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new ALCS crystal sync motor for Eclair ACL


aapo lettinen
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Hi you all!

As you may have noticed on other threads, I am developing a new crystal sync motor for the Eclair ACL.

The main goal is to build a completely new crystal sync motor which does not use any of the original ACL electronics because my first customer has a camera which does not have any motor at all. Thus I am building a motor model which is not based on any of the original motors but is entirely built from new parts, including a new brushless motor and new control electronics.

The current schedule is to have the first model ready at the end of August2022. After that the design is finessed enough so that others can order these motors too 🙂

There is still some details to sort out and I am still writing the firmware for the system parts, starting the testing phase in mid July. I don't want to post any images at this stage because there is still some things which can change in the design and it is often a bad idea to post detailed prototype images anyway unless the design is final... but here are the parts of the specs which are pretty much locked now and should not change much:

 

-  it entirely replaces the old motor and the original internal electronics of the ACL

- it is NOT more compact than the original ACL motor. It will be bigger sized for sure. BUT it has very advanced features compared to any of the original ACL motors including the display and very advanced crystal speed possibilities so it is totally worth it to have a slightly larger new motor

- there will be two models of the new motor: 

   *A customized model which has the control electronics built into the original camera base (this is demanding custom installation work, is a bit more expensive and you need to ship the camera body to me so that this custom modification is possible to do at all). The display is small because there is no room for a larger one.

  * The main model which has the new control electronics built into a separate box attached to the motor itself. This model has all the new electronics enclosed into one unit and you should be able to install this to the camera by yourself because all the controls and power connectors go directly to the control box and nothing goes through the original camera base. The main model has slightly large display as well (still determining the maximum size but it can be up to double the size compared to the custom model motor).

- The new motor has a graphical user interface based on a selector knob and a small oled display. This control method is in both motor models though the display size may differ a little from model

- Features:

- internal speed presets set by me during the manufacturing. the test model has 9 preset speeds but more can be added up to about 30 presets (though large amount of presets makes the menu pretty slow to use so I recommend from 9 to 12 preset speeds). All the most common sync speeds like 23.976, 24.00, 25.00, 29.976 and 33.333 are added by default.

- two user customizable speed presets which can be set by 1/1000th fps accuracy. These are for those special needs when you want to have a oddball speed like 19.225fps for artistic purposes etc 😄  for all the normal needs the built in preset speeds are fine so you should not need these very often

- maximum speed of the motor will be at least 48fps, probably more. I am still testing couple of different bldc motor models for this use and can tell the exact maximum when the motor choice is locked

- all speeds are crystal sync

- most likely the motor has a input for external speed controller (sold separately, made by me). Will test this next month

 

Some of the features of the user interface:

- speed preset menu to select the preset fps (from 11 up to 30 presets. typically one wants about 12 or so to keep it easy enough to use)

- possibility to adjust the custom user preset fps speeds (two user speeds possible to set)

- counter showing the remaining film in the magazine by 1 meter accuracy. When changing the mag you can set the new film roll length by 1 meter accuracy

- audible warnings on/off

- battery voltage meter

- length of the last take and previous take in meters

- take limiter feature: you can set a maximum length for a single take, after which the camera stops automatically. Helps to save film if you want to shoot standard length takes for for example b-roll mos material

- counters and presets are saved into memory and they will stay there if power is lost

 

Targeted price point for the "standard" model is somewhere around 1000 - 1100usd. The price of the custom model depends on the work needed on the modification but probably it is somewhere around from 1300 to 1500usd.

 

Will post more later when locking more design details :)

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Questions that immediately come to mind:

-- The main motor model - if it uses none of the camera's electronics, does it have its own on/off switch?  And will that mean that standard ACL things like the grip with switch, or the built in light meter, are no longer functional?  And if that's the case, does the customized model retain any of that functionality?

-- Will the external precision speed controller be compatible with any of the existing standard ones?  (I have a Tobin milliframe controller, so of course I'd vote for that one!)

Thanks,

Duncan

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27 minutes ago, Duncan Brown said:

Questions that immediately come to mind:

-- The main motor model - if it uses none of the camera's electronics, does it have its own on/off switch?  And will that mean that standard ACL things like the grip with switch, or the built in light meter, are no longer functional?  And if that's the case, does the customized model retain any of that functionality?

-- Will the external precision speed controller be compatible with any of the existing standard ones?  (I have a Tobin milliframe controller, so of course I'd vote for that one!)

Thanks,

Duncan

Yes the main model uses its own on-off switch. This kind of systems also need additional protection against sudden power loss to protect the eeprom memory writes (eeprom memory saving counters and user settings during operation) so it is not good to add mechanical "instant-off kill-switch" which can cut off power too quickly so that the memory gets corrupted.

There will be a connector for external start-stop switch and this will work with the original ACL grip if paired with a separate adapter cable or if changing the connector of the original grip. Originally I was going to add the same connector to the system than the original handle has but the "Main model" of the new motor needs longer cable than the original camera so one would use the extension cable anyway to connect it.

The external speed controller needs to be set up according to the specific brushless motor the system uses. There may be variations between my ACL crystal sync motors in what specific brushless motor they use and they may be internally setup slightly differently from motor to motor, so the external controller needs to be a specific model meant for that exact motor and it may not work correctly with other ones without internal modifications to the controller (I haven't locked the external controller design yet though so it would be possible to make the calibration settings of it user changeable so that one could fit the controller to different motors by changing setup DIP switch positions or in a similar way) .

I can say almost certainly that it will not be compatible with Tobin controllers though. So one would need to have a specifically made one. I will give the needed signal and calibration details in the documentation though so the external controller does not necessarily need to be made by me ( but there is only couple of persons in the World making stuff which could be used for that purpose so it would make sense to order the external controller from me as well 🙂 )

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the main purpose for the external speed input is to use a controller which allows manual speed ramps (the external controller I am designing will likely have that feature) , or if one is very often using very special oddball framerates which are not in the original speed presets of the motor and are different for every take or setup so that it is impractical to set them as User Speed Presets.

  (I mentioned in the previous posts that there is a number of speed presets in the motor menu, of which 2 can be user customized relatively easily to anything one wants in 1/1000th fps accuracy. AND all the rest (hard coded) presets can be changed by me when building the motor or when updating firmware (firmware update needs desoldering and special working procedures so I will only do it here if specifically needed).  So there is 2 internal user changeable speed presets and +/- 10 other hard coded presets the user is not able to change, but it is possible for me to change ALL the presets if needed to anything one wants to 🙂

so to me it is very likely that one would mainly use a external controller for manual speed ramps, and only very very rarely set any  crystal speeds using the external controller because the most used framerates are already built into the motor and the 2 user speed presets allow one setting up the two oddball framerates one would use most regularly

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here are the Framerate Presets in the current version of the firmware. Let me know what you think about these and if there is something very often used which would be good to have a factory made preset (remember that the user1 and user2 presets can be set to ANY fps by the user)

This current version has 17 objects in the FPS menu so it is on the edge of having too many presets to be fast and nice to use. But let me know what you think about these (and if there is something definitely not needed, I can remove or replace it with a more useful preset)

The current menu has:

user fps 1

user fps 2

6.000

12.000

16.000

18.000

22.000    (for action sequences)

23.976

24.000

25.000

29.976

30.000

33.333

44.000  OR 48.000 depending on the maximum motor speed

48.000  OR 50.000 depending on the maximum motor speed

50.000  depending on the max motor speed. OR the maximum speed the motor can handle (if the motor can  do 60fps then this preset is 60fps)

External Input (enables the use of a external frequency generator for additional speeds or for speed ramps)

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2 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

here are the Framerate Presets in the current version of the firmware. Let me know what you think about these and if there is something very often used which would be good to have a factory made preset (remember that the user1 and user2 presets can be set to ANY fps by the user)

This current version has 17 objects in the FPS menu so it is on the edge of having too many presets to be fast and nice to use. But let me know what you think about these (and if there is something definitely not needed, I can remove or replace it with a more useful preset)

The current menu has:

user fps 1

user fps 2

6.000

12.000

16.000

18.000

22.000    (for action sequences)

23.976

24.000

25.000

29.976

30.000

33.333

44.000  OR 48.000 depending on the maximum motor speed

48.000  OR 50.000 depending on the maximum motor speed

50.000  depending on the max motor speed. OR the maximum speed the motor can handle (if the motor can  do 60fps then this preset is 60fps)

External Input (enables the use of a external frequency generator for additional speeds or for speed ramps)

I could personally forgo one of these for an inching speed 

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4 hours ago, Duncan Brown said:

Just for someone else's idea of important weird speeds (from the back case of a Tobin Milliframe controller)

Duncan

 

npr_sync_motor_maybe_tobin_012.jpg

there is lots of speeds though which no one actually uses in real shooting situations ever.

but it would be very useful to have a list of what speeds people have actually really used on their projects regularly and I can adjust the camera presets a little if it seems that something very useful is lacking 🙂

Typically if there would be a single weird speed the user needs very often, one would set is as a User Preset anyway. this way it is the easiest to access too

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I anyone wants to financially support the project, I am selling Crystal Stabilized Stroboscobe Boards to collect money to cover the developing costs.

So not taking donations but if you need a neat Led Stroboscope for testing your cameras, this is a perfect opportunity to get one and to support the Eclair ACL crystal sync project at the same time 🙂

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Interested in getting this motor for my ACL when it is ready. Seems like it would be a good investment for the camera's longterm use considering the electronics are usually what fail first.

Can the customizable fps preset go below 1fps, like for instance .5fps?

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3 minutes ago, Raymond Zrike said:

Interested in getting this motor for my ACL when it is ready. Seems like it would be a good investment for the camera's longterm use considering the electronics are usually what fail first.

Can the customizable fps preset go below 1fps, like for instance .5fps?

Great! I am probably building at least two additional motors this year when the first one is ready and fully tested.

I don't currently have any limiter on the User Preset Fps in how low it can go, so one could set it at  00.001fps though it is absolutely certain that the camera can't handle that and the operation will be extremely unstable. I will test with the final system how low of an fps it can run reliably without too much instability (it depends both on the exact motor used, the camera body an magazine and the exact algorithm used in the crystal sync unit) but most camera models with most motors can do something between 3fps and 5fps reliably and lower MIGHT work correctly or there might be some stability issues.  I don't expect the .5fps or 1fps to work correctly and be stable but will test it when getting the full system finished

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I am fine tuning and testing the user interface at the moment but can share a photo of the graphical user interface now when I have locked down the main view and features. 

It was extremely time consuming to write the code for this because there is tons of functionality involved even when it "looks like relatively simple" (a total of four libraries used and about 1500 lines of handwritten code on the user interface firmware alone. I am using a separate microcontroller to run the crystal sync functions so there is lots more code in other parts of the motor controller) .

One can move the highlight (the white box which in this picture is over the "mem" setting) around using the selector knob and select and change the setting under the highlight. There is 16 framerate presets (of which the 0 and 1 are the User Changeable Presets and the 16 is for external frequency input stating "00.000") .

The user settings like the selected FPS preset number, the two User changeable fps presets, the footage amount in the magazine and the take limiter value can be manually saved to the internal memory very easily using the "save user settings feature".  The footage counters are saved automatically during filming.

52204326077_5c5f45202e_h.jpg

The counters and film amounts are in Meters in this design. Someone will ask it sooner or later so I will say early on that this design can NOT be switched to showing Feets. This is for pretty complex technical reasons relating to memory address circulation etc. so I will want to keep them exclusively in Meters to avoid writing tons of more code which would raise the price of the system for not much benefit 🙂

 

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Aapo! This is looking great! Cant wait to be able to order new motor for my ACL.

ALSO it reminds me the beginning od COVID when I had a lot of free time and decided to resurrect one of my dead Eclair NPR Perfectone motors just for fun and learning process. (Electronics were dead, motor itself was ok.)
I was new to electronics, but after a lot of reading and coding I was able to do this:

- 24/25/30/40 fps. With current real speed displayed during operation
- Meters & Seconds of recorded footage counter
- REC / STBY Indicator
- Start / Stop Beeper like Alexa / Venice
- Mirror Parking
- Voltage indicator
- It is powered from a V-lock battery (D-Tap)

Unfortunately it's not crystal controled like yours, just simply stabilized. I also left this project like a year ago and got back to filming once covid somehow pulled back. (Big props for doing it Crystal as it must have been super time consuming!). Cant wait to get one of these!

BTW: Regarding "Remaining Footage in the magazine" feature - Is it going to be programmable whether one use a 60m or 120m magazine? I was thinking maybe doing a simpler "Exposed footage" could be easier and more intuitive? (One could use both mags and sometime we use some respools / leftovers)
 

Keep doing a great work Aapo!

resized-image-Promo-6.jpeg

resized-image-Promo-4.jpeg

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6 minutes ago, Adrian Kuciel said:

Aapo! This is looking great! Cant wait to be able to order new motor for my ACL.

ALSO it reminds me the beginning od COVID when I had a lot of free time and decided to resurrect one of my dead Eclair NPR Perfectone motors just for fun and learning process. (Electronics were dead, motor itself was ok.)
I was new to electronics, but after a lot of reading and coding I was able to do this:

- 24/25/30/40 fps. With current real speed displayed during operation
- Meters & Seconds of recorded footage counter
- REC / STBY Indicator
- Start / Stop Beeper like Alexa / Venice
- Mirror Parking
- Voltage indicator
- It is powered from a V-lock battery (D-Tap)

Unfortunately it's not crystal controled like yours, just simply stabilized. I also left this project like a year ago and got back to filming once covid somehow pulled back. (Big props for doing it Crystal as it must have been super time consuming!). Cant wait to get one of these!

BTW: Regarding "Remaining Footage in the magazine" feature - Is it going to be programmable whether one use a 60m or 120m magazine? I was thinking maybe doing a simpler "Exposed footage" could be easier and more intuitive? (One could use both mags and sometime we use some respools / leftovers)
 

Keep doing a great work Aapo!

 

Nice NPR modification! 

Yes it is much harder to make it real crystal sync, but often "speed stabilized" motor should be fine for short takes.

 

One of the challenges of my ACL motor design is how to change the crystal stabilized framerate very accurately without a hard reset on the user interface (I wanted to avoid hard resetting it because that would have made it much slower to use in real life shooting situations... hard reset meaning that the camera controller and display would need to power down and boot up for every framerate change to become effective). I made a very clever workaround for this but it needed much more parts and time which made the final system more expensive. But my system does not use hard resets when setting the framerate which separates it from most of the other crystal sync controllers out there and potentially makes it faster to use in most situations 🙂

As for the Magazine Change feature, when one selects the MAG on the display to change a magazine and confirms it, one can set the amount of footage in the new magazine in 1 meter increments and then when confirming the amount the "remaining footage" updates to this amount. When the camera is rolling, the remaining footage counts down for every meter of film shot. At the same time the Current Take counter (not shown in the display) counts up for every meter of film shot. When the camera is stopped, the Current Take amount is transferred to the Last Take counter and the Last Take Counter 's previous amount is transferred to the Previous Take counter. So you won't see the "Current Take" counter when filming but its reading is transferred to the Last Take counter when the camera is stopped and one can read it from there.

I made the counters this way because there was not enough room for three separate take counters and it is pretty rare that one needs to keep track of the Current Take counter during filming (in most situations one would need to keep one's attention in the viewfinder for framing and composition so counters cannot be checked). The situations where one would need to keep on track the Current Take counter are usually those where one needs to shoot a specified amount of film and stop the camera after that film length: for this use I made the Take Limiter feature which lets one set the maximum length for a single take and the camera stops itself automatically when this preset film amount is reached. So the camera "does the Current Take counter checking automatically" and thus the Current Take counter was not added on the display view 🙂

One can still keep on track how much film is shot during the take by observing how much the Remaining Footage has count down during the take.

There is an additional option to read the Serial Data output from the camera controller using a separate device (one can make a reading device for this use for about 20 or 30 usd, I will provide the arduino code for this use so no coding experience needed) which shows lots more information and the Current Take counter is included in the Serial Data output as well in case it is needed. I use the serial data output for debugging and testing and I don't need to switch it off on finished cameras, so the data is available in the serial data stream if it is needed by the user :)

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I rarely share any detailed design plans nowadays but just wanted to talk a bit about future proofing designs because it is important for the camera owners even when it is unsure if we even will have any film 20 years in the future.

 

In the case of this Eclair ACL motor I have tried my best to make the basic components replaceable by someone else if it is possible. The weakest points of this kind of system on a longer timescale are often the user interface (display and buttons, marked " 1. " in the image) , and the bldc controller and the motor itself (due to mechanical wearing and possible heat related damages etc. Marked " 4. " in the image) .

The display can be easily replaced, even user replaced, if needed. But one needs a similar replacement display as other types of displays won't work if they have different driver. These are commonly available components and pretty affordable so it is possible to stock them.

The buttons are of very common type and could be replaced with a different, similarly working button in the future if the original part is not available. Different motor batches may have different buttons already so it is not an issue.

The BLDC controller is an issue if it breaks. I am using factory made bldc controllers at the moment and it is common that nothing can be repaired in them if anything breaks. BUT because I am using a very simple communication method between my actual crystal sync controller and the factory made bldc controller, it is fully possible to replace the bldc controller with a different one as long as it functions similarly. It is actually even possible to replace the brushless motor with a brushed motor if different controller is used!   Lowest and highest framerates will be affected if a controller is replaced but that is not often much of an issue.

If the motor itself breaks, one may need to make mechanical modifications if a different replacement motor is used. Additionally the new motor needs to have the same basic characteristics (the same number of poles, same pulses from the Hall sensors per revolution, same operating voltage, approx same wattage and rpm) for it to work correctly with the actual crystal sync controller. Often a replacement motor has slightly different lowest and highest framerates even if it is very close to the original one in basic characteristics. But if a close enough replacement can be found, both the bldc controller and the actual motor could be replaced with different ones as long as the pulse output and analog control input are compatible. The analog control input can have a small add-on "emulator" controller which is simple enough for someone else to make if needed, this type of emulator may be used if the replacement bldc controller needs additional control lines than just the single analog control or if the control voltages are different than in the original bldc controller used.

AND as you can see, if something breaks from the orange/red box it cannot be replaced by a simple service technician and it needs instane amount of engineering and reprogramming to get a replacement made.... so it is safe to say that it "cannot be repaired" and a full replacement board is needed instead. So if something "red" breaks, one must get a fully assembled original replacement circuit board with original firmware or you can't get the camera working again at all (IT IS OF COURSE POSSIBLE TO RE-ENGINEER THE WHOLE RED BOX AGAIN FROM SCRATCH BUT IT WILL COST SO MUCH THAT IT IS NOT PRACTICAL IN ANY CASE) . The "red box issues" are solved by original replacement boards as it is the most practical method of repairing them.

 

52213475253_69a16d39e4_h.jpg

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I am building a mounting bracket and a coupling to connect the brushless motor to the camera and can run some tests when it is ready.

 

Due to the availability of the motors, it looks like I am able to build TWO or THREE  Eclair motors this year with the currently selected "German" motor type. That is the maximum amount of motor drives I can order and stock without needing to charge a deposit (I need to order the motor drives in August to get them in about November or December because of the factory lead time).  If more than 2 or 3 crystal motors are needed this year, I would need to charge a deposit (about 200usd per motor) so that I could order enough motor drives and other parts and the deposit would need to be charged in mid August latest so that the parts would get here in time to get the motors finished in December 2022.

 

As I mentioned in the earlier posts, it is fully possible to use this 16-speed Eclair ACL controller with couple of different types of motors. There is affordable Chinese brushless motor drives available which are compatible with the system and I have a possibility to build A MAXIMUM OF 10 CONTROLLERS USING THESE CHINESE MOTORS THIS YEAR without charging a deposit and I could deliver the first ones in October.

A system using the Chinese motor would be about 200usd cheaper than the one using the better "German motor" I have originally designed the system for. So it is more affordable and you would get the motor for your ACL faster.

There is however some drawbacks with these Chinese motors as you surely guessed. These drawbacks of the cheaper motor drive are:

- Slightly more noisy and slightly more resonance (which has the potential of generating more running noise)

- slightly larger sized than the German motor drive. Not a large difference but surely noticeable

- Much lower top speed with the camera. By my quick tests the Chinese motors should be able to do close to 40fps or 50fps maximum so it is not bad but still much lower than the German motor.

- replacing the Chinese motor later with a better German one might need some minor modifications to the crystal sync system itself in addition with replacing the motor and bldc driver themselves as the Chinese motors have a different number of poles (different pulse count per revolution). More specifically one would need to replace one circuit board in the Crystal Controller itself with another similar board which is programmed differently (it is easier to change the whole board than to reprogram it). The additional replacement board would cost about 120usd if purchased with the German motor so it would not be critical at that point (would cost only 120usd more without shipping costs than if having originally purchased the German motor right away)

 

The benefits of the Chinese motors would be:

- very very easy to get. I could order any amount up to 1000 pieces right now and get them in about 2 weeks.

- so affordable that a deposit would not be needed

- so affordable that a spare motor could be included in purchase price if needed. These are OK quality drives so they should not break in couple of years of use but I would include a spare anyway just because it is possible 🙂

- possibility to get the crystal sync system for cheaper price and much faster. I could deliver about 4 or 5 ACL motors with the Chinese motor drive in October2022 and another batch of 5 in December2022 whereas it takes to December2022 before I can ship even the first couple of systems with the German motor and the next batch with the German motors would probably be in June2023.

-----------------------

Current prices for the Eclair ACL motor controllers including the motor drive are as follows:

- "Main version" which has the controller attached to the motor drive, with better "German" motor drive: 1100usd + shipping. Limited availability and longer wait time, a possible deposit of 200usd might be needed. Larger display than the "built in" system has.

-  "Main version" with the controller attached to the motor drive, with lower quality lower top speed "Chinese" motor drive: 900usd+shipping. Unlimited availability, shorter wait time and a spare motor drive is included in the price (probably you'll never need the spare though but someone else could use it then). Larger display than the "built-in" system has.

- "Built-in" version with the controller built into the camera base. Can be made with both "German" and "Chinese" motor drives though I recommend the "German" one for these systems as it is smaller and quieter and has higher top speed. The "built-in" versions are always custom work and should run from 1300usd to 1500usd + shipping (camera body would need to be shipped back and forth too so would be more expensive shipping costs). Smaller display than the "main models" have. Wait time can be anything but probably from 1 to 2 months if the required motor drive types are available

------------

SO....

Is there persons interested in this "cheap-o version" of the ACL Crystal Sync Motor which is slightly more noisy and has lower top speed but is cheaper and much faster to get to your camera and can be made in larger quantities?

If interested, send me a DM or comment here. We can discuss about the details then🙂

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there is a third option of ordering the Crystal sync controller part and the actual brushless motor assembly separately.

This option would be for those wanting to have the better "German" motor for their ACL and can pay the actual crystal controller separately so that I can charge and deliver the actual Crystal Controller as soon as it is assembled, and would charge and send the motor drive assembly later as soon as I get them from the factory. I could then have more resources to stock the better motor drives which would make life much easier for everybody and would allow shorter wait times for all new Eclair ACL motor orders 🙂  . In this case one would get the Crystal Controller itself in September or October2022 and the motor assembly could be delivered between December2022 and February 2023 depending on the order date and availability.

One would get a discount of 100usd off of the total price if ordering and paying this way (the crystal controller and the actual motor drive purchased and delivered separately) and the actual motor drive would ship free when it is delivered later.

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I will have parts to assemble TWO crystal sync motors with the better "German" motor drives and THREE with the cheaper "Chinese" motor drives this year.  I am planning on building a total of 5 pieces of the crystal controllers and they will be sold on first come first served basis.

The next batch will be in Autumn2023 and most likely that batch will only be with the better "German" motors and the "Chinese" version not offered anymore then. The next year's model will be a bit more expensive as well (about 250 to 300usd more) as it is a updated design and not the original one.

For example I will update the bldc controller to a more advanced one next year (when it is possible to get a new batch of those controllers as they are out of stock at the moment) . The new controller will lower the motor noise a little and have other advantages as well. But it is more expensive as well and I have to transfer that expense directly to the final prices. Additionally I will tune the software if needed and make some minor other changes as well. Making this updated model requires that I am able to sell at least the first 4 motors of the original design because the advanced bldc controller boards are very expensive to stock and have very long lead time and I need to get enough resources to be able to order them early in the Spring2023 so that they are possible to get in Autumn2023 to assemble the new motor batch (I need to use a minimum of about 2k for stocking parts for the Autumn2023 batch and that is not possible if not getting enough money back from the original motor design). The more advanced bldc controller is possible to retrofit to the original design for couple of hundred usd and this can be arranged in Autumn2023 if someone would want to update one of the original motors then. So there is no risk ordering the original design as it can be updated if needed 🙂

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