Engineers at defense contractor Strategic Operations Inc. in San Diego needed a robotic car that would add realism to a training environment designed to acclimate soldiers to guard duty in overseas hotspots. So the design team outfitted a sedan with a DMC-4080 eight-axis Ethernet motion controller from Galil Motion Control, Rocklin, Calif. Three of the axes control the steering, shifting, and throttle. A fourth handles additional steering tasks, and a fifth controls a machine gun mounted inside the car that fires blanks at trainees. The other three axis are reserved for testing, while some of the I/Os operate relays that energize the ignition and turn signals.
Strategic Operations had several reasons for choosing the Galil controller, which also contains a pair of D3040 four-axis, 500-W drives operating at 20 to 80 V. For example, the equipment handles harsh conditions, including temperatures from 14 to 150°F, dust and dirt, travel over loose and uneven terrain, explosives, and chemicals. It also has several useful features, such as “Tell Torque.” It lets technicians determine the harshness of the terrain the car is traveling over based on readings from the vehicle’s engine. Technicians can then rev the engine up or down, accordingly. Another feature, the “Homing Routine and Limits,” lets them safely power-up the car and recenter the wheels for each training session. And Strategic Operations’ engineers found the Galil programming language easy enough to let them add several safety routines. For example, whenever the controller is not receiving data, it goes into a fail-safe mode that stops the vehicle.