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Old 06-10-2014, 07:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Lightbulb ESC upgrading/flashing for Dummies

I thought I'd write this very simple guide for us non electrical engineers...

I have several brushless converted Nanos and mCPx'es. Which I've soldered myself, but I never did the flashing (bought it pre-flashed). I now wanted to flash a larger ESCs for a bigger helicopter myself. I must admit it had looked a bit complex... but dont' worry, it's really quite simple!

Why upgrade the ESC firmware?
Simply to make it better & get more functions. THE key selling point here is the "governor" feature. Governor is a function that maintains a constant headspeed under load, making the heli more stable & predictable. Simply better to fly. Without governor the motor will bog down under hard maneuvers. You can even on some ESCs adjust BEC output voltage (not added functions, just easier to use).

To what firmware?
To "BLHeli", this is an open source project by a german and a norwegian. It initially started as a project in order to make the mCPx brushless. In stead of using a physical converter (remember the "Steve" converter?) they wrote their own firmware so that the brushless ESC could use input signals from the motherboard. And also incorporate a governor on these tiny things! Plus lots of adjustable settings for the ESC like timing, governor gain and so on.

For what ESCs?
BLHeli now support both SiLabs and Atmel microprocessors, and the list of supported ESCs is growing all the time! Initially it was just for small Nano and mCPx ESCs. But now it can also be flashed to ESCs for much larger helis. Take a look at the full list here:
https://github.com/bitdump/BLHeli/bl...s.pdf?raw=true

What do you need?
1) A soldering iron, preferably a soldering station. The tip must be very small and pointy. A lamp with a magnifying glass is also very handy.
2) A USB "toolstick"
3) A personal computer

I bought this USB toolstick from Astroid Designs:
http://astroid-designs.myshopify.com...flashing-stick





Look carefully at this illustration. The "mCPx servo plugs" that are included (fit the USB stick plug) DO NOT have the pins in the correct order when you buy it! You need to open the "lip" on the connector carefully with an X-Acto knife, then swap places between the yellow and the red plug. Then the "toolstick" is good to go.

Next, you find your "supported" ESC in the pdf list. In my case I selected the Align RCE-BL35P (shipped with Align 450 kits in the past):


If you look closer you see three colored rings for illustration - red, white and black. These match the servo / flashing plug mentioned earlier. White = yellow. Solder these three onto the board of the ESC.

First you cut (small scissors work fine) open the shrinkwrap on the backside (not on the cooling fin side). We re-join this later with some electrical tape.


Wires soldered on. Make them just long enough for the plug to protrude from the shrinkwrap. The wires should not be longer than 4 cm in order for communication to work well.

As you can see I've put on some shrinkwrap on the end of the wires. The plastic on these small wires tend to melt/crimp a lot when you solder them. This prevents the otherwise exposed wire to short something on the board.

OK, so now all hardware is good to go. Next then is the software:

BLHeli Suite Software:
You download it from here: https://www.helifreak.com/blog.php?u...categoryid=119
It does not install like a program, you just save it into a folder on your PC. Then double click the BLHeli Suite.exe file.


This is the program from which the magic is done! Now plug the USB toolstick into the PC USB port (it's more practical if you have a std. USB extender cable). Then plug the main LiPo battery to the ESC (disconnect the motor wires first) As you can see from the screenshot the toolstick now shows up on the bottom left as "EC80000B719". Meaning the PC software can now see and "talk to" the USB toolstick.

We now click "read setup" and get this:


(BESC = Brushless Electrical Speed Control)

Since it has "native" firmware onboard now BLHeli cannot recognize it and ask if we want to "flash" (replace) it with BLHeli. Click "Yes"



Find your ESC on the list and select it. In my case this one:



("Main" and "tail" is relevant only for micros, which have a separate tail brushless motor. For large helis it's always "main")

Click "OK"



This is the "point of no return", you cannot save and re-load the original firmware. You will now be destined to a future with BLHeli



Success!


As you can see the ESC is now "recognized" by the software. You can now:
-play around with settings
-save settings
-open/load settings
-"write" the settings to the ESC via "Write Setup"
-"read" the settings from the ESC

Notice you can even name your ESC in case you have several of the same. On the upper right you can even set the BEC output voltage (not on all ESCs).



-this nice overview is found on Astroid Designs' website:
http://astroid-designs.myshopify.com...-and-downloads

YOU CAN DO IT!

I now invite you guys to post your BLHeli settings that has worked well for you, for others to enjoy!

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Last edited by SHYguy; 06-11-2014 at 06:28 AM..
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Old 06-10-2014, 08:42 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Very interesting post. I still have the Align 35A ESC that came with my 450. Replaced it with a Talon 35 right from the start because I wanted the Set RPM governor. Since the Align is just collecting dust I think I'll use it to experiment with BLHeli.

Are there any other sources for the USB link? Looks like the Astroid Designs site says it's not currently available from them.
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Old 06-10-2014, 08:48 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simplechamp View Post
Very interesting post. I still have the Align 35A ESC that came with my 450. Replaced it with a Talon 35 right from the start because I wanted the Set RPM governor. Since the Align is just collecting dust I think I'll use it to experiment with BLHeli.

Are there any other sources for the USB link? Looks like the Astroid Designs site says it's not currently available from them.
You can get one from HK as well : http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...dProduct=25433
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Old 06-10-2014, 09:20 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thx! Look in the beginning of the supported ESC pdf file, several USB options listed there
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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http://www.megasmicros.com/product_p/blheli-tool.htm

via Galaxy s5 on Tapatalk
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Oops...sorry, didn't notice Kevin was outta stock at the moment

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Old 06-10-2014, 08:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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+1 - Nice job SHY...wish I would have had this tutorial when I was learning to flash my Turnigy
AE-45As. Love your landing skid mod as well!
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Old 06-10-2014, 11:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SHYguy View Post
I thought I'd write this very simple guide for us non electrical engineers...

I have several brushless converted Nanos and mCPx'es. Which I've soldered myself, but I never did the flashing (bought it pre-flashed). I now wanted to flash a larger ESCs for a bigger helicopters myself. I must admit it had looked a bit complex... but dont' worry, it's really quite simple!

Why upgrade the ESC firmware?
Simply to make it better & get more functions. THE selling point here is the "governor" feature. Governor is a function that maintains a constant headspeed under load, making the heli more stable & predictable. Simply better to fly. Without governor the motor will bog down under hard maneuvers. You can even on some ESCs adjust BEC output voltage (not added functions, just easier to use).

To what firmware?
To "BLHeli", this is an open source project by a german and a norwegian. It initially started as a project in order to make the mCPx brushless. In stead of a physical converter they wrote their own firmware so that the brushless ESC could use input signals from the motherboard. And also incorporate a governor on these tiny things! Plus lots of adjustable settings for the ESC like timing, governor gain and so on.

For what ESCs?
BLHeli now support both SiLabs and Atmel microprocessors, and the list of supported ESCs is growing all the time! Initially it was just for small Nano and mCPx ESCs. But now it can also be flashed to ESCs for much larger helis. Take a look at the full list here:
https://github.com/bitdump/BLHeli/blob/master/SiLabs/BLHeli%20supported%20SiLabs%20ESCs.pdf?raw=true

What do you need?
1) A soldering iron, preferably a soldering station. A lamp with a magnifying glass is also very handy.
2) A USB "toolstick"
3) A personal computer

I bought this USB toolstick from Astroid Designs:
http://astroid-designs.myshopify.com/collections/blade-mcpx-upgrades/products/usb-blheli-flashing-stick





Look carefully at this illustration. The "mCPx servo plugs" that are included (fit the USB stick plug) DO NOT have the pins in the correct order when you buy it! You need to open the "lip" on the connector carefully with an X-Acto knife, then swap places between the yellow and the red plug. Then the "toolstick" is good to go.

Next, you find your "supported" ESC in the pdf list. In my case I selected the Align RCE-BL35P (shipped with Align 450 kits in the past):


If you look closer you see three colored rings for illustration - red, white and black. These match the servo / flashing plug mentioned earlier. White = yellow. Solder these three onto the board of the ESC.

First you cut (small scissors work fine) open the shrinkwrap on the backside (not on the cooling fin side). We re-join this later with some electrical tape.


Wires soldered on. Make them just long enough for the plug to protrude from the shrinkwrap. The wires should not be longer than 4 cm in order for communication to work well.

As you can see I've put on some shrinkwrap on the end of the wires. The plastic on these small wires tend to melt/crimp a lot when you solder them. This prevents the otherwise exposed wire to short something on the board.

OK, so now all hardware is good to go. Next then is the software:

BLHeli Suite Software:
You download it from here: https://www.helifreak.com/blog.php?u=144146&blogcategoryid=119
It does not install like a program, you just save it into a folder on your PC. Then double click the BLHeli Suite.exe file.


This is the program from which the magic is done! Now plug the USB toolstick into the PC USB port (it's more practical if you have a std. USB extender cable). Then plug the main LiPo battery to the ESC (disconnect the motor wires first) As you can see from the screenshot the toolstick now shows up on the bottom left as "EC80000B719". Meaning the PC software can now see and "talk to" the USB toolstick.

We now click "read setup" and get this:


(BESC = Brushless Electrical Speed Control)

Since it has "native" firmware onboard now BLHeli cannot recognize it and ask if we want to "flash" (replace) it with BLHeli. Click "Yes"



Find your ESC on the list and select it. In my case this one:



("Main" and "tail" is relevant only for micros, which have a separate tail brushless motor. For large helis it's always "main")

Click "OK"



This is the "point of no return", you cannot save and re-load the original firmware. You will now be destined to a future with BLHeli



Success!


As you can see the ESC is now "recognized" by the software. You can now:
-play around with settings
-save settings
-open/load settings
-"write" the settings to the ESC via "Write Setup"
-"read" the settings from the ESC

Notice you can even name your ESC in case you have several of the same. On the upper right you can even set the BEC output voltage (not on all ESCs).



-this nice overview is found on Astroid Designs' website:
http://astroid-designs.myshopify.com/pages/blheli-informaon-and-downloads

YOU CAN DO IT!

I now invite you guys to post your BLHeli settings that has worked well for you, for others to enjoy!
Outstanding job....

But, I hope you don't use it's linear BEC....if you draw more than 2A at 5V, the linear BEC will "crowbar"....0V out.....once it's been reset, it'll still work....after the crash.

In addition, a linear BEC wastes 1/2 of the voltage "drop-down" in resistive heat....which adds to the heat of the ESC itself(given this internal BEC).
Which is why manufacturers have gone to Switching BECs(SBECs)...because
SBECs don't have this issue....they can suffer from voltage undershoot, when high transient current demands occur...

Bottom line is that this linear BEC is not suitable for any application that requires even 1.5A max., and
I have test data to prove it....It's 2007 tech anyway.

FWIW
Number likes this.
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Old 06-11-2014, 01:04 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thx guys! And thx for the BEC heads up!

But look here:


It says "switch mode BEC" - is that not the case EEngineer?
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Last edited by SHYguy; 06-11-2014 at 08:19 AM..
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Old 06-11-2014, 01:20 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: ESC upgrading/flashing for Dummies

Great write up.

Just to note, the flashing plugs I get now are the same as what comes with the flashing sticks, the wires are terminated in different places on both ends, so half of them have wire colors that correspond to the plug output, half don't. I usually use the 1.25mm pitch plugs instead, they are more robust than the mcpx servo plug style.
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Old 06-11-2014, 05:58 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Awesome post SHYguy, I had never really considered trying this until I read your post. I am thinking I might have to give it a go now. Thanks for the great info.
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Old 06-11-2014, 06:21 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottyay View Post
Awesome post SHYguy, I had never really considered trying this until I read your post. I am thinking I might have to give it a go now. Thanks for the great info.
You're very welcome! I initially read through the whole BLHeli tread in the mCPx brushless forum... it seemed kinda overwhelming. And there's so many links with information. But at the end of the day it's not really hard at all! The only thing is the kinda tiny soldering. But you can do it with an el cheapo soldering iron too - just buy a small & pointy tip for it. So it really does not need to be much of an investment - and most of us have a "useless" ESC lying around...

Now if we in addition can get the experienced guys to post their preferred setup for a given helicopter model - all you then need to do is set the same settings. Then enter your preferred throttle curve on your TX in order to give the governor a "target" - and that's it!

Now... there's thousands of "dum" E-Flite ESCs out there... I've sent my 25A (300X/CFX) and 35A (450/450X) to Steffen (the code writer) to see if he can map them. If so even those can have a new life with governor! IMO the SBEC on those are quite up to the job. Btw it's a shame that the manufacturers of ESCs don't keep up with technology... this should have been standard in all ESCs being sold these days!

He will also try to map the Gaui X2 stock ESC, which is good, small and lightweight.

The feeling after the job is done is great! I DID THIS MYSELF!
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:10 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Nice work, SHYguy. Are you flying in Oslo? I'm usually flying in Maridalen myself.
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrej2k View Post
Nice work, SHYguy. Are you flying in Oslo? I'm usually flying in Maridalen myself.
Thx! I fly at Rustadsletta, where I live. My friend Lars flies his 700 in Maridalen.
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Old 06-11-2014, 05:37 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SHYguy View Post
Thx! I fly at Rustadsletta, where I live. My friend Lars flies his 700 in Maridalen.
Nice! I've met up with Lars a couple of times
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Old 10-04-2014, 07:42 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Very nice write up SHY! Thank you so much!!!
I was about to buy a castle ESC after my frustrated trial of stock Align governor (no crash), but decided to have a look on HeliFreak first and I found your thread.
I have just flashed the BLHeli on my ESC RCE-BL35P, but didn't have time to play with it.
I also hope some other guys that already did this process can help us with some screen shots of their settings.
Hope our fellas start sharing their findings
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Old 10-07-2014, 08:18 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Anyone?


Sent from my iphone using Tapatalk
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Old 10-07-2014, 08:37 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I recently flashed a polaris 80a for my new trex 500. I just start with the default settings, then i see how low i can go on the start-up power, then just play with the timing and gains depending on setup.
...boy it was nice hearing that familiar start up tone.
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Old 07-24-2017, 07:16 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Reviving an old thread here. I saw this thread over the weekend and was wondering if I should try this on an Align 35A esc, the stock one for the Trex450 PRO.
Anyone got any recent feedback on this ? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:50 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Time for a new revival - I think I'll try to flash the ESC of the XK K110
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