Monday, July 26, 2010

Pneuman update

Working on this when I can, Pneuman's controller has been upgraded from a chunky old PC with a synchronous serial connection to an Arduino (OMG Arduino!!!). A WiFly shield communicates with the user interface (a PC kiosk somewhere) and a 6-channel Darlington driver board fires the solenoid valves to pump his legs. Three analog inputs are used to capture the values from optical pickups aimed at a 3-bit grey-code encoder wheel fixed to the cranks of the bike. This gives a starting position for the uC to pedal from. Two digital inputs are used for the front and back travel limit switches.

Transportation game upgrade

This was originally a roll-a-ball game from Bob's Space Racers. It was modified in early 2000 to teach people about energy consumption and different options for transit. Electrical modifications included automating the need for an attendant and adding sound effects. While the mechanical and cabinetry changes were solid, the electronics mod was undertaken by a muppet who did a terrible job. Over 100 relays were wired together with a mass of unlabeled cable, poorly crimped connectors and live 110VAC....

...euch. Reliability was terrible and troubleshooting the problem even worse. So, in February 2010 I gutted it and installed a totally new control system.It's based on a PLC from Automation Direct, a CFSound III card and some relays to switch the larger loads. The control system was mounted on a grounded sheet of aluminium and enclosed to keep the dust away. It's been running for several months now with way better uptime. One great addition was a watchdog timer to reset the game if someone walks away before finishing the race. Having the PLC on the network means I get emails when customer service staff hit the reset button, a good indicator of trouble if there's more then a couple messages per day.

This is one track and carriage assembly that advances the characters and makes them rock. As the chain is rotated around the gearmotor and idler sprockets the carriage is pulled along. A sprocket mounted in the carriage has the return-chain passing across it and rocks the character back and forth with an offset cam. This part of the game still has problems as people sometimes throw the ball into the tracks instead of rolling it up the play surface. I have yet to find a good solution to this short of covering all the tracks with plexiglass...

UFO Upgrade

This UFO was created several years ago as a TV show prop but had hella flaky electronics that were dead when I found them. I've since upgraded it with a PLC from Automation Direct, some chasing rope lights around the outside, underbody lighting and sound effects.