15 years, a bit of a retrospective

Over the years I’ve posted things to this site as a bit of a reminder to myself about the kinds of things I’ve done over the years. It has now been about 15 years since I started the site and that prompted me to go through old photos, back some stuff up and reminisce about days gone by. I’m going to post a number of photos that I’ve found that are purely of interest to me but, hey, maybe somebody else might enjoy them too.

My work area circa 2008 or so. I don’t miss the 4:3 aspect ration monitors but I sure seem to have had a lot of them
A panoramic view of Edmonton in the Year 2007, September to be exact. This was taken near the river bank at the Old Timer’s cabin.
My first real bike that I had bought as an adult. I didn’t drive at the time so I rode this sorry bastard of a bike all over the city with me. I still have it and it works fine.
The result of some layup molds I had made for an intake cover. I made the molds but the other guys did the actual hard work of laying up the fiber and making it look like a finished product.
My desk at Endura. As you can see I’ve tried to set up a small electronics lab on my desk there and the area is a mess. This trend will not be going away in 2022.
My first real attempt at making a functioning product. In this case it’s an inline viscometer in a form that would roughly emulate a krebs viscometer. It worked eventually…. somewhat. I truly suffered from a distinct case of hubris but it helped me force my way along to learning what I’ve learned to this day.
The inside of the maintenance shop of Endura MFG. I learned so much here in my 2-3 years, more than almost any other place. Despite being bitter about the place for years, I now understand and appreciate my time here.
Another picture of that inline krebs viscometer. In retrospect, had I known what I know now, I could’ve made this viable. I remember that at the time I was reluctant to test it because I was scared of what would happen if it didn’t work. Would months of work be down the drain? Would I look like a fool? (Hint: it didn’t work very well at all)
A more complete version of the electronics in the previous picture. An interesting example of an attempt at big TTL Quad-half H-bridge and some other shit I don’t remember.
So what was supposed to be a gentle walk down memory lane is now a look at the iterations of a single project. This version is now closer to the one that works. As I write this I’m genuinely surprised how much I did in such a short period of time while doing other things at the same time. This one as you can tell is rotary with a sealing area kept lightly pressurized with a small air pump. This one is still intended to run in-line along a pipe or side of a tank.
Here’s a look down the legislature grounds in September 2008. Is it different now? I don’t know
This is from when I moved myself from the maintenance building over to the lab building. I don’t remember why or how, I just remember that I did.
Another prototype! This one appears to be the one where it’s intended to merely hang on the top of a tank. For reference we’re in March of 2009 here.
Here’s something from June of 2009 that’s kinda fun. I may have an older post about it but this is something that actually works. it’s meant to make a point cloud with 3 linear potentiometers and by using a button you can put the high-res ADC input into a file or whatever and create a point cloud from known values about the analog values. This was neat.
Here we go, the final version of this project. It worked surprisingly well. That said I probably wouldn’t use Phenolic to make the frame but it does look nice. Odlly enough, I even like the smell of phenolic being cut.
Here it is with the protective tube cut. Merely wave your hand over the top and it’ll start up. I had to angle the viewing window in order to allow the infrared sensor to detect objects. In retrospect I wouldn’t have done it this way. The window would be either scuffed or covered in paint and therefore useless. If I recall correctly I had another version of this with a large external perfboard version of what’s inside. This machine never made it past this stage, I was going to implement MODBUS on it and whatever else but didn’t get to that point. The recession had hit hard and that was that.

Well, there we go. Thanks for walking through 2007 to 2009 with me. I was expecting to be enthralled with my pictures of Edmonton but I guess work was, as always, more interesting to me.

Electronics

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A crummy little servo tester and other minutia

The little servo tester
Well, I needed a way to test all of these servos I got from EBay and I decided to spend a little time making a quick and dirty little board for doing that. It uses a PIC12F683 and has a linear pot attached to it. Simple.

Crummy servo tester

Crummy servo tester



Viscometer Board and stuff
I’ve been working on the software for the viscometer. Every function appears to work, at least based on the rudimentary prototype I have currently running. I am working on a scripting system for this device. I could make it just a basic viscometer but, as anyone that knows me, I simply can’t do. Here’s a pic of the working board.
The prototype viscometer board

The prototype viscometer board


An EEPROM file system
After thinking about how to store files appropriately and trying to have a file system that can work easily with 1024B of space, I started coming up with ways of defining a reasonable file system. Here it is.

  • First 2 bytes are settings, things like block size, filename size and special behaviors like for EEPROMS that can only be written to with blocks.also defined is the address size 8b, 16b or 32b
  • Each file in the FAT consists of a name of either 2,4 or 8 bytes. this is determined by the setting.
  • Following the name is one byte detailing the flags such as read-only, archive, and whether it’s open or not.
  • After the filename and attribute byte, are the addresses. These addresses can be 8, 16 or 32 bits, however, an 8 byte address can address something larger, say 2k rather than 256B if you set the block size appropriately. This of course lowers the efficiency of storage space but allows for some growth in the file. The file can have any number of addresses in order to remove time wasted moving stuff around.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been working on as of late. Fun!

Electronics
Personal Projects
Work

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One last kick at the can, Viscometer Style!

Well, since funding for the viscometer has fallen through for various, understandable reasons, I have decided to take one last kick at the can before I shift my focus on to other ventures. The last kick at the can? Two similar viscometer heads, two very different purposes.

This is the rough mockup of the new head, it is the same for both designs

This is the rough mockup of the new head, it is the same for both designs

The hand-held stormer
 
  This device is designed to work in the field and provide readings in KU, Grams and perhaps Centipoise. The device itself doesn’t feature any communications of any kind. Also, there is no LCD display, instead a 7 Segment x 4 LED display is used since it’s a bit cheaper and more visible in various lighting conditions. Also, since it will be use tables of values rather than calculating it on the fly, I can use some slimmer hardware such as the PIC18F2620 Microcontroller or an ATMEGA8.
 
  Also of note is the fact that everything is fairly cheap to build, these low-cost viscometers could be used in paint shops in any size container. I am building one to go to Cold Lake where they’re going to try one out since they’ve been having trouble getting decent consistency using only a mixing stick to test viscosity. 🙂
 
  Here’s a rough mockup of what it will look like. Of course none of the boards or covers are shown, also the display isn’t visible, I haven’t decided the best location for it yet. I may actually put it inside of a separate enclosure to make the unit lighter since it requires 12 volts.
 

Mockup of the handheld viscometer

Mockup of the handheld viscometer


 
  This is probably the most marketable device thus far.
 
The Super-Visc
 
  Over the last 9 months or so I have developed a number of interesting methods for determining error and correcting for it, I have also develop methods for calibration and symbolic parsing. Since I would hate to come away empty handed and waste all the of knowledge accumulated over the course of 2+ years, this is the coup de grace of rotational viscometers.
 
  To my knowledge, most other rotational viscometers use a beryllium copper torsion spring to provide a fixed, known spring rate, or torque on the sensing shaft. The cheap ones like the stormer viscometer base it on time and run a fixed speed AC synchronous motor, whereas the more expensive ones use a variable drive and encoders on the top and bottom to determine the difference from top to bottom. My viscometer uses the cheaper method of determining difference and RPM by using the timing via ether opto-interrupters or hall effect sensors. By using a a very high sampling rate, I can get very precise measurements of the rotation, though some differences may occur during rotation. Accuracy is achieved through error correction in the form of running averages, temperature and friction compensation and angular displacement compensation. While this is places a heavy burden on the software side of things, it is extremely effective.
 
  This viscometer works on three key concepts: Variables, Equations and Test Programs.
 

  • Variables – These are variables that are calculated dynamically before any other calculations have taken place. These include ambient temperature, fluid temperature, angular displacement, spring length, time from test start, time from last sample and other mathematical constants such as PI and E.
  • Equations – These are the equations that determine the units. You may (and for basic units, must) include variables in order to calibrate the device. These equations are completely configurable by the user and includes every standard mathematical function such as Cos(), Sin(), Cosh(), Powers, Square Roots and many others, perhaps even logical equivalents say to multiply by 1 or 0, could be useful. While developing this I had a choice, either computationally expensive or memory intensive, I chose memory intensive symbolic storage in order to improve performance. This also allows one to develop any unit with any paddle one wishes!
  • Test Patterns – These are the patterns that develop the test. For example, let’s say you want to test for KU. You place the appropriate spindle in the machine and select the KU test run. KU test runs would appear as follows (200 RPM Fixed, Equation KUPU, Out->FLTP, Out->KU) or for Centipoise vs RPM (50-220 RPM variable, Equation CNTP, Out->CNTP, Out->RPM, Out->FLTP). These are a boon for the experimentor.

 
  One key disadvantage of this device is the initial difficulty of calibration. However, if done en masse in the factory, it wouldn’t be an issue. One of the major advantages of this device is for the experimenter. You could put a hotdog on a stick, put it in a fluid, create a relationship via an equation and call it whatever you want. The device is very configurable and would probably be well suited to materials engineers and chemists who need either standard or non standard tests with a large amount of automation in terms of data collection.
 
Here’s a mockup of the finished laboratory device.
 


Potential mockup of finished device

Potential mockup of finished device


 
The device will feature an RS485/232 output along with perhaps a touch screen or simply a keypad and 20×4 LCD display. The processor will either be a DSPIC33F or PIC32, I may stray towards Atmel since they have great throughput. My current prototype board however has a PIC18F4680, it’s enough to test on but its limits on RAM are starting to bother me.
 
Well, this was a long post… Whew 🙂
 
As always, anyone who has any questions can leave a comment or E-mail me.

Other/misc

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Working on new viscometer head

  Well, I’ve been designing some new stuff since having a little wind of inspiration. This head weighs in at about 700g and provisions have been made to allow an attachment to a handle and therefore a hand-held version could be made. Here are some images.
 

Line Drawing

Line Drawing


Fully Assembled visc head

Fully Assembled visc head


Viscometer head opened

Viscometer head opened


Viscometer head from the back

Viscometer head from the back


 
  I’m going to use these design concepts on the next in-process version. I’m going to design the external case for the electrical portion and for possible battery storage. Since the motor only draws 100ma at 24v or 200ma with a 12v motor, a hand held version is definitely possible. This version will use a PIC16F767 for control and using a smaller LCD display to display info.
  Now, on to developing some other devices. I’ve wasted far too much time in the last many months, time to get busy.

Electronics
Programming
Work

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Getting closer to final completion

A long road behind and still some ahead, here are some pic of the viscometer in its state of completion.

stormer viscometer with cover looking in

stormer viscometer with cover looking in


viscometer from the back

viscometer from the back


viscometer standing up

viscometer standing up


viscometer laying down

viscometer laying down


stormer viscometer with cover

stormer viscometer with cover


Now to implement the ModBUS protocol and finish up this project.

Electronics
Programming
Work

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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.
      here

Electronics
Programming
Work

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Yay! They work!

Well, I got the power board and control boards done. They both work flawlessly. YAY!


Power and Control and LCD

Power and Control and LCD


 
The peripherals seem to work too.

Electronics

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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


Other/misc

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Programming, Drafting, Designing and whatever else…

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks since I left the business training program. Thankfully I have some work lined up and things may go well for the short-term. For the last while I was working on the design for a plastic enclosure for a customer. Everything went quite well and the customer is an absolute joy to work for/with. Based on a board and taking cues from other ideas, I drafted a simple enclosure for a device. Here are some pictures of the enclosure.

enclose2-1
enclose2-2

Worked out well…

Also, I am now continuing my foray into the automation stormer viscometer as well as my auditory camera level. Things should go quite well if I bust my ass…

Electronics
Programming
Work

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A brief post, school and business

Well, I’ve been at Microbusiness Training center for 5 weeks now and I’ve been working as well. Soon, Eight-M Technical Services will be operational and i’ll be working for myself.
I’ve set up a new domain with my Dreamhost account. The site’s URL is http://8mtech.com. As of posting this, the site isn’t ready, but it will be soon.
The viscometer is being tested by Endura right now and here’s what it looks like, it’s a youtube video, be warned.



also, I figure it’d be neat to post the logo for Eight-M technical.

my logo for 8m

my logo for 8m


Some people who have known me since Junior High would know this symbol. While it was something I used as a kid, I started using the name Eight-M Designs in order to order stuff because companies wouldn’t send swag out to an individual.

Other/misc

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Rotary Viscometer almost finished

Well, it’s been a long road but I’m almost at the finish line in terms of the majority of development. All of the parts are mostly made and I’ll begin programming very soon, most of which has been done already or figured out in advance.
Firstly, I started with the board. I had to build it from scratch because I’m not certain of they’ll want more features or different ones, also I simply don’t have the funds to get the printed boards made, those will fit in the top of the unit below the LCD and reflection switch.


viscometer test board with lcd display

viscometer test board with lcd display


Viscometer, assembled on base

Viscometer, assembled on base


So, after this I spent the entire weekend building the parts required to make the rest of the unit. I opened up a few of the tolerances and had to make some changes simply to allow for better fitting afterward. The unit would have been impossible to assemble otherwise 🙂

Viscometer with sensor in hand

Viscometer with sensor in hand


I have to say, I’m satisfied with the results thus far. The bearing holding the sensor together could be a bit better though. This week I’m going to have to program the unit and hopefully this long saga will be over. Well, at least when I make the 15 units it will be.

Electronics
Programming
Work

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3 point quadratic regression formula

While developing the in-process stormer viscometer, one of my goals is to allow the end user to calibrate the device with 3 fluids of known viscosity. With a bit of help from mathematica, I’ve found the formula and for whoever wants it, it’s posted, also for my own future edification. This formula is meant to convert 3 data points of the form {X1,Y1},{X2,Y2},{X3,Y3} into a form of ax^2+bx+c=y. This is probably the fastest way to do this kind of operation on a microcontroller. Here’s an image of the formula

Reverse Quadratic from data

Reverse Quadratic from data

also, here’s a dirty FreeBasic program using it. regress-3point.bas

Also, for fun I decided to do a cubic version. This is in the form of 4 data points {X1,Y1},{X2,Y2},… converting to ax^3+bx^2+cx+d=y

Cubic equation inverse

Cubic equation inverse

You gotta love Mathematica!!!

Electronics
Miscellaneous
Work

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