Simplifying the dome electronics with the ReelTwo library

Whilst doing the write up of my NeoPixelPSI boards I mentioned the ReelTwo library by Mimir a few times and thought I’d do a post about how I’ve been finding it.

So what is the ReelTwo library? At its most basic, it tries to collect all the code for the various systems in a typical astromech into one place. This makes coding lights and servos a lot easier and quicker and standardises on the interface options such as i2c or serial communications.

In my droid, I’m using it on a single Arduino Mega in the dome to control *all* the lighting. This vastly simplifies the wiring, especially the power, and gives a single i2c address to send commands to.

What does it control in the dome?

  • RSeries front and rear logics, giving nice fading light patterns and the ability to trigger effects, etc.
  • FlthyHP system, tho this is really just three adafruit neopixel arrays in the HPs but does allow for expanding to control servos when I get them installed.
  • PSI boards, originally my RGBMatrix boards, but now my new NeoPixelPSI boards

All this from a single Arduino Mega with a sensor shield on it to give it an easy pinout. Previously I would have needed at least 3 different control boards, possibly with 3 different voltages and the associated buck converters. So this removed 2 arduinos, a power bus, an i2c hub, and a buck converter from my setup (I just have a 5v and 6v for the servos). It might not sound a lot, but removing the associated wiring made things a lot clearer.

Would I recommend people use the ReelTwo library? If the hardware you have in your dome is supported, then definitely! The more people using it, the better support it will get. Its been running in my dome for a few years now with no issues.

Next steps? I want to add a Pi Zero into the dome for some more functionality, running a satellite version of my r2_control software, but this will also give me a USB port to allow remote programming of the Arduino.

Big printers

I’ve just done a post over on my other blog (seeing as it wasn’t R2 related), but it is going to be used a lot for my droids over the next few months.

So head over to read about the upgrades I’ve done on my CR10-S5 printer

Two years of Omnis!

I’m just about to do my first event of the year, and realised that two years ago at the same event, the organiser posted this picture:

Setup time for Bolton Comic Con – NWCC

This picture filled me with a sense of dread. Why? Because up until this point I had been running a single castor setup in R2’s center foot and I knew that with that in place my droid may as well have been a static one on a carpeted floor like this.

However, I had recently updated to an Omniwheel setup, using wheels from Vex Robotics.

With fingers crossed, I went to the convention and was so happy to discover that the omni wheel handled it all with no issues. I could turn, reverse, even spin on the spot with out a single problem. I had a great event and put plenty of smiles on faces.

That was two years ago and they’re still going strong!

A little dirty, but still good!

These have been over lovely smooth gym style floors, deep pile carpet, hard concrete, cobble stones (that wasn’t fun!), asphalt, pretty much any hard surface. Even driven through snow! Dozens of events, with a heavy weight droid of 60kg, and a very cavalier attitude of where I drive. In fact, the majority of the time I prefer to unload at a carpark nearby and drive him to the event.

Since replacing these I am now onto my third set of drive wheels (latest set are hard Vex colson wheels) but haven’t had to do a single thing with the center foot apart from a little bit of fluff cleaning.

Are there any downsides? Not that I’ve found. You do get a rumble that is really noticeable on wooden floors like gyms or village halls, but I actually like that. Feels very solid.

By far, this is one of the best upgrades I’ve done to the droid since his first event outing in 2017. Since then his main drives have also been upgraded to Vex parts, with hex bore Colson wheels holding up a lot better than the previous ones I had.

Now to get the batteries charged and ready for the fun times on Saturday.