46 SERVO 08.2016
Prop controllers like most other electronics have come a long way in the last few years. Components are readily available and many designs are freely shared on the Web.
Not long ago, we were relegated to working with
commercially available controllers. Although they did get
the job done, the cost of purchasing multiple controllers
put a crimp on what a Do-It-Yourself builder could afford.
We were also locked into the features that the
manufacturers felt were necessary and that often did not fit
Choosing a prop controller comes down to personal
choice. There are many factors to be considered and we
will look at those in more detail. Take your time in choosing
what features are important to you. However, keep in mind
that as the saying goes, you have the choice of fast, good,
or cheap, and you can only pick two.
Features to Consider when
Choosing a Controller
Cost: The amount you are able to spend for the
controller portion of your build may select the path you
must travel when making your selection. If you have a large
available budget, the cost may not be the primary
determining factor. However, if you are a DIY builder, this
will often be the foremost consideration. In order to acquire
all the controllers you need to complete your projects, you
may be required to go the DIY route.
Complete controller or user assembled: This leads
us directly into the next decision. Will we choose a
commercially available completed model or will we take on
at least some of the assembly process? It is not necessary
that you take on the entire design and building of a unit
from scratch. You can take on as much of the process as
you want. If you do not have the interest or ability to
design and produce a controller, there are many products
that have done some of the work for you.
Job specific or able to handle a variety of tasks:
How specialized will the unit you choose be? If you are
unable to reprogram a unit, you will need to find one that
comes already set up to fit your needs. This will lock you
into the one use and will restrict your ability to repurpose
the controller when your needs change.
Reliability: Does the product have a solid track record
of dependable performance? Does the unit you are
interested in come with a warranty? Is there someone you
can contact if you have questions or issues? One of the
drawbacks of building your own is that all that responsibility
falls on you. Granted there are plenty of people on the
forums that will attempt to help, but it can be difficult and
time-consuming to find someone with the knowledge that
can supply the correct solution.
Power requirements: You will need to decide whether
you will be powering your controller with a battery or AC to
DC power transformer (better known as a wall wart). As an
aside, when disposing of a product that uses one, I make
sure to keep it for future use. You may also need to supply
Like the scarecrow that needed a brain, your characters cannot perform at their best
without some sort of master control. The good news is that it is not necessary to seek
out a wizard to find the perfect solution.
Whether you prefer to get your controllers complete and ready to roll or you enjoy
putting your own together, you will find something to satisfy your needs here. We will
take a look at an assortment of options to bring your creations to life.
By Steve Koci
Create Order from Chaos
with Prop Controllers