FOCBOX is the newest an best version of the open source VESC project.
The VESC is an amazing Hardware & Software innovation, It was introduced to the esk8 community late in 2014. Not too long afterwards it became the preferred option for most esk8 builders due to it’s awesome features & most importantly the Creative Commons license making it freely available for esk8 builders worldwide to build, sell, use, share & improve upon.
QUOTE FROM BENJAMIN VEDDER VESC DESIGNER:
To me it is natural to share knowledge and information, and something that I enjoy doing.
Some of the key features that make the VESC platform so amazing:
- Supports higher voltage when compared to most hobby grade ESC
- Has current control functions & safety features to help protect your electrical system from damage.
- Supports many different motors via a motor detection function
- Amazing starting torque allowing non-sensored motors to work very well on esk8’s
- It has very good regenerative brake function, an important feature for esk8
- It has a very advanced open source programming tool catering to many different use cases
- It is compact
Since 2014 many different VESC’s have been made worldwide, some of them are made according to Ben’s open source plans & other VESC’s are completely reworked versions or some simply have upgraded components, some vesc’s are very good & some not so good. Thankfully we all like to share our experiences, both good & bad, on the various open forums like this one. This allow users across the world to report bugs, faults & most importantly share ideas that will improve a design. Here lies the benefit of sharing, this process is a very organic way to drive innovations, the feedback from the community helps to constantly improve & build better products for everyone.
So why do we need a new & improved VESC?
There are a few issues with the current version 4 VESC, these issues are mostly related to usability, reliability & manufacturability.
DRV ERRORS: The DRV chip is a sensitive component that can report errors for many different reasons. Some people have discovered ways to prevent this from happening and many experienced VESC vendors claim it is related to the other components that share the space around the DRV. There is some evidence that upgrading a few key components has shown to improve the reliability.
SHORTING THE VESC: The VESC doesn’t have a proper case to protect it & it has a separate Capacitor PCB with exposed pins & wires that can easily get placed in the wrong spot causing a short.
OVERHEATING: The existing form factor doesn’t allow the end user to easily install heat sinks (or a proper case) to improve the thermal properties and allow passive cooling to occur. This is not an issue for most people, however it is a weak link that can be a problem for users who like to push the limits of the existing architecture.
SOFTWARE: The BLDC tool is not the most user-friendly interface your will ever encounter, Personally I think it is fine & most people can learn it after watching a few videos online. But there is definitely room for improvement.
MASS PRODUCTION: The existing VESC & BOM were never designed to be made at scale in a large PCB production facility, it was designed to be ‘easy’ to hand solder by the hobbyist at home. This is a huge issue when doing large scale production as it increases the chance for manufacturing faults & increases the cost of production. Furthermore, The process of final assembly of the main PCB with a separate capacitor PCB as seen on the existing VESC made it difficult to perform testing in a timely & systematic manner.
If you wanted to be very critical you could probably bring to light a few other problems that need to be addressed, However, the general consensus overall is the existing VESC is very good for most people with some room for improvement.
As you may all know by now, Benjamin Vedder has started working on VESC 6, it addresses the issues above & the new VESC TOOL looks great so far, except the graphic logo I would change that
So here lie the issues with VESC 6
- VESC 6 is not here yet & there is no delivery date.
- There is a chance it might not be released under the same CC license as the original VESC
- VESC 6 will be costlier as it has RF module built in & More components in general.
- The improvements might not be required by most users who would otherwise be ok with the cheaper VESC 4 architecture, or just a cheaper & more reliable vesc like VESC-X
So why make the VESC-X?
It’s really simple, we just want to make a better VESC. We want esk8 builders to have a better, more reliable product at an affordable price. When I was a kid my mother told me if you want something Jason don’t expect anyone else to make it happen for you. Just do it.
So back in February 2016 I started working with a talented manufacturing engineer who specializes in PCB design & electronic system testing. We worked together for months testing the existing VESC hardware & investigating the various faults that where occurring.
Our goal was to make the VESC more reliable, perform better under peak loads, improve the design for manufacturing & improve the testing process before shipping to the end user.
We soon realised the entire form factor had to change, separating the power and logic, use of directfets all on the same side…. This was all very logical, most engineers experienced in this field would agree, we believe this is the very same logic that steered ben down the path of changing the form factor for the NEW VESC 6.
Systematic Testing & Jig Design
The current VESC 4.12 we are selling are all tested before shipping, we have a custom made test Jig that serves two purposes, it loads firmware & spins up the motor on each unit before we ship.
Testing before shipping is critical to identify faults and has definitely lowered the number of faults that have occurred at the end users home. However overall we were not completely satisfied with this process alone as we felt we could further improve results by having another separate stage for spinning the motor.
The NEW 2nd stage test will run higher currents & do more intensive motor spin testing. Our goal is zero faults leaving the factory. We believe with the two-stage testing process we can achieve our target of zero faults shipped.
A SUMMARY OF THE VESC-X FEATURES & BENEFITS
UPGRADED DIRECTFET PACKAGE
- New form factor places all fets on one side allowing improved thermal management design.
- The metal package of the fets allows a better heat transfer and increases the current carrying capacities.
- Precision CNC aluminum heatsink will be used to improve thermal dynamics keeping the board much cooler preventing shutdowns caused by overheating
- Lower gate charge which will make it easier for the DRV8302. Faster switching time and reduced load on the mosfet driver.
- Compact footprint keeping the high current paths as short as possible for improved efficiency the efficiency.
UPGRADED BOM COMPONENTS
- Some components in the original VESC BOM have been identified as a potential weakness that may lead to premature failures, components have been replace with higher tolerances.
- Increased number of ceramic decoupling capacitors for improved reliability.
- Large TVS diode capable of handling large voltage and current spikes, giving regenerative breaking an alternative current path when the battery is fully charged.
- Micro USB port to improve compatibility with the more common cables used with mobile phones. Easily accessible keeping all wires streamline.
- Low ESR bulk capacitors, giving you power when it’s needed most.
NEW FORM FACTOR
- The new form factor drastically improves the manufacturability of the VESC, the VESC-X is faster & easier to produce with reduced chance of manufacturing faults.
- The new layout keeps the logic & power separate, meaning traces are shorter and both ceramic and electrolytic capacitors are closer offering a more robust & reliable power system.
- Integrated Bulk Capacitors, inside the hard case, help prevent accidental shorts occurring & make the footprint more manageable in tight enclosures.
- This new PCB design with more accessible mounting holes makes installing a heatsink & hard case simple.
- Place holder M3 holes for adding another heatsink for even more cooling power.
NEW HARD CASE & HEATSINK INCLUDED
- A precision CNC aluminum heat sink not only improves the thermal properties of the vesc by dissipating the heat away from the board, it also protects from accidental shorts, accidental damage of vital components and provides a user-friendly mounting solution so you can install the vesc securely inside your components housing using common M3 screws.
- The top side of the new VESC-X hard case is made from super strong impact resistance ABS material, The top shell is non-conductive material and covers all the exposed areas making it nearly impossible to short out your VESC accidently.
- The impact resistant ABS shell design offers easy access to the various ports and has a window for monitoring the LED’s which is useful for diagnostics.
- With the built to last Aluminium Heatsink & Impact resistant tough case the VESC-X will be protected from accidental damage, whilst offering superior cooling performance during peak load draw.
- Compact footprint of the VESC-X allows two of them to be mounted side by side and keep all your wires nice and tidy to offer the cleanest builds out there, while still having access to all the ports.
The CC License
We are communicating to Benjamin vedder about our intentions and happy to abide by his terms in accordance with the CC license. We are willing to discuss this matter publicly & share our ideas openly.
The VESC-X design was based on open source schematic to ensure the firmware would be compatible. We will provide the VESC-X schematic in a downloadable format from our website. http://www.enertionboards.com/how-to-build-eboard/vesc-x-files/
- There have been no software or firmware changes made.
- The original source files and libraries provided by Benjamin Vedder were not used.
- The VESC-X Hardware uses an unmodified open source Firmware.
The Development Process
For anyone who is interested in seeing how much work has gone into this project, here’s some photos & info:
This is one of the first hardware revisions, it had the same fets as the existing VESC 4.12 & the overall size was too big so we had to rework this totally.
One of the very first working samples. Still trying to work out how to get a heat sink onto the fets & keep the package small.
Our first look at the directfet package, this really made a big difference to the footprint and made total sense in terms of improving the thermal efficiency & the heat sink housing design would be better too. However, it meant weeks of layout work down the drain.
Changes were made to the number of the capacitors, instead of one big one we used lots of smaller ones increasing the capacitance & also putting them closer to the fets to better filter noise.
This is one of the first concepts for the heat sink & case
We didn’t like it that much, so made some changes
Production Schedule & Pricing
We are offering the VESC-X for sale right now for just $169USD for pre-orders, The price is discounted only during the production phase and will eventually settle at $199 once the production cycle has been finished & we have ample stock.
By early Novemeber 2016 we plan to have an early batch of units sent out to selected BETA testers from this forum for review. Note: we will do the beta tester selction so please don’t email us
By late November 2016 we will have the first batch of 200 VESC-X ready to ship to early bird pre-order customers
To get the ball rolling we have created a further discount off the already discounted price of $169USD
THIS CODE CAN ONLY BE USED 20 TIMES - ENTER DURING CHECKOUT
(approx $15usd discount)
AFFILIATE REWARD SYSTEM
I’ll explain this in more detail in another thread, however here is a brief summary.
The VESC-X is the first ever VESC version sold that will directly generate donations for Benjamin Vedder’s ongoing developments with VESC 6 & beyond. As of tomorrow, Ben can register to become an affiliate and refer people who are interested in purchasing the VESC-X. When the product is purchased via his referral link he will make a commission of $20AUD ($15USD) on each VESC-X purchase made.