B9 Electronics: The Inside Story Part 4 – The Torso

There is a lot of stuff that goes in the torso so lets start with the most basic question. Where is the power coming from and how will you split up or handle different voltage requirements for all of the electronic gadgets inside the torso? The answer is this: A 12v 12ah gel cell battery in the torso & a few 12v distribution boards. Now before we go any further let me say that I thought of using a slip ring to bring power from the tread section to the torso but I had to rule it out because of the way I am doing the hip rotation. The drive is off center and has an over sized gear cog which obscures the center of the CSS. I did look at the figure 8 procedure to accommodate such situations but However I still want to be able to do a 360 rotation. This defeats the reason for a slip ring. I also though of running wires up from the base and then have enough slack to be able to handle several 360 degree rotations but I just didn’t feel the need for that. Most of the time I will not be doing a 360 degree rotation of the torso.
The distribution boards were originally created for the R2D2 builders group by Dan Stuettgen. I convinced Dan to change his board to include a few 3.3v connections for both rows of teeth lights making them more suitable for our club. Those boards should be showing up very soon. The additional change will also help the R2 group for those wanting the USB powered devices so this change helps everybody out (don’t you just love inter-club cooperation)!!
The Torso Lights
Lets start with the belly lights. I have the lighting kit by Tom Wisnionski for the belly and chest lights. This kit is not for the faint at heart! There is something to be said for just doing basic wiring of the lights with flashing bulbs (but I have never been known for doing what’s easy! ) This kit allows you to vary the blinking pattern and speed of the lights. This kit uses 6v bulbs. I put 6 volt bulbs in the brain, chest, finger and belly lights. It requires a degree of intense wiring but the instructions are (for the most part) clear and easy to follow.
The Dial Lights (chest lights) and the programing bay light hook up to Tom’s board as well.
The teeth lights use the NKK lighted switches part number 633-215kkw016b1jb-r0 at Mouser.com. Those are the ones used in the replica robots. The lighted portion of the switch requires a 3.5v power source so be careful you DO NOT go above that. If the LED blows in this switch you need to get another switch because the LED’s can not be replaced; and at 22.95 each that can get very expensive, very quickly.
The Neon
The neon that I use is the 16 row neon that was sold by Craig Reinbrecht. Craig only sells the 12 row neon now. Another vendor (Dennis Wilbur) sells a 12 row neon as well. Mine is connected to a Tech 22 model 8000 neon power supply (which needs 12v to operate correctly). While we are on the subject, let me show you the correct way to connect the 2 neon halves.If you look on the B9 website Craig has a diagram on what to do but his example shows a 1 piece neon. As you can see the wiring of the neon is like 1 continuous loop for the 2 halves. However describing it just isn’t enough. It helped me to actually see what it looked like. So here it is.
I also discovered that soldering the high voltage wires to the neon is not a very good idea because the heat from soldering can damage the neon. It is best if you just use wire nuts.
Also, when testing the unit if you get a strobing effect or a flash of light then it is most probably because the wire leads you are using are too long. Neon is very sensitive to voltage and resistance. I have found consistently that if use VERY short test leads you will get a successful test. But in any event you should test each section of the neon first to make sure it lights up well. Then when you connect the 2 together the length of the test wire leads will make a tremendous difference in a successful test or not. It would be best if you would use the special high voltage wiring because your 12v power source is generating 8,000 volts. If you see a “beading” of neon then you will need to use the supplied diodes to correct that. Make sure you only apply the diodes to the upper section of the neon. Please note that there is a solid black line that denotes the orientation or flow of electricity through out the neon. Please make sure you have the correct orientation of the diodes or the beading may still continue.
The Bubble Lifter
The bubble lifter uses a GWS777 6BB Robotic servo. This servo can lift over 20 lbs but only if the servo is externally powered with a 6v battery or some other power source. This amount of power is necessary to lift everything above the radar section and be able to move it up or down quickly. A fast bubble movement is imperative if you are to replicate the synchronous of bubble “attitude” when the robot when asking or saying certain phrases. The auxiliary power device that the GWS servo would plug into is shown in the picture to the right.
The Sound System
I decided to use the CF3 sound system by ACS Control Systems Inc. It is the sound system I use in my Astromechs. These typically run around 179.00 plus any additional IO input cards, sand cards and external power supplies if your robot uses AC power only. It is a beauty and easy to use. It can handle as many as 48 contacts (which is what mine has) that can trigger various sounds and contact closures remotely, automatically or in response to other contact closures, IR devices (active and passive), etc.. It has an interchangable SAN card that can hold any amount of sounds files wether they are WAV or MP3. It even has a scripting routine along with background files that can be played (the robot sound).
To trigger sounds without the need of a computer I included a couple of 12 channel RF remotes from Cold Fusion to activate those sounds while he is mobile. These can be found on eBay for as low as 24.95. This is a great little remote that has a teriffic range (500 feet unobstructed). So my robot could be way ahead of me and he could respond to the crowd and no one would see who is controlling him.
Arms and Claws
Now you may have noticed that I conspicuously left out the motorized arms and claws. This will be a surprise that you will only see at the build off. I will show you the customized controller board that I had made but that is it for now…. muhahahahahaha ..oh sorry…that was my Dr. Evil laugh coming out…. :)

Waist Plate, Donut and support rings

Building a fully mobile robot has some challenges that static robot builders do not usually have to deal with. For example, the donut (a fiberglass ring that sits between the torso and the waist plate) has to be able to withstand the impact of bumps and jolts of a greater magnitude and for longer periods of time than a stationary robot or it will split or crack. In addition, my donut is connected to the torso and will disconect at the waist plate. I have designed my robot to disconnect from the lower portion of the donut to the waist plate by a twist lock method. I have seen other builders make the donut secured on the waist plate and the torso seperates from the upper part of the donut via screws from the inside of the torso via the side vents. What I have below are a few pictures of the underside of the donut. Look carefully at the grooved “twist lock slots” on the donut.

To handle this situation, James (my machinist) came up with a way to insert a large delrin ring inside the donut that would mate with the delrin twist lock plates to provide compression support to prevent the donut from being crushed. Standard aluminum spacers would not provide adequate/contiguous support for the donut. I would of made a titanium donut If weight and cost wasn’t an issue.

Torso, Sound card and 12 CH RF relay remote

Here are a few additional shots of the Torso.
I am in the midst of making the teeth lights bezel and sub plate using the NKK switches (633-215kkw016b1jb-r0) from Mouser.com that rest behind the faux buttons. I will be using Craig’s buttons and new laser cut bezel.. They are the best looking.
I took advantage of the down time this holiday(Thanksgiving) and wired up the CF3 sound card and Cold Fusion 12 relay Channel remote for remote control of sound and other functions. The beauty of this sound board is that I can change the SAN card for different situations or functions, have over 2000 sound files/phrases, etc per card and can execute macros and remote functions based on the push of 1 button or a series of buttons. This adds to the puppeteering necessary to simulate the on screen persona of our bubble headed booby!
What you see below is the Spektrum DX7 transmitter with the CF3 Sound card and (on top of it) is the Cold Fusion 12 Channel relay remote board. You can configure it and/or the CF3 to use NO or NC contacts switches . Latched or momentary.
The CF Sound card can take upto 49 contacts (which I updated mine to take). It is a very good system.

Torso, Vents and Microphone

Here is how the Replica torso is turning out so far. Note the Microphone in the Robot’s claw. That Microphone is fully operational. I got it from Mike Joyce as he was cleaning out his old stuff. Apparently it was machined and made specifically for the B9 by a club member who is no longer active. It is beautiful and works great too!

Also ote the vents inside the torso. I used a combination of superglue on the bottom of the rail and plummers liquid steel epoxy putty on the top rail . The rails and vents are from Craig Reinbrecht. The vents move like glass!!!

What I need to figure out now is how to attach the metal vents and black cloth that goes behind the vents that will still allow me to open the vents fully for access to the various electronic boards and the torso attachments to the donut.
On a side note, please note the keying of the radar section below for the bubble lifter. This is essential for proper bubble lifter operation but more on that later…… (I have to keep you coming back for more) :)

Mods R US

I did some additional changes to the articulating hip and leg assembly. I made the back area narrower as well and I did a re-orientation of the base plate for better wire feeding throughout the endoskeleton. In addition, standoffs were drilled and tapped for controller placements and wire feeding. I used patterns for an insulated standoff for the Vantec Controllers I will be using. I also made some changes to the torso rotation motor and mount. I will be using the RDFR23 for the foot drives and 1 RET411P for the hip motor and 1 RET411H for the Torso rotation motor. Instead of the friction wheel rotation method used by Mike, I will be re-orienting the motor and installing a hub and extra large gear for a very fast rotation direct drive so I can more precisely control the speed and whip around as seen in the series when Bob May would spin the torso around quickly. Speaking of Torso’s……. I also received the Replica Torso from Mike Joyce. I had purchased the club standard torso and had it professionally prepared by Richie. It was awesome but when I took it to be professionally painted the shop that did it used the wrong paint and solvent. The Torso started to melt. In their haste they tried to fix it but made it even worse so it was a total loss. A 2500 loss. Ouch!
So I am starting over again with a new torso and donut. As you can see to the left there is a side by side comparison of the club vs. the replica torso. This will present some new and additional challenges in that the replica torso is smaller so other items like the collar, vents, donut and neon base plate may require additional fitment. Only time will tell if I will need to make new components or if the smaller torso size will even be noticeable with existing parts. The Replica torso is the black one. The club standard is the gray one.
Also, here is the drive section that I created. This baby hauls a lot of weight (over 330 lbs) at parade speed with ease. It is smooth on acceleration and deceleration. For those who don’t know what that blue thing is on top of it, that is the infamous Mike Joyce Replica Soil Sampler (no longer available). All of this stuff fits inside of the tread sections. I will be redesigning the soil sampler so members will have an option later on.