Washing machine mechanical timer replaced with microcontroller

After the electromechanical timer on [Paul Canello's] washing machine broke for the third time he decided he needed to stop repairing it and find a more permanent fix. He decided to build his own microcontroller-based system for washing his clothes (translated). Caution: The image links on [Paul's] page seem to be broken and will unleash a never-ending storm of empty pop-up windows if you click on them. We’ve embedded all of the images after the break to save you some hassle.

The controller on a washing machine is nothing more than a mechanical alarm clock. It starts the cycle, then moves through various modes based on the passage of time. [Paul] started his hack by observing how long the delay between cycles was meant to be, and recording which parts of the machine were switched on and off at each stage.

It turns out that when the mechanical knob is turned, it reroutes how water flows through the detergent chamber. Since that knob won’t be in the new system [Paul] came up with a way for the microcontroller to handle this by using a servo motor. The rest of the control involves relays to control the motor, and solenoid valves for the water. There are also pressure switches that give feedback for the level of the water in the machine. A PIC 16F872 serves as the new controller, with the help of a 7 segment display, a buzzer, and a pair of buttons as the user interface.

This is an older project, but after reading about the Arduino controlled dishwasher [Ramiro] sent us a link. Thanks!

Comments

  1. jim says:

    I hate to say that the images work fine in OS X Safari.

  2. Life2Death says:

    What, it doesnt tweet or text me when my wash is done?

  3. Muhz says:

    The images work fine in Windows 7 Firefox too. They DON’T work on the google translated page however.

  4. mh says:

    A friend of mine recently got one of those energy and water efficient top loading washers.

    While the high efficiency machines may use less water, they take forever to do a load. (5 hours for one load of bleach laundry – mostly because of the multiple rinses needed to actually get the bleach out ).

    I was speculating about the possibility of creating a new controller for the machine to make it do a better job. She took the simper approach of upgrading to an older style machine that uses enough water to actually rinse clothes, and does it in a tolerable amount of time.

  5. smoker_dave says:

    I don’t see details of a watchdog timer implemented on the PIC.

    I wonder if he has considered what fault modes this “hack” could find itself in and what implications they will have…

  6. Rob says:

    @smoker_dave
    I could just see the machine not shutting off the water and flooding the house. Or the machine is stuck in spin mode for 2 hours while you are at the store. Or in spin mode while out of balance and it destroys the the entire laundry room.

    Then there is always the point where it becomes self aware and decides it doesnt want to do you laundry any more.

  7. @Rob ROFL!!!

    Actually this is a valid concern.
    I would use two microcontrollers in master/slave mode running different code in a different order with one running from battery backup so that if one locks up then the other shuts the machine down in a controlled way.

  8. asheets says:

    @Rob — The 3 problems that you list are usually prevented by other hardware not built into the timer assembly.

  9. Dan says:

    I noticed that he didn’t mention the door interlock that is common on all new machines and will need to be taken into account.

    See:

    http://www.anglia-electrics.co.uk/anatomy%20of%20a%20washing%20machine.html

    I like the way he added new features. I would like to see a leak detector incorportated to shut off the water and sound the alarm. I have not found that feature on any machine and it’s more important the older the machine becomes.

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