Features

Nanospark: Alerts – Helping Your Machines Talk to You

Nanospark: Alerts – Helping Your Machines Talk to You

    The more aware you are of the state of your machines, the more productive you can make them be for you.  This is where Nanospark: Alerts can be quite helpful.  The alert notifications can be applied to nearly any machine- enabling it to talk to you.  Here’s an example.     Our parent company, Senasys, has a machine shop for stamping parts, making fixtures, etc.  In said shop we have a Knowledge MT SA-32 CNC swiss machine with a Hydrobar Express 332 S2 bar feeder .  Since it can run unattended, the expectation is that we can continue to crank out parts all night and all weekend.     Except, of course, that bar stock (crafty as they are) seem to feel that Friday evening about an hour after everyone has left is the ideal time to not load properly.  Monday morning we were coming in to find a red light and an empty bin rather than a pile of parts. Irritating enough, true, but add to it the fact that the owner and several employees who could fix the bar loading issue and restore production, live close by.     If only the swiss machine could tell us that it has stopped running; we would quickly resume making parts.  Now, through Nanospark, the swiss machine does just that. How We Did It    The swiss machine has a stack light to indicate status (red, yellow, green).  The stack light uses 24V LEDs.  So we found the terminals in the control box for the red and green lights and drew the voltage down to 4V (just to be safe).  Then we ran wire from the one terminal to Nanospark’s digital input 1 for red and from the other to digital input 2 for green.  Now when the swiss machine stops running and lights the red LED, digital input 1 on Nanospark turns on.     Finally, we setup an alert in the Nanospark Controller App so that if digital input 1 turns on during hours when no one is in the shop, we receive a text message notifying us that the machine is down.  Whoever is “on call” fixes the swiss machine- and we walk in Monday to see a pile of parts. (Note: Since the alert comes through text message, there is no need for the various employees to standardize phones.  Apple, Android, Blackberry, and even plain old cell...

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Nanospark: Alert Notifications

Nanospark: Alert Notifications

And it’s here! We’ve added alert notifications to the free Nanospark Controller App.  Alerts are especially useful when combined with the scheduling and remote monitor/control features already part of the Controller App. We setup alerts to be simple to configure.  Here are some of the key configuring options: – Schedule the days/times when the alert should be monitoring – Watch any of the 24 analog or digital inputs/outputs on the Nanospark Controller – Send alert simultaneously to multiple contacts – Customize the alert message What’s so great about using Nanospark Alerts?  1. Watch exactly what you need to watch in your facility.    Since the heart of Nanospark is a 5V control board you can wire nearly any type of sensor or switch to it.  This means you can have one input monitoring your compressor, another your water heater, another your loading dock door.  The same Nanospark watching up to 14 different types of situations to keep your operation running smoothly and safely. I might add that since Nanospark interacts with such a wide variety of sensors, components are much less expensive than similar automation products intended for the residential market. 2. Receive alerts wherever you are.  The alerts are sent via text message so as long as you have a phone signal you’ll be in touch with your equipment.  The generic nature of text message is an advantage here.  Regardless your phone type or even how “smart” (or not) your phone is you’ll receive the alert.   Contact us to discuss how to use Nanospark Alert Notifications in your facility or order one and put it to use (I hope you’ll let us know how you used it). These are some screenshots of the Alerts feature:             ...

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Digital Timer Switch Comparison Chart

Digital Timer Switch Comparison Chart

As we prepared to focus on promoting Nanospark as a digital timer for equipment, we accumulated a fair amount of data about other digital timers on the market.  We’ve compressed the data down to key features, and represented it in a comparison chart. We hope this will help you see the value of Nanospark for your timing needs.   There are a couple things from the above chart worth expanding on.  First is the interface.  Most of the digital timers have a seven segment display (that is a small LCD screen) and then 6 to 9 buttons to cycle through menus and setup programs.   Nanospark is a true touch screen- using an app on a tablet, smartphone or iPod touch as the interface.  This makes programming schedules simple to learn and easy to setup. Next, take note of the remote override feature.  Though given the same label, Nanospark’s remote override is quite different from Tork’s.  Tork includes a remote override switch that can be installed anywhere within a facility and then wired back to the timer with a control wire (small gauge, low-voltage).  So the “remote” switch is still somewhere within wiring distance. Contrast that with Nanospark’s remote override which is through text message.  Nanospark uses a service called Twilio which, for $20 or less a year, allows you to  check on the status of all equipment wired to the timer (individually or systemically).  Then with a text message turn equipment on or off thereby overriding the current schedule. Of course, we can’t neglect the bottom line.  Nanospark excels when we look at number of circuits (or outputs) for the price.  Timers in the same price range as Nanospark only have one or two circuits; Nanospark has 10.  Without Nanospark, to get that many channels- that many pieces of equipment controlled by one timer- you’re looking at 3 to 10 times the cost of Nanospark. We’d love to hear from you too.  What features do you find important for your equipment timers?  What features are missing that you would love to have (we many just build it for you)? If you prefer to make your own in-depth comparison, you may appreciate the following links to the product pages on the various timers: Nanospark Universal Equipment Timer Intermatic ET8215B Tork ELC series Omron H5F Tork E Series Intermatic...

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Industrial Timer for an Antiquated Machine | Nanospark

Industrial Timer for an Antiquated Machine | Nanospark

Industrial Timer for an Antiquated Machine We use Nanospark around our facility, as an industrial timer to do many things, such as to save electricity and wear-and-tear on one of our machines. In the tool and die part of our shop we have an old swiss machine (or screw machine).  The swiss machine is programmed with gears rather than electronics.  Whether there is bar stock in the machine or not, it’ll continue to spin and cycle through the tools. A typical bar will last anywhere from 7 to 9 hours in the swiss machine.  So at the very beginning of the shift a bar is loaded and the machine cuts all day. Then, just before leaving, we load another bar and walk away- knowing that by about 1am it’ll be spinning and flipping between tools- just cutting the air. Prior to Nanospark this would mean each night wasting about 6 hours of electricity and needless thousands of rotations for the machine and it’s tools.  Through a 5V relay, we wired Nanospark’s digitalOutput1 to the power supply creating a digital timer.  The screw machine is turned on from the digital tab of the app. Then we setup an event in the Scheduling tab to shut off the machine at 2:01 am.  In the morning when we walk in it’s quietly at rest, waiting for a new bar. This has been going so well that we’re expanding the operation.  Recently we ordered the wires and relay’s to add three temperature baths, a compressor, and a water valve to this one Nanospark’s scheduling profile. Learn more about this digital timer. ** Update on this project ** Last week one of the technicians in our shop asked if we could also regulate the air line that comes to this screw machine.  We had some 120V solenoids on hand; so, sure!  He took care of the piping, adding some adapters to the solenoid, while I grabbed a couple wires- and we were off. As you can see in the picture, the relay board that we used has 4 relays on it.  So I wired a wall plug into the second relay’s power slot and the power leg of the solenoid into the NO slot.  The grounds were tied together to complete the circuit.  Next I connected Nanospark’s digitalOutput4 to IN2 on the relay.  Now the On/Off slider on the digital screen of the app...

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Digital Timer Switch | Universal Equipment Timer

Digital Timer Switch | Universal Equipment Timer

How can you use the scheduling feature of the Nanospark Controller app to manage the equipment in your facility?

Through the scheduling tab of the Nanospark Controller app (free on iTunes), you’re able to control when outputs turn on and off. In the demo below we’ve scheduled events for a coffee maker, a hot plate, a motor to crack the egg and an actuator for the toaster. Perhaps it’s a bit whimsical to have breakfast prepared for you while on your way to work- but imagine the real possibilities as an equipment timer.

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The Intuitive Digital Timer | Nanospark

The Intuitive Digital Timer | Nanospark

There certainly are digital timers out there, so why use Nanospark in this way? Because it’s Versatile, Centralized, and Intuitive. Nanospark can act as a digital timer for up to ten different pieces of equipment; even if they run off varied voltages. And the interface to set and manage the scheduled events is simple and clear.

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Color Detection With Multiple Calculation Areas

Color Detection With Multiple Calculation Areas

We had a farmer from Australia contact us with a fascinating idea, color detection.  Could we put an iPod touch on the chemical tank of  his tractor and use the Colour Detector app to trigger the weed killer to spray only when it sees a weed?  We loved this idea not only in cost savings to the farmers, but also how good this must be for the environment. To make it happen though, we needed to tighten up Colour Detector’s gathering of RGB values.  So we separated the screen out into a grid, each looking for and reporting it’s own RGB value.  Here’s our proof of concept report. Attempt 1: The first attempt at color detection with multiple calculation areas I used six selection areas. Each area was a 160px by 160px square. Using three rows and two columns the screen was divided perfectly since the 3.5 inch retina displays measure 320 by 480 pixels. With six selection areas the results were less than favorable. When looking at solid colors or nearly homogeneous patterns the RGB reading would be pretty similar from one square to the next. The performance in this case is passable. When looking at areas that were not homogeneous though, the readings would fail to reflect the presence of an object such as a tuft of grass. I assume that the problem lay in the fact that each calculation area was too large. Each area was looking at 25600 pixels! Even if a pretty sizable object were to be inside a calculation area is would only be a portion of the total pixels. Further the other pixels are already a mix of red, green, and blue just simply in varying degrees. The colors from the object would likely fail to significantly influence the color average. Below are a few screen shots of the first attempt. Attempt 2: For the second attempt I decided to up the number of calculation areas. My hope was that the smaller calculation areas would lead to more “sensitive” averages since there would be fewer pixels involved. More sensitive calculation areas should improve performance both with homogeneous subjects and heterogeneous subjects. I split the screen into fifteen calculation areas with five rows and three columns. The 320px by 480px screen did not split up as nicely. In order to have equal calculation areas I chose to have small 1px columns and rows...

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Remote Access and Control via Text Messaging

Remote Access and Control via Text Messaging

Using Twilio’s global text messaging API, we’ve integrated into the Nanospark Controller app SMS communication with the Nanospark board. Using Nanospark’s remote access and control capabilities you can find out the status of sensors wired to the inputs and activate equipment connected to outputs- with a text message. A distinct advantage, therefore, is that you can communicate with your equipment anywhere you can get a phone signal.

Watch a video demo of this in action

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Color Detector – Nanospark Colour Detector App

Color Detector – Nanospark Colour Detector App

One thing we like to highlight about Nanospark is how with it we can use the features on iOS devices to work with whatever sensor or actuator is wired to the Nansopark Controller. A perfect example of this is the Colour Detector. This is an app we developed to use the camera on your iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad as the foundation for a low-cost vision system.

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