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Quick Example to Drive Servo Using Programmable I/O

Raspberry Pi Pico: This is an example project for driving a servo with a Programmable I/O.

Quick Example to Drive Servo Using Programmable I/O

PIO (Programmable I/O) is a new piece of hardware designed specifically for the RP2040 Microcontroller. It enables the creation of new (or extra) hardware interfaces on an RP2040-based device. Although the RP2040 has dedicated hardware PWM, we will utilise PIO to drive a servo motor in this tiny project.

Quick Example to Drive Servo Using Programmable I/O
Wiring Diagram
#include "hardware/clocks.h"
#include "hardware/pio.h"
#include "pico/stdlib.h"
#include "pico_servo.pio.h"

#define MIN_DC 650
#define MAX_DC 2250
const uint SERVO_PIN = 16;

/* Write `period` to the input shift register */
void pio_pwm_set_period(PIO pio, uint sm, uint32_t period) {
pio_sm_set_enabled(pio, sm, false);
pio_sm_put_blocking(pio, sm, period);
pio_sm_exec(pio, sm, pio_encode_pull(false, false));
pio_sm_exec(pio, sm, pio_encode_out(pio_isr, 32));
pio_sm_set_enabled(pio, sm, true);

/* Write `level` to TX FIFO. State machine will copy this into X */
void pio_pwm_set_level(PIO pio, uint sm, uint32_t level) {
pio_sm_put_blocking(pio, sm, level);

int main() {
PIO pio = pio0;
int sm = 0;
uint offset = pio_add_program(pio, &pico_servo_pio_program);

float freq = 50.0f; /* servo except 50Hz */
uint clk_div = 64; /* make the clock slower */

pico_servo_pio_program_init(pio, sm, offset, clk_div, SERVO_PIN);

uint cycles = clock_get_hz(clk_sys) / (freq * clk_div);
uint32_t period = (cycles -3) / 3;
pio_pwm_set_period(pio, sm, period);

uint level;
int ms = (MAX_DC - MIN_DC) / 2;
bool clockwise = false;

while (true) {
level = (ms / 20000.f) * period;
pio_pwm_set_level(pio, sm, level);

if (ms <= MIN_DC || ms >= MAX_DC) {
clockwise = !clockwise;

if (clockwise) {
ms -= 100;
} else {
ms += 100;


The following software generates PWM signals on a GPIO pin.

; Side-set pin 0 is used for PWM output
.program pico_servo_pio
.side_set 1 opt
pull noblock side 0 ; Pull from FIFO to OSR if available, else copy X to OSR.
mov x, osr ; Copy most-recently-pulled value back to scratch X
mov y, isr ; ISR contains PWM period. Y used as counter.
jmp x!=y noset ; Set pin high if X == Y, keep the two paths length matched
jmp skip side 1
nop ; Single dummy cycle to keep the two paths the same length
jmp y-- countloop ; Loop until Y hits 0, then pull a fresh PWM value from FIFO

% c-sdk {
static inline void pico_servo_pio_program_init(PIO pio, uint sm, uint offse t, uint clk_div, uint pin) {
pio_gpio_init(pio, pin);
pio_sm_set_consecutive_pindirs(pio, sm, pin, 1, true);
pio_sm_config c = pico_servo_pio_program_get_default_config(offset);
sm_config_set_sideset_pins(&c, pin);
sm_config_set_clkdiv(&c, clk_div);
pio_sm_init(pio, sm, offset, &c);
A tiny servo was used to test this software (9g A0090). It should work with servos that are comparable. All conventional servos should have a reaction time of between 1000 and 2000 milliseconds. In my instance, using the setup below, I was able to obtain min and max angles; please adjust it in main.c to fit your servo.
Pico 2G 4g expansion
#define MIN_DC 650
#define MAX_DC 2250

Create the code

$ export PICO_SDK_PATH=/path/to/pico/pico-sdk
$ git clone https://github.com/metanav/pico_servo_pio.git
$ cd pico_servo_pio
$ mkdir build && cd build
$ cmake ..
$ make

Following the procedures below, we may upload the produced pico pio pwm.uf2 binary file to the Raspberry Pi Pico.

  • Connect the Raspberry Pi Pico to your computer's USB port while pressing and holding the BOOTSEL button. It will appear as RPI-RP2, a Mass Storage Device.
  • Drag the pico pio pwm.uf2 binary to the RPI-RP2 volume and dump it there.

The Raspberry Pi Pico will reboot after flashing the binary, and the software will begin to execute.

GitHubDrive servo with Raspberry Pi Pico using PIO

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