In-Process Stormer Viscometer – Damn near complete

  The viscometer is nearing full completion! YAY! To mark this occasion to mark the end of a long two years, I am placing a small gallery of the almost finished product. The only thing missing is the outside cover which consists of a 4″ od aluminum tube. Also, the springs I’ve ordered have also not arrived as yet, however, for now, the elastics will suffice. Here are some of the features and facts:

  • Can be used in-lab or in-process
  • Selectable RPM with a tight tolerance on RPM +/-0.5RPM
  • User calibration routines. This allows the end user to calibrate with 3 fluids of known viscosity
  • 16 key keypad, used for calibration and settings, also for running special tests
  • Can be used as a laboratory gel-timer
  • Can be used for custom tests besides stormer viscometry
  • Low power consumption <100ma or <2.4W
  • RS-485 Serial output
  • Control electronics have complete galvanic isolation
  • 24VDC supply required
  • repeatability (requires further testing) +/- 1.5%
  • Modbus protocol (not yet implemented)
      Here’s the Gallery!

       Yes, a few too many pictures, oh well.
       This thing took me quite a while and what I learned from it was immeasurable. Thankfully now that everything works as expected I can focus on my other projects without having this thing hanging over my head. Here’s to completion!
      As an aside, here’s an interesting document on viscosity.

Spring Stormer Viscometer, proceeding, the board works.

Well, I recently recieved my boards back from ap circuits in Calgary and I’m pleased with the result. I kind of fucked up by ordering 4 of the same board and not 2 of the control board and 2 power boards. Oh well! I can use the current boards for the new ones. Anyways, here are some images of the board.

The two boards together, unpopulated and populated
The two boards together, unpopulated and populated

The board, populate with SMD's
The board, populate with SMD's

New Viscometer board design and physical revamp.

Since my design was accepted in terms of moving ahead on a prototype, I’ve been working first on the board design. I have decided to abandon the PIC18F2620 in favour of the 18F4685. The reason for this change over is due to the fact that the 18f2620 doesn’t have enough I/O to handle the addition of two analog channels and four I/O for RS-485 communication.

This post is more for my own edification and to help me sort out my thoughts on this issue. I suppose for the sake of following my train of thought while sitting here, I’ll outline the specifications, as I think of them.

Overall feature set:
PWM output for 6-24V DC motor.
RS-485 Out – Rec enabled
LCD out
16 key keypad in
2 temperature sensors
LED indicators for power/error
Serial out for RS-232
Input for external reflection sensor
2 inputs for timing sensors

So, thats 1+4+6+8+2+2+1+1+2 = 27 inputs

I found some nice Molex headers that are single row, .100 pitch and is latched. Typically I use the friction based header and housings but it needs to be secure inside the housing and thus I’m trying out the new set. Also I’m going to use vertical out terminal blocks in order to save space inside the unit but not necessarily on the board.

I’m also considering adding an RS-232 port along side the board.

Hopefully this will be the final hurrah!

The LED Clock

Well, for the past little while, I’ve been working on a bizarre clock made with LEDs glued into a dollar-store cookie sheet. I got the idea just out of the blue and decided that it would be fun to build. Now, it’s nearing completion so I figured it’d be prudent to document the miserable contraption. I guess I should go through the steps it took to get this thing running.

First, I took one of those dollar store cookie sheets and drilled it through for 40 LEDs. 12 for the hours, 12 for the minutes, 5 for the seconds, 5 more for the div/5 minutes and five more for the outside and the PM light.


Drilling it wasn’t much fun but, when it was finished, I started to insert the LEDs with the grounds all towards the outside of their respective circle. Then I mixed up some epoxy and drizzled it over the backs of the LED’s. Unfortunately, the epoxy didn’t hold very well on the other epoxy surfaces so I used hot glue to tie them down.


As you can see, I labeled it in reverse of the other side so that I could get ‘er working. Thus started the long job of soldering the whole thing.


The image show isn’t the complete one, but it took me several hours to solder it all together. I used 7 groups of 6 LEDs in order to display the image. In this case I used the 7 groups for the duty cycle, thus a 1/7 duty cycle was used. Each of the 7 groups is fed ground through an MPSA13 Darlington transistor. Here’s a picture of the board that controls it.


Pretty fucking ugly, I know. But it works and I used an MCU (PIC18F4685) that was a little overkill but that’s fine, I’ve got quite a few of those. Anyways, so far so good, though it seems a little impractical as a clock and I think I set the rings of the minutes and hours too close together. Oh well.