Thursday, 2 December 2010

November round-up, and the snow has come early!

Snow has come early this year, so I have not been able to get in to Romsey to the new unit, but at least it has given me a chance to catch up on some blog!

Outside my house in Winchester 9am, 2/12/2010
Its been quite some time since my last post after our moving day at the end of October. I have settled in to the new unit, I have a portacabin inside the unit which provides a warm haven for me to write software which predominantly what I have been doing for the last month! Hence very few blogs, as I find talking about software a little dull, far less interesting than actually building the machine, although without it the machine is nothing.

The unit is working our pretty well, I have the test leg rigged to the Mantis power pack via two 5 meter 3/4" hydraulic lines, this means I have been able to give the engine/power pack a good test while tweaking software on the test leg. I have a long stop lead rigged to the engine, so I go out into the unit, start the engine then run back to the warmth of my porta-cabin from where I carry out my tests. There was a large extractor fan already in one of the windows of our new unit, which turned out to be operational. This has been very useful for extracting the diesel fumes! 

I have a nice remote engine and hydraulic control unit interface running across the HexEngine TCP link so I can keep an eye on RPM, Volts, Current, Hydraulic pressure, Flow etc.. I can also shut down the engine remotely so I don't need to use the E-Stop. The remote shutdown first drops the hydraulic pressure to 0, then sends a shutdown message over the CANbus warning all the sub-systems a shutdown is imminent, currently after  3 seconds the engine stops. This is the same automatic shutdown sequence that occours if there is an engine error or hydraulic problem.

I've added a high gain antenna and weather poof WiFi access point system (UBIQUITI Bullet 2) to the Mantis, currently this forms the link from my control station in the porta-cabin to the HexEngine, however, eventually the control station will be on-board, so the WiFi link will be used for remote monitoring/control. The bullet 2 has performed fairly well so far, although it does take about 20 seconds to boot, and on a couple of quick power cycles has failed to boot altogether. The Bullet 2 takes its power over the Ethernet wires, POE, I added POE to the Ethernet plug on the hexEngine, unfortunately I forgot  this fact and plugged the HexEngine back into my Belkin wireless router, which now no longer works and has that acrid burnt component smell! I must remember to remove this feature from the HexEngine before I do more damage, I will inject power to the Bullet via a junction box. It will be interesting to see what kind of range could be acheived in open field with the bullet, although i will require another bullet or similar high gain system at the monitoring/control station to get any real benefit.

Sun Cetop3 bodies with cartridges installed.
All of the Sun Hydraulics calves arrived this week, so I spent one afternoon inserting the 60 cartridges into the manifolds, at least thats one tedious job out of the way, and ready for when the Bosch valves arrive to be added to the main cetop manifold. Bosh valves should arrive about 9th December. Hopefully this cold snap will have moved on by then so I can get out into the main workshop and fit the valves, the workshop is currently sitting at a consistent 2 Celsius.

Grayhill 6.5" Display

I have made a decision with regards to which operator interface to use for the mantis, I have had my eye on one of these Grayhill displays since early this year. I made contact with Grayhill some time ago to see if they could offer some kind of in-kind sponsorship, and to find out about the supported OS. I have to say they weren't too helpful, plus the Linux OS is not yet supported, so for now CE is the only supported system. I then recently got in touch with Howard Bristow from EAO who are the UK distributor for Grayhill, he very kindly brought a display to the office so that I could see it inaction. Its very nicely built, and looks like it could take the rugged environment which was encouraging. Its a bit slow to boot, again around 20 seconds, but this may be able to be improved, or when the Linux version is released maybe switch.. any way, EAO have loaned me a display so that I can try it out for a while before I buy. The only thing is that this display is the non-touch screen version which I will definitely need, so I will just use a mouse for now. 

Grayhill CANbus Display

Grayhill also do a nice LCD CANbus display with a few buttons, perfect for the ECU which I have already built, but much more rugged than the display I am using which has already failed once due to a dry solder joint on the base board. I may swap to the Grayhill solution some time in the future.