My brother in-law bought a sailboat and was having some issues with the mast mounted wind sensor. Not only was it hard to access (it’s over 60 feet high) but the boat uses the NMEA2000 data bus to connect all the instruments. A further complication is that it uses the SIMRAD SIMNET network cabling. I did some research and found a way to make a very cost effective DIY adapter to allow you see the NMEA2000 traffic in real-time using very good free software. Check out my NMEA2000 Testing & Troubleshooting page
There don’t seem to be many DIY animatronic web sites around but there are a few pretty active Facebook sites. All of them are private, to help keep down the spam, so you have to request access. These groups are well worth it to find DIY animatronic info:
DIY Animatronics Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/891805981203854/
Animatronic Builders – https://www.facebook.com/groups/747161395755561/
DIY Halloween Animatronics – https://www.facebook.com/groups/DIYHalloweenAnimatronics/
THE ANIMATRONIC FORUM – https://www.facebook.com/groups/215520962797038/
There are a few options for DIY stand alone controllers that can synchronize audio with servo control (that I am aware of). None of these are off the shelf easy to use but are free and open sourced…
1) Falcon Player – If you create your sequence in Vixen or xLights (both are Xmas lighting sequencing software) you can export the file and run it on a Raspberry Pi running Falcon Player (FPP). This will give you a stand alone controller. If you already have sequences created in VSA you can import them into xLights and then export into a file that Falcon Player can use. FPP/Vixen/xLights are very well supported for lighting control but not so much for animatronics.
2) Lightman’s Servo Controller – This is a Parallax Propeller based 8 channel servo controller. Once you have you audio file loaded you sequence the servo movements via attached pots in realtime in a record mode. You can then play the various sequences syncronized with the audio.
3) Bechele2 – This is a Raspberry Pi based 16 channel servo controller. Again it has a record mode to get the servo motion from an attached joystick and then you can use a player mode to play your sequences with the audio.
I have more information about these and other animatronic controllers on my Animatronic Control page: Animatronic Control Systems
A typical hobby animatronic uses servos. So naturally your control system may only have the ability to control the typical RC servo PWM signal. But what if you have other things like LEDs or motors or…. Or perhaps some pixels. I needed to control some relays from a servo signal and while I know you can purchase such things, I rolled my own with parts that I had on hand. I used a Arduino NANO clone and a 2 relay module. This lets me control each relay separately using two of the servo control channels. I used a carrier board for my build but you could make yours a lot smaller if you just solder the wires directly to the NANO and cover it with heat shrink. The circuit is power from the +5V servo power.
While I was working on this I also had the need for controlling some eye LEDs. I wanted to have adjustable colors for these LEDs so I could have used some RGB LEDs but this would have taken 3 control channels (one for each of the 3 colors) and would require some sort of driver for multiple LEDs. Then I thought about using addressable LEDs, a NeoPixel ring was ideal for lighting up the project that I was dealing with. And it would only need 2 control channels. I again used a NANO and cobbled some code together that lets one servo channel control the brightness and another channel to control the LED color color (all LEDs show the same color). Again I didn`t need to worry about size and it is powered from the +5V servo power.
For more information including wiring diagrams and the Arduino code go to my Servo Project page.
I’m quite interested in animatronic control, it’s a nice mix of electronics, mechanics and software. But for a hobbyist there are not many inexpensive options for controlling them. There are commercial programs like VSA (Visual Show Automation) but not many other choices. I have a page that lists different ways that I am aware of for making your prop move and talk… You can find it here.
Things have been quiet lately but I did start a page for various pixel based LED art (well, artistic to me anyways) projects I have done lately. Because you can never have enough LEDs…
Check it out here..
I finally decided to replace my finicky home made usually not working Prusa i3 with an Ender 3 V2 and could not be happier (especially since the Prusa hasn’t been functional for a few years!!). It pretty much prints perfectly out of the box.
I have been wanting to make some more animatronic skulls and the Lindberg Skull models are no longer made so there are no cheap alternatives. One of the users on the Xmas lighting sites posted a version he designed on Thingiverse:
So far I have just printed the skull top and it worked out fine.
We will see how the rest goes……
While the ESPixelStick based controllers are great sometimes you want (or need) a wired Ethernet connection. One of the Xmas lighting site members (Barnabybear) has written code for a great range of controllers using an Arduino Nano, ENC28J60 Ethernet shield and a RS485 module. You will not find a cheaper wired solution that these. You can find more information on various postings on the DIYCHRISTMAS.ORG site. Here is a summary of his projects:
Cabled E1.31 to 16 on/off outputs, test firmware and parts:
Cabled E1.31 to WS2811 pixel:
Cabled E1.31 to 4 outputs WS2811 pixel hardware:
Cabled E1.31 to DMX:
Cabled E1.31 to TLS3001:
All firmware variants and set up code as .HEX files.
The above board is a the single output WS2811 pixel controller. As you can see there are not many parts required. It uses a inexpensive RS-485 module as a invertor driver for the pixel data line as the NANO outputs negative logic (so it needs to be inverted).
Well sort of updated…
I moved to a new hosting provider and ended up re-building the site from scratch…
it`s pretty much identical to the old site but I cleaned up a fair bit of behind the scenes stuff..
I have added a new page for a Pixel Goggle kit I have made up for members of my local Makerspace. You can find more information here.
I’m a hobbyist…
I like to build things…
Mostly electronic things that have lights, motors and sometimes sounds. My intent is to post information on the various projects that I done. My hope that others may find the information interesting and possibly useful.
For the projects I do post about, I will try to include as much information as possible as I have always appreciated that when I have searched for ideas on things that I want to make.