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Control panel with discrete PIDs vs. computer/automation?
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9310
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:12 am    Post subject: Control panel with discrete PIDs vs. computer/automation? Reply with quote


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I get asked all the time why I didn't consider using more automated PC solutions, microcontrollers (i.e. Arduino, Raspberry Pi), or specialized PIDs for my control panel to control my brewing process instead of standard PID temperature controllers. Specialized products such as BCS-460, Brewtroller (edit: they appear to be discontinued), BrewPi, and others exist too that are targeted as the 'heart' of a brewing setup. I looked at these solutions when designing my setup. New ones are coming out all the time too. (They tend to come and go)

My FAQ answers this partially but people still keep still keep asking for more details, or more exactly, they keep asking me what's right for them. That's a question I can't really answer as everyone's needs are different.

What I can do however is provide some more information into the thought process I went through a few years ago when designing my control panel that eventually led me to choose discrete 'standard' PIDs instead of other, possibly more automated or specialized control systems such as a computer based touchscreen, or an embedded controller such as BCS-460/Brewtroller/Arduino/etc. These were all options I considered.

My background

As a kid growing up I was always heavily into electronics and computers and spent hours breadboarding and building circuits and programming on various computers (ZX-81, C64, etc.). Choosing a career as an Electrical Engineer / software developer was the only one I was ever interested in.

From 1993 to 2000 I spent all my time at a large multi-million dollar vehicle assembly plant designing process control systems used by operators and technicians. This gave me a lot of experience with human machine interfaces (HMI) of various types (Windows, Linux based, QNX and other real-time operating systems, custom embedded I/O hardware, PLCs, etc.). We had basically unlimited budget to play with any technology we wanted to (fun times!).

Some of these system were controlled using simpler buttons and controls such as what I have on my brewing control panel, while others used advanced touchscreens meant for harsh environments. Other systems used in the front offices used a regular keyboard and mouse with a web interface. One of the more interesting ones involved using cameras for image pattern recognition, a type of artificial intelligence. It garnered a lot of interest from the corporation and was eventually featured on the cover of the March/April 1999 issue of 'Manufacturing Automation' magazine.

The people who used these systems had various skill sets: Some had fairly advanced programming skills themselves, others had never seen or used a computer before, and some could not read (which posed some interesting design challenges). I saw first hand what worked and what didn't by watching them use the tools and interfaces I built. I was lucky to be able to work on such varied systems. It helped enormously when it came time to design a brewing setup.



Points to consider when designing your brewing control panel

As you read through these points, remember that my goals may be different from yours so it's important to assign weights using your own goals and decide for yourself what's best for you. There's really no right or wrong answer here. The points below are things you should simply consider:

Industrialized:

One of my design goals was to try and build a brewing setup that was as industrial as possible (ie: you should be able to use it on a plant floor in wash down conditions. At least NEMA 12 (if not NEMA 4). I didn't want to have to be careful with it. I didn't want to have to treat it like a "normal" PC or laptop and keep it in the opposite corner and wipe down my hands before using it. If I couldn't use it with wet hands, gloved hands, hands covered in sticky grist I didn't want it. (That said, I rarely get dirty when brewing but my hands are often wet). This is possible with all solutions. Going with a computer based solution would have meant using an industrial ruggedized PC touchscreen or similar (I've designed around these in some of the plant floor systems I built years ago and see the abuse they get). So it's certainly possible. The only issue is cost. A proper ruggedized touch screen PC (or screen with the PC in a rugged enclosure) isn't cheap. On the flip side standard PIDs/switches/lights are easy to get in industrial/water resistant form for cheap.

Interface:

I loved the open ended customization available with computers. You can do anything you want. However the more I designed my brew process (make sure you do this first and have that down pat before deciding *how* to implement the process), the more I realized that the controls and custom user interface I'd be creating would be starting to mimic "old fashioned" dials/displays/controls. Computer based solutions are infinitely more flexible but I didn't find that in my case I really needed more than what I could get with standard PIDs/controls/lights. For more information on my brewing process, see my Brew Day Step by Step article that walks you through my typical brew day with dozens of pictures and videos.

Ergonomics:

Using a physical switch or button with tactile feedback is always easier for an operator than a touchscreen where the only feedback is visual. When you flip a switch you know from the motion that the action is completed. When you poke a screen with your finger you need to watch and make sure you've poked in the right spot. No different than typing on (say) a tablet vs a real keyboard. Try writing an essay on an iPad vs. on a PC or MAC with a real keyboard. There's a reason real keyboards have tactile feedback and probably always will. So when I design user interfaces, if I can do it with something physical I do that first if possible. If there's too much variety between screens or functions then you have to go touchscreen (I do this with my home theater remote for example). You can mix the two as well sometimes: Use the screen for display only (not a touchscreen) and still use discrete buttons. This was an option I considered. I've done that in the past with assembly line systems where an operator needs to poke at a button every minute. You don't want them doing that to a touchscreen as it will eventually wear out and screens are expensive. Give them a physical button (like our red alarm reset button). Less likely to wear out and if it does, you replace the $3 button in quite literally 2 minutes. On the assembly plant floor, we were often sending electricians in during the 15 minute break to change out a switch or button quickly.

Flexibility:

Touchscreen computer based solutions win hands down for flexibility. If you're not sure of your brewing process or think you may want to experiment and/or change it in the future, a touchscreen lets you add or remove controls easily if you keep it all on the screen. If you design correctly from the start then I really don't think it matters. I've been using my PID based setup for many years (since 2009) and if I had to built it over again I'd do it the same way. Brewing has been around for thousands of years. I doubt that in 10-20 years we'll be doing anything radically different in our process that would make me want to redesign my control panel. By keeping my setup flexible even newer processes such as Hop Stands (used by new popular beers like New England IPAs) that I had never envisioned before are possible.

The flexibility afforded by computer based solutions is a double edged sword so I caution brewers to not fall in the trap of creating something half finished that more or less works, and stopping there. I see this far too often: A setup that works but has a bunch of quirks, bugs, or usability issues that never get fixed over the years. Some of the commercially available systems are even known to have such issues if you talk to the owners.

Long term serviceability:

This was a big one for me and was probably the biggest driver to going with the solution I did: I wanted my setup to last me for the rest of my life. I'm more interested in the craft/art of brewing than tinkering with equipment. While I may be a geek/nerd at heart, when I brew I just want to brew - I don't want to fiddle with equipment, recompile/debug code, or wait for a driver or Windows update before I brew. I figured I'd spend a year or so designing something that could brew anything and then just use it forever. So part of my requirement was to make sure that if in 1-2 years (or even 10-20 years) I needed to replace something that it be easy to do and possible. I did not want to have to depend on one company to do the work or supply me with a specific part or update the software for me. I did not want to depend on any company to still be in business. Nor did I want to have to remember how I configured something many years down the road. To accomplish this, I wanted to limit the use of any special or proprietary parts. Parts had to be hot-swappable. Pull the old one out, put the new one in.

Things like the relays, standard PIDs, switches, etc. used in my control panel (as well as the heating elements and other parts) are all extremely common. They've existed for dozens of years and they will continue to exist for dozens more because of the tens of thousands of (non-brewery related) industrial installations around the world running today that rely on them. I'm not married to one particular part or manufacturer. If (for example) a standard PID dies in 20 years I can buy any similar PID from any manufacturer and drop it in as the functionality will be the same. There are hundreds of choices. It does not necessarily have to the same manufacturer at all. The hole sizes are all standard understood manufacturing sizes (1/16 DIN for PIDs, 23mm for switches/lights, etc) because the industry that uses these parts demands easy and quick serviceability. It really is: Pull the old one out, put the new one in. Same with the heating element. There are dozens if not hundreds of models to choose from as they are used in millions of hot water tanks around the world and all use the same size hole. I did not want something like the proprietary Blichmann Boil Coil that requires two non-standard sized holes in the kettle. If a few years down the road I need to replace my Boil Coil and it's no longer available, I need to replace the kettle as well or find a way to plug those holes. (more of my thoughts on the Boil Coil).

On the control panel side, some of the custom controllers available are not open source and are owned/run by one person and come and go. For example, BrewTroller hardware is no longer available after only a few years. That gave me pause. If both the hardware and software was 100% open source then that may be different, but even open source stuff comes and goes in terms of popularity. Where are some of these products going to be in 20 years, let alone in 2 years?

Long term serviceability is also an issue with many of the commercial setups I considered. Take the Sabco BrewMagic setup. It's gas based so that was a non-starter, but equally important is that it uses a touch-screen PLC controller that runs custom (patent pending) software that only they have access to. Nobody else is allowed to share this software or copy the design as it's patented. It is not available for download. You can't take a backup. What happens if that PLC dies down the road and the company is no longer around? The system is dead in the water as their software controls absolutely everything.

Interest in craft beer is at an all-time high so everyone is out to make a buck. There are dozens of upstart companies popping up every year. Most do not survive. Take BrewMasterControls. Based on the last of responses to their customers on online forums and on their Facebook page, they appear to have folded in the summer of 2013 after only a year or so in business, leaving customers of this custom programmed multi-thousand dollar electric setup without any support. Some of them never even received the software to make their system work!

This website on the other hand provides anyone building our brewing setup a complete list of standard parts, assembly instructions, and even wiring diagrams. Readers may download our book and effectively have an offline comprehensive service and maintenance manual for life. No other brewing setup comes with this level of detail.

What about a computer based setup you program yourself? You may have a software developer background (like myself) and not have any issues coding your own custom software which you can then support yourself. You could use a flat panel ruggedized PC and capture information and run devices using specialized control software. This problem is not the code you write yourself, but the out of the box software and drivers around it: What if they are not kept up to date and in 20 years do not work on Windows 22 or whatever people are running then? Even if you keep software backups of everything, what if hardware dies? Drivers for newer hardware often do not work with an older operating system. What if the specialized hardware is no longer available? Think of the computer you were running just 5-10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. Had I designed a PC based brewing setup 20 years ago it probably would have been done with ISA or VLB capture cards and/or serial/parallel port technology. None of these are found on computers today so the system would have to be redesigned if something was to fail a few years down the road. The pace of computer technology is increasing so it's only getting worse. You should assume that whatever computer equipment you purchase today will no longer be available in 1-3 years. That's just the way the PC industry works. Embedded controllers are no different. They come and go as well. BCS-460/462 were popular for a while, but then they stopped making them. Years later BCS-482 was announced. How long will it be available for? Who knows.

Data logging:

The anal retentive in me loves the idea of logging temp graphs and all those things that computers lets you do easily and basically for "free". (No easy way to do this with standard PIDs). You can track all sorts of things over time. But then I started thinking: What exactly would I "do" with this data? I know how fast a PID based setup ramps. Just use the timer once to time how long it takes to ramp up. Why do I need to know exactly how that curve looks? Does seeing the curve of temp over time really give me any more information that I can use instead of just knowing the start/end points and time?

You also can't control the curve. We want to step as fast as possible, not slowly go up. So every beer will have slightly different ramp times as the amount of grain and water will be different. You can't assume the ramp results from a 5% ABV batch will still happen with a 7% ABV batch.

Whenever people talk about all the logging they can do I always ask "So how are you using that data to make your beer better?". I couldn't think of one example of how I'd use this extra data so I decided data logging doesn't help me. Your needs may be different however.

Level of automation:

This one's a no brainer. If you want or think one day you want to go for semi or complete automation (push a button & wort comes out), a computer based or similar solution is the way to go. Standard PID won't give you this as easily. Computers can replace more than just PIDs and can do all the other things you'd want for full automation like control pumps/valves/float switches/etc. I didn't want semi or full automation myself so going PID was still in the running. The level of automation is one thing that I didn't actually think about very long at all. I knew right from the start that I didn't want semi or complete automation. I wanted to keep things 'simple' with what can best be described as manual dials and controls for 2 reasons: (1) So that I feel like I'm doing something on brew day (it's a hobby and I want to be part of the process steps instead of having a computer manage them). (2) I felt that the time required to program the automated steps at the start of the brew day could or would likely take just as long as 'manually' changing certain settings when needed. For example, with today's highly modified malts, I mostly do single infusion mashes (not step mashes). The only step I have is to mashout. To do that I hit the temperature "up" button a few times on one of the PIDs once the alarm sounds to let me know that mashing is complete. It takes 3-5 seconds to do. A computer could easily automate this but what exactly is that saving or simplifying for me? Computers are also great for processes where actions must be done at very precise moments but timing is not overly critical in brewing. For example, if you mash a few minutes or even an hour longer after conversion has already taken place it won't affect the beer.

Remote control or monitoring:

One feature that some of the computer based solutions are known for is that you can view your controls from anywhere using a web browser. Maybe it's just me, but to this day I still don't understand why I'd want to do that on a properly designed and implemented system. I know how my system behaves so I have no need to monitor it. I have timers with alarms to let me know when something needs to be done. That said, most of the steps in the hot side of the brewery (the wort creation process) are not timing critical. For example, because of the way the enzymes are converted as we mash, a brewer always moves from lower to higher temperatures. Temperatures need to be held for a minimum amount of time for enzymes to convert. There is no maximum time as mentioned previously. If enzymes are properly converted after 2 hours but you did 3, it won't make a difference (good or bad). Up until the boil, timing is not overly critical in any of the steps. When an alarm goes off, you usually don't need to be on top of it immediately. For everything prior to the boil I'm usually not in the room and will often let steps run long. Boiling is the exception as I want to add hops at the right times (more or less). Even here, missing a hop addition by a few minutes will not result in a difference that is noticeable. By the time boiling is on, I'm in the room for good as I'm first stirring and watching for boil overs, then cleaning up the mash tun, cleaning fermenters, etc. All the things that require human intervention.

If a system needs to be monitored because there's a fear that the system isn't going to run right then it probably isn't designed right to begin with. Implementing controls as a web server over port 80 like this makes perfect sense of course (you can basically get this feature for 'free' with any PC based setup). I just think this is one of those 'cool' features that is neat the first time you see it but adds little value at the end of the day.

Some brewers also like to be able to remotely control their brewery. This is something I was never interested in as I feel it's dangerous to remotely control something as powerful as a brewing setup. You might turn a pump on remotely but not realize that (a) it isn’t primed properly and you’re killing it, or (b) you didn’t hook the hoses up right and near boiling water is now splashing all over the room (what if someone else was walking by?), and so forth. I have friends “pocket dial” me on their smartphones all the time because they forget to lock it. Could you imagine mistakenly turning on your brewing setup heating elements from across the country via smartphone and not realizing it until the fire department calls you? Brewing setups are inherently powerful and dangerous. I think there’s something to be said about always being in front of them to press buttons, change settings, and so forth. Usually when I want to change something on the control panel, I have a quick hose swap or valve adjustment to do as well, so being able to make a change to the control panel remotely doesn’t help me as I need to be the room anyway.

'Bling' factor:

This can most certainly be a design goal. There is nothing wrong with that. If someone wants to go for the 'wow' factor then I think both a touchscreen setup and manual dial/switch/PID setup can be made to look pretty impressive. A touchscreen setup can likely be made to look more modern with on screen dials, controls, and process pictures (even animated). A PID based setup can be made to look more industrial/ruggedized with rows and rows of physical dials/lights/switches. Almost 'retro' in a sense. Depends what style you like.

Complexity to implement:

Because of the flexibility, computers based setups have a greater learning curve and you probably need to know a bit more about low voltage electronics and programming/coding if you want to fully harness the power of what they can do. None of these was a factor for me as an Electrical Engineer (I'm comfortable with this stuff). The same may not be true for others.


Summary

Long story short: At the end of day I didn't see how a computer based touchscreen or similar microcontroller based setup would add any value for *my* design goals and it actually impeded many of *my* most important goals. I'd end up with something that behaved similarly, would have cost a bit more, and may not have been as serviceable in the long run. The key word here of course is *my*. Set your own goals and decide. Please don't let someone else decide what's best for you. No matter what the marketing folk will tell you, there is no "one" universally best control panel setup for brewing.

Hope this helps some people on the fence. Comments welcome! If you have design goals not covered in my list, by all means mention them to give everyone more food for thought.

Cheers!

Kal


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iijakii



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
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PostLink    Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with your thoughts on PIDs vs BCS. It would be neat to do a nice BCS with automated valves, automatic/measured strike volumes and everything, but that's an entirely different ballgame.

One question I do have is: would it be possible to implement a wireless-display (display-only, not controllable)? It'd be cool to have the temps being transmitted to Xbee/Arduino or whatnot. Don't see how could do that from the PID though. Not worth it if would have to run another RTD, etc.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9310
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

iijakii wrote:
One question I do have is: would it be possible to implement a wireless-display (display-only, not controllable)? It'd be cool to have the temps being transmitted to Xbee/Arduino or whatnot. Don't see how could do that from the PID though. Not worth it if would have to run another RTD, etc.

Yup, don't see how that would be possible either without hacking into the PIDs somehow. A low-tech/simple way that doesn't require any changes would be to use a video baby monitor. Certainly not the most elegant solution.

You could easily extend the alarm wirelessly however with something like a doorbell repeater. This would let you know that something needs to be done. The alarm would go off on the control panel and the door bell extender elsewhere would chime to let you know.

Kal

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cscade



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
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Location: Wooster, OH


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
iijakii wrote:
One question I do have is: would it be possible to implement a wireless-display (display-only, not controllable)? It'd be cool to have the temps being transmitted to Xbee/Arduino or whatnot. Don't see how could do that from the PID though. Not worth it if would have to run another RTD, etc.

Yup, don't see how that would be possible either without hacking into the PIDs somehow. A low-tech/simple way that doesn't require any changes would be to use a video baby monitor. Maybe not the most elegant solution.

You could easily extend the alarm wirelessly however with something like a doorbell repeater. This would let you know that something needs to be done. The alarm would go off on the control panel and the door bell extender elsewhere would chime to let you know.

Kal


I was just about to start a thread on this, but fortunately my search-fu is working!

Is there really no way to "tap in" to the temp probes directly, strictly for logging purposes? I am sold on the style of panel Kal has designed here, but I really want to experiment with data logging and remote viewing. Many other aspects of my process (ferment control, calendar reminders, etc) will be powered by wireless JeeNode (http://jeelabs.org/) modules, and I'd like to to able to piggy-back one of them on the control panel as well for MOAR DATA POINTS!

All the JeeNodes will talk to a node.js process wirelessly to keep track of every aspect of each beer, and remind me when it's time to do something like dry-hop etc. I'm a software engineer, so all those "complex parts" are cake, but something as simple as getting access to a temperature probe signal baffles me Wink

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Raackstar



Joined: 18 Feb 2012
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Kal - we are wrestling with this question right now, and this was exactly the set of info needed to decide.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9310
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cscade wrote:
Is there really no way to "tap in" to the temp probes directly, strictly for logging purposes?

Sure, anything is possible I suppose if you were to design your own circuitry. How that would be done I have no idea. It may not be obvious the convert the signal into something meaningful not to mention how you'd measure with something else already using it (the PID). The temp probe is simply a fancy resistor. The PID sends a voltage and measures the resistance and then converts using some formula to temp.

This is why I mention hacking in the PID instead. Let it do all the work and what not to convert to degrees temp for you and then monitor what it's finding with some sort of capture/sampling circuitry.

I have no idea of the specifics on how to do this however.

It may also be simpler to just put in a second temp probe with some PC capture/sampling device. I don't know. Lots more thinking and research required.

Kal

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cscade



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
cscade wrote:
Is there really no way to "tap in" to the temp probes directly, strictly for logging purposes?

Sure, anything is possible I suppose if you were to design your own circuitry. How that would be done I have no idea. It may not be obvious the convert the signal into something meaningful not to mention how you'd measure with something else already using it (the PID). The temp probe is simply a fancy resistor. The PID sends a voltage and measures the resistance and then converts using some formula to temp.

This is why I mention hacking in the PID instead. Let it do all the work and what not to convert to degrees temp for you and then monitor what it's finding with some sort of capture/sampling circuitry.

I have no idea of the specifics on how to do this however.

It may also be simpler to just put in a second temp probe with some PC capture/sampling device. I don't know. Lots more thinking and research required.

Kal


Good points.

One intermediate option I have would be to add a probe inline at the chill step, and use that as a "process start" trigger for the ferment/condition phase. In other words, the software could notify me that it saw a "new beer" going into fermenters at 67f on 2/5/2012 at 14:10, and then I could name it and pass that new beer object on to my process management software for the rest of the phases.

Lots to think about. I'll be sure to document whatever I do for everyone's amusement!

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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
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Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cscade wrote:
One intermediate option I have would be to add a probe inline at the chill step, and use that as a "process start" trigger for the ferment/condition phase. In other words, the software could notify me that it saw a "new beer" going into fermenters at 67f on 2/5/2012 at 14:10, and then I could name it and pass that new beer object on to my process management software for the rest of the phases.

Using a temp probe to notify something that you're starting to fill a fermenter (by looking at a fast change in temp I guess)? Why not just put a button that you press to let you know you're starting something? Why use temp?

Usually in process control you want to automate things to save time/work. Fermentation/conditioning takes weeks and isn't overly timing dependant. It's just as easy to start with a click of a button or something. Automating it would be prone to mistakes and doesn't save any effort or time. If you were doing something every 10 minutes or it's a random occurance then it makes sense to automate. You don't want to stand there having to watch the thing ready to press the button, nor do you want to be pressing a button every 10 mins. So you automate it. But you're going to be standing right there doing the work of transferring it, why try to automate the start of the event? Just have a button that the operator (you) presses. 0% chance of something going wrong too.

I'm not exactly sure why you're want to automate recording the exact second that wort went into fermenters but hey, anything's possible. I just write down the date in my notebook using a pen. Wink If I'm off by a few hours or even a day, it doesn't matter. In fact, the date doesn't matter anyway. The gravity does. Yeast doesn't follow dates. Wink

Kal

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Feurhund



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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A simple solution to remote viewing the temp etc. would be to repurpose a video baby monitor. Mine can play lullabies and I read that in studies, hops release more alpha acids when relaxed.
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cscade



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:

Using a temp probe to notify something that you're starting to fill a fermenter (by looking at a fast change in temp I guess)? Why not just put a button that you press to let you know you're starting something? Why use temp?

Usually in process control you want to automate things to save time/work. Something like a start of a process that's going to take weeks is just as easy to start with a click of a button or something. Automating it would be prone to mistakes and doesn't save any effort or time. If you were doing it every 10 minutes or even daily or it's a random occurance then it makes sense. But you're going to be standing right there doing the work so just use a button that the operator (you) presses.

I'm not exactly sure why you're want to automate recording the exact second that wort went into fermenters but hey, anything's possible. I just write down the date in my notebook using a pen. Wink

Kal


Here I am just wandering around dreaming up nonsense, and this guy walks into the room and starts making sense. Who does he think he is?!

I could argue some of those points, but that fact that it's not ever going to be a random occurrence is a very good point. In truth though, none of this is actually needed. I have been doing it all on paper for years, and had no problem incrementally improving my beers. For the most part it's about an opportunity to play around.

A button is so simple. Can't I make it more complicated somehow? Mug

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kal
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Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can make it as complicated as you like of course! It's your setup. I just see what people do and I often wonder "why?". Wink

Kal

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crush



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PostLink    Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
iijakii wrote:
One question I do have is: would it be possible to implement a wireless-display (display-only, not controllable)? It'd be cool to have the temps being transmitted to Xbee/Arduino or whatnot. Don't see how could do that from the PID though. Not worth it if would have to run another RTD, etc.

Yup, don't see how that would be possible either without hacking into the PIDs somehow. A low-tech/simple way that doesn't require any changes would be to use a video baby monitor. Maybe not the most elegant solution.

You could easily extend the alarm wirelessly however with something like a doorbell repeater. This would let you know that something needs to be done. The alarm would go off on the control panel and the door bell extender elsewhere would chime to let you know.

Kal


I'm looking into monitoring the PIDs for a remote display. The programmable settings includes a communication address and data rate. Is this for a serial link? The wiring diagram for the PID doesn't seems to mention this. Terminal 2 looks like a possible candidate?

For me, remote monitoring of the PIDs is just a nice to have - once the system gets going it pretty much takes care of itself. What is more "must have" for me is a remote alarm (I can't hear the alarm when I'm not in the brewery) and remote sensing of the kettle volume to keep track on the sparge. (I've had troubles fly sparging with ball valves getting clogged, so for the next few brews I'll go back to batch sparging while I refine the fly sparge process.)

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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

crush wrote:
I'm looking into monitoring the PIDs for a remote display. The programmable settings includes a communication address and data rate. Is this for a serial link?

The manual says to "ignore this setting" for both so it's probably not something that is functional.

Kal

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crush



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PostLink    Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
crush wrote:
I'm looking into monitoring the PIDs for a remote display. The programmable settings includes a communication address and data rate. Is this for a serial link?

The manual says to "ignore this setting" for both so it's probably not something that is functional.

You're so trusting! Smile I'll believe the manual only after I've had a voltmeter/oscilliscope/telepath on the pins and opened the PID to make sure there aren't any transmit headers in there that we can use!

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

crush wrote:
kal wrote:
crush wrote:
I'm looking into monitoring the PIDs for a remote display. The programmable settings includes a communication address and data rate. Is this for a serial link?

The manual says to "ignore this setting" for both so it's probably not something that is functional.

You're so trusting! Smile I'll believe the manual only after I've had a voltmeter/oscilliscope/telepath on the pins and opened the PID to make sure there aren't any transmit headers in there that we can use!


Watching this space intently!

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

crush wrote:
You're so trusting! Smile I'll believe the manual only after I've had a voltmeter/oscilliscope/telepath on the pins and opened the PID to make sure there aren't any transmit headers in there that we can use!

True! You never know...!

Kal

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jasongetsdown



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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:23 pm    Post subject: Temperature logging, remote display, etc. Reply with quote

My inaugural electric brewery post!

I'm currently planning a setup that addresses a number of the issues raised in this thread. It is possible to read temperatures from the RTDs and send them wherever you like for logging, display, or process control purposes.

You'll need an onboard Arduino, a little programming knowledge, and the right equations.

The Arduino makes it easy to measure the voltage coming out of the RTDs. The Arduino will supply 5V to the sensor. The voltage at the pin where you take your reading will vary based on the resistance of the RTD, which is related to the temperature.

***Disclaimer: I haven't implemented any of this yet, so this is all conjecture at this point. Perhaps someone here can verify my thinking!

R = V/I
The voltage is known, the current needs to be measured.

From there getting the temperature is simple with Pt100 probes because they are standardized. At zero degrees C they have 100 ohms of resistance. From there you can calculate or look up the temperature (see the table and sample code at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resistance_thermometer).

A third option is just to use linear interpolation between the resistance at 0C and the resistance given in the table for 100C. It isn't actually linear, but it's close enough for brewing purposes.

You can send the data to another Arduino using the XBee wireless module, or over usb to a computer's serial port.

If you want to get more ambitious, the Arduino can replace the PID controllers, or you can send the temperature readings to a computer that will do the PID calculations and return a control value. The Arduino can then control the SSRs directly. It won't have any of the auto-tuning or fuzzy logic of an industrial controller, but it will probably get the job done. Details on the algorithm are here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PID_controller. It looks complex, but look at the pseudocode at the bottom. The implementation is actually pretty simple.

Because I love a challenge (i.e. I'm a glutton for punishment) I'm planning on calculating the temperature with the Arduino and then sending the data to my MacBook where I'll write the code to do the PID calculations, and create the user interface in Processing. Then I'll send back a percentage (a la the manual mode on an industrial PID controller) and have the Arduino manage firing the elements.

I'm a total amateur here. All this is gleaned from reading Arduino tutorials, studying Kal's instructions and diagrams, and lots of googling and wikipedia surfing.The first round of parts are still in the mail so I haven't done any testing and I don't know which parts of this are malarkey, and which make sense. I work with a controls engineer and an electrician who I'm going to discuss this with, but I haven't sat down with them yet.

Are there any gotchas I'm missing?
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Temperature logging, remote display, etc. Reply with quote

jasongetsdown wrote:
My inaugural electric brewery post!


Welcome to the show! Very Happy

Quote:
Are there any gotchas I'm missing?


I've not dug into the details, but I've seen it stated that you cannot attach more than one device to the same RTD. I'm assuming it's because the additional devices throw off the resistance.

Even if that were possible, the arduino senses single inputs and does a A2D conversion based on the voltage up to 5+ above it's ground (or up to AREF, if provided). Unless the arduino has a common ground with the other device, there's no saying what the actual potential read would be.

If you can come up with a circuit so that two devices can successfully read from the same RTD without needing a common ground then you've got it solved.

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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Temperature logging, remote display, etc. Reply with quote

crush wrote:
I've not dug into the details, but I've seen it stated that you cannot attach more than one device to the same RTD. I'm assuming it's because the additional devices throw off the resistance.

That would be my concern as well.

Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good point. I'm not using the PID controllers so it isn't a problem for me.
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