Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking
#11
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Hi folks, I just returned from a software developers conference and I have an interesting product I was introduced to from one of the users that I'd like to share with this group. One of the developers, from Germany, has been doing work with various types of micro-controllers for years and has come up with a highly modular and easily controllable pluggable system for building all types of controls for sensors, switches, actuators and more. He actually did a talk about what he was working on at the previous year's conference and in the past year has made incredible progress towards releasing it commercially.

Before I go any further I should tell you the the software development product this conference was for is called Xojo. Xojo is a cross platform object oriented development environment that allows you to write an application and using common code you can compile for Mac, Windows and Linux, (including Raspberry Pi). The company has been around for 21 years and has a very loyal following of users. It is incredibly easy to use but yet it can do some really cool things with it. Oh, you can also develop Web applications, iOS applications and soon they will be releasing the ability to write Android applications. 

But to get back to my original intent for this post... The product being developed is called tipcontrol® and it uses the ESP32 microcontroller with USB and Wifi built in. The developer currently has a a variety of 20+ stackable plugins called “Caps” you can connect to the controller and is building more caps for different types of functions on an ongoing basis. There is a nicely designed interface for configuring the sensors using the specialized Micro controller OS the developer has created for the modules called OSμ, (OS Mu). The other part of the equation is he has Plugins for Xojo so that you can control functions of the "caps", do data collection and write applications to give you visual and auditory feedback, statuses, etc. So, you are only limited by your imagination for what these little modules can do for you.

I sat down with the developer, Reinhard Blumauer, and had a discussion about what sort of sensors and controls he had or would be willing to create for the woodworking shop. My first area of interest was around dust collection bin sensors, automatic blast gates, automatic machine switches, and so on. All are easy for him to do with sensors and actuators available. What would be different with these products is the ability to write simple to sophisticated software to communicate with and manage them wirelessly through the OSμ mesh network throughout the shop with a computer, tablet or Pi device.

So this brings me to my main purpose for this post. I'd like to collaborate with interested members of this forum to create solutions for the woodworker that would help automate various things around the shop, do data collection, reporting, display statuses and so on. Reinhard would package the tipcontrol parts needed for for specific projects as kits, and as a group we could create an open source repository of software designed around the kits for both amateur and professionals to easily add some automation to various woodworking tools and processes. What I am seeking is feedback and suggestions on what things would bring value to your workflow. Below will be a short list of things I am considering but I want to build a business case for for more than just my own interest. I'd like to build a business case for Reinhard and his German engineers to provide as much assistance as we could get. He benefits if it opens up a worldwide market of woodworkers that buys his products and woodworkers benefit from crowd-sourcing products that they actually want as well as performing to expectations.

Some things that interest me:
Dust bin sensor that will tell you how full the bin is, not just that it is full.
CFM at dust ports, cyclone inlet, exhaust
Particle sensors around the shop and automated dust filtration switching
automatic blast gates and machine power switching of gates
Energy consumption sensing by machine 
Centralized display of machines in use at any given time and other statistics for all sensors deployed
History data collection for any of the sensors, (this is software , selectable and optional)

There are of course many other ideas rolling around in my brain but I'd like to hear ideas from you. Please respond if you are interested in collaborating on a project like this and in submitting ideas in this thread please be a specific and detailed as you can about what would be useful.

(Lastly, if you have any interest in programming with Xojo you can download it for free by registering at xojo.com. You can write and run in the debugger but it does require a licence to compile to an stand alone executable. In addition to the users guide and help files there is actually a textbook available Xojo published for educators and students that teaches basic programming concepts.)

--Tom
"Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle."
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#12
  Re: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([size=small][font=Ve...)
It sounds to my layman ears like this guy is trying to reinvent the Arduino Uno controller. Can he compete against that?
Proud maker of large quantities of sawdust......oh, and the occasional project!
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#13
Thumbs Up    Re: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([size=small][font=Ve...)
That sounds like some neat technology.  I'm a bit familiar with what you are talking about.  I've dabbled in electronics for quite a few years and my brother has worked in industrial automation for a long time so I get what this is all about.  But I would offer a couple of thoughts.

As a long time woodworker of a certain age,  I can appreciate new technology coming into my shop where it can make the woodworking easier.  But I'm working with wood because its hands on and I enjoy the challenge.   I use certain bits of electronic tech like a remote switch for the DC along with microswitches on each blast gate in order to make it easier to use the dc with each machine.  Something like a monitor on the DC dustbin would be a help, if it was straightforward and reliable, but you have to ask at what point the tech gets in the way of the task.  Do I call up a cad program to do a quick design or a pencil and paper or scrap wood to draw on?

I think the type of automation you are thinking about would be more useful in a production shop over a home shop.  Things that can improve workflow mean dollars and cents saved and can justify the added complexity and time spent installing and maintaining the tech.

And the other thing to consider is the target audience.  Many of todays woodworkers are on the older side of the scale and not as tech savvy as others.   I work in IT and I would probably not want to add this level of automation to my shop as it becomes one more system to maintain.  I'm in there to build or create something, not to computerize the place.

But I do wish you luck and will look forward to seeing what you can come up with.
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#14
  Re: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([size=small][font=Ve...)
(05-07-2019, 09:46 AM)EvilTwin Wrote: That sounds like some neat technology.  I'm a bit familiar with what you are talking about.  I've dabbled in electronics for quite a few years and my brother has worked in industrial automation for a long time so I get what this is all about.  But I would offer a couple of thoughts.

As a long time woodworker of a certain age,  I can appreciate new technology coming into my shop where it can make the woodworking easier.  But I'm working with wood because its hands on and I enjoy the challenge.   I use certain bits of electronic tech like a remote switch for the DC along with microswitches on each blast gate in order to make it easier to use the dc with each machine.  Something like a monitor on the DC dustbin would be a help, if it was straightforward and reliable, but you have to ask at what point the tech gets in the way of the task.  Do I call up a cad program to do a quick design or a pencil and paper or scrap wood to draw on?

I think the type of automation you are thinking about would be more useful in a production shop over a home shop.  Things that can improve workflow mean dollars and cents saved and can justify the added complexity and time spent installing and maintaining the tech.

And the other thing to consider is the target audience.  Many of todays woodworkers are on the older side of the scale and not as tech savvy as others.   I work in IT and I would probably not want to add this level of automation to my shop as it becomes one more system to maintain.  I'm in there to build or create something, not to computerize the place.

But I do wish you luck and will look forward to seeing what you can come up with.

Thanks for the feedback EvilTwin. I'm also a long time woodworker in an IT related field and of "a certain age", 62 to be exact. I'm roughly 5 years away from retirement and I intend to make a lot more sawdust than I'm able to do now when that time comes. 

I'm looking for people like yourself to collaborate with that have the skills to help create open source plans, kits and software that would be both simple to use and install that aren't reliant on the knowledge base required to create them and that can be deployed cheaply with little or no maintenance. I get that even then that workshop automation would still be only a percentage of all the woodworkers. I think we all love the act of creating with wood which brings visceral enjoyment from the results of the craft. It's not that there aren't some products around to accomplish some of my goals but price wise they are out of a lot of folks reach, especially the retired on limited income.  Interestingly enough I got a great reply to the same basic post in Sawmill Creek from a retired guy that is pretty jazzed about collaborating who is doing similar things with an Adurino and is doing it just for fun in his own shop for now. I can't tell you the number of times I'v turned on a machine and forgotten to turn on the DC. I'm now in the process of installing a new 5 HP cyclone in what I think may be the last shop I'll ever own and I definitely want as much automation for mundane tasks like remembering to fire up the DC. I'm patient though and I expect the process of doing this kind of thing to take years, all the while helping to keep my mind active and the creative juices flowing. 

To be honest there really isn't that much need for development to be done by a large team. a couple of smart collaborators will do. My true interest in posting in the forum is to get a better understanding of all the things other woodworkers find mundane and annoying that could be solved by some level of automation. I just need descriptions of the process and what the woodworker might imagine would solve it. In my real life job that is what I do in a printing manufacturing environment. A lot of problems are solved relatively simply by just listening to what folks describe as impeding their efficiency. I generally bring workflow automation and software to the table to help with those challenges. However some solutions fail miserably if they create more work solving one problem and creating another which is kind of what I hear you saying in not want to add this level of automation to your shop as it becomes one more system to maintain.  So I guess the goal in mind is to make it a set it and forget it solution. Cheap enough that if it breaks you can afford to replace it.

So to anyone reading this, what things are mundane and annoying in your shop that you could conceive of fixing with electronics , sensors, switches and actuators?
"Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle."
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#15
  Re: RE: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by KyleD (It sounds to my laym...)
(05-07-2019, 07:00 AM)KyleD Wrote: It sounds to my layman ears like this guy is trying to reinvent the Arduino Uno controller. Can he compete against that?

So I felt the best way to answer this was to go straight to the source. I emailed Reinhard and posed the following question: 

"What differentiates tipcontrol from the Arduino Uno controller? Could you put together some bullet points on what makes tipcontrol better in the competitive landscape of Arduino microcontrollers."

Here was Reinhard's reply:

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your questions. Here are some of the the answers. We are redoing our Website and will put up some more information on that subject.

TipControl vs. Arduino

TipControl
Does not require a single line of code to program the micro controller.
Have your application ready in minutes.
Programm TipControl with drag & drop (optional programming in XOJO & PHP available)
All sensors and actuators are stackable and does not require technical know how. 
Wifi on board
Bluetooth on board
Mesh network connects multiple TipControls together
Small in size
Run programs on different cores

32Bit
2 cores
Flash memory 4MB/16MB
RAM 520KB
Speed 150/240 MHZ
Extremely low power with deep sleep mode > 0.1µA
36 Pin multiple usage
All pins PWM



Arduino
Needs extensive programming skills in languages like C/C++, Perl, etc.
Programming takes hours to months, depending on the difficulty level of your application.
No visual programming available
Needs know how where to put the sensors & actuators
No Wifi only external available
No Bluetooth only external available
No mesh network available at all
Can run programs only on one core
4 times larger

8Bit
1 core
Flash Memory 32KB/256KB ATMega328/ATMega2560
RAM 2KB
Speed 8MHZ
Low power mode only available by 1MHZ. No deep sleep mode
14pins not multiple usage
6 pins PWM

There are many more advantages TipControl has over any Arduino models. Including multiple UARTS, SPIs, I2Cs and many more technical features.

So you see its like a race between Ferrari and a bicycle. No fair match at all. Not mentioning the mesh network in detail.

Hope that info helps you out a little Smile)
If you need more information, do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,
Reinhard
"Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle."
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#16
  Re: RE: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([quote='KyleD' pid='...)
Thank You for taking the time and effort to respond.

I have used arduino for several projects. One uses blue tooth (blue DRO) and the other was a simple automation for a stepper motor.
Blue Tooth was a 12 dollar add on shield. I do not know a lick of computer programing. That was done for me all I had to do was modify a couple of items.
I wish you the best of luck and really hope you can find success. 
I thought about the Ferarri-bicycle analogy and must say i need to stick with the bicycle. on a racetrack the Ferrari would be king but if one held a race in rural china on rutted dirt roads I would put my money on the bicycle. I feel my shop has more in common with rural China than a racetrack.
Proud maker of large quantities of sawdust......oh, and the occasional project!
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#17
  Re: RE: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by KyleD (Thank You for taking...)
(05-09-2019, 07:06 AM)KyleD Wrote: Thank You for taking the time and effort to respond.

I have used arduino for several projects. One uses blue tooth (blue DRO) and the other was a simple automation for a stepper motor.
Blue Tooth was a 12 dollar add on shield. I do not know a lick of computer programing. That was done for me all I had to do was modify a couple of items.
I wish you the best of luck and really hope you can find success. 
I thought about the Ferarri-bicycle analogy and must say i need to stick with the bicycle. on a racetrack the Ferrari would be king but if one held a race in rural china on rutted dirt roads I would put my money on the bicycle. I feel my shop has more in common with rural China than a racetrack.

I'm not sure the Ferrari analogy was a good one. A better one might be a 1 HP 120V single phase Motor vs a 5 HP 480V VFD 3 phase motor but even that doesn't explain the differences. It will probably be some months before this product will be readily available. I'm hoping to get the opportunity to do some experimenting and design of useful add on shop devices that requires no programming. The configuration tool for the tipcontrol is extremely well thought out. Programming would mostly really be useful for networking multiple devices, displaying data and things like that in applications that monitor the devices. Maybe in the next year I'll have something to show that will change your mind.
"Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle."
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#18
  Re: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([size=small][font=Ve...)
Arduino is no longer just a single 8-bit processor board. It is a family of boards and programming environments. There are 32-bit ARM boards and the programming environment has been ported over to chip-sets that directly support wi-fi and BLE. 

Alternate programming environments including those with graphical programming elements have been placed on top of the GCC compiler (that's what the Arduino Sketch language uses) and can produce suitable results. Languages like Java and Python have also been adapted.

All in all, unless somebody wants to put real money behind this for development and making it woodworker-proof, it seems like a solution in search of a problem.
Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things. -- G. Carlin
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#19
  Re: RE: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([quote='KyleD' pid='...)
(05-08-2019, 07:33 PM)teetomterrific Wrote: So I felt the best way to answer this was to go straight to the source. I emailed Reinhard and posed the following question: 

"What differentiates tipcontrol from the Arduino Uno controller? Could you put together some bullet points on what makes tipcontrol better in the competitive landscape of Arduino microcontrollers."

Here was Reinhard's reply:

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your questions. Here are some of the the answers. We are redoing our Website and will put up some more information on that subject.

TipControl vs. Arduino

TipControl
Does not require a single line of code to program the micro controller.
Have your application ready in minutes.
Programm TipControl with drag & drop (optional programming in XOJO & PHP available)
All sensors and actuators are stackable and does not require technical know how. 
Wifi on board
Bluetooth on board
Mesh network connects multiple TipControls together
Small in size
Run programs on different cores

32Bit
2 cores
Flash memory 4MB/16MB
RAM 520KB
Speed 150/240 MHZ
Extremely low power with deep sleep mode > 0.1µA
36 Pin multiple usage
All pins PWM



Arduino
Needs extensive programming skills in languages like C/C++, Perl, etc.
Programming takes hours to months, depending on the difficulty level of your application.
No visual programming available
Needs know how where to put the sensors & actuators
No Wifi only external available
No Bluetooth only external available
No mesh network available at all
Can run programs only on one core
4 times larger

8Bit
1 core
Flash Memory 32KB/256KB ATMega328/ATMega2560
RAM 2KB
Speed 8MHZ
Low power mode only available by 1MHZ. No deep sleep mode
14pins not multiple usage
6 pins PWM

There are many more advantages TipControl has over any Arduino models. Including multiple UARTS, SPIs, I2Cs and many more technical features.

So you see its like a race between Ferrari and a bicycle. No fair match at all. Not mentioning the mesh network in detail.

Hope that info helps you out a little Smile)
If you need more information, do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,
Reinhard

uhmm, no. On so many levels Reinhard's comparison between tipcontrol and arduino.. is just wrong. Would be like comparing a brand new chevy truck to a 1980's ford truck and saying look the chevy is so much better. Arduino has drag drop programming options, 32bit multi core models, plenty of wifi and bluetooth options, ... is open source.  tipcontrol is using an esp32 microcontroller.. and uhmm yeah arduino also supports the esp32.

So one has to ask.. Huh?

:-0
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#20
  Re: Micro-controllers, sensors, switches, actuators and software controls for woodworking by teetomterrific ([size=small][font=Ve...)
Thanks for the recent comments. I personally haven't done much research on the various Arduino boards. However, I'd like to point out that the comparison was ONLY in regards to the Arduino Uno controller, which was the question posed by an earlier poster KyleD.

My main interest in tipcontrol is that Reinhard has specific tools for development in my environment of choice, Xojo, and the stackable sensors and actuators are just plain simple and almost person proof. If you're not interested I'm totally cool with that. Whatever hardware and development environment you favor is totally OK by me.

That aside, I've still not gotten any comments containing ideas from woodworkers in this forum on what workflow problems they'd like like to see solved that could be approached electronically, and zero comments regarding developing a repository of open source plans and software in the Woodnet community that others less digitally literate could easily leverage in their shop because those of those of us that do work with software and hardware have already taken the pain out of the process for them. These were my main reasons for starting this thread in the first place.
"Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle."
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