Driving Motors and Servos with the ZeroPi

If you are looking for a development board for the 3-D printer you are designing, ZeroPi may be the best fit. Suitable for use with the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi (RBPi) single board computers, ZeroPi offers an integrated solution allowing makers to build projects easier and faster.

This miniature board for the Arduino and RBPi is a next generation development kit ideal for maker projects that involve any type of robotic motion control including CNC milling and 3-D printers. According to technical specifications, the ZeroPi runs on an Atmel 32-bit, ARM Cortex M0+ processor the SAMD21J18 operating at 48 MHz. This MCU is fully compatible with the RBPi, the Arduino Zero, and so many more hardware resources that drive robots.

Capabilities of the ZeroPi include driving and controlling 11 micro servos and 8 DC motors simultaneously. Alternatively, you can use ZeroPi to control four stepper motors. The four-channel SLOT module is compatible with the regular DC motor and stepper motor drivers such as the TB6612 DC motor driver and the A4988 or DRV8825 Stepper motor drivers.

According to the team that developed ZeroPi, the board works perfectly for a 3-D printer, acting as its mainboard. Additionally, with the ZeroPi and a web interface, it is possible to control the 3-D printer remotely. The team claims to have successfully ported the Repetier and Marlin firmware to ZeroPi. They have tested the combination on Delta and I3 open source 3-D printers, with success. The combination directly controls the printer without requiring any additional expansion boards. Compared to the Mega2560, ZeroPi is all open-source, cheaper and four times faster. In addition, it is only half the size of the Mega 2560. All board schematics, Repetier and Marlin firmware, and the user manual for the ZeroPi is available on GitHub.

Apart from 3-D printers, you can also use the ZeroPi for driving laser cutters and CNC mills. In fact, it is perfectly possible to use the ZeroPi for developing an all-in-one mainboard suitable for all three. This open-source mainboard can serve the creativity and innovation of an entire community, advancing their ambitions. That makes the ZeroPi useful to several people and projects.

Some key features of the ZeroPi are operating voltage of 3.3 V, 2 UARTs, 35 general-purpose IO pins, 4 analog input pins, 12-bit ADC channels, 1 analog output pin, 10-bit DAC. Other features include external interrupts on any pin except pin 4, 7-mADC current per IO pin, Flash memory of 256 KB, SRAM of 32 KB. The ZeroPi board has dimensions of 73 x 61 mm.

You can program the ZeroPi from the Arduino IDE using example codes available for specific functions such as temperature monitoring and encoder readout. By connecting the ZeroPi to the GPIO connector of the RBPi, it is possible to add further functionality such as controlling the ZeroPi via Bluetooth, wireless control, and tablet. By installing a web interface, it is possible to control the motors and servos remotely. The interface can use Java Script as well.