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How Does a Servo Motor Work?


Typical servo motor mechanism is not complex. The servo motor has control circuits and a potentiometer that is connected to the output shaft. The shaft, which is the output device, links to a potentiometer and control circuits that are located inside the servo. The potentiometer, coupled with signals from the control circuits, control the angle of the shaft – anywhere from 0 to 180 degrees, sometimes further. The potentiometer allows the control circuitry to monitor the current angle of the servo motor. If the shaft is at the correct angle, the servo motor idles until next positioning signal is received. The servo motor will rotate the correct direction until the angle is correct.

Each servo motor works off of modulation known as Pulse Coded Modulation, or PCM. The motor has a control wire that is given a pulse application for a certain length of time. The angular degree of the shaft is determined by the length of the pulses, which the servo motor anticipates every couple seconds. A normal servo is mechanically not capable of rotating further due to a mechanical stop built into the main output gear. The amount of power applied to the motor is proportional to the distance it needs to travel. So if the shaft of the servo motor needs to turn a large distance, the servo motor will run at full speed. If the servo motor needs to rotate only a small amount, the motor will run at a slower speed. This is referred to as Proportional Control. The servo motor expects to see a pulse every 20 milliseconds, (.02 seconds) and the length of each pulse will determine how far the servo motor will rotate.
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