Friday, June 13, 2014

Trailer Brakes Update

We've been plugging away on the emergency brakes for the trailer for a while now, finally putting up the pics!  Eric and Rango on the Electrical Engineering team worked through all of the electronics for actuating the brakes a while ago, leaving them just to be mounted.

We stuck with the car window motors after being unable to find a solenoid or other alternative that could offer the amount of power that we needed.  Their worm gear drive makes them very powerful, as well as being unable to be backdriven, which is a helpful feature for pulling the brake cable.  One downside to using them was just that they had very irregular shapes, which made them slightly inconvenient to mount.  The position of the motors below the trailer also caused orienting them to require a lot of consideration so that there was still sufficient clearance with the ground.  We also didn't have symmetric models, meaning that we needed to have separate mounting plates for each side.   

I started mocking up some mount ideas by just laser cutting some crazy shapes out of MDF to find an optimal way of fitting them up under the trailer.  As with the suspension and everything else we've attached to the trailer in the past, I mounted it by compressing it between plates and squeezing it up against the trailer frame as opposed to drilling directly into it.

I tried to make the mounting plates fit the angle of the angle iron that attached the rim brakes.  I ended up going with a 3 plate sandwich sort of setup in which I made the back plate holding the angle iron larger, and compressing the trailer frame box tube between that and a second plate to which the motor was attached, and then squeezing the motor between that second plate and a smaller third plate.  The only problem was that because of the asymmetry, I could only fit 2 hex bolts through all 3 mounting plates on the right side as opposed to 4 on the left, but it seems like the 2 fewer bolts does not sacrifice the structural integrity of the mount.  Here's what the final waterjetted aluminum plate configurations looked like:

Left Side Brake Motor

Right Side Brake Motor

The EE team had steadily pushed forward through all of the work with controlling the motors, and you can see the plans of the custom electronics for the brakes in a November blog post.  Here is a video of Rango demonstrating the firmware.

The only major problem once the brakes were mounted was that they were drawing too much current, which was solved by just adding another DC to DC converter to power them.


Although we didn't use the brakes on our way to Providence, they were securely mounted for the duration of the trip.  The mounting held up fine, but the elements did a number on the exposed steel surfaces of the angle iron mounting plates and parts of the motor.  A much needed cleaning and spraying with the rust restore, primer, and black spray paint cleaned everything up pretty nicely, and now the black finish matches the black bar over the wheels on the trailer.

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