An open source ESP32 motor driver development board for brushless motors

Sep 29, 2020

Project update 1 of 11

Launch Announcement!

by Majodi Ploegmakers

First of all, thank you for your interest in SwarmDrive. I hope it will enable you to enter the fascinating world of BLDC motors what I like to call "The Easy Way". For me it did! As you might have read on the SwarmDrive website, I started this project because I felt that there should be a better way to get going with this interesting technology.

Creating SwarmDrive

At the beginning of this project I was surprised to find out that this seemingly ‘older’ technology has so many interesting aspects and is by no means primitive. We do see a revival in working with electric motors nowadays with electric cars, but outside of that many of us tend to think that a motor is just, well… a motor.

When looking into motors a bit deeper I discovered two things:

  1. Working with motors is not nearly as simple as I thought
  2. And I found no easy way to get started

The first I’m still working on, the second is what SwarmDrive is all about.

The Easy Way

My initial thought was that I needed a motor driver that I could control using a familiar mainstream platform like Arduino. Obviously, it should be powerful and versatile. So I decided to go with the ESP32, nowadays a fairly mainstream MCU with many features that is capable of running Arduino code.

At that point my imagination ran wild. If I master motors and have all the powerful communication features of the ESP32 at my disposal, well, perhaps I could do things like swarm intelligence.

So my big first goal was to master electric motor communication and utilize my skills for motion-based projects that require remote connectivity. Hence the name SwarmDrive was born.

I wanted the motor driver I chose to be easy to understand. I knew I didn’t want an all-in-one integrated solution, I wanted something that could be used to learn how things are done. So, a simple half bridge driver with enough power to drive a small BLDC motor or even two brushed motors would be an ideal learning/prototyping platform.

As you can see in this early prototype video, you can put this all together with some perf board, an off the shelf dev board and a lot of wires. But if you are eager to dive into code experimentation this will hold you back. With SwarmDrive you are up-and-running in no time. Hence the slogan "The Easy Way".

I hope SwarmDrive will inspire many makers and students to experiment with electric motor commutation and perhaps contribute to new and exciting innovations. In my updates I will keep you posted on the production process and also, I plan to share some technical pointers to get you going with things like remote access.

Until next time!

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