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Low cost add-on boards let Pi Zero do robotics

Mar 4, 2016 — by Eric Brown 2,540 views has Kickstarter-funded a “ZeroBorg” 4-motor robotics motor controller and sensor board designed to work with the Raspberry Pi Zero.

The Raspberry Pi has been widely used in Linux robotics projects with the help of controller boards and kits such as the CoroBot Spark, Roboteq RIO, RoboPi, and PinBall. So it was only a matter of time before robot makers jumped on the $5 and up Raspberry Pi Zero, which measures only 65 x 30mm and weighs just 23 grams. UK-based PiBorg,org, which has launched Pi-based robotics kits such as the 6-motor DiddyBorg and smaller 4Borg, has tapped the Zero for its new ZeroBorg controller. It’s not a full robot kit like the DiddyBorg or 4Borg, but a robotics motor controller and sensor board designed to fit snugly with the Zero.

ZeroBorg KS1 prototype
(click image to enlarge)

The ZeroBorg easily achieved its modest $2,372 Kickstarter goal, and is now available through April 2 in packages starting at 15 Pounds ($21). Shipments are expected in June.

ZeroBorg mounted under Pi Zero (left) and as part of a “Mecanum“ robot with four-way steering
(click images to enlarge)

Only slightly larger than the Raspberry Pi Zero it mounts to via I2C, the ZeroBorg can control four motors, independently enabling “forwards, backwards, tank steer and strafe like a crab,” says The ZeroBorg, Pi Zero, and a 9V battery together combine to weigh as little as 65 grams.

Raspberry Pi Zero
(click to enlarge)

The tiny Raspberry Pi Zero runs Raspbian Linux on the same ARM11-based Broadcom BCM2836 SoC as the Raspberry Pi Model B+, but it’s clocked to 1GHz instead of 700MHz. Other features include 512MB RAM, plus microSD, mini-HDMI, micro-USB, and a 40-pin GPIO connector. Gone are all the USB ports, DSI and CSI ports, and audio jacks found on the Pi 2.


Package options

Specs for the basic 15 Pounds ($21) ZeroBorg KS1 (shown below) include:

  • 4x full H-Bridges
  • Capability of driving 4x motors or 2x stepper motors
  • 2A peak or 1.5A RMS per bridge
  • Onboard fast blow fuse at 5A
  • Designed to run off a 9V power source (max range 2.7V to 10.8V); Pi Zero requires 7V minimum
  • 2x analog inputs for sensors
  • I2C interface, allowing daisy chaining and stacking to other boards
  • Fully soldered

ZeroBorg KS1
(click image to enlarge)

For just a bit more — 20 Pounds ($28) — a ZeroBorg KS2 is available that adds an additional IR sensor, DCDC regulator, 9V battery clip, and second I2C header, all pre-soldered. There’s also a 70-Pound ($98) package that combines the KS2 with an UltraBorg sensor board for controlling ultrasonic sensors and servos. This package also adds a more powerful PicoBorg Reverse 5A motor controller, which is used on the DiddyBorg and 4Borg.

ZeroBorg KS2
(click image to enlarge)

A 50-Pound ($70) ZeroBorg KS3 daisy chains three KS1 boards together and adds an IR sensor, 9V clip, regulator, and extra I2C channels. Various combinations of KS3s are available with UltraBorg and/or PicoBorg Reverse boards, as well as other PiBorg add-ons such as the TriBorg, LEDBorg, BattBorg, and XLoBorg.

ZeroBorg KS3
(click image to enlarge)

Further information

The ZeroBorg is available for funding now on Kickstarter through April 2, with shipments beginning in June. The ZeroBorg KS1 goes for 15 Pounds ($21), and the ZeroBorg KS2 for 20 Pounds ($28). A 37-Pound ($52) package gives you the KS2 plus an UltraBorg sensor board, and a 70-Pound ($98) package combines the KS2 with an UltraBorg sensor board and a PicoBorg Reverse controller. The ZeroBorg KS3 is available alone at 50 Pounds ($70) or in bundles with other boards. More information may be found at the ZeroBorg Kickstarter page and the website.

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