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  1. #1
    Senior Member carrhd's Avatar
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    8 port solid state relay board.

    I was in talking to Kieth and Mark at Marinescape about Tunze Stream water mover thingies and we were talking about turning them on and off to change the flow of water in the tank. I've already got three timers running my tank. They're Intermatic electromechanical timers. One runs the flourescent lights on the main tank, the puffer/Ruby tank, and the light under the stand (formerly where the refugium was until I built the tank top fragfugium.) The other two each run one of the two metal halide ballasts for the Outer Orbit lights over the main tank.

    If I start adding timers to turn the flow pumps on and off that's going to be a honkload of timers. That (as so often happens) got me thinking...

    I think I wrote about the custom controller I built around a Tri-M PC104 single board industrial computer to run my heating system.



    So...what the conversation at Marinescape got me to thinking about is what it would take to build a custom timer/controller to run aquarium lights and pumps. I've ordered an 8 port Solid State Relay board from a company in Australia.

    My thoughts on the software so far are that I would create a module for lights and a module for pumps. The lights module would include a simple start time and stop time. The pump module would include the options for simple start and stop time for for random start and stop over a period ranging from a few hours to all day and that it would randomize the start and stop of the pumps for you. I've also been considering setting up pre-set feeding times (I turn my flourescents on at 5 AM and off at 6 AM so that the fish can get a morning feeding while I'm getting ready for work. It would be nice to be able to schedule feeding times so that the controller would turn the lights on (if necessary) and turn the pumps off for feeding.

    This is really just a quick note to let folks know that I'm committed enough to doing this that I've actually ordered the board. I've got a pair of PC104 computers available (I'm going to use one to run this thing during development then I'll switch over to an Atmega or AVR controller to make it affordable.)

    Any thoughts? Interest?

    Hank.
    220G mixed reef main, 30 G (3 x 10) brood/grow-out, 25 G secondary, 6 G frag with shared sump

    Return Pump: Iwaki MD55RLT
    Water Movement: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060, 4 x MaxiJet 1200
    Lighting: 60" Outer Orbit dual 250 W 10k HQI and quad 48" T5HO Actinic
    Skimmer: Precision Marine Bullet-2 with Iwaki MD55RLT, WC610 waste collector, and gate valve

    Experience: Fresh since 1976 - Marine since 1987

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hank.carr

  2. #2
    liv
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    Former Moderator liv's Avatar
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    wow cool stuff !
    A+ on the DIY, keep us posted on your findinds.

    moving.. so temporarily out of SW :b8:
    planning next tank, possibly 60x30x20 on 2x plasma.
    updated: 2011/05/30

  3. #3
    Senior Member carrhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liv View Post
    wow cool stuff !
    Thanks! I've always wanted to do embedded controls but never had an application. The heating controller for the house let me get my feet wet (and kept the house between 19.5 and 20.5 degrees from December to March of last year.)

    This is the 8 port solid state relay board I ordered. It should be here in about two weeks.



    This is the TMZ104 single board computer that I'm using to run the heating system right now.



    It's MASSIVE overkill for both the heating system and the aquarium controller. I've got it running Windows XP from a 100 Gb notebook hard disk. What I'm thinking about using for a controller is something like this.



    It's USD$28.90 and does everything that I want it to do except it doesn't have ethernet. Ideally I want this thing to be networked (like my thermostat is) so that you could just pop open a browser and type http://aquarium and you would be in the control panel for the aquarium. It sounds far fetched but a controller with ethernet and a web server can be had for less than $100. I just need to find one that has ethernet, a web server, AND enough I/O ports to run the solid state relay board(s depending on how many devices need to be controlled.)

    As a matter of interest it would also be possible to build in control for an automatic top up, kalk reactor, etc. using the same basic controls. Hell, you could build in control for solenoids to fill a reservoir with RO/DO water then use that to feel the kalk reactor and turn it off for long enough to get nice clear water before toppin gup the tank. Fairly basic stuff.

    What I'm thinking for my application would be to install this thing in a NEMA enclosure and have it be built into the room. I would have it switch the power to a series of outlets distributed around the tank. I would just plug in a pump to outlet one then go to the controller and tell it that outlet one was a pump that I wanted to run 24 hours a day turning on and off randomly with the pump on 75% of the time for a minimum of 15 minutes in increments of 5 minutes and that this pump was to be included in the feeding shutdown group and turned off during the designated feeding periods.

    It could also be used as a stand alone unit with the outlets directly on the enclosure but I don't think that would be nearly as useful.

    Hank.
    220G mixed reef main, 30 G (3 x 10) brood/grow-out, 25 G secondary, 6 G frag with shared sump

    Return Pump: Iwaki MD55RLT
    Water Movement: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060, 4 x MaxiJet 1200
    Lighting: 60" Outer Orbit dual 250 W 10k HQI and quad 48" T5HO Actinic
    Skimmer: Precision Marine Bullet-2 with Iwaki MD55RLT, WC610 waste collector, and gate valve

    Experience: Fresh since 1976 - Marine since 1987

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hank.carr

  4. #4
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    Nice. Let me guess, electrical engineer? You have to keep us posted on the final build of this - especially the computer interface. I'm guessing you'll have some build requests if it all comes together as planned.

  5. #5
    ijo
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    nice!!! For those of you who do not understand... carrhd is talking geek.. lol

    its way over my head but sounds super cool!!!

    IJO

  6. #6
    Senior Member carrhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brooker View Post
    Nice. Let me guess, electrical engineer?
    I'm just an interested aquarium geek with some electrical and lots of programming experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by brooker View Post
    You have to keep us posted on the final build of this - especially the computer interface. I'm guessing you'll have some build requests if it all comes together as planned.
    I'm suspicious that this is going to be something that will interest a number of the folks on this board. I was looking at the Intermatic website a couple of days ago and their Next Generation timer switches are pretty cool.

    http://www.intermatic.com/Default.as...9&cid=50&did=5

    Unfortunately, they run into the USD$1500 range on Ebay and they don't have the randomization and feeding time features and they don't understand the control of the kalk, RO/DI, and top off that would be so useful.

    Some of the controllers that I'm looking at have analog to digital inputs so could read PH, ORP, temperature, etc. probes and they have outputs that could be used to control other devices. Once the basic controller is built I could simply build modules to control devices as users ask.

    I would hope that the basic controller assembled with the software would be in the...say...$500 range. That's still a big investment but when you subtract the cost of burned out standard timers then the cost of replacing them with high amperage timers and maybe replacing circulation pump timers and contrllers it starts to get more affordable.

    Hank.
    220G mixed reef main, 30 G (3 x 10) brood/grow-out, 25 G secondary, 6 G frag with shared sump

    Return Pump: Iwaki MD55RLT
    Water Movement: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060, 4 x MaxiJet 1200
    Lighting: 60" Outer Orbit dual 250 W 10k HQI and quad 48" T5HO Actinic
    Skimmer: Precision Marine Bullet-2 with Iwaki MD55RLT, WC610 waste collector, and gate valve

    Experience: Fresh since 1976 - Marine since 1987

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hank.carr

  7. #7
    liv
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    there is a bunch of ways to accomplish the same task.. ( as you are well aware ) I thought about a similar thing for my setup and might continue on this route.
    basically get a chip used for cnc type work.. serial in, use light triggered switches hooked up to relays, then a bunch of outs.. as long as your relays can handle the current load, its super simple and then can be controlled from your pc quite easily. as for random, you can make sequences or run a ramdomisation prog and use the trips to fire stops & starts. not sure winblows has such an engine built in, but I know linux does.

    moving.. so temporarily out of SW :b8:
    planning next tank, possibly 60x30x20 on 2x plasma.
    updated: 2011/05/30

  8. #8
    Senior Member carrhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liv View Post
    there is a bunch of ways to accomplish the same task.. (...) basically get a chip used for cnc type work..
    Yup. Lots of ways to do it. If you're thinking about doing it yourself you need to know that you can't buy the parts as cheaply as you can buy these finished controllers. The ATmega controller above is less than USD$30, can be in your mailbox in less than a week, and includes everything you need. These things have a built in RTOS (real time operating system), I/O, clocks, memory, etc. You can get a BASIC development environment which produces super small, super fast machine code for FREE as long as your code is small (otherwise they cost about $75.)

    If you've got a bit of skill and can decipher manuals written in Engrish you can probably cobble something together. The solid state relay board and the ATmega controller are both from Futurlec (http://www.futurlec.com). The BASIC development environment is called BascomAVR and can be had from Dontronics (http://www.bascom-avr.biz/).

    I'm going to build one for myself. If anyone else wants one I could put another together.

    Hank.
    220G mixed reef main, 30 G (3 x 10) brood/grow-out, 25 G secondary, 6 G frag with shared sump

    Return Pump: Iwaki MD55RLT
    Water Movement: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060, 4 x MaxiJet 1200
    Lighting: 60" Outer Orbit dual 250 W 10k HQI and quad 48" T5HO Actinic
    Skimmer: Precision Marine Bullet-2 with Iwaki MD55RLT, WC610 waste collector, and gate valve

    Experience: Fresh since 1976 - Marine since 1987

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hank.carr

  9. #9
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    Having done some research into all things automation for my new 90g tank one thing I'd like to point out is that you may encounter problems controlling ballasts with solid state relays. Unless your SSRs implement zero voltage turn-on you may not get the lights to fire reliably. This is one area where good old mechanical relays beat out SSRs hands down. This is also the reason why many commercial controllers (ReefKeeper II for example) have special ports that they recommend you use for metal halides. These ports will use mechanical relays instead of solid state technology.

    On another note I'm in the process of building a water level controller myself at the moment. Basically I have one Honeywell electro-optical fluid level sensor in the sump controlling the topoff pump, there's also a mechanical float switch which remains high and dry and is there to shut down the top off in the unlikely event that the other sensor, or controller fails. I also have a mechanical switch in the overflow of the display tank to shut down the return if the water gets too high as well. This is all controlled from a simple pic16f628A controller. The logic I'm programming into the controller will do some neat stuff such as sensing when the resevoir is empty. All in all it's about a $60 build because of the $25 fluid sensor. Compare that to the Tunze Osmolator which uses the same technology but isn't quite as functional.

    Another thing I meant to mention is with regards to ethernet connectivity. If your budget will allow for it you may want to look into the Xport modules by Lantronix (available through www.mouser.com and probably others). These devices are really cool, it's basically a complete webserver that's not much bigger than the size of the RJ45 jack itself. It'll communicate with your microcontroller using serial communication. It'll run you about $50US for the ethernet version. They also make similar wireless modules, but I haven't looked up the price on those. I haven't tried one of these things out yet, but it seems pretty simple, most of the BASIC and C development tools will have libraries for serial communication, so it should be simple to implement.

  10. #10
    Senior Member carrhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samhain View Post
    you may encounter problems controlling ballasts with solid state relays. Unless your SSRs implement zero voltage turn-on you may not get the lights to fire reliably.
    Huh. I didn't know that. Thanks. The board from Futurlec is actually a series of optocouples in front of triacs. It may be that for the halides it will be necessary to use an actual commercial solid state relay (which pushes the price up. They're about $25 each.)

    Quote Originally Posted by samhain View Post
    On another note I'm in the process of building a water level controller myself at the moment. Basically I have one Honeywell (...)
    Compare that to the Tunze Osmolator which uses the same technology but isn't quite as functional.
    I've always planned to use two level switches at the bottom and two level switches at the top and double solenoids in series. The problem with the electromechanical level switches is that they can become caked with salt, algae, or other debris and jam. It might be worthwhile to add a third float a couple of inches above the maximum level protected from splash that would shut everything down in a disaster.

    Quote Originally Posted by samhain View Post
    Another thing I meant to mention is with regards to ethernet connectivity. If your budget will allow for it you may want to look (...)
    and C development tools will have libraries for serial communication, so it should be simple to implement.
    I hadn't looked at them. Thanks. It is going to be a question of whether it will be cheaper to but a web enabled controller and add IO or to buy an IO controller and add ethernet and web. I've been having an email conversation with the sales guy at Futurlec and am waiting for his latest response.

    Thanks a bunch for the input. I'd love to hear how your project comes together.

    Hank.
    220G mixed reef main, 30 G (3 x 10) brood/grow-out, 25 G secondary, 6 G frag with shared sump

    Return Pump: Iwaki MD55RLT
    Water Movement: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060, 4 x MaxiJet 1200
    Lighting: 60" Outer Orbit dual 250 W 10k HQI and quad 48" T5HO Actinic
    Skimmer: Precision Marine Bullet-2 with Iwaki MD55RLT, WC610 waste collector, and gate valve

    Experience: Fresh since 1976 - Marine since 1987

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hank.carr

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