data rates. Selspots Robot Check System can provide non-contact 3D measurement and analysis of robot motion at 500 Hz rate. System has been used for over 20 years. Used in motion studies for people, animals and robots. Active markers are used (IR LEDs) Fast sampling up to 10K Hz. Selspot is marketed by: Innovision Systems

30521 Schoenherr, Suite 104
Warren, MI 48093-3129
tel: 810.751.0600
fax: 810.751.0646

Qualisys AB
Ogardesvagen 4
S-433 30 Partille
41C New London Turnpike
Glastonbury, CT 06033
tel: 203.657.3585
fax: 203.657.3595

MacReflex system uses CCD-based cameras for non-contacting measurement of robots. Two camera system is typical. Uses small passive targets and IR LED's colocated with the cameras lens. Video processor calculates centroid of markers and displays in real-time. Information is used to provide data and analysis of position, velocity, acceleration, angles, angle velocity and acceleration and position vs. time. Specs: Noise level 1:200000, resolution 1:70000, Relative accuracy: 1:30000, and absolute accuracy 1:10000. Accuracy is defined as standard deviation of difference between measured and true positions/longest diagonal in measurement volume. 50Hz and 120Hz and high accuracies.

MacReflex is marketed by: Innovision Systems

30521 Schoenherr, Suite 104
Warren, MI 48093
tel: 810.751.0600
fax: 810.751.0646

Coordinate Measuring Machines

Coordinate Measuring Machines are now widely used for process control, statistical monitoring, entering 3D from a physical part into a CAD system and many other uses. CMM's tend to be large and expensive and fixed but there are a number of devices now on the market to provide accurate positioning information.
623 Cooper Court
Schaumburg, IL 60173
tel: 708.843.3666
fax: 708.843.1744

Renishaw makes a ballbar mechanism to measure and calibrate machine tool motion errors including backlash, servo error, squareness, straightness, axis reversal, vibration, scale mismatch etc. It uses a precise linear measuring device and interpolates a circular profile from which all the above information is calculated.

Renishaw also makes a high speed digitizing and scanning system for the tool and die industry. It's a CMM style machine that can generate NC programs from scanned parts. They also have a scanning system that retrofits to existing CNC mills. Supraporte Inc

5145-I Avenida Encinas
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Portable 6-axis measuring system. Model 2000 now available with battery power pack. Very accurate. Very expensive.

125 Technology Park
Lake Mary, FL 32746-6204
tel: 800.736.6063
tel: 407.333.9911
fax: 407.333.4181

Metrecom: 6DOF articulated pointer, like a portable CMM. Endpoint accuracies are around .005" -> .025", depending on model. Counterbalnaced design. Three models from 1.8m to 2.4m reach and accuracies ranging from +/- .635mm to .127mm and prices from $14.4K to $51.4K respectively.

Chesapeake Laser Systems
222 Gale Lane
Kennett Square, PA 19348
tel: 215.444.2300
fax: 215.444.2323

Laser metrology systems. CMS-3000 is a servo controlled tracking laser interferometer measureing tool. The tracker follows a retroreflective target whil providing real-time coordinate information of the retro center location. Position of the target is provided in XYZ coordinates via linear distance and two high accuracy angular encoders. CMS-3000 can provide measurements over a large volume. 30m radial, > 110 degrees elevation, > 270 horizontal. Down to 0.6 micron resolution, 2 parts in 10^5 accuracy for range. (1m/sec tracking) up to 6m/sec tracking at 5 micron resolution. Lightweight and cost effective versus CMM's and offers speed and accuracy advantages over theodolites and photogrammetry equipment. System can be leased by hour/week/month. About $180K to buy.

[10.1.8] Measuring linear motion

There are very few devices to directly give absolute position for linear motions. Often rack and pinion drives are combined with geared rotary encoders to give absolute position. Here are some manufacturers of Magneorestrictive sensors for measuring absolute linear position. Accuracy is usually around 0.05% of full scale. Futaba also makes an absolute linear position glass scale device. Magneostrictive Devices Gemco Magnetek
1080 N. Crooks Road
Clawson, MI 48017-1097
tel: 313.435.0700
fax: 313.435.8120


PO Box 937
8125 Holton Drive
Florence, KY 41042
tel: 800.543.8390
fax: 606.727.4823

MTS Systems Corporation (Temposonics)

Sensors Division
Box 13218
Research Triangle Park, NC 27708
tel: 919.677.0100
fax: 919.677.0200


PO Box 377
Hibernia, NJ 07842
tel: 201.586.2500
fax: 201.586.1590

[10.1.9] Interfacing sensors

Atmos Technology,Inc
1060 Lincoln Av,
San Jose Ca 95125
tel: 408.292.8066
fax: 408.292.8241

The AT1000A is a single chip sensor interface circuit that has been used in pressure, acceleration, temperature and humidity applications. 20 PIN SOIC Package, 12-Bit A/D Converter, 64 Bits EEPROM memory. Programmable pulsed current source via EEPROM memory. Three channel A/D: Iout1,Iout2, and Vdiff.

[10.2] Actuators

Most actuation uses electro-magnetic motors and gears but there have been frequent questions regarding other forms of actuation including 'muscle-wires' and inexpensive RC-servos. How do I get a motor under computer control? What kind of motor should I use? What are the differences between actuator types? What other types of actuation are there?

Types of motors:

[10.2.1] RC-Servos

R/C servos for model airplanes, cars and other vehicles are light, rugged, cheap and fairly easy to interface. Some of the units can provide very high torques speed. For prices and specs see one of the many Radio Control magazines on the market.

What is the wiring for R/C servos?

Three wire connector for RC-servos:
Pin 1 = White = Signal
Pin 2 = Red = +5
Pin 3 = Black = Signal and Power Ground
[Tang = pin 1]
The signal is a variable width pulse ranging from 1-2ms in duration and repeating every 12-20 ms. The output shaft rotates to a position porportional to the input pulse width. Input pulse width is compared to an internal timer pulse. The timer period is controlled by a pot coupled to the servo's output shaft. The difference between the two pulse widths is an error signal. The servo attempts to reduce or eliminate the error signal by driving the output shaft in the appropriate direction. When the error signal is within about 5 micro-seconds the drivers are turned off to preventing oscillation or 'hunting'.

    ___ ...                                              ___
   |   |  .                                             |   |
 __|   |__._____________________________________________|   |____
    1 to 2 ms width pulse goes from full CCW to full CW rotation
    20 ms pulse to pulse.

How can you reverse a servo?

The easiest way to do this is to hit your R/C hobby shop and buy a servo reverser. This is a dedicated electronic module that plugs between the servo and the controller (usually the R/C receiver) and processes the pulse to "reverse" it. Basically, the device uses a 3 msec one-shot and an XOR gate. If your local hobby shop doesn't have them, check Ace R/C catalog. See ads in any R/C magazine.

A harder way is as follows: You have to reverse both the motor and the potentiometer leads.

It would be much easier to reverse the control input. All modern radios have "reverse" switches for all channels. In the past you could have one of 3 solutions:

  1. Live with the servo as-is. Design your model with the servo direction in mind.
  2. Some companies had "reversed" servos. Probably no longer available.
  3. Use a gadget between the receiver and radio that reverses the servo. Possibly a single 4538 (Motorola MC14538) with 2 resistors, 3 capacitors and a trimmer pot.
  4. Modify the servo. This is the most difficult and least desired solution. Impossible if the motor is soldered directly to the PCB (seen in some servos). [from Itai Nashon]
The following article is an excellent source on servo facts and a PIC-based circuit to control R/C Servos. (See the Microcontrollers Section for more info on the PIC)

The Juggler's Delight: PIC-based Controller For Up To Eight Servos by Scott Edward. The Computer Applications Journal, October 1994 p14 [A kit is available as well for the circuit, including PC board, IC's etc]

How can you control a servo from a parallel port?

From Stew Bailey (

With one of the PC's internal timers cranked up, it is possible to control eight servos from a common parallel port with nothing but a simple TSR interrupt service routine and a cable. In fact, power can be pulled from the disk drive power connector and the PC can run all servos directly with no additional hardware. The only down side is that the PC wastes some processing power servicing the interrupt handler.

How can you implement force servoing with RC servos?

From Dave Hershberger,

I successfully built a force-feedback circuit for my Futaba hobby servos. I took the back off the servo case to expose the solder side of the control PC board, and using my scope with the servo active, I looked for contacts whose signal looked like it varied with how much work the motor was doing. I found 2 pulse-width modulated signals which correspond to the difference between the command signal and the current shaft angle, one for each rotation direction.

The signals are not logic-level, but vary between, say, 1 and 2 volts, so I built a simple comparator circuit to convert these to logic level. I fed these into my 68HC11 and used the Input Compare feature to measure the timing.

To connect to these points, I used some thin stranded wire and soldered directly to the PC board in the servo. Obviously you need to be careful when doing this to avoid damaging the servo. Then I threaded the pair out through the same hole that the control and power wires use.

One thing to keep in mind with this setup is that it measures the error signal, not the force. Therefore when you tell your servo to move to a different angle, you'll get an error signal for a few wavelengths until it is able to turn the shaft to the new position, even if there is no resistance to the movement. If your software can take this into account, it works fairly well.

There's also the problem of saturation - if the external torque on the servo shaft is actually turning the shaft against the motor, the error signal will be saturated, and you won't know how much past saturation you are.

How to implement RC servo control from a Microcontroller like the HC11?

This is commonly done with the HC11. The simplist method uses a 32mS pulse, which works with all RC servos I (Tom) have tried. This is the natural roll-over time of the free-running clock (FRC) (assuming an 8MHz XTAL). The output-compare IO lines can be configured to go high on the FRC roll-over, and then to go low when their set value matches the FRC. With this set up, just place the correct value in the timer's compare register and the PWM signal is generated; no interrupts required!

If you want to generate PWM with 20mS, you can set up an interrupt to go off after 20mS, set the output line(s) high, and set the output compare(s) to the current time plus the desired offset. Then set the next interrupt to occur after another 20mS. Still pretty easy.

For code examples, check out the TRP2 and TRP3 files in: This is the code for 2 articles Tom Dickens wrote in The Robot Practitioner.

Commercial controller for RC servos:

401 E 17th St Suite B
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
tel: 714.642.8458

Pontech has a SV100 Servo Motor Controller which is based on the PIC 16C84 microcontroller. It accepts RS232 serial data signal from a host computer and poutput PWM to control up to four RC servo motors. Multiple boards can be parallel together to allow more servos. They also sell FUTABA FP-S148 servos. boards: $49.95, servos: $16.95, + $5.00 shipping and handling Vantec

460 Casa Real Pl.
Nipomo, CA 93444
tel: 805.929.5055

Design and manufacture of Electronic Systems for remote control mobile robots and vehicles. Vantec makes a servo control that has been used successfully in this type of application and can be used for velocity or position closed loop control. We can also modify R/C transmitters for operation on special frequencies. contact: Rich Howe

[10.2.2] Shape Memory Materials

Nickel-titanium alloys were first discovered by the Naval Ordinance Laboratory decades ago and the material was termed NiTinOL. These materials have the intriguing property that they provide actuation through cycling of current through the materials. It undergoes a 'phase change' exhibited as force and motion in the wire.

At room temperature Muscle Wires are easily stretched by a small force. However, when conducting an electric current, the wire heats and changes to a much harder form that returns to the "unstretched" shape - the wire shortens in length with a usable amount of force.

Nitinol can be stretched by up to eight percent of their length and will recover fully, but only for a few cycles. However when used in the three to five percent range, Muscle Wires can run for millions of cycles with very consistent and reliable performance.

            Table 1.  Flexinol Muscle Wire Properties
               Wire    Linear  Typical  Deform. Recovery  Typical
Wire       Diameter    Resist. Current  Weight*  Weight*   Rate**
Name       (microns)  (ohm/m)     (mA) (grams)   (grams)  (LT/HT)
 Flexinol 037     37       860       30       4       20    52/68
 Flexinol 050     50       510       50       8       35    46/67
 Flexinol 100    100       150      180      28      150    33/50
 Flexinol 150    150        50      400      62      330    20/30
 Flexinol 250    250        20    1,000     172      930     9/13
   * Multiply by 0.0098 to get force in Newtons
  ** Cycles per minute, in still air, at 20 Centigrade
     LT = low temp 70 degrees C, HT high temp 90 degrees C
Research into shape memory alloys, polymer gels and micromechanism devices is ongoing. Library browsing is a must to get recent information on these areas.

524 San Anselmo Ave.,
San Anselmo, CA 94960
tel: 415.455.9330
tel: 800.374.5764
fax: 415.455.9333

A number of muscle wire (nitinol) projects including a small walking machine. Book and sample kit with 1m each of 50,100 and 150 um wire - enough to build all 14 projects in book. Mondo

Memry Technologies
57 Commerce Drive
Brookfield, CT 06804
tel: 203.740.7311
fax: 203.775.2359

Memry sell a Mitsubishi developed polyurethane based Shape Memory Polymer. The material undergoes property changes in hardness, flexibility, elastic modulus and vapor permeability under temperature change. Medical applications is one focus for this material.

Milford Instruments
United Kingdom
tel: (0977) 683665
fax: (0977) 681465.

Importers of the Parallax BASIC Stamps and Muscle Wires into the UK.

TiNi Alloy Company
1621 Neptune Drive
San Leandro, CA 94577

Sheets and wire of NiTinOL alloys.

[10.2.3] Other Actuators

Bridgestone Corporation
3-2-25 Nishikubo,
Musashino City, Tokyo 180.
tel: 0422 54 5820

Rubbertuators: Rubber-based device that bends under applied pneumatic pressure. For a rotation unit typical rotation angles are 360,120,90 degrees for linear unit the contraction rate cannot exceed 20%.

[10.2.4] Stepper Motors

Wally Blackburn has provided a stepper motor controller design that easily connects to a parallel port: This is the info file for the Opto-Isolated Stepper Motor Controller. While the info is oriented towards control via a PC parallel port, the controller can really interface to just about anything.

The controller uses a UCN5804B controller IC from Allegro. This chip can control motors at up to 35V and 1.25A continuously. Peaks of up to 50V and 1.5A can be tolerated according to the data sheet.

The inputs to the UCN5804B are optically isolated from the control circuitry. Input control voltages from 3 to 12V are acceptable. Diodes are used to protect the UCN5804B from negative transients from the motor windings. For efficient low-voltage operation, Schottky diodes are used.

I have recently rewritten the instructions and included a simple parallel port control program in QuickBASIC. The Turbo C source is still included also. I still have kits for the controller. Wally Blackburn Here are some files on the operation and use of stepper motors from Steve Walz: Useful files include stepper.viz, steppers.tut, ibmlpt.faq, and tomlpt.faq


There are many controllers for motors and vendors of controllers for motors in the marketplace. There are only a few here that might be of interest because of low cost or flexibility. See also [18.10] Motor Drivers
Animatics Corporation
3050 Tasman Drive
Santa Clara, CA
tel: 408.748.8721
fax: 408.748.8725 Animatics makes an RS-232 based communications motor controller. The Series 5000 Servo Control can drive from 1-4 servo motors either as a stand alone unit or slaved to a host computer via RS232. Includes fully digial automatic PID filter (no pots) All tuning and config parameters can be sent in the form of a file transfer. Can control brushed or brushless motors. Does not need a host for control. Up to 3 Amps continuous current per axis. Full 4axis model is about $3K.

[10.2.6]DC Motors

This is a huge industrial area. A typical new autmobile might have 30 motors these days and there are a lot of motor manufacturers. See the Thomas Register for a listing. It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to provide addresses for all manufacturers, but I'll provide a list of those who've been mentioned and might be of interest.

Mabuchi Motor America Corp.

475 Park Avenue South (32 St.)
New York, NY 10016
tel: 212.686.3622
fax: 212.532.4263

One of the largest manufacturers of small motors. Found in R/C cars.

[10.3] Imaging for Robotics

[This is a new and incomplete section - need more information here]

There are a wide variety of frame grabbers, computer vision systems and image processing tools available. For VME, Multibus, PC Bus, even SBUS and STD, there are a number of options for getting images into your computer.

Analogic Corporation
8 Centennial Drive
Peabody, MA 01960
tel: 508.977.3000 Howard Cohen
fax: 508.977.6813


RGB, Y/C, NTSC, RS-170A, CCIR, RS-343A
up to 16mb
SCSI (2.5 Mb/s asynch, or 5 Mb/s synch.) Can be interfaced to PC/ISA via SCSI card.
TMS320C31 33.3 MHz, 33.3 MFLOPs, 16.7 MIPS. Analogic also provides an 'ISA bus Floating-Point DSP Signal Processor' AP85c with a SCSI port and 5 TMS320C31 processors for 200 MFLOPs, and up to 16Mb of global DRAM and upt to 1Mb of local SRAM per processor.
RS-343A, CCIR, NTSC, or S-Video display output. User programmed RS-232 port for debugging, or whatever. An optional multi-tasking realtime DSP operating system written by Analogic is available. DASM-VIP with 16Mb costs $5995. The AP85c with 16Mb is $12,600.

Cognex Corp.
One Vision Drive
Natick, MA 01760-2059
tel: 508.650.3000 Joseph B. Considine - sales rep
tel: 508.650.3332

Offers a vision system mostly targeted for industry. Good selection of image processing routines. 5000 Series

Up to 4 cameras multiplexed, RS-170 or CCIR 12 bit grey scale
Memory: up to 16Mb
25Mhz 68030, 68882 Floating point coprocessor, 'VC-1' custom ASIC for 2D correlation, blob analysis, histograms, and various transforms, 'VC-2' custom ASIC for character recognition, line finding, edge detection, Gaussian and LaPlacian filtering.
Functions as VGA adapter eliminating the need for a separate video card -- allows display of images. Also provides RGB and monochrome video outputs.

Coreco Inc.
6969 Trans-Canada Highway
Suite 113
St. Laurent Quebec
Canada H4T 1V8
tel: 514.333.1301
tel: 800.361.4914 (USA) Ralph Tesson - sales rep
fax: 514.333.1388

A variety of ISA DSP-based bus frame grabbers and imaging cards for PCs. Inputs for many cards includes RGB, NTSC, RS-170, CCIR, or PAL 24 bit color, Y-C, RS-330, up to 16Mb VRAM and 64Mb DRAM. DSP-based boards. Outputs include external display support, composite video etc. Wide variety of convolutions and logical operations on images available including histogramming.

Current Technology Inc
97 Madbury Road
Durham, NH 03824
tel: 603.868.2270
contact: Michael Glover
fax: 603.838.1352

FF1 Frame Grabber

RS-170 or CCIR
up to 1024x1024x16 bits image memory.
Half-size XT slot.
Analog Devices ADSP 2105 DSP (20 MOPs). Performs 3x3 convolution in 390 ms.
Library of C callable functions, and windows DLL. Very inexpensive -- $995.

Data Cube

[real-time frame buffers and imaging analysis] [need address]

Data Translation
100 Locke Drive
Marlboro, MA 01752
tel: (508) 481-3700
tel: (800) 525-8528 fax: (508) 481-8627 Offers 8 different models of general purpose monochome frame grabbers with various resolutions and memory sizes.
Dipix Technologies Inc.
1051 Baxter Road
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K2C 3P1
tel: 613.596.4942
tel: 800.724.5929
contact: Paul Lamar (x146) Regional Sales Mgr,

Dipix offers 3 general purpose frame-grabbers:

XPG-1000 Power Grabber

RS-170, CCIR, digital, or programmable. Multiple input modules.
up to 256Mb of image memory, 512Kb cache
ISA/VL and PCI bus
50 Mhz TMS320C40 DSP from TI (which is programmable in C) and 'Power Processing Module' with on-board ALU, CONV, and HIST.
Optional real-time display
P360 Power Grabber
4 analog or one 8 or 16-bit digital input, programmable, or RS-170, RS-330, CCIR.
up to 80Mb (4 min)
TMS320C30 DSP from TI (which is programmable in C). DT-Connect bus.
Realtime display available
FPG-44 Power Grabber
Same as XPG-1000
512kb to 8 MB 0 wait state SRAM
TMS320C44 DSP from TI (programmable in C)
real-time display card available software compatible with above models

ImageNation Corporation
P.O. Box 276
Beaverton, OR 97075-0276
tel: 503.641.7408
tel: 800.366.9131
fax: 503.643.2458
bbs: 503.626.7763

ImageNation makes video frame grabbers in a variety of configurations and options.

ImageNations Website is located at ImageNation

CX100 Precision Video Frame Grabber

The CX100 Video Frame Grabber is a precision image capture board in the ISA bus configuration. It is an 8 bit, half slot card ideal for compact applications. Compatible with monochrome video in either NTSC or CCIR formats. Allows real time capture to dual port video RAM mapped into the computer's memory. This provides fast, random access to the captured image for even the most demanding image processing needs. The image transfer rate is 1 Mbyte per second. The CX100 also has a display output for viewing live video or a captured image on an external monochrome monitor. Analog RGB, 30 Hz interlaced video output is an option available for false color display (this is not VGA compatible). In addition, there is a trigger input for synchronizing image acquisition to an external event or for operation with an asynchronous (resettable) camera.

The CX100 is a +5 volt only design. It consumes less than three watts and has a power down mode. The all digital synchronization scheme provides a rock solid image and an +/- 3 nS sampling jitter specification. Video noise is less than one LSB (least significant bit). The automatic detection of NTSC or CCIR video, coupled with the excellent jitter performance, ensures operation with standard and resettable cameras as well as video recorders. Hardware controlled field or frame grab, software adjustable offset and gain, automatic look up table (LUT) load and non-volatile configuration is supported. Input and output LUTs allow gamma correction, contrast and brightness adjustment, and thresholding in real time. The optional overlay RAM allows text and graphics to be displayed on top of live video or a captured image. The video overlay can display 15 LUT selectable colors (gray levels).

Lots of software support is also provided. Software and examples are available on ImageNation's BBS.

ImageNation ImageNation also offers versions of the CX frame grabber in the compact PC/104 format. PC/104 is the familiar ISA bus in a compact, low power, 3.6 X 3.8 inch format. It is ideal for embedded applications. ImageNation supports multiple camera and display applications with a four to one video multiplexor available in ISA or PC/104 versions. Contact ImageNation today for more information.

Imaging Technology Inc.
55 Middlesex Turnpike
Bedford, MA 01730-1421
tel: 617.275.2700
fax: 217.275.9590

Offers a modular vision system that can be taylored for the application. Both VME and PC ISA/VL-bus platforms are supported. It seems likely, however, that when all the required modules are selected, the system will have a fairly large pricetag.

A system consists of an 'image manager' or IML which is either a VME or PC ISA/VL-bus compatible board. It contains some framstore memory and a slot for the 'acquisition module'. For the PC version, the IML can be used as the system VGA adapter, eliminating the need for a separate display card or module. To add one of the many available computational modules, the 'Computational Module Controller' or CML must be purchased, which also plugs onto (sort of) the IML. The CML has slots for either one or two plug-on computational modules. So, as you can see, it adds up quick. About $23k for a system with 2 C31 DSP computational modules. Device drivers are available for DOS/Windows, VxWorks, OS-9, and Solaris.

There are 4 available acquisition modules:

  1. Variable Scan: interfaces to RS-170 and CCIR cameras
  2. Fast Analog Acquisition: interfaces to high frame rate analog cameras
  3. Color Acquisition: interfaces to NTSC, PAL, RGB or multiple RS-170/CCIR cameras. One interesting feature of this module is the ability to program your own color space. Otherwise, it supports HSI, YUV, YIQ and YCrCb color spaces.
  4. Digital Acquistion: interfaces to RS-422 or TTL video sources.
There are 5 available computational modules:
  1. Convolver/Arithmetic Logic Unit (CM-CLU): Accelerates convolution. e.g. a 4x4 convolution on an 8-bit 512x512 image takes 7.5 ms.
  2. Programmable Accelerator (CM-PA): Contains a TMS320C31 DSP from TI (which can be programmed in C), 4Mb image memory and 1Mb of EEPROM.
  3. Histogram/Feature Extraction Processor (CM-HF): Performs realtime histograms and feature detection.
  4. Median and Morphological Processor (CM-MMP): performs morphological filtering, erosion, and dilation.
  5. Binary Correlator (CM-BC): Performs high-speed template matching and binary morphology.

Mandex Technology, Inc.
1191 Chicago Road
Troy, MI 48083
tel: 810.585.1165
fax: 810.585.3745
contact: M. Gupte

SMART EYE I: DSP-based real-time image processing system designed specifically for mobile and fixed base robotics systems. Stand-alone image processing system on a single board. Low power consumption, small form factor, and low weight. The single board system includes: four monochrome camera inputs, video digitizer (gain and offset software adjustable), input look-up table, two frame grabbers, additional two video buffers, color mappable image display buffer, color mappable graphics overlay buffer, RGB display driver, serial communications port, and application program RAM and EPROM. Program code can be burned into EPROM. Wide variety of language and development platform support. Additional hardware expansion to provide addtional I/O capabilities.

Matrox International Corp.
1055 St. Regis Blvd. Dorval
Quebec, Canada H9P 2T4
tel: 514.685.2630
tel: 800.361.4903
contact:Spiro Plagakis - sales rep
fax: 514.685.2853

The IMAGE series consists of the following mutually compatible hardware:

Matrox also offers an extensive image processing library and utilities that run under Windows.
Sharp Electronics
16841 Armstrong Ave.
Irvine, CA 92714
tel: 714.261.6224
tel: 800.562.7427
fax: 714.261.9321

The basic system that Sharp offers is the GPB-1

4 multiplexed RS-170 inputs 8 bit greyscale. Optional 'Incard' allows 3 parallel camera inputs, or one RGB input, but occupies another ISA slot.
12 512x512x8 bit framestores.
High-speed ASICS which perform convolution, histogram analysis, feature extraction, connectivity analysis, more. These operations all take place at 40 ns/pixel. Thus, for example, a 3x3 convolution takes 12 ms for a 512x512x8 bit image. Other processing boards (see below) are available and external interfaces are provided for the addition of a separate Alacron i860 card with 80 Mflops of performance (available 2/95).
VGA output for displaying images. An optional 'Single monitor adapter' acts as the system VGA adapter.
There are four function-specific computational cards that plug into the GPB-1:
  1. Alignment card: performs normalized correlation with model data.
  2. Auxlut card: has dual 64k 16 bit input 8 bit output lookup tables. A possible application would be RGB to HSI conversion.
  3. Auxwarp Card: 'a pixel re-sampler that may be used to modify the geometric shape of an object.'
  4. Memory Mapping: Maps large amounts of image data to ISA bus and allows random access of regions of interest, say. Also it allows new GPB-1 commands to be loaded in and ready to go while the GPB-1 is busy with its current command. Occupies a separate ISA slot.
Sharp also has available a Windows algorithm development tool which allows the user to develop algorithms using interpreted scripts -- thus eliminating the compiling step. The scripts can then be converted to C-code and compiled, if appropriate. Over 250 C-callable image processing functions are provided.

The basic GPB-1 system costs $11,000. A system with an Incard, and Auxlut runs around $20,000.

Teleos Research
576 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA 94301, USA
tel: 415/328-8800
fax: 415/328-8880

URL: Advanced Vision Platform, AVP-100 provides:

AVP-100 consists of a video processing unit containing an embedded processor, the new PRISM-4 accelerator board, and interface modules. To use the system, all that is required is a camera and a host processor with an Ethernet interface.

Connect to for more information or send e-mail to with the subject 'AVP-100'. TIM-40 PC-based Vision Systems
There are about a handful of companies that support TIM-40 module platforms. (TIM-40 is a specification developed by TI and industry to incorporate the TMS320C40 into a flexible, modular architecture. A single TIM-40 module is 2.5" x 4.2".) The C40 is often referred to as a 'next generation transputer' because of its six 20Mb per sec. comports which make connecting multiple C40s together very easy. The speed at which data can be exchanged makes it well suited for multiprocessor image processing. A system consists of a computer host-specific motherboard (that the TIM-40 modules plug into) and the appropriate TIM-40 modules. All companies listed below support both VME and PC/ISA daughter boards, however, only the PC/ISA boards are described. Since these systems typically consist of more than one processor, development software that supports multiple processors would be nice. 3L Parallel C is an ANSI C compiler that allows you to write multitasked software and divide the tasks between the available processors at compile time. It's built ontop of the TI C compiler which is known for its optimizing and efficient instruction scheduling. Data is sent between arbitrary tasks (which may reside on separate processors) by sending C structures. Thus, the development environment is comfortable and intuitive. All companies listed offer 3L Parallel C.

Transtech Parallel Systems Corp.
20 Thornwood Drive
Ithaca, NY 14850-1263
tel: 607.257.6502 Andy Stevens - sales rep
fax: 607.257.2980

TIM-40 PC/AT motherboard: 4 TIM-40 sites. Communication between one TIM-40 slot and PC takes place through 1K FIFO buffer. JTAG support for debugging. RGB/Composite framegrabber module: occupies 2 TIM-40 slots and accepts RS-170 RS-330, CCIR, NTSC, PAL, Y/C or RGB. Has an onboard 50Mhz TMS320C40 (50 MFLOPs). 3Mb of VRAM and up to 4Mb of DRAM is available. Flexible Memory TIM-40: occupies 1 TIM-40 slot, has onboard 50 Mhz TMS320C40s (50 MFLOPs) and up to 4Mb of DRAM. Dual C40 TIM-40: occupies 1 TIM-40 slot, has 2 onboard 50 Mhz TMS320C40 (100 MFLOPs) and 512k SRAM per processor. Display TIM-40: allows display of RGB images.

Spectrum Signal Processing Inc.
8525 Baxter Place, 100 Production Court
Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 4V7
tel: 604 421-5422
fax: 604 421-1764
508 366-7355 Mark Coutour
800 232 1842 Paul DeBruyn
800 663-8986

QPC40 Motherboard: 4 TIM-40 sites. Communication between any of the 4 TIM-40 slots and the PC takes place through 2 16 bit ISA bus locations (one for transmit, one for receive) per TIM-40 slot. JTAG support for debugging.

RGB/Composite framegrabber module: occupies 2 TIM-40 slots and accepts RS-170 or RGB. Has an onboard 50Mhz TMS320C40 (50 MFLOPs) and a RAMDAC for displaying RGB images. 32kb of EEPROM, 512kb of SRAM, and up to 16Mb of DRAM is available. Currently, (11/94) this module is not supported by 3L Parallel C, nor does it have framegrab software source available.

Several single C40 TIM-40 modules are offered that differ in memory models -- some have EEPROM for boostrapping, or up to 8Mb of DRAM offered on a single TIM-40, or up to 65Mb od DRAM on a double TIM-40.

Dual C40 TIM-40: occupies 1 TIM-40 slot, has 2 onboard 50 Mhz TMS320C40 (100 MFLOPs) and 512k SRAM per processor.

Spectrum also offers ILIB -- an image processing library with routines to perform convolution, LaPlacians, high and lowpass filtering, more.

Traquair Data Systems Inc
Tower Building, 112 Prospect St.
Ithaca, NY 14851
tel: 607.272.4417 Steve Bradshaw
fax: 697.272.6211

HEPC2 Motherboard: 4 TIM-40 Sites. Communication between one TIM-40 slot and the PC host takes place through 2 16 bit ISA locations (one for transmit, one for receive). JTAG support for debugging.

CFG-RGB framegrabber module: occupies 2 TIM-40 slots and accepts RS-170 or RGB. Has an onboard 50Mhz TMS320C40 (50 MFLOPs). 1Mb of VRAM framestore and 4Mb of DRAM memory onboard. Frame grab software and source is provided.

VIPTIM convolution accelerator: occupies 2 TIM-40 slots. Contains a 50MHz TMS320C40 and ASICs that can convolve at 12.5 million pixels per sec. with kernels up to 7x6 or 14x3. 3, 1Mb VRAM framestores and 4Mb DRAM memory onboard.

HETwin dual C40 TIM-40: occupies 1 TIM-40 slot, has 2 onboard 50 Mhz TMS320C40s (100 MFLOPs) and 512kb SRAM per processor. Similar model with 2 C44s and 1Mb SRAM per processor will be available early 95.

HEQUAD quad C44 TIM-40: occupies 1 TIM-40 slot, and has 4 onboard TMS320C40s (200 MFLOPs) and 512kb SRAM per processor.

Traquair also offers the following software:

EYELIB: image processing library (different than ILIB (?)) that performs convolution, histograms, logical operations, more.
CDSOFT: a utility that works with 3L Parallel C that allows the display of RGB image data to the PC host's VGA monitor in less than realtime.
Mathlib: a math library accelerator for the C40 that in many cases more than doubles the speed of some floating point calculations (e.g. sin).
Matlab interface: allows an arbritrary C40 processor to execute functions in Matlab (that's running on the PC host).

[10.4] Wireless Communication

Tethers for supplying power and communication are sometimes impractical and at best an annoyance. Digital communication via RF and IR links is becoming cheaper and a number of companies are providing off-the-shelf solutions. For basic serial line communication a wide variety of radio modems are available that use fixed frequencies or spread spectrum techniques. In many cases they are also transparent. That is, you plug them directly into serial ports on the robot and off-board computing directly. Higher bandwidths such as Ethernet or high speed synchronous serial require different hardware. However, with high speed serial communication you may even be able to SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocal) or PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) instead of using a LAN-based device.

This area of communication is changing very quickly and new products and companies are appearing every day.

See also a nice list at: [LIST IS NO LONGER THERE - AWAITING NEW SITE] or gopher:// List Maintained by David Kent,

[10.4.1] RF Modems

[David Kent] RF or wireless modems provide data communication without tethers and cables. Wireless systems can be susceptible to noise, and multipathing (echos) which will result in tranmission errors. A smart wireless modem will guarantee error free data gets from one end to the other. This is accomplished by an internal microprocessor which packetizes and addresses data. It also checks received packets for errors and automatically requests a retransmission from the sending modem if there is an error. All this occurs transparently to the user. The users' RS-232 data stream goes in one modem and comes out the other. Another advantage of this method is that since packets are addressed, more than two modems can share a single frequency without interference, however throughput goes down accordingly. These work well with RS-232 devices that you cannot run custom software on, eg. printers, plotters, bar code scanners, as well as computers. Dumb modems on the other hand simply transmit the data and hope it gets to the other end. Since there is no addressing, any modems on the same frequency and in range will receive all transmissions. Dumb modems are often used where the equipment connected to the modem handles error detection/ correction and addressing. Software libraries are available that work with specific dumb modems to provide smart functionality. If you are connecting a computer running custom software to the wireless modem anyway, this may be the most cost effective solution. There are also two main categories relating to the radio frequency (RF) portion of the wireless modem. These are spread spectrum (unlicensed) and VHF/UHF (licensed). Licensed means you need an FCC license. Costs a couple hundred dollars to process the paperwork. Generally not a problem getting one unless you live in some urban areas. Nice collections of information and vendors of wireless modems are at Wireless. and

Comrad, Communications Research and Development Corporation

7210 Georgetown Road, Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46268
tel: 317.290.9107
fax: 317.291.3093 Comrad CCL901-DP 900 MHz Wireless Data Link. 500 meter range can be extended through additional transponders. RS232 - 38Kbaud. Battery pack available for portable applications. Two transceiver units, software, power adapter, serial cables for $449.95. Modems. Two channels: 1200-38,400 baud, 100m range, 20m range through two walls. Easy to set up.


310 N. Mary Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
tel: 408.735.5800
tel: 800.533.3958
fax: 408.735.6643 AirLink - series of highspeed synch or async modems to 256kb/s. Interfaces include V.11, RS-232, EIA-530. Spread spectrum device operating in 902-928Mhz range.

GRE America,

Belmont, CA,
tel: 800.233.5973 GINA 6000, spread spectrum, smart wireless modem, up to 128 Kbps, 902MHz, 1 watt

Hamtronics, Inc.

65-D Moul Rd.
Hilton, NY 14468-9535
tel: 716.392.9430
fax: 716.392.9420 1200 and 9600 baud units/modules for a few hundred dollars.

Micrilor Inc

17 Lakeside Park,
Wakefield, MA 01880
tel: 617.246.0130
fax: 617.246.0157 RS-232, T1221 and R1221 transmitters. 902-928MHz, no FCC license required. Data rates to 64k-baud. >100m range. Power 35mA@3VDC, Antenna is 60cm RG174 coax. Price: $550 ea.

Monicor Electronics

Fort Lauderdale, FL
tel: 305.979.1907
fax: 305.979.2611 System 310 two-card OEM set for use in palmtops and handheld computing. System 310 board set transmits at 1mW to 2W for a range of 3 to 3km range. Priced at $660 in quantity. Model IC-15-48 - rugged RS232 4800 baud modem. Can network a number of these portables. $1630.

Motorola Radio-Telephone Systems Group

Arlington Heights, ILL
tel: 708.632.5000 AltairNet: 18GHz-based system design for wireless, indoors networking. The boxes are fairly large, about the size of a shoebox, and are relocatable but not portable. Problem is that is that they really aren't for mobile applications. The reception area has holes like swiss cheese. Not a problem with some fine adjustment in stationary applications but a big problem for mobile devices.

Pacific Crest Corporation

1190 Miraloma ay, Suite W
Sunnyvale, CA 94086-4607
tel: 408.730.5789
tel: 800.795.1001
fax: 408.730.5640 DDR-96 and RDDR-96 Radio modems. To 9600 baud. 2W. Point-to-point communcations. Uses standard RS-232 9pin DB style connectors. Can also be used in packet switching networks. Forward error correction techniques and PLL synchronization. The RDDR is a ruggedized version. Cost is about $1100 and $1230 respectively. FCC license required.

Proxim, Inc.

Mountain View, CA,
tel: 800-229-1630 Proxlink XR, spread spectrum, smart wireless modem, up to 256 Kbps, 902MHz, 500mW, 800 ft range. Scientific Technologies
31069 Genstar Road
Hayward, CA 94544 SpectraData 551 radio data link. Spread spectrum. Range to 1.5miles (repeater for longer distances) RS232 to 38.4Kbaud. (900MHz or 2.4GHz).
A number of articles have also been posted about the modification of inexpensive walkie-talkies for wireless communication. Typical bandwidths are limited to about 1200 baud. This may be sufficient for simple command-level control of a mobile mechanism. See the robotics Archives.

[10.4.2] RF Video

For regular frame rate video over relatively short distances it's hard to beat the price and availability of several consumer products in the $100 range. Check local stores or place like the Sharper Image (Gemini Rabbit is one of the companies making these units) Microwave systems require line-of-site communication, licensing, and are expensive.

[10.4.3] RF Ethernet

Aironet Wireless Communications
367 Ghent Road, Suite 300
Akron, OH 44334-0292
tel: 216.665.7900
fax: 216.665.7922 ARLAN series of wireless products. Aironet has the largest installed base of spread spectrum radios (>200,000) Up to 1Mbps at 900MHz and 2Mbps at 2.4Ghz. Ethernet and Token rings access points (630 and 631 series), wireless multipoint bridges (640 series ARLAN products), wireless network adapter cards, PCMCIA cards and numerous software and network management tools.

They are distributed through Anixter. For local Anixter offices call 708.677.2600. We've used a number of the ARLAN products for years at CMU and it's been plug and play.

Proxim Inc.

295 North Barnardo Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
tel: 415.960.1630
fax: 415.964.5181 A product announcement for wireless LAN board on p.68 in May/92 Byte Magazine Price: $495, Range: 800 ft. Data Rate: 242 Kbps Channels: 3

Digital Ocean

Lenexa, KN
tel: 913.888.3380

Grouper wireless networks. Spread-spectrum (no FCC license) 902-928MHz. Several products for Macintosh computer.

[10.5] Robot Parts: Suppliers and Sources

Many inquiries on comp.robotics are of the form: Where can I find X? where X might be motors, gears, fasteners, connectors etc. The following companies carry a wide selection of electronics and mechanical parts. With the possible exception of computing these companies should have all you need to build robot mechanisms.

Also see the file regularly posted to sci.electronics and a number of the radio newsgroups: Roger Arrick also has a web page listing supplies of gears, bearings and parts at:

All Electronics Corporation

P.O. Box 567
Van Nuys, CA 91408
tel: 800.826.5432 Electronics parts.

Allied Devices

2365 Milburn Avenue,
PO Box 502
Bladwin, NY 11510
tel: 516.223.9100
fax: 516.223.9172 Standard precision mechanical components

American Science and Surplus

3605 Howard St.
Skokie, IL 60076
tel: 708.982.0870
fax: 800.934.0722

These guys are a good source for motors, steppers, wire, and lots of gears, pulleys, etc. stuff for robot people to roll their own robots as well.

Arrick Robotics

2107 W. Euless Blvd.
Euless, Texas 76040 USA
tel: 817.571.4528
fax: 817.571.2317
net: Arrick makes a number of automation system including stepper motor systems, positioning tables and robotic workcells.

C&H Sales

2176 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA
tel: 818.796.2628
tel: 800.325.9465 Surplus parts. Motors etc.

Digi-Key Corp

701 Brooks Avenue South
P.O. Box 677
Thief River Falls, MN 56701-0677
tel: 800.344.4539 Distributor of electronics components and semiconductors.

Edmund Scientific

101 E. Gloucester Pike
Barrington, NJ 08007-1380
tel: 609.573.6250 order
tel: 609.573.6260 customer service Lots of optics, science and educational items. A little pricey but nice selection. Edmund also has a Robotic Technology Curriculum with lessons and tests featuring the Movit robots. Curriculum is $65.

Electronic Goldmine

PO Box 5408
Scottsdale, AZ 85261
tel: 602.451.7454 Sell the ROAMR Robot Kit - $39.95 Lots of electronics and small mechanics.

Fascinating Electronics

P.O. Box 126
Beaverton, OR 97075
tel: 503.292.5233 Experimenter's kits and other electronics.


Box 5020
Santa Ana, CA 92704
tel: 800.854.7393 Robot and electonics kits, tools and instruments.

Herbach and Rademan Co.

18 Canal St.
P.O. Box 122
Bristol, PA 19007-0122
tel: 800.848.8001 (orders)
tel: 215.788.5583 (office)
fax: 215.788.9577 (fax) Electro-mechanical "surplus" parts, equipment and insturments.

Hosfelt Electronics


JDR Microdevices

1850 South 10th St
San Jose, CA 95112-9941
tel: 408.494.1400, 800.538.5000
fax: 800.538.5005
bbs: 408.494.1430 Surplus and lots of electronic components including cameras and some sensors. Some recent components have included: TV transmitter (part # RK-TV6, $19.95 US) transmits composite video + audio to any television set withing 600' on one of channels 2 - 6. Runs on 12VDC.

Microwave doppler radar sensor. Claims to detect a person or animal up to 12' away (part number RK-MD3, $19.95 w/o case. Claims to come with complete circuit theory and instructions.

Marlin P. Jones

tel: 407.848.8236 Lots of neat surplus stuff.

McMaster-Carr Supply Company

PO box 440
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-0440
tel: 908.329.3200
fax: 908.329.3772 An amazing catalog of hundreds of thousands of parts. Lots of mechanical things but not much for electronics or computing.


tel: 800.344.4465

Mendelson Electronics Co., Inc

tel: 800.422.3525

Newark Electronics

500 N. Pulaski St.
Chicago, IL 60624-1019
tel: 312.784.5100 (check locally) Major distributor of electronics components and equipment (1200+ pages) with branches throughout the US.


50 Newton Road
Danbury, CT 06810-6216
tel: 203.792.9050 Gears, cams, universals etc.

PIC Design

PO Box 1004
Benson Road
Middlebury, CT 06762-1004
tel: 800.243.6125 (except CT)
tel: 203.758.8272 Bearings, clutches, brakes, couplings, tools, belts, pulleys, gears etc.

Radio Shack

Electronic parts and kits. Local retail stores in just about every city)

SECS, Inc.

520 Homestead Avenue
Mt. Vernon, NY 10550
tel: 914.667.5600 Gears and gear assemblies, belt drives, couplings, bearings, small parts.

Seitz Corporation

Box 1398
Torrington, CT 06790
tel: 800.261.2011
tel: 203.489.0696
tel: 203.489.0476
fax: 203.496.0307 Drive components, gears etc.

Servo Systems

115 Main Road
PO Box 97
Montville, NJ 07045-9299
tel: 201.335.1007
fax: 201.335.1661 Surplus pieces and prices, motors, actuators, geardrives, controllers, robots, encoders, transducers, amplifiers.

Small Parts Inc.

6891 NE Third Ave
PO Box 381966
Miami, FL 33238-1966
tel: 305.557.8222
fax: 305.751.6217 Lots of neat small supplies including: materials, metal stock, fasteners, tools etc. This company is the "misc parts" supplier to the "U.S. FIRST" competetion where corporations and HS Students form partnerships to build competing robots like Dr Flowers' ME class at MIT.

Stock Drive Products

2101 Jericho Turnpike
Bobx 5416
New Hyde Park, NY 11042-5416
tel: 516.328.3300
fax: 516.326.8827 Great set of handbooks of thousands of components.

Surplus Center

Lincoln, Nebraska
tel: 800.488.3407 They're good on medium to large scle stuff, hydraulics and pneumatics. They seem to supply agricultural machine prototypers. Winfred M. Berg
499 Ocean Ave.,
East Rockaway, LI, NY 11518
tel: 516.599.5010 Precision Mechanical Components

Any technical library should have catalogs from the larger distributors. These include McMaster-Carr, Grainger, Allied, Newark, etc.

Last-Modified: Thu Sep 26 08:37:00 1996
Kevin Dowling <>