Custom RP2040 Motor Driver Paves Way for Raspberry Pi Robotics

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: Taylor Alexander)

The Raspberry Pi community has a rich history of integrating the classic SBC into a plethora of robotic projects and this new RP2040 motor driver board developed by maker Taylor Alexander is paving the way for even more awe-inspiring Pi-powered robots. The board was unveiled earlier this week over at Twitter with an up-close look at its open-source design.

This credit-card-sized board uses the RP2040 microcontroller as the main driver for up to two motors using encoders at 45 A per motor supporting up to 60 V. We reached out to Alexander who confirmed the RP2040 handles all of the motor control but gate drivers are used to protect against shoot-through which would short circuit the power supply.

Alexander has a history specializing in robotics with an affinity for DIY microelectronics-based projects. This RP2040 motor driver is just a part of that history and serves as a new addition to a previous robot we covered for automated farming known as Acorn. What’s cool about the new board is that it’s not only a new development for the Acorn project but also an open-source tool for anyone who wants to integrate it into their own project.

Raspberry Pi

(Image credit: Taylor Alexander)

According to Alexander, a big goal with its design was to use components that are easy to source so makers could order it as one unit without having to obtain parts separately. Everything from the gate drivers to the MOSFETS are all obtainable through JLCPCB but the raw files are available for anyone who wants to order the board through any PCB manufacturer of their choosing.

The RP2040 motor controller was designed using KiCad, an open-source application designed for makers to create PCBs from scratch, but the file can be edited using other applications as well. Users can get a closer look at the board design and associated files on the official GitHub page. In addition to its integration with Acorn, Alexander also plans to use it as a driver for this impressive 3D-printed four-axis robot arm project.

If you want to use this board for your own Raspberry Pi project or just get a closer look at its design, check out the original thread shared to Twitter. This project, as well as Acorn, was funded by Daniel Theobald who has a blog known as Twisted Fields which highlights more farming-based robotics projects. Be sure to follow them both for more updates and cool developments in the future.

Ash Hill
Contributing Writer

Ash Hill is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware with a wealth of experience in the hobby electronics, 3D printing and PCs. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting while also finding the best coupons and deals on all tech.