Due to popular demand, I've begun a page of how-to articles to help anyone interested in designing and building their own Segway style self-balancing scooter on my webpage. It's still a work-in-progress, but I hope to be updating it frequently.
Two new stretch goals for the final day!
- $20,000: The promised 64kB of flash memory gets upgraded to a whopping 512kB chip. That's enough to store 128,000 of the largest data types the Teensy 3.0 typically uses.
- $22,500: I'll upgrade the memory one last time to a huge 1MB flash chip on every TiltyIMU controller board. That's enough memory to log every sensor the TiltyIMU has built-in almost 43,000 times and is an enormous 1,000 times the storage capacity of the EEPROM chip on the current prototypes.
What does the IMU stand for?
IMU stands for Inertial Measurement Unit. It is the sensor chip used by the Tilty control boards to determine their angle, acceleration, and rotational velocity, which makes the Tilty boards perfect for sensing movement in any dimension.
What is the TiltyIMU?
The TiltyIMU is a family of three circuit boards designed to simplify the design of any kind of moving robotic project such as:
- A self-balancing scooter (like a Segway®)
- Aircraft (such as a plane, helicopter, or multi-rotor copter)
- Self-steadying camera systems
- Surface rovers (either autonomous or remote controlled)
- Or even adding intelligence to an R/C car (for traction/stability control or self-tuning trim settings)
With three variants in the works, you can get one specifically tailored to your needs, and even add additional functionality through a host of add-on boards. And with zero programming or complicated assembly required, anyone can use them. It's as simple as plugging in the control board, tuning the code (which the computer software can walk you through), and watching your project come to life!
You can see detailed information on each variant's capabilities and specifications here, but here's just a few of the highlights for the Tilty Duo and Quad:
- Tiny breadboard compatible 1.5" x 2" footprint (about the same area as three quarters)
- 6-axis motion sensing on the Duo, 10-axis on the Quad, and sensitive enough to detect taps on a table
- 4 Standard R/C PWM cable inputs/outputs
- Capable of voltage input up to 24 volts, and battery voltage sensing up to 48 volts
- The Teensy 3.0 microcontroller plugs into the Tilty board so it can be removed and used in other projects
- Optional built-in or add-on master/slave bluetooth capability
If you're interested in any of the TiltyIMU boards, you can show your interest here and I'll use the information to prioritize the development of the boards.
What are the three main boards?
The three versions are The Tilty Duo, Quad, and Omni. Each one is tailored for a range of uses, though they all share the same core capabilities and features.
- The Tilty Duo is tailored towards sensing and controlling two axes of motion, with up to four independent channels (eg. balancing robots, surface rovers, or R/C vehicles).
- The Tilty Quad is tailored towards sensing and controlling four axes of motion, with up to four independent channels (eg. any type of aircraft or omni-drive vehicles, as well as anything the Duo can do).
- The Tilty Omni is tailored towards the advanced user who wants a custom system. It features additional input/output capability over the Duo and Quad and will have all of the microcontroller's controller pins accessible for soldering. Your imagination is the limit for what this version can do, but it will require the you to wire it into your project unless add-on boards are used.
What can the Tilty do?
On their own, each variant is capable of measuring acceleration, rotational speed, and angle in any dimension thanks to a powerful MPU-6050 inertial measurement unit (IMU). The Tilty Quad is also capable of measuring compass heading and altitude thanks to two additional sensors, making it perfect for use in any kind of aircraft or project that needs truly precise motion sensing.
With the addition of a variety of add-on boards, you can expand the Tilty control boards capabilities. The planned add-on boards cover a range of uses including:
- An Advanced Inertial Measurement Unit expansion to give the Tilty Duo and Omni the additional altimeter and compass sensors available to the Tilty Quad.
- A Dual Motor Driver to allow control of up to 2.5 amp motors with or without encoders, and can be stacked to allow control of up to eight independent motors. This board will also be Arduino compatible thanks to the use of an ATmega328 microcontroller.
- A GPS + MicroSD Card add-on to allow autonomous waypoint navigation or data logging of your project’s position, which may also feature a MicroSD card slot to allow loading waypoints and logging data without connecting to a computer.
- A separate MicroSD Card breakout to allow loading and logging data without a computer connection, and without the larger cost of the GPS add-on.
- An R/C Receiver Adapter that will allow you to attach an up to 6 channel standard R/C receiver to allow the Tilty controller to augment standard remote control.
- A Servo Driver capable of handling up to twelve individual servos or motor controllers, and like the motor driver board, stackable to allow control of up to 48 independent servos or motor controllers. Also like the motor driver board, this board will be Arduino compatible.
- A USB Host expansion which will primarily support video game controllers, either wired or bluetooth, for remote control.
- An XBee Breakout board to allow long-range (up to 15 miles!) communication between the Tilty board and a computer.
Each add-on board will also be identifiable by the Tilty control board, allowing the Tilty’s software to determine what sensors and outputs it has available. This allows for the Tilty controller to take full advantage of the sensors at its disposal, without requiring any additional programming by the user. You can show support for add-on boards that interest you here to influence their development priority.
There will also be a kit available called the TiltyWay which will use a Tilty Duo and a motor driver add-on board to allow anyone to build a small R/C or autonomous self-balancing robot without any programming or tools more advanced than a screwdriver. Here's a video of the most recent prototype:
I also love hearing people's ideas for add-ons, features, projects... anything related to the TiltyIMU family. Feel free to let me know if you think of something interesting here.
What makes the TiltyIMU family stand out?
- Tilty boards use a vastly more powerful Teensy 3.0 microcontroller (compared to the standard ATmega328 commonly used in Arduinos), with a six times faster processor!
- Tilty boards are designed for more applications than just planes and copters.
- Tilty boards work without any programming at all, thanks to the computer setup software, but are easily programmable in Arduino or C/C++ for those who want to go a step further. And with easy to use libraries and documented code, you can simply edit the Tilty code to your liking.
- Tilty boards are designed to work with add-on boards, allowing you to easily expand their functionality with sensors, inputs and outs, and communication.
- Tilty boards use breadboard compatible pin spacing, so they can be plugged right into a prototyping project.
- The Tilty Duo and Quad allow you to remove the Teensy microcontroller, so when you're not using the Tilty board you can use the Teensy in other projects.
- I am aiming for a base $40 sale price (which will come to about $60 with a Teensy) which is much less than the ArduPilot's $160!
Super Simple Setup and Programming
Part of what makes the TiltyIMU series special is it does not require any programming. By using a simple cross-platform program, you can set up a Tilty for a specific project type in minutes! The software allows you to change tuning parameters, sensor setups, or even motor and servo connections without downloading any new code. Changing a variable value is as simple as typing it in the computer and pressing enter. And with the Tilty’s ability to recognize add-on boards, the software automatically configures itself to show only the relevant settings, be it GPS, motor or servo controllers, or additional motion sensors.
For those who want to program their own project, the Tilty’s Teensy 3.0 microcontroller is Arduino® compatible. You can easily edit the Tilty’s default software (which is written and documented in Arduino) to customize functionality of your project.
If Arduino isn’t powerful enough, the Teensy 3.0 is programmable in C/C++, allowing you to harness the full speed and power of the Teensy’s microcontroller.
Current state of the project
I just recently completed the final version prototype of the Tilty Duo and Quad. They've both gained a whole host of new features and improvements from the previous prototype, and I just recently assembled and began testing the new boards. Barring any huge issues, the first batch of the final Tilty Duos and Quads should be done and shipping by the end of September.
My next aim is to finalize the design for Duo and Quad circuit board (tweak the printing, logo placement, etc...) and design the dual motor driver add-on board, which I've already begun sourcing parts for prior to actual board design.
I am working on having a final TiltyWay prototype by late-August to mid-September, complete with motor driver and potentially USB host add-on boards, and parts sourced for a final sale version.
I will work on the other add-on boards and the Tilty Omni on an interest basis. You can vote for the ones you would like to see finished first here.
I initially plan on manufacturing the TiltyIMU boards myself using a professional pick-and-place machine and reflow oven available to me at the Rochester Institute of Technology campus. However this will only be for very small run quantities.
However I plan on increasing the manufacturing rate by outsourcing the entire process as soon as possible, depending on funding and the amount of interest shown in buying the boards. Using either method, I will be able to supply high-quality circuit boards in a timely fashion to anyone interested in getting their own.
Where your money will go...
$5,000 is the minimum I need to finish developing the Tilty controller boards and the TiltyWay kit, and do a small production run of the control boards.
Stretch goal 1: $7,500 If I can reach this amount I will add 1kB of external EEPROM memory to all of the Tilty control boards. It will also allow me to easily complete development of all three Tilty controller boards, and get small-scale production runs of each, as well as complete development of the TiltyWay and hopefully start small-scale production runs of it.
Stretch goal 2: $15,000 If I can reach this level I will upgrade the 1kB of external EEPROM to a hugely superior 64kB of Flash memory. The money will also easily complete development and do small-scale production runs of all three Tilty control boards and the TiltyWay, as well as fund development of the additional add-on boards.
Stretch goal 3: $25,000 If I can reach this level of funding I will change the Tilty Omni to use the significantly faster MPU-6000 IMU sensor instead of the current MPU-6050. This will see the entire project through its course, with all of the add-on boards developed, small to large scale production runs of everything (depending on demand) and my most enthusiastic gratitude to all of my backers.
>$25,000 or revenue from sales of the TiltyIMU boards will be put towards scaling up production, shipping, and support. This will be an ongoing project which I plan on updating and adding to as much as I can for the foreseeable future.
History of the Project
The TiltyIMU series is derived from a circuit board I designed to control a self-balancing scooter I was building in my free time. It started as a circuit board made up of the same basic components as the current generation (with a lot of additional parts that never ended up being used), but all soldered together to a RadioShack® prototyping PCB.
It was far from a polished solution but proved to be very effective. From there I decided to design a more professional version, with a much higher level of quality, which is the current functional prototype of the Tilty Duo.
Once I had a refined and functional circuit board people began to express interest in getting their own. During the Imagine RIT innovation and creativity festival at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the self-balancing scooter and robot the two Tilty Duo prototypes were controlling drew crowds for the entirety of the eight hour day and performed flawlessly. Such a level of interest gave me the final push to try to take the entire project to product level.
I began coming up with as many possible uses for a motion-sensitive microcontroller board as I could and started considering how best to alter my original single-purpose design to meet the requirements of as many applications as possible.
From there I began re-designing the original Tilty Duo prototype to be a refined product worth manufacturing and selling, and planning the alterations I would have to make to design the other two control boards. Now I am at the point where I have ordered the Tilty Duo and Quad final prototypes, am designing the dual motor driver add-on and the TiltyWay, and have a few other add-on boards in the very last stages of brainstorming before I begin actual circuit board design.
Lots more information is available at TiltyIMU.com
Risks and challenges
After two successful prototype iterations of the Tilty Duo and with previous experience in other circuit board designs, I am confident in my designs and ability to manufacture them. However, potential risks do still remain.
There is a (very small) possibility that the Tilty controller boards will require more prototypes than I've accounted for. However, given my success with previous iterations and the similarities shared between the boards I think this risk is reasonably small. And even if not, this would only negligibly increase my costs and push back the project by a souple weeks.
The second potential risk is in medium/large scale manufacturing. The circuit boards are not terribly complex, and the Teensy microcontroller is pre-assembled, but this will be my first multi-board manufacturing experience. I have already researched a number of companies that will do small to medium scale assembly runs to fulfill my rewards, and plan on using them to professionally assemble the first batches. However, should that not work out, I am familiar with reflow soldering, which should allow me to personally assemble batches of 15-20 boards reasonably quickly and easily until I can work out a system with a commercial manufacturer.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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