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Tropical Labs' Open Hardware Smart Industrial Servo Hits Kickstarter

Gareth Halfacree

Tropical Labs' Mechaduino

Servos - highly-controllable motors which can be accurately positioned - are the backbone (or joints, at least) of both hobbyist and professional robotics. You'll find them in everything from useless machines and public art projects to CNC machines and laser-cut quadrupedal robots - not to mention the fantastic MeArm project.

There's an undeniable gap, though, between the low-cost hobby servo we sell and the big, heavy, expensive metal things you're likely to find in industrial equipment. It's this gap Tropical Labs hopes to bridge with the Mechaduino, an open-source servo and controller board described as "an Arduino for mechatronics."

Unlike a bare servo, which requires connection to a microcontroller or other device capable of sending it pulse-width modulated (PWM) signals, the Mechaduino has an on-board controller based on the same ARM system-on-chip as the Arduino Zero. This clever board, released as open hardware, accepts power inputs from 8V to 25V, can be connected to any other microcontroller, but more importantly can run standalone - receiving its instructions via an on-board micro-USB port.

The team behind the project, which is well documented over on Hackaday, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of the servos and controller boards. This currently stands at around $5,250 towards a $7,500 goal, with 19 days on the clock.

Mechaduino is a self-contained motion control platform which allows you to develop your own custom servo mechanisms. It can be also be used as a drop-in servo motor for 3D printers and CNC machines. No more missed steps!

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