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Problems drawing higher current with two 12V HP motors, Arduino Uno and Dual MC33926 Motor Driver

#1

Currently using the following in a small vehicular craft:

https://www.pololu.com/product/3218 x2
https://www.pololu.com/product/2503 x1
https://store.arduino.cc/usa/arduino-uno-rev3 x1

We developed our quadrature encoder reading code based off of previous feedback and it is working excellently. Our feedback control is also working, and can drive the motor towards the desired speed at the lower end of the range. However, as soon as we start nearing 60 RPM (130 RPM is max) we cannot draw any more current to get past this and drive higher speeds.

This would make sense if the load was higher, but the power supply is indicating that we are only capable of drawing about 2.5, 2.6A max @12V. My understanding is that this is both motors combined, that each motor is actually only seeing about 1.3A. When we do “stall tests” at lower speeds where we hold the wheels, we see the same thing.

Is this a problem you’ve seen, or is there a mode in the motor controller which limits the draw to 3A total and not 3A per motor? I suppose we could disconnect one of the motors and try stalling them individually. The motor driver should limit it to 3A individually, so it shouldn’t get anywhere near the 5.6A limit.

If you have other ideas I’m all ears. Thanks!

Edit: Here’s my conclusions and please, feel absolutely free to correct me. We instruct the craft to obtain a low speed such as 20 RPM. It does so flawlessly. This is because we give the motors 20RPM/120RPM * 12V of voltage, or 2V (we initialize at 12V but lets ignore that for now). It attemps to spin against a constant load. It cannot, and deals with the torque by increasing voltage to unknown levels. Since “R” is constant, a bump in V is a bump in I. It does the same thing up to about 60 RPM, gaining about 2.4A. But it is now apparent that at 60 RPM, it’s already pullng the full 12V for correction. Thus telling it to go at 120 RPM is meaningless, because it’s already pulling the 12V. Every speed given above 55 RPM or so shows identical results because it is pulling the same voltage after feedback. It appears that at the rated voltage, our motors are midway on the torque curve.

Except that absolutely should not happen. We know there’s something wrong, because the stall rating for these motors is 5.6A and the motor controller is supposed to let 3A per motor through. We are receiving roughly 1.2A per motor, or reading 16% of stall torque. We ought to be pulling 110 RPMs under current load. That should be our terminal speed based on max power. Maybe less. And yet we’re stalling, repeatedly. We know it’s not a mechanical power transfer issue. It is therefore an electrical power transfer issue. Which is happening one of three places:

Power supply to motor controller: I’ll have to check the exact model of power supply. It shouldn’t be limited to 2.5A but… who knows.

Motor controller to motors: I’m really suspicious that the motor controller is artificially limiting the current to the motors somehow.

Arduino to motor controller: There could be something embedded in the code which is limiting current. What, I’m not sure. Could be in the libraries.

Bonus, wacky conspiracy theory: this behavior is easily explained if we received a low power motor instead of high power. At 12.3V, stalling at 2.3A is right on the money. May explain why all of a sudden we got poor results when we switched to brand new motors too.

#2

Hello,

The MC33926 shield limits the current by chopping the duty cycle as it gets to about 6.5A or higher per motor channel; it should not kick in as low as 1.3A.

You mention a power supply indicating how much current is being drawn, which sounds like some bench-top supply. Please note that you might not get a very reliable indication of the current through each motor from that. Have you measured the current draw directly through each motor with a multimeter? Have you checked to make sure the current limit on the supply is not being triggered?

When the motor is nearing 60 RPM, what duty cycle are you sending to the MC33926, and what mechanical load are the motors under when you are testing them?

-Derrill

#3

The MC33926 shield limits the current by chopping the duty cycle as it gets to about 6.5A or higher per motor channel; it should not kick in as low as 1.3A.

Ah, I thought it was 6A total, 3A each channel.

Have you measured the current draw directly through each motor with a multimeter?

Nope, and I will be doing this for both motors combined as well as running them individually. Good call.

Have you checked to make sure the current limit on the supply is not being triggered?

It’s supposed to be a 30V/10A supply but my suspicion was perhaps I was missing something here as well. I can try out one of our other power supplies without changing anything to see.

what duty cycle are you sending to the MC33926

If I am understanding your question, you’re asking duration of operation? We’re placing the craft in soil and running some tests which last maybe 10s with several minutes of reset between. I looked into the heat characteristics for this and I don’t think it should be causing the problem.

what mechanical load are the motors under when you are testing them?

I don’t have specifics on the mechanical load, only what I read in electrical from the power supply. I suppose I could devise a known torque value to apply to it. I’ll apply some of your suggestions and respond with results later. Here is my code if you’re interested:

//*************************************************************/
#include <Wire.h>
#include <SPI.h>
#include <DualMC33926MotorShield.h>

#define encodPinA1      2                       // encoder A pin motor 1
#define encodPinB1      6                       // encoder B pin motor 1
#define encodPinA2      3                       // encoder A pin motor 2
#define encodPinB2      5                       // encoder A pin motor 2

//Max K=400
//float Kp =  0.4;                             // PID proportional control Gain
//float Kd =  1.5;                                // PID Derivitave control gain

float Kp =  0.8;                                // PID proportional control Gain
float Kd =  1.5;                                // PID Derivitave control gain

int speed_req = 120;
int e_speed_sum;
float pidTerm = 0;
int error = 0;
int last_error = 0;
int k = 200;
int k_new = 0;
int k1 = k;
int k2 = k;
int t1 = 0;
int t2 = 0;
volatile long count1 = 0;                        // rev counter
volatile long count2 = 0;
int LOOPTIME = 50;
int speed_act1 = 0;                              // speed (actual value)
int speed_act2 = 0;
int current = 0;                                // in mA
int dt = 0;
///About 76 RPM for 1 minute at 300///18
///About 49 ROM for 1 minute at 200///13

///200 45RPM
///175
//125-30RPM
//150-37RPM
DualMC33926MotorShield md;

void stopIfFault()
{
  if (md.getFault())
  {
    Serial.println("fault");
    while (1);
  }
}
void initial_k()
{
  if (speed_req == 30)
  { k1 = 160;
    k2 = 160;
  }

  if (speed_req == 45)
  { k1 = 190;
    k2 = 190;
  }

  if (speed_req == 60)
  { k1 = 240;
    k2 = 240;
  }

  if (speed_req == 75)
  { k1 = 300;
    k2 = 300;
  }

  if (speed_req == 90)
  { k1 = 335;
    k2 = 335;
  }

  if (speed_req == 105)
  { k1 = 370;
    k2 = 370;
  }

  if (speed_req == 120)
  { k1 = 399;
    k2 = 399;
  }

}
void setup () {
  initial_k();
  //Set up Motor Controller
  Serial.begin(115200);
  Serial.println("Dual MC33926 Motor Shield");
  md.init();

  t1 = millis();

  //Set up Encoders
  pinMode(encodPinA1, INPUT);
  pinMode(encodPinB1, INPUT);
  digitalWrite(encodPinA1, HIGH);                      // turn on pullup resistor
  digitalWrite(encodPinB1, HIGH);
  attachInterrupt(0, rencoder1, FALLING);

  pinMode(encodPinA2, INPUT);
  pinMode(encodPinB2, INPUT);
  digitalWrite(encodPinA2, HIGH);                      // turn on pullup resistor
  digitalWrite(encodPinB2, HIGH);
  attachInterrupt(1, rencoder2, FALLING);

}

void loop () {
  //Motor A forward
  k1 = constrain(k1, 0, 399);
  k2 = constrain(k2, 0, 399);
  md.setM1Speed(-k1);

  //Motor B backward
  md.setM2Speed(k2);


  t2 = millis() ;
  if (t2 - t1 >= LOOPTIME) {
    getMotorData1();
    getMotorData2();

    k1 = updatePid(k1, speed_req, abs(speed_act1));
    k2 = updatePid(k2, speed_req, abs(speed_act2));

    t1 = t2;

    // Serial.print("k1: ");
    // Serial.println(k1);
  }

}
void rencoder1()  {                                    // pulse and direction, direct port reading to save cycles
  if (digitalRead(encodPinB1) == HIGH)   count1 ++;             // if(digitalRead(encodPinB1)==HIGH)   count ++;
  else                      count1--;                // if (digitalRead(encodPinB1)==LOW)   count --;
}

void rencoder2()  {                                    // pulse and direction, direct port reading to save cycles
  if (digitalRead(encodPinB2) == HIGH)   count2 ++;            // if(digitalRead(encodPinB1)==HIGH)   count ++;
  else                      count2--;                // if (digitalRead(encodPinB1)==LOW)   count --;
}

void getMotorData1()  {                                                        // calculate speed, volts and Amps
  static long countAnt1 = 0;                                                   // last count
  t2 = millis();
  dt = t2 - t1;
  speed_act1 = ((count1 - countAnt1) * (60 * (1000 / dt))) / (48 * 75) * 4.22222; // 48 pulses X 75 gear ratio = 3600 counts per output shaft rev
  current = md.getM1CurrentMilliamps();                                       // motor current
  Serial.print("RPM1: ");
  Serial.println(speed_act1);
  //   Serial.print("k1 ");
  // Serial.println(k1);
  //
  // Serial.print ("M1: ");
  // Serial.println(current);
  count1 = 0;
}
void getMotorData2()  {                                                        // calculate speed, volts and Amps
  static long countAnt2 = 0;                                                   // last count
  t2 = millis();
  dt = t2 - t1;
  speed_act2 = ((count2 - countAnt2) * (60 * (1000 / dt))) / (48 * 75) * 4.22222; // 48 pulses X 75 gear ratio = 3600 counts per output shaft rev
  current = md.getM2CurrentMilliamps();                                       // motor current
  Serial.print("RPM2: ");
  Serial.println(speed_act2);
  //  Serial.print("k2 ");
  // Serial.println(k2);
  //
  // Serial.print ("M2: ");
  // Serial.println(current);
  count2 = 0;
}

int updatePid(int number_k, int targetValue, int currentValue)   {             // compute PWM value
  float pidTerm = 0;                                                            // PID correction
  int error = 0;
  static int last_error = 0;
  error = abs(targetValue) - abs(currentValue);
  pidTerm = (Kp * error) + (Kd * (error - last_error));
  last_error = error;
  return constrain(number_k + int(pidTerm), 0, 399);
}
#4

So… this is a really stupid question, I’m sure, but I need to ask it because I think we solved the problem: If I’m sending 14V to the motor controller, does that mean that I can only draw 3A total instead of 6A, or 1.5A per channel?

We bumped up the voltage going to the controller incrementally and realized that the stall current from grabbing our wheels was rising with it, and both were the same fraction of their respective maxes. i.e. we had 12V into the controller and could only get about 2.6A. 12/28 = 2.6/6. When we fed 28V to the motor controller, we got 6A exactly when stalling both motors.

We made sure to put a hard limit on the voltage draw for the motors in the code as 12V, but the requisite current is coming through now. If there’s an explanation for this… I’d be super happy because the problem is solved but I still don’t understand it.

#5

The MC33926 has a continuous current rating of 3A per channel for a total of 6A continuous for both motors. Those continuous ratings should not be confused with the over-current protections we talked about earlier. Please note, you should be measuring the current for each motor independently.

No, that is not what I was asking; I will rephrase and add a little to clarify. The MC33926 accepts a direction (DIR) and speed (PWM) signal for each motor. The duty cycle of the PWM signal determines the duty cycle of the output to the motor. What duty cycles (PWM signal from 0-100%) were you sending to the driver’s PWM pin when testing them, what was your input voltage, and what current did you read? Also, how were you reading that current (e.g. the power supply, a multimeter)?

It is a property of brushed DC motors that increasing the voltage applied to them will proportionally increase the maximum current they can draw. When we list the stall current for our motors it is at the rated voltage. Using higher voltages will decrease the motor’s life time, and high enough voltages can instantly damage the motor. Using 100% duty cycle at 28V is definitely way too high for those motors. Please note, you should also never be stalling your motors at 12V.

When testing, I suggest staying with 12V since your motors are rated for that and using multiple voltages makes it difficult to see the real results.

-Derrill

#6

We are running 28V to the motor shield and 12V to the motors and it is working successfully now. The question I should have explicitly asked was, “Do I need to run 28V from the power supply to the motor controller for it to work?” That answer is yes. Even at 24V from power supply to motor shield and half duty cycle (12V) to each motor, we see issues drawing current.

Our problems disappeared as soon as we ran 28V to the shield. We’re keeping the motors at their safe limits though.

#7

28V is right at the limit for the MC33926 and you do not need to run it at that for the driver to work (and we don’t recommend it since voltage spikes can easily exceed that maximum and destroy the driver). The MC33926 should work equally well over its full voltage range, so if you are not getting the results you expect, it is almost certainly either a misunderstanding of what to expect or there is something not right in your system.

To help you further, I really need you to answer the question about the PWM duty cycle, input voltage and current reading I asked in my last post.

Also, it would be helpful if you can post a shot video showing how you are measuring your current.

-Derrill