MOAM Industries

Make great things.

Almost November

It has been a big year for MOAM Industries, so much has happened already.

B.E.T.R – Biometric Employee Time Reporter

The most significant development has been a large research and development project with a local civil contractor. We have been developing a portable biometric clock system with a GPRS TCP/IP link to a central database. This project has understandably drawn a lot of our time and focus unfortunately to the detriment to some of our other projects.

However we will be adding some new products to our store at the completion of the project. Most notably some great quality Biometric fingerprint scanners, they are more expensive than the scanners sold by other companies however they have some great features and even better performance. They stat up quick, can store hundreds of different peoples fingerprints with up to ten fingers registered for each user. We are even able to transfer encrytped fingerprints from device to device which makes them great for distributed access and control. Not to mention their inbuilt IO for interfacing with door strikes and duress alarms.

West Coast Makers

A Hacker/Maker space growing here in Western Australia. Close to celebrating it’s first birthday this great group of people have really been developing themselves into a serious organisation over the year. Operating in a small borrowed space and recently incorporating officially, forming a not for profit organisation which will help promote STEM throughout the state. We have really enjoyed being involved with the group, showing of our projects, sharing our knowledge and hosting meetups in our workshop.

A Lab to call our own

Together with Van Dam Industries we have moved into a proper workspace. It is probably the only combination machine shop and engineering laboratory in the state and we wouldn’t have it any other way. ┬áBased in Welshpool it is a 250sqm warehouse space that we have now filled with 2 mills, 2 lathes a well setup welding bay and assembly area. One whole section is a sealed off R&D lab which keeps out some of the dust and not enough of the noise where we can now spread out and develop with style.

 

Reflow Controllers delayed

We have taken the decision to put the reflow controller through one last revision before we make them available. This has been a ahrd decision to make as we felt we were so close with the current revision and we possibly could have made do with the current version. However following our motto of make great things we felt we could not release a product that we were not 100% happy with and felt it should be better.

The troublesome area was our thermocouple amplifier, unfortunatly we could not create an accurate op amp stage to reliably provide feedback on the oven’s temperature. Considering the accuracy required when reflowing PCBs we felt this was not acceptable. The problem arrises from our now clearly too simply differential amplifier circuit, we put a little too much faith into this application note from micro-chip which we based our design upon. Realistically at a minimum we should have utilised an instrumentation amplifier configuration as opposed to a single stage differential amplifier. With the current design we were susceptible to too many variables for a reliable 1 degree repeatability, we required higher than 1% accurate resistors, emf shielding and additional amplifier stages to improve uppon the current design.

Amplifier stage

A complete redesign of the anolgue circuit and the inevitable increase in complexity associated with this would have delayed us months and added considerable cost in high accuracy components. The first alternative is the AD595Q from nalog devices, a through hole mounted chip which amplifies, linearises and cold junction compensates a thermocouple with little additional circuitry. Unfortunatly these chips are $15 each! from digikey, a considerable step up from the $1 amplifier and passive components of the previous design. The other alternatives to this chip are all surface mounted components of which the assembly techniques are too complex for a kit. AD595Q

Therefore our final solution has been to develop a breakout for the MAX31855 surface mounted thermocouple amplifier and to provide it with the kit. The design is based on that developed by Adafruit Industries (we really liked there level shifting technique) and will also be available seperatly from our store. There are a few minor diferences in our version, filtering capacitors on the supply input to the regulator and the input as well as 3.5mm mounting holes for compatability with the M3 hardware we typically use, we also plan to bring out an alternate version including a “propper” thermocouple connection as oppesed to the common screw terminals.

MAX38155 breakout image

The advantage of using the MAX31855 is we no longer require complicated analogue circuitry or the risk of signal noise. Temperature information is retrieved by the microcontroller using a serial interface to the breakout board where the signal is level shifted to communicate with the 3.3V MAX31855. Both the thermocouple temperature and cold junction temperature can be retrieved from the amplifier. The only unfortunate side effect of this alteration is the removal of the running indication LED from above the LCD. As the removal of the previous analogue circuitry only made two pins available we needed to sacrifice the LED pin to provide the third signal pin required for the amplifier.

So over the next few weeks we will be ordering the additional components, and testing our schematic design before ordering the next production batch of PCBs. Unfortunatly last time we were a little too over eager and we took a gamble that did not pay off, however you live and learn and we shall be more prudent in the future.

3D printers helping the disabled

To use the old cliche’ “we live in exciting times” as more and more tools become available in the fields of small scale manufacture and rapid prototyping it is a certainty that we will hear of more stories like this

Whilst the work done here with Emma could be done with traditional matterial removal manufacturing techniques like we use with Van Dam industries the time from inception to completion can be much longer. Whilst Ron is a fast machinist with almost 40 years of manufacturing and prototyping experience the more traditional tools he uses such as mills and lathes are labour intensive to use not to mention the years of training and skill required to operate them. Rapid prototyping is helping get the parts Emma needs much quicker and cheaper as once the parts are scaled and designed in a CAD environment the 3D printer can take over the manufacturing tasks automatically. The real beauty of this idea is the access less developed companies have to this equipment, theoretically a Rep-Rap could print the majority of the parts Emma needs, exluding the jacket, very economically.

Apocalypse sentry system

In honour of the supposed apocalypse we decided to throw a party! (and let our mortgage lapse, a mistake in hindsight).

To greet our guests at the door as they came in we decided to greet them with a Nerf sentry gun. We had simple requirements for this system, it cannot involve permanent modification to the guns (a present from Mel) and had to fire automatically, no remote control.

This is the result

Twin Nerf vulcan cannons trained on our front door

Twin Nerf vulcan cannons trained on our front door

This is a perfect application for an Arduino and in our opinion the core of an arduinos usefulness; quick short term projects that can be completed in a few hours. Easy to prototype and quick to program. To facilitate automated firing of the vulcan cannons we inserted a PCB in series with the battery pack to interupt the current flow. Then we secured the trigger on using a cable tie. With this technique we could control the firing with a relay instead of complicated servos to pull the trigger.

To make contact with the battery we attached a wire to a cut down prototype of our eagle reference board, applying a generous ammount of solder to the traces

To make contact with the battery we attached a wire to a cut down prototype of our eagle reference board, applying a generous amount of solder to the traces

Flying lead connection to the other side of the isolating PCB. Simply wire wrapped around the sprung  battery terminal

Flying lead connection to the other side of the isolating PCB. Simply wire wrapped around the sprung battery terminal

Assembled with batteried reinstalled.

Assembled with batteries reinstalled.

Firing control relay to complete the Nerf power circuit. These little relays are great with the coil rated at 5v & 40ma they can be driven directly by the microcontroller and can switch up to 5A at 250VAC

Firing control relay to complete the Nerf power circuit. These little relays are great with the coil rated at 5v & 40ma they can be driven directly by the microcontroller and can switch up to 5A at 250VAC

Trigger cable tied into the fire position. Thankfully the Vulcan cannon is fully automatic and not semi-automatic.

Trigger cable tied into the fire position. Thankfully the Vulcan canon is fully automatic and not semi-automatic.

These modifications now ensure the Nerf gun can fire automatically and has not involved any permanent damage or modification to the guns.

The next step is the automation of firing and control. We had a spare PIR sensor available which makes for a nice plug and play sensor we could use to detect guests.

Simple PIR sensor

Simple PIR sensor

We decided to take mercy on our guests and at least give them a warning of the impending rain of soft foam darts. A buzzer from our stock for the Reflow controllers was added to a small piece of strip board with headers for the arduino connection. Of course with any automated weapons system we also included a missile switch for fire control, allowing the system to be armed and disarmed so we didn’t have to spend all night picking up little foam darts before Moose ate them.

Gheto strip board arduino shield, it's not fancy but it's cheap. side mounted buzzer for warning and missile switch for firing control. The 2.1mm barrel jacks provide connectivity to firing relays.

Ghetto strip board arduino shield, it’s not fancy but it’s cheap. Side mounted buzzer for warning and missile switch for firing control. The 2.1mm barrel jacks provide connectivity to firing relays.

Finally half an hour spent coding had the guns firing nicely in alternating single shot bursts. Unfortunately the PIR sensor had a minimum pulse of 3 seconds on detection so firing was not totally accurate on movement. We also included a 9 second cool down after 6 shots to give our guests a chance to get past and again so we did not spend all nigh reloading the bandolier.

Vulcan Sentry guns, now with full automation!

Vulcan Sentry guns, now with full automation!

We have also uploaded a small video detailing the build and demonstrating the guns in action.

1, 2, 3, 4…..

540 M3x6mm pan head screws
240 battery terminals
60 sachets of thermal paste

As we put together the kits we are becoming aware of just how many components we now have in stock. Each Reflow Controller kit, has over 90 parts that are required. All of them need to be counted out, placed into their respective bags, placed into enclosures then screwed back shut.

This shows just how fast we are working here to get our kits ready! It could also be a slow shutter speed on the camera but we like to think it is because we are working really hard!

This shows just how fast we are working here to get our kits ready! It could also be a slow shutter speed on the camera but we like to think it is because we are working really hard!

We will have 60 kits available at launch with the capacity for another 100 within two weeks. Our main limiting factor is the more expensive components we source from Digi-Key, the LCD display, micro controller as well as the SSR.

Plastic  cups slowly filling up with parts before we put them into bags.

Plastic cups slowly filling up with parts before we put them into their packaging.

We have been working like crazy because we wanted to make sure we have our products launched before the world ends in a few days.

Kits released next week!

We are getting very excited as we near the launch of our first in-house product! It has been a very long road with a steep learning curve to develop this product. Thus far the two most challenging aspects of this product have been to design it as a through hole kit which has limited many of our options for sensors, board size and cost. Our second challenge has been developing a complete kit with all fixtures and an IP4X rated enclosure.

With launch we are also releasing several videos outlining the kits features, assembly process and operation. As well as a document outlining the theory, operation and assembly of the product which also explains design decisions, schematic diagrams and suggests a few alternate applications. Finally we also want to release a detailed post outlining the process we have taken, the wrong turns and headaches with developing an electronics kit from scratch.

With everything going to plan release will proceed late next week as today saw the completion of the firmware. It still requires some final optimisation, testing and commenting however all functionality is now included and operating acceptably. Our final component has (hopefully) been shipped from a supplier in china and will arrive early next week, anti-static foam required for packaging is the last part we still require for the first batch of 55 kits. So components are now being counted and divided into bags, the enclosures have been machined and videos are being edited as we race to get our product out the door and into people’s hands!

I Can has social media?

The last few days we have been finalising our social media outlets to help keep people updated on our products and operations. Our primary social outlet is our Facebook page http://facebook.com/MOAMindustries and will have most of our major information releases, photos and updates. We also have a twitter feed @MOAMindustries and we are training ourselves to use it and communicate interesting content relative to the medium. We can’t see much point in watering down our twitter feed to blog post alerts like a glorified RSS feed so we want to make sure what we post to twitter is useful and relevant.

Finally we also have a Google+ page however the activity on that front is still a little low for the time being, after all we need to develop the great tools rather than talk(or should that be tweet) about them all day.

Obviously our blog will remain our primary source of communication and information so check back regularly or follow our RSS feed.