Student Robotic Project

Warwick Smith’s M.Tech project

The thesis title was Motion Controller with Diagnostics and Monitoring for a 6-Axis Robot—2004 to 2005. Professor Danie Hattingh and I were Warwick’s supervisors.

Warwick Smith FPGA board for robotics

Warwick Smith’s FPGA board for robotics.

Warwick designed, laid out and tested nine boards, some are shown here. The Virtex 500K gate FPGA was tested for various motion control tasks as well as a video interface for future imaging projects.

The ribbon cables connected to a Freescale PowerPC board based on the M5200 core at 400 MHz. The BGA problems (shown further down) on the 5200 board were overcome by interfacing to the evaluation board to test the software.

CPLD in a power supply sequencer

A small Xilinx CPLD was used to sequence power supply modules on power-up and power-down. There were also I2C based temperature sensors under each power module.

Xilinx CPLD and Cypress USB controller

A small 128 macro Xilinx CPLD with a Cypress USB controller for I/O expansion.

Center Balls not soldered

BGA balls on 5200 project 6x center balls

Center balls on the Freescale 5200 PowerPC that had not connected to the base board. Photo here is 6× enlarged on a microscope. The center pads were for power, so no wonder the board did not work. When pulling a BGA chip for forensic work, expect a few tracks to get hurt. For the testing of the FPGA board, Warwick attached ribbon cable to a 5200 evaluation board. Thankfully, the motion controller board’s FPGA was properly attached.

Edge balls partially soldered

BGA balls on 5200 project 6x center balls

Another view of the corner balls on the PowerPC component that was ‘pulled’ off the PCB. The BGA components were attached by the Pretoria Technikon, who had been setup as the South African academic Electronics Cluster (PE Technikon was the Automotive Cluster), but the setup was not ready for prime time. Certainly did not X-ray the boards or check with side view microscopes/ optics.


The work was done by Warwick Smith between 2004 and 2005 for his M.Tech project. See Warwick’s website for his current projects.

See Freescale 5200 for additional information on the PowerPC 5200 evaluation board and Warwick’s PowerPC board.


We wrote up some funding proposals for a robotic controller which will be posted as soon as we have had a chance to edit the document. We will also be creating a few current directories on this website—Automation, Motion Control, Imaging and Real-Time Infrastructure.