microcontroller as the
piston will always be
linked to the desktop for
interface purposes. I really
don’t have any experience
with robotics; I have some
experience (Visual Basic,
C++ college courses, and
some low level scripting).
I am looking for an
interface board to plug
into my desktop and
be able to control the
cylinder via solenoids and a digital depth encoder. Are you
familiar with a board that would meet my purpose?
Thank you for any help you can provide.
Figure 1. Phidget IO24 Interface Kit.
Photo courtesy of Phidgets, Inc.
Figure 2. Phidget Interface Kit 0/0/4.
Photo courtesy of Phidgets, Inc.
— Keli Harrison
A. Indeed I am. I’m going to assume that you have a
modern computer with USB ports on it. A member
of our robotics club has had great success with
Phidgets to control robots. A Phidget is a USB connected,
low-level Input/Output (I/O) board that can be controlled
using libraries that the company provides for a variety of
operating systems and development environments. The
boards that sound right for you are the Phidget Interface
kit 8/8/8 (1018) which has eight analog inputs, eight
digital inputs, and eight digital outputs (Figure 1). You
can use this board to control your own relays or get the
Phidget Interface Kit 0/0/4 Relay control board (1014)
which can handle high-powered applications (Figure 2).
Phidgets has support for an astonishing number of
programming environments for Mac OSX, Windows, Linux,
and even Windows Mobile/CE. This support includes
environments like Python, Flash, VB, Java, Matlab ... the
list goes on.
Another company that you should consider is Ortech,
Inc. ( www.orteches.com), which has USB I/O board
products. Here, too, there are two boards (of many boards
and sensors) that would be of interest to you. The Elexol
USB I/O 24R board (Figure 3) has 24 channels of I/O and
can take other board add-ons. You might consider
adding the Elexol Opto-Relay Combo Interface
board to this board (Figure 4). This has four
opto-islolated inputs and four high-power relay
outputs. These products are less expensive than
the Phidgets, and only support the Windows
operating system with VB and VC++ source code
examples and Windows drivers. However, since the
company supplies FTDI drivers this means that the
boards can be communicated with over a virtual
serial port link, so their products will work on
any OS and with any development environment
that supports serial port communications. You’ll
just have to roll the code yourself.
There might be other solutions for your project; I chose two that were very complete in what
they offered to someone that wants to use their home
computer to control the outside world.
Well, we’ve used up another session with Mr. Roboto.
I hope that you’ve learned
something. As usual, I
know that I did. I plan
on doing some more
technology that I’ve
discovered writing this
issue; I’ll get back to you
with all my findings.
If you have any
questions about things
robotic, please drop me
a line at roboto@servo
magazine.com and I’ll be
happy to work on it!
Until next time, keep
on building those robots!
Oh! And like I said, if you
are part of a robotics club
that you’d like the world to
know about, let me know.
I’ll compile a list from what
everyone sends me and
report on it in a future
Figure 3. Elexol USB IO24
Photo courtesy of Ortech
Figure 4. Elexol Opto Isolator Interface Board.
Photo courtesy of Ortech Education Systems.