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Everything Else » A project enters completion

August 08, 2010
by Rick_S
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I've been a part of this community for a while now, and might I say proud to be so. I had a goal when I purchased my Nerdkit. That goal was to learn C Programming to the point I could develop a solution to a problem where I work.

A little background. I work for a machine shop named Aeromet Industries, Inc. located in NW Indiana. Most of the machines we use are Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) and most have an attached PC that shares the monitor and joystick (which behaves as a mouse on the PC and a manual movement device for the machine).

The joystick is a military grade device that was developed for use in fighter jets. The company the joystick came from had developed a microcontroller based board that took the analog output of the joystick and converted it into a serial mouse. This setup worked well until one of the pc's died and we updated it with a new computer and new windows OS that no longer would talk to that board (no matter what serial mouse driver we tried). For reference, the old pc that died and all the remaining ones run NT workstation.

Thus there was a need to replace those boards with something that would not only control the machine, but with the press of a switch, also control the pc as a mouse. Enters me with my big mouth telling the owner - I think I could make that happen.

My 1st thought was to simply create a quadrature output that I would feed into a Quadrature to USB Mouse board like is used in homebrew arcade games. This was my starting point and worked OK.

Then I got the wild idea of using a USB based Atmel microcontroller and doing the whole thing myself. I found a company that has a small dev board with an ATMega32U4 and the rest is history.

Well thanks to my NerdKit and all the examples both online as well as in the forums, I learned enough to write the software. It went through several iterations, but I finally came up with a clean compact solution using the Teensy Development Board. Finally I created my own board to house it and all the other components using eagle and BatchPCB.

Below are some photo's of the end product.

Here's a few of the single sided homebrew board I actually installed in the machine as my proof of concept.

I hope I'm not bragging but man it feels good to finish one and actually see it work day to day.

I also want to thank Humberto, Mike, everyone else who may be behind the scenes, and all the members here I've spoken to... I would have had a much more difficult time without all of you.

BTW, if this sounds like a goodbye speech, it's not... I'm not going anywhere, I was just excited to finish a big project and had to share :D

Rick

August 08, 2010
by JKITSON
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FANTASTIC!!!!!

JIM

August 09, 2010
by Rick_S
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Thanks. I had just finished assembly of the board in the top photo's and was pretty excited. It's neat to see something you built and programmed control a half million dollar piece of equipment then with the push of a button, behave as a USB mouse on the PC.

Rick

August 13, 2010
by BobaMosfet
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Rick-

BIG Congratulations. Yes, it is extremely rewarding to do what seems impossible, to pull the curtain back and not just meet the wizard... but become him.

Very Nice! BM

August 13, 2010
by Rick_S
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Thanks! And yes it is nice to feel kinda like a wizard. Most of they guys at the shop I work at don't realize how many hours (days) of my life went into this. I did it all on my own time because when I was on the clock, I had my real job to do :D.

Anyway the owner did reward me quite well in the form of an older Tektronix Digital Storage scope and an beautiful new Weller soldering station (as well as giving me one of the completed boards as a souvineer). So I'm very pleased. I learned a lot about programming and circuit development even though a lot of it was quite the challenge. Trying to make sure safeties are built in so the machine can not go into a run away state if the joystick were to loose power etc...

Thanks for the kind words.

Rick

August 23, 2010
by Keith726
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Rick -

Great job!!! We are proud to see one of our members tackle a real project so successfully.

I would like to learn how to make PCBs for some of my projects. Looks like you got it all figured out.

August 23, 2010
by Rick_S
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It took me a couple of tries to get it where their system would accept the files (had to adjust my text) but I was real pleased with the way they turned out.

Thanks for the compliments!!

Rick

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