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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey guys, here's a little thing I've been working on in my spare time. Still very much in the early stages, but I wanted to make a better way to control my auxiliary items in the jeep (lights, winch, etc.) so I whipped this up.

Here's the gist:

- 5x Automotive (Bosch-style) relay mounts, so relays can be replaced, and are easy to source (I usually carry spares in the jeep)
- 16Mhz Microcontroller, compatible with Arduino
- Self-temperature regulating via a small fan in enclosure (max board temp supported right now is about 115C)
- Monitoring battery voltage
- RS-485 interface for remote control in noisy environments
- Relay outputs can be controlled via software running remotely, or via mechanical switches for safety backup
- Relays start in known (off) position no matter what
- 15A draw per relay/40A board total*
- Linux/Windows/OSX control GUI (in progress, for using a tablet/computer in-jeep)
- Isolation between analog and digital sides to prevent damage to the control circuitry

* - Power source for relays can be input, or pulled from the board via a jumper. All relays can be run at 15A, if no more than 2 are pulled from the board - the other three can come from the battery.

I'll release everything (firmware, software, schematic/board, and cad files) open-source when I'm done. This is the first run of the board, so there's still plenty of work to go, but I'll post here as I make progress.

Note: this version is all through-hole so people who aren't yet ready doing SMD can put one together, I'll do an SMD version after al the basics are done, as the total cost will be a lot cheaper for those who can do it.

I'd, of course, love feedback or thoughts. I considered doing an Android version of the control software(not keen on iOS development), but I was able to re-use a bunch of Qt work I've done, so Android won't come until Qt gets better android support (soon, I hope). There are a large number of linux-compatible devices in the sub $100 range right now, so I'm not sweating it.

3D rendering of board:


GUI prototype:


Photo of 1st board assembled:


!c
 

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Gunnery Sergeant USMC (ret)
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Holy fuck that looks cool but most of what you said I have no idea what you are talking about. Might need to dumb it down a little for us knuckly draggers. Why not market them? You have to start somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Holy fuck that looks cool but most of what you said I have no idea what you are talking about. Might need to dumb it down a little for us knuckly draggers. Why not market them? You have to start somewhere.
LOL, it'll be a bit more obvious when its done and just showing the application =) But, it's a computer-controlled automotive relay board with backup switches, basically.

I may sell them, it depends on whether there's enough interest to make it worth the up-front costs. (The current iteration is not cheap, it's around $20 in parts at volume, before we get to enclosures.) But, I'll still give the designs and other stuff necessary to make your own out for free.

!c
 

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Holy fuck that looks cool but most of what you said I have no idea what you are talking about. Might need to dumb it down a little for us knuckly draggers. Why not market them? You have to start somewhere.
What he said.
 

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LOL, it'll be a bit more obvious when its done and just showing the application =) But, it's a computer-controlled automotive relay board with backup switches, basically.

I may sell them, it depends on whether there's enough interest to make it worth the up-front costs. (The current iteration is not cheap, it's around $20 in parts at volume, before we get to enclosures.) But, I'll still give the designs and other stuff necessary to make your own out for free.

!c
Oh well fuck that makes sense now.
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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Sadly, I understood and identified all of what he said. The Arduino is a cool little D.I.Y. stand alone automator. You see them used a lot in small robots and other places where larger amounts of control are needed. The prototype looks great, pisses me off that some people have access to these things and the time to work with them. When I was heavily into the Scion scene I was looking very closely at doing something similar to this to control my air ride and LED lighting.

Keep up the good work!
 

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Sadly, I understood and identified all of what he said. The Arduino is a cool little D.I.Y. stand alone automator. You see them used a lot in small robots and other places where larger amounts of control are needed. The prototype looks great, pisses me off that some people have access to these things and the time to work with them. When I was heavily into the Scion scene I was looking very closely at doing something similar to this to control my air ride and LED lighting.

Keep up the good work!
Explains some things. :thefinger:
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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Thats cool as hell. Id like to see what it looks like once you detemine the enclosure for it. I for one would be willing to purchase this handy little device. I need to add lights, winch (would it be able to handle the power of a winch?) and other fun electronic accessories. I have been looking at an sPOD, but this is much cooler...cant wait to see how it turns out.

I know you said Android may or may not happen down the road, but it would be sweet if you could some how mount your phone in the enclosure, control the accessories and charge you phone at the same time. I know this is difficult because all Android phones are not the same size, or shape...but its just an idea...

Good job!:)
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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Thats cool as hell. Id like to see what it looks like once you detemine the enclosure for it. I for one would be willing to purchase this handy little device. I need to add lights, winch (would it be able to handle the power of a winch?) and other fun electronic accessories. I have been looking at an sPOD, but this is much cooler...cant wait to see how it turns out.

I know you said Android may or may not happen down the road, but it would be sweet if you could some how mount your phone in the enclosure, control the accessories and charge you phone at the same time. I know this is difficult because all Android phones are not the same size, or shape...but its just an idea...

Good job!:)
USB interface - Long Micro USB cable - Make your own cradle and mount the relay controller out of site.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thats cool as hell. Id like to see what it looks like once you detemine the enclosure for it. I for one would be willing to purchase this handy little device. I need to add lights, winch (would it be able to handle the power of a winch?) and other fun electronic accessories. I have been looking at an sPOD, but this is much cooler...cant wait to see how it turns out.

I know you said Android may or may not happen down the road, but it would be sweet if you could some how mount your phone in the enclosure, control the accessories and charge you phone at the same time. I know this is difficult because all Android phones are not the same size, or shape...but its just an idea...

Good job!:)
The primary problem with Android devices is that each manufacturer makes a determination as to which drivers to include in the kernel. Namely, using the RS-485 interface is pretty easy with a USB to RS-485 converter (I make one here for fairly cheap, and FTDI also sells a pricey cable) - but not all android builds include the required driver for the FTDI chip. Although, with the prominence of the ADK these days, that's probably less of an issue. Simple Bluetooth->RS-485 interfaces are available now, and while they would make it easy, bluetooth is very unreliable in noisy environments - and not something I'd trust controlling my Aux lights in traffic, or any other moderately critical function.

Well, ok, that's a lie - the primary issue is that I have the software written in Qt, which is C++, which, as we know, Android runs Java. =) There are some means to wrap up the Qt code and run it on Android, but they are not elegant presently. Waiting to see if Digia makes good on the promise to extend Qt to Android now that they've acquired it all from Nokia.


USB interface - Long Micro USB cable - Make your own cradle and mount the relay controller out of site.
I haven't added a USB interface to it yet, but likely will before it's done. The reasons I haven't focused on USB control is two-fold: the RS-485 is a balanced wiring setup, meaning noise is automatically cancelled out when it enters the wiring, (which is necessary around a vehicle engine =) and also it's a multi-drop bus specification. Meaning, with the current protocol I have implemented, you can do up to 254 of these devices with one connection to the controller, and they can synchronize and inform each other of necessary data automatically*. With direct USB, you'd need one plug for each.

(Not a problem for most setups, I know - I will have a minimum of 2, one in my AT, and one in the Jeep.)

* - The reasoning behind this is all of the tech is borrowed from another system I've designed and built, that are an autonomous motion control network. Set it up once, and it'll continue to operate as expected, even with the controller removed - and the controller updates to current status upon re-connect. All of this is probably way too much detail for this use-case, but the capability is there, because I'm lazy and re-use anything that's already proven and functioning =) It just happens that both systems required more than one unit, and to operate predictably in very noisy environments.

Regarding winches:

No, it can't run the winch solenoid directly, it can, however, replace a hand-held controller, the same as wiring up switches in cabin - where you wire into the controller, where the hand-held unit would go.

!c
 

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Holy fuck that looks cool but most of what you said I have no idea what you are talking about. Might need to dumb it down a little for us knuckly draggers. Why not market them? You have to start somewhere.
What he said.....can you type more slowly so we can understand.
 

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I thought I was hasty with my last post, not having read through the entire thread.....nope, still don't have a clue. :(

What would I or any jeeper use this for on our jeeps?
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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I thought I was hasty with my last post, not having read through the entire thread.....nope, still don't have a clue. :(

What would I or any jeeper use this for on our jeeps?
To wire up an electric ram with a boxing glove on the end pointing right at your balls so you can ball punch yourself with a touchscreen button for not understanding that this is a very eloquent version of the sPod with more bells and whistles on the interface side. :thefinger:
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I thought I was hasty with my last post, not having read through the entire thread.....nope, still don't have a clue. :(

What would I or any jeeper use this for on our jeeps?
Like JKCTAZ said (although I don't recommend punching ones self in the balls, unless you're into that sort of thing, then more power to you! =) - if you want to be able to do more controlling your auxiliary components than just flipping switches. (But want the safety to be able to just flip a switch when needed.)

Anyhow, going through smoke test, initial bootloading, firmware testing, etc. today will report back if anything but a dismal failure on the first run =)

!c
 

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Discussion Starter #19
As expected, a few issues on the first board. A still to be determined issue with the temperature sensor, and need a little more work on the isolation with the triggers on the relays. Namely, I had miscalculated the amount of current required to initiate the coils on the relays (focusing instead on the amount required to maintain the coils), and under-spec'd the optocouplers. Given that properly spec'd OK's run in the ~ $2/part (and five are needed) range, I'm going to stay with the $0.18 ones, and add mosfets. This will maintain 100% isolation between the CPU and the relays, but letting the less-expensive mosfets switch the actual coils. It's probably overkill to keep the OK's, but they're cheap and add one more layer of reliability.

!c
 
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