Projects

All about what we’re doing with Nanospark in house.

Nanospark: Photo Monitor

Nanospark: Photo Monitor

Have the tablet take a picture in response to a switch or sensor. . .

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NEMA 4, Polycarbonate box

NEMA 4, Polycarbonate box

I’m looking into a Nanospark application where, given the environment (automated greenhouse), I figured we’d want to use a NEMA 4 box to protect the tablet and electronics from humidity and water.  So the question naturally arose, will the wifi signals work with the box? Wouldn’t you know it, I happen to have a NEMA 4 box on my desk.  It’s polycarbonate with hinged clear cover (model YH-060604-05), made by a company called PolyCase.  I pull out the gasket, drilled a small hole for the Nanospark cable, put the gasket back in, tucked the iPod touch 4 in the case, latched the lid- ready to test.  On the Nanospark housing I put an alcohol sensor module (MQ-3) and connected the vcc of the module to digitalOutput2. It works perfectly.  To be fair, I’m about two rooms and 30 feet away from the router.  So I was starting to think of further tests, when something that’s second nature to my generation finally triggered in my skull.  Google it.  Turns out polycarbonate is an ideal enclosure material when working with wifi. Here’s an example of what I found: “One of the major reasons why polycarbonate enclosures work so well in this telecommunication industry is that the polycarbonate material does not block the wifi “waves” and the whole system can be placed inside of the enclosure.” (from www.integraenclosures.com) So, if we can take this automated greenhouse somewhere, you’ll probably see it in a NEMA 4 polycarbonate enclosure. Of course, the same would apply if you’re going to put a Nanospark system in a dusty, grimy industrial...

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Nanospark Ignites A New Learning Environment for UW-Stout Students

Nanospark Ignites A New Learning Environment for UW-Stout Students

NANOSPARK IGNITES A NEW LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR UW-STOUT STUDENTS Nanospark and University of Wisconsin-Stout joined forces to create a hands-on learning environment for students.  Nanospark sponsored an iOS app development lab that allowed UW-Stout students to practice their software developing techniques and gain project management skills. Students were mentored by Professor Dennis Schmidt and Professor Brent Dingle, who facilitated the independent study. Both professors took on this opportunity to help students advance their skills.  As most universities began teaching students the iOS platform when it first arrived to the marketplace, small schools struggled to find the resources.  Nanospark gave UW-Stout the resources needed to explore Objective C and iOS, along with the professors donating their time and support to the independent study. Learning the theories behind development is crucial, but the independent study practiced the information in a hands-on environment, preparing them for a career.  In the app development lab, students expanded their programming, system design, and collaboration skills through various projects.  Students faced different progress reports including the basic understanding of development, documentation of the applications that were implemented, and a presentation showcasing their application. Different iOS applications were built including a game app by a sophomore originally from Gilman, Wis.  Interacting with the iOS device, the objective of the game is to collect points through flipping pancakes without losing control.  The user must tilt the device back and forth to succeed, creating a physical interaction with the application.   As a student in her second year, she now has a better understanding of Objective C and iOS development.  Enrolling in the independent study, she gained skills that she may not have achieved until later in her education.  Such as project management, software development techniques, and awareness of what is needed to submit an application to the app store. Learn more about the Nanospark Controller or University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Software Development...

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Nanospark – Using Iso-Tip

Nanospark – Using Iso-Tip

Nanospark – Using Iso-Tip I thought we’d tell you about tools from one our our sister companies that we’re using on our projects around here.  They’re the Iso-Tip cordless soldering irons; I have both a 7700 and a 7800 in my office . Recently I was making a demo for some of our Reps to use when presenting Nanospark to potential customers and, sure enough, made use of my cordless soldering iron.  Along with a laser diode (you can never go wrong with lasers), the demo has an alcohol sensor with a module.  The female wire connectors I had were the wrong size so I soldered wires with male ends to the module.  Of course, I need the demo to look professional so next I grabbed some shrink tube and my trusty Titan Smart Torch to cover the solder joints.  Voilà- looking good! We use Iso-Tip irons for projects and also for manufacturing.  On the assembly side of Nanospark we’re using the 7904 Power Pro with a Micro tip #7484 to solder the wires to the connector pin and to the circuit board.  The micro tip works well with the small gauge wires and gets between the wires without melting other joints. On a given day we will solder about 200-250 joints so a second 7904 is ready on the charger just in case. Check out Iso-Tip for your projects.  I’m sure you’ll find them quite handy! Learn more about Nanospark’s...

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Nanospark – A Greenhouse Sensor System

Nanospark – A Greenhouse Sensor System

The greenhouse scenario illustrates well how Nanospark with a custom app can be turned into a very user-friendly sensor system. Could you use Nanospark to run a greenhouse?  Why not.  We made a very small one- just two tomato plants.  The greenhouse has fans, a soil moisture sensor, a thermometer, and an automatic watering line.  We wrote a small app to manage things; we called it VeggieFarmer. The app listens to the soil moisture and temperature sensors and reports real-time status.  When the soil becomes dry the app will trigger a solenoid to open,  letting water trickle down the tube from the bucket to the base of the tomato plant.  When it returns to wet, the app closes the solenoid.  Of course, it’s also monitoring the level of water in the bucket.  In our scenario by a flow rate formula, in other setups it could be done with a scale, water level sensor, or even an ultrasonic sensor. The temperature sensor monitors the temperature inside the greenhouse.  When the temperature is 80°F or more the fans are turned on.  (Yes we know the fans could be located more effectively in the mini-greenhouse.)  When it’s cool the fans are turned off. We hard-coded the above parameters into the demo app we built.  However, it would be a simple matter to program an app with selection settings so that gardeners could run several zones from one controller.  Or so they could customize the app settings to accommodate a variety of plant types in their garden. If you are a hobbyist gardener, greenhouse owner or farmer, we’d be happy to help you use Nanospark to manage various functions of your...

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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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Industrial Automation Processes – Ice Cream Cup Lids

Industrial Automation Processes – Ice Cream Cup Lids

There are three JMP contact switches wired to digital inputs to confirm equipment and cup location. Five digital outputs trigger solenoids (through an 8-channel, 5V relay board) to actuate cylinders and a vacuum pump which place the lid on the cup, and rotary valves which move the cup through the system.

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Nanospark-Sensor Monitoring Application (Soil Quality)

Nanospark-Sensor Monitoring Application (Soil Quality)

Here’s a quick one.  Nanospark with a soil moisture sensor and a sensor monitoring application.  The two prongs send voltage between them, more moisture = higher voltage.   A nice easy read with Nanospark’s analog tab. How could you use this?  Perhaps you have a greenhouse, or some plants around the house.  You could easily setup an automatic watering system and have soil moisture sensors monitor and trigger the watering. (We did that this summer- read about it here.) The next step.  As you know different plants thrive at different moisture levels.  So with a simple app you could change at which voltage (as read by the moisture sensor) the water comes on and off....

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Nanospark – Force Sensing Resistor

Nanospark – Force Sensing Resistor

This week we wired Nanospark up with a force sensing resistor.  It’s output is 0-5V which makes for a clear display in the Nanospark Controller App of the voltage readings.  As pressure is applied to the pad the resistance is reduced so the voltage reading increases.  The wiring is simple, as you’ll see in the demo; which, I think, illustrates well the ease with which Nanospark can be used in many and varied applications. Where would you use a force sensing resistor?  Some are used to gather scientific data (Tekscan, the manufacturers of FlexiForce®, have  a customer using the force sensing resistors to measure the bite strength of lizards), others to measure the force applied to brakes.  They are also used widely in the medical field. Whatever use you may find for the force sensing resistor, imagine what you could do with the data when drawing on the features of your iPhone!  Does a colleague at the home office need the data?  Email it as it’s gathered.  Will corresponding the data with geographic location make it more useful?  Have the app connect the data with GPS coordinates before exporting.  Nanospark facilitates that link between the raw data from and the awesome power of iOS. Though the demo is simple, the potential is...

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Nanospark – Ultrasonic Sensor

Nanospark – Ultrasonic Sensor

We want to show you how Nanospark interacts with a huge variety of sensors and actuators in order to make custom control systems. In this demo we’ve wired up an ultrasonic sensor to Nanospark’s analog input.  Through the Nanospark Controller App (download free from iTunes) we can track the voltage output of the ultrasonic sensor.  Of course, if you were building a control system you could have the input signal from the ultrasonic sensor trigger an output on the Nanospark Controller. Here’s one idea on how this could work; use the ultrasonic sensor to monitor and maintain the water level in a tank.  The ultrasonic sensor wired to an analog input and placed at the top of the tank continually monitors the water level.  Have a water pump connected to a digital output on the Nanospark Controller.  Write an app that reads the input voltage and turns the digital output on or off at the proper voltage (higher voltage = less water in the tank).  Mount the iPad to the side of the tank for a live level display.  Perhaps also have the app send a note to you when it turns the pump on or off. A side note: Nanospark’s analog display (“slider”) is 0-5v, however the ultrasonic sensor’s output is 0-1.3v.  So on the video, when you expect to see the slider moving, glance to the right and see the voltage change expressed in...

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