Pi Servo Hat Hookup Guide

Contributors: SFUptownMaker
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Software - C++

We'll go over in some detail here how to access and use the pi servo hat in C++. Note that it's much harder than it is in Python, so maybe now's the time to learn Python? Full example code is available in the product GitHub repository.

Include the Necessary Files

We'll start by going over the files which must be included.

#include <unistd.h> // required for I2C device access
#include <fcntl.h>  // required for I2C device configuration
#include <sys/ioctl.h> // required for I2C device usage
#include <linux/i2c-dev.h> // required for constant definitions
#include <stdio.h>  // required for printf statements

Open the I2C Device File

Start by opening the i2c-1 file in /dev for reading and writing.

char *filename = (char*)"/dev/i2c-1"; // Define the filename
int file_i2c = open(filename, O_RDWR); // open file for R/W

You may wish to check the value returned by the open() function to make sure the file was opened successfully. Successful opening of the file results in a positive integer. Otherwise, the result will be negative.

if (file_i2c < 0)
  printf("Failed to open file!");
  return -1;

Set Up the Slave Address for the Write

Unlike Python (and Arduino), where the slave address is set on a per-transaction basis, we'll be setting up an "until further notice" address. To do this, we use the ioctl() function:

int addr = 0x40;    // PCA9685 address
ioctl(file_i2c, I2C_SLAVE, addr); // Set the I2C address for upcoming
                                  //  transactions

ioctl() is a general purpose function not specifically limited to working with I2C.

Configure the PCA9685 Chip for Proper Operation

The default setup of the PCA9685 chip is not quite right for our purposes. We need to write to a couple of registers on the chip to make things right.

First we must enable the chip, turning on the PWM output. This is accomplished by writing the value 0x20 to register 0.

buffer[0] = 0;    // target register
buffer[1] = 0x20; // desired value
length = 2;       // number of bytes, including address
write(file_i2c, buffer, length); // initiate write

Next, we must enable multi-byte writing, as we'll be writing two bytes at a time later when we set the PWM values. This time we don't need to set the length variable as it's already correctly configured.

buffer[0] = 0xfe;
buffer[1] = 0x1e;
write(file_i2c, buffer, length);

Write Values to the PWM Registers

That's all the setup that needs to be done. From here on out, we can write data to the PWM chip and expect to have it respond. Here's an example.

buffer[0] = 0x06;  // "start time" reg for channel 0
buffer[1] = 0;     // We want the pulse to start at time t=0
buffer[2] = 0;
length = 3;        // 3 bytes total written
write(file_i2c, buffer, length); // initiate the write

buffer[0] = 0x08;   // "stop time" reg for channel 0
buffer[1] = 1250 & 0xff; // The "low" byte comes first...
buffer[2] = (1250>>8) & 0xff; // followed by the high byte.
write(file_i2c, buffer, length); // Initiate the write.

The first write is to the "start time" register for channel 0. By default, the PWM frequency of the chip is 200Hz, or one pulse every 5ms. The start time register determines when the pulse goes high in the 5ms cycle. All channels are synchronized to that cycle. Generally, this should be written to 0.

The second write is to the "stop time" register, and it controls when the pulse should go low. The range for this value is from 0 to 4095, and each count represents one slice of that 5ms period (5ms/4095), or about 1.2us. Thus, the value of 1250 written above represents about 1.5ms of high time per 5ms period.

Servo motors get their control signal from that pulse width. Generally speaking, a pulse width of 1.5ms yields a "neutral" position, halfway between the extremes of the motor's range. 1.0ms yields approximately 90 degrees off center, and 2.0ms yields -90 degrees off center. In practice, those values may be slightly more or less than 90 degrees, and the motor may be capable of slightly more or less than 90 degrees of motion in either direction.

To address other channels, simply increase the address of the two registers above by 4. Thus, start time for channel 1 is 0x0A, for channel 2 is 0x0E, channel 3 is 0x12, etc. and stop time address for channel 1 is 0x0C, for channel 2 is 0x10, channel 3 is 0x14, etc. See the table below.

Channel # Start Address Stop Address
Ch 0 0x06 0x08
Ch 1 0x0A 0x0C
Ch 2 0x0E 0x10
Ch 3 0x12 0x14
Ch 4 0x16 0x18
Ch 5 0x1A 0x1C
Ch 6 0x1E 0x20
Ch 7 0x22 0x24
Ch 8 0x26 0x28
Ch 9 0x2A 0x2C
Ch 10 0x2E 0x30
Ch 11 0x32 0x34
Ch 12 0x36 0x38
Ch 13 0x3A 0x3C
Ch 14 0x3E 0x40
Ch 15 0x42 0x44

If you write a 0 to the start address, every degree of offset from 90 degrees requires 4.6 counts written to the stop address. In other words, multiply the number of degrees offset from neutral you wish to achieve by 4.6, then either add or subtract that result from 1250, depending on the direction of motion you wish. For example, a 45 degree offset from center would be 207 (45x4.6) counts either more or less than 1250, depending upon the direction you desire the motion to be in.