2nd Annual Product Interest Survey + Last Year’s Results

Last year we asked all of our customers and followers to complete a “product interest survey” to help guide our future plans. It worked out so well that we’re doing it again. If you have a moment, please take our 2nd Annual Product Interest Survey and let us know what you want. It really matters to us and it actually affects what we work on next. Plus, there’s a $300 Blue Robotics Gift Card in it for some lucky survey respondent!

Take the 2nd Annual Product Interest Survey!

In the spirit of being an open and transparent company, we want to share some of the results from last year’s survey and show you how we used that info! Continue reading if you’re interested!

Vehicle Type

The first question addressed the type of vehicle. We got an overwhelming response for “ROV” versus any other marine vehicles.

Applications

The applications questions got widely varied results. The most popular answers were “robotics competitions”, “recreation”, “wreck discovery”, “exploration”, and “photography”. With the exception of “robotics competitions”, all of those applications boil down to having a solid ROV with a good camera. “Robotics competitions” requires a wide variety of good products, open and helpful documentation, and lots of flexibility!

Depth Rating

As I think we expected, most people are interested in the 25-100m depth range, which has interesting things to see but is still fairly accessible. Too deep for snorkeling but not deep enough that really expensive equipment or boats are required. The rest of the data forms a nearly-perfect bell curve. We’ve made sure that every component we design is capable of at least 100m but when possible we try to design for much deeper.

Sensors, Components, and Systems

The last two questions have really driven our product development. As you’ll see on the results below, we’ve addressed many of the requested sensors and most of the requested components. As far as sensors go, cameras and pressure/depth sensors were the clear winners. We’ve addressed both of those in the Bar30 Pressure/Depth Sensor and in a few different camera options. The most requested components were watertight enclosures and underwater connectors. Almost everything we listed in this question got at least 50% positive responses, which is why we’ve made products for nearly everything on this list! And don’t worry, we plan to have underwater connectors eventually as well! We hope this information is informative, interesting, and shows you that we’re really focused on meeting our customer’s needs. Please take a chance to answer this year’s survey!

New Products! Subsea Buoyancy Foam, Cable Penetrators, and parts

We are excited to announce the release of a number of new products today! In addition to thrusters, there are a whole lot of other things you’ll need to get your underwater creation in the water.

Subsea Buoyancy Foam

Need something to help your ROV float? This Subsea Buoyancy Foam is just what you’re looking for! Comes in four sizes.

The Subsea Buoyancy Foam is a machinable, hydrostatic pressure-resistant foam that provides buoyancy underwater (to depths of 300 ft, uncoated or 600 ft coated). Its closed-cell structure is engineered to resist penetration by water. Due to its pressure resistance to many fluids and resins, it is also used in resin-transfer molding as a core material. The foam semi-submersible foam is optimal for shallow to mid-water underwater robotics applications.

Here are a few examples of ROVs that use buoyancy foam for stability and floatation:


Predator

Cherokee ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle)

Cable Penetrators and Silicone Grease

We also now have Cable Penetrators and Silicone Grease for your water-tight enclosures.

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Schedule Update + T200s + BlueESC Firmware

It’s been too long since we sent an update! We’ve got a lot to share, both good and bad! There have been a few delays to the T200s and BlueESCs but we’ve got everything back on track and we have a clear path forward. Those of you who haven’t received your rewards have been incredibly patient and we really appreciate it!

New Team Members

First, of all, please welcome Elisa and Adam to our team! They’ve joined us at our new office in Torrance, California and they’re dedicated to making sure that our production goes smoothly from here on out. In the few weeks they’ve been working we’ve already had a big jump in production output.

T200 Thruster

Production-grade T200 Thruster!

Let’s start with the good news: we have production parts of every piece for the T200 Thruster and we have final performance information and charts! The bad news: we only have enough parts for 10 thrusters at the moment and that won’t be resolved for about 2.5 weeks. We’ve spent a lot of extra time with our plastic injection molder and our motor stator winder to get everything just right, but that’s pushed things back a bit.

As soon as we have those parts in hand we should be able to get all pending T200 orders filled within about 5-6 weeks. That means most T200s will be shipped between June 23rd and the end of July.

We’ve added a bunch of technical information on the T200 documentation page including detailed performance charts. The important parts are that the maximum thrust is a whopping 11.2 lbf at 16V and maximum power is around 350 W. Here’s the thrust vs. throttle input:

Here is another image of the T200 with all production parts.

T200 Thruster – Shipping soon.

BlueESCs and Software

We are caught up with production of plain T100s and new orders have a pretty short lead time. However, we’re still behind and catching up on T100s and T200s with BlueESCs. Now that we’ve got a few new people in the office we’ll be able to get these out faster. We’re currently expecting most T100s with BlueESCs to be shipped by the early July. T200s with BlueESCs will follow by the end of July

We do have a big update for the BlueESC: we have completed the I2C modification to the firmware so you can now update throttle via I2C and receive sensor data via I2C. You get the following data through I2C:

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New Product! 3D Printed & Open-Source Propeller for the M100

We have a new product available today. It’s a propeller specially designed for the M100 Motor. There are lots of applications where you don’t want or need a full blown thruster, like on small ROVs or surface vessels. Together with our OpenROV Mounting Hardware, this propeller could be used for the forward thrusters on the OpenROV.

The propeller has a 68mm diameter and generates about 3.2 lb of forward thrust and 2.6 lb of reverse thrust. There are clockwise and counter-clockwise rotating versions. Thanks to the magic of 3D printing, we can build these in small batches without the need for expensive injection molded tooling. We are selling the propellers here for your convenience, but many of you have your own 3D printers and can print the propellers yourself. We are making the 3D files for the propeller open-source and licensed under CC-NC-SA 4.0.

The 3D files are available here for free (and also on GrabCAD).

Here is a chart of the propeller’s performance on the M100 Motor. Note that our propellers are printed using the SLS method, but you might get slightly different results with other types of 3D printers.

M100 Motor w/ 3D Printed Propeller: Thruster vs. PWM Input to ESC

BlueESC Production Run Ordered!

We’re happy to report that we have ordered the first production run of assembled PCBs for the BlueESC. We’ve been testing our production prototypes and we’re really happy with the results! The waterproof and water-cooling aspects of the ESC are truly unique and advantageous.

Here’s an image of the production prototype, completely waterproofed and protected in its aluminum enclosure.

The BlueESC production prototype. The ESC is protected in thermally conductive potting compound.

This update won’t be long because we made a short video to show the BlueESC prototype in action! The BlueESC is living up to all of the specifications that we promised and more. Besides being waterproof and water-cooled, it has temperature, voltage, rpm, and current sensors onboard. In terms of performance, it can handle up to 20V and 25 amps in air. In water, it stays ice cold, even at 25 amps. We haven’t had a chance to test the limits in water yet, but we can guarantee that it will be much higher than that required for the T100 or T200 thrusters.

Check out the video:

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Many more thrusters shipped + status update!

Hello everyone!

We hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season! We wanted to give you a status update on the project and let you know what’s coming in 2015!

Thruster Shipping

We have made significant progress on orders of T100 Thrusters. We sent out a big shipment last week as well as two weeks before. To date, we’ve shipped 285 thrusters and fulfilled orders for 106 Kickstarter backers! Despite that, we’ve fallen a little behind our original schedule. We’re planning to pick up the pace in 2015, especially as we launch the BlueESC and T200.

Just so you know, when your order is shipped, we’ll send you a message via Kickstarter.

Packages of T100 Thrusters sent last week.

OpenROV Compatible Kits

The OpenROV Compatible Kits will be shipping in mid-January. We we’re hoping to get them out the door in December, but we chose to spend a little more time optimizing the propeller design for the vertical thruster. The propeller is custom designed and 3d printed for the M100 Motor and the OpenROV kit.

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Support Forums and Announcing the M100!

A number of thrusters shipped last week have been delivered and they are officially all over the world!

We’ve got some very exciting news for you in this update! We are introducing our online support forums and a new product: the M100 motor!

Forums

We’ve been getting a lot of questions over the last few months and now that we’ve shipped quite a few thrusters, we want to introduce you to our support forums.

http://forums.bluerobotics.com

The forums are a place to ask questions about our products and to discuss applications. We want to keep this as simple and helpful as possible. Please sign up for a forum account here! If you’ve purchased through our online store, you may already have an account. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be able to ask questions and respond to others. Note that the forums are still in beta and there may be bugs but we’ll make sure to address them quickly. Please report any issues.

The M100

If you are an OpenROV Compatible Kit backer, I’m sure you’re still wondering what the “modified T100 thruster” for the vertical thruster looks like. Well, here it is: the M100 Brushless Motor.

The M100! Note that on the real motor, the motor shaft extends 10mm out of the motor to attach prop adapters and other hardware.

The M100 is a simple brushless motor version of the T100. It uses the same internal components but uses a metal base that has standard brushless motor mounting holes. Its propeller (not shown) is a bit smaller to fit in the size constraints of the OpenROV.

Dimensional drawing of the M100 motor.

What else can it be used for?

Even if you don’t have an OpenROV, this is a really cool product. You could use it to make an underwater actuator, camera gimbal, even your own thruster! For instance, if you want to build a thruster into the frame of your vehicle, you can use the M100 to get the same performance as the T100 without all the extra plastic.

When will it be available?

We’ve added the M100 to our online store, but we won’t be taking any orders for it until most of the Kickstarter rewards have been fulfilled. Check out the item on our store here.

We’ll have an “M200” as well in the future. We’ll also be selling a propeller specifically for the M100 as well as the T100 propellers, which fit great on the M100.

Details

Here’s the specs:

  • Voltage: 6-16V
  • Max Current: 12.5 A
  • Max Power: 135 W
  • RPM/V with no load (Kv): 540 rpm/V
  • Shaft diameter: 4mm
  • Shaft length: 10mm
  • Connections: 3 copper pads (soldering and waterproofing required)

This is one of coolest parts: solder pads on the motor instead of loose wires. This allows you to solder wires directly to the motor and then seal them with potting compound or liquid tape. No need for waterproof wire splices or underwater connectors!

Solder pads for wire connections makes the motor easy to waterproof.

That’s all for now! Have a great week and Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US. We’ll have more updates for you soon!

Shipping the first thrusters this week!

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since we’ve sent out an email but a lot has happened – enough for several updates, so will try to send a few over the next few days. Everything is going great! Let’s start with the coolest news.

We are shipping the first 100 thrusters this week! Some have been shipped already and the rest will be in the mail by Friday. The shipments are mostly going to early-bird thruster backers as well as a few people who needed their thrusters as soon as possible.

Building 100 thrusters in a single batch is a big milestone for us and we want to share what was involved.

As you may remember, all of the thruster’s parts are custom, and we order them from all over the world. We still have to do a lot of work here in Redondo Beach to get the thrusters ready to ship.

First, here’s some of the “raw” materials as they arrive to us.

Some raw parts. Don’t be fooled by the small boxes. We have *18 boxes* of nozzles like the one at top left.

It’s amazing how much stuff we need to build all of the thrusters that you guys backed. We are literally up to the ceiling in boxes full of injection molded plastic parts. We have 1,000 cardboard tubes to package the thrusters in. We have 21,000 screws as well as thousands of other components including aluminum shaft collars, steel flux rings, and stainless steel motor shafts.

Wound and sealed motor stators.

The motor stators are wound and waterproofed elsewhere, fortunately, but we still do some extensive testing here to make sure that they are in great shape. Every stator spends at least three days in ocean water after which it is inspected for any signs of corrosion. Our supplier does a great job and the first batch had a 100% success rate.

We’ve been working hard the last few days to make sure that we could ship thrusters this week. Here are some pictures during the production process. We’re going to go into more detail about the tools and processes in a future post, so we’ll just show pictures of the in-process subassemblies here.

Stator bases while installing PCBs (left) and after stators and cables have been installed and sealed (right). The ends of the cables are sealed into the sealant so that water cannot leak through the cable and into your vehicle.

Here are the assembled and coated rotor assemblies. They consist of a steel flex ring road or base stainless steel motor shaft, and 12 custom arc magnets. They are coded in a tough protective coating that resists both abrasion and water.

Here are the motor cables, with the ends stripped and ready to be attached to the thrusters. The cable is a tough urethane jacketed cable that can handle abrasion and is very water resistant.

The Result

Here’s a pile of finished thrusters. Have you ever seen so many thrusters in one place??

Finished thrusters!

Each thruster is carefully packaged into a cardboard tube that protects it during shipping. The cardboard tubes are shipped in rectangular boxes for extra protection.

Each thruster is individually serialized and labeled. Here’s thruster #0001:

Each thruster comes in a protective tube and includes a counter-rotating propeller and mounting bracket.

Here’s all of the thruster tubes that are shipping this week!

Packed thrusters ready to go!

That’s all for now. Some of you will be receiving thrusters next week!

We’ll follow up with some more updates in the very near future. We’re going to cover the manufacturing process and tools, updates on OpenROV and BlueROV, and then talk about documentation, forums, and user contribution!

Things will be a little slow here during next week (Thanksgiving in the US), but we are expecting to ship the next batch by December 12th. If all goes well, we plan to have all T100s that were ordered without BlueESCs to be shipped in December. That will also include the OpenROV kits. We’re hoping to ship BlueROVs by early January.

If you have any questions/comments/concerns, please feel free to email us at info@bluerobotics.com.

First Test of the BlueESC

Here’s a video showing the first test of the BlueESC

This is our Rev.1 prototype. It’s not waterproof or integrated yet, but it works! Stay tuned for continued testing and development. All source files, schematics, and board layouts are available on the BlueESC Github Page.

SolarSurfer: Ocean Test No. 3

SolarSurfer in the ocean off the coast of Los Angeles

Two weeks ago we tested the SolarSurfer in the ocean for the third time.

We were fortunate to have access to a boat for two days and we successfully completed an overnight trip and covered 20 km.

Day One:

The boat was loaded with tools and the SolarSurfer and we headed out to sea, stopping about 1.5 miles offshore to launch the SolarSurfer. We spent a few hours debugging some small problems before we got everything working correctly.

Once we were confident that is was working properly and that it was clear of boat traffic near shore, we turned ourselves around and headed home for the night. The SolarSurfer stayed in the ocean and continued on its waypoint path out to sea.

Night:

By 6 in the evening, the power from the sun had reduced to almost nothing. At this point, the SolarSurfer had traveled about 6 km in 3 hours. The thruster automatically shut off and the SolarSurfer started to drift for the night. We ended up with a really interesting plot view of the surface currents that you can see in the map below. At first, it drifted towards shore and we were worried it would run aground before the morning, but then looped around. By the morning, it was fairly close to where it had started to drift.

Full screen here.

Day Two:

The SolarSurfer “woke up” and continued on its journey at approximately 8:30 in the morning, despite thick cloud cover. It continued its path westward until we turned it around with an updated waypoint command. We intercepted it with the boat around 11:30 am after it had covered another 4 km. Success.

Seaweed Entanglement Testing:

One of the risks we are most concerned about for the LA to Hawaii trip is seaweed entanglement. We tested some seaweed removal maneuvers that could be performed autonomously if necessary. The SolarSurfer was manually driven into a large piece of floating kelp and then driven in circles to entangle the kelp around the keel. In five tests, we were always able to clear the kelp from the keel by maneuvering forward and backward several times.

Seaweed tangled around the keel during testing. Removal was fairly easy.

Stay tuned for our next test and upcoming launch to Hawaii!