Pulse Width Modulation

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Contributors: JordanDee
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Examples

You can control the brightness of an LED by adjusting the duty cycle.

Three dim LEDs

PWM used to control LED brightness

With an RGB (red green blue) LED, you can control how much of each of the three colors you want in the mix of color by dimming them with various amounts.

Red + Blue = Purple... etc

Basics of color mixing

If all three are on in equal amounts, the result will be white light of varying brightness. Blue equally mixed with green will get teal. As slightly more complex example, try turning red fully on, and green 50% duty cycle and blue fully off to get an orange color.

pick a color in the spectrum, then use PWM to achieve it

PWM can be used to mix RGB color

The frequency of the square wave does need to be sufficiently high enough when controlling LEDs to get the proper dimming effect. A 20% duty cycle wave at 1 Hz will be obvious that it’s turning on and off to your eyes meanwhile, 20% duty cycle at 100 Hz or above will just look dimmer than fully on. Essentially, the period can not be too large if you’re aiming for a dimming effect with the LEDs.

You can also use pulse width modulation to control the angle of a servo motor attached to something mechanical like a robot arm. Servos have a shaft that turns to specific position based on its control line. Our servo motors have a range of about 180 degrees.

Frequency/period are specific to controlling a specific servo. A typical servo motor expects to be updated every 20 ms with a pulse between 1 ms and 2 ms, or in other words, between a 5 and 10% duty cycle on a 50 Hz waveform. With a 1.5 ms pulse, the servo motor will be at the natural 90 degree position. With a 1 ms pulse, the servo will be at the 0 degree position, and with a 2 ms pulse, the servo will be at 180 degrees. You can obtain the full range of motion by updating the servo with an value in between.

Servo Motor at a controlled specific angle

PWM used to hold a servo motor at 90 degrees relative to its bracket