Mod Your Camera With ModBus

Industrial hardware needs to be reliable, tough, and interoperable. For this reason, there are a series of standards used for command & control connections between equipment. One of the more widespread standards is ModBus, an open protocol using a master-slave architecture, usually delivered over RS-485 serial. It’s readily found being used with PLCs, HMIs, VFDs, and all manner of other industrial equipment that comes with a TLA (three letter acronym).

[Absolutelyautomation] decided to leverage ModBus to control garden variety digital cameras, of the type found cluttering up drawers now that smartphones have come so far. This involves getting old-school, by simply soldering wires to the buttons of the camera, and using an Arduino Nano to control the camera while talking to the ModBus network.

This system could prove handy for integrating a camera into an industrial production process to monitor for faults or defective parts. The article demonstrates simple control of the camera with off-the-shelf commercial PLC hardware. Generally, industrial cameras are very expensive, so this hack may be useful where there isn’t the budget for a proper solution. Will it stand up to industrial conditions for 10 years without missing a beat? No, but it could definitely save the day in the short term for a throwaway price. One shortfall is that the camera as installed will only save pictures to its local memory card. There’s a lot to be said for serving the images right to the engineer’s desk over a network.

We’ve seen [Absolutelyautomation]’s work before – check out this implementation of Pong on an industrial controller.

Protecting Your Home Against Potato Invaders

Not sure where the potatoes were sneaking in, [24Gospel] did what any decent hacker would do: strapped a camera to a Raspberry Pi, hacked a bit on OpenCV, and built himself a potato detection system. Now those pesky Russets can’t get into the house without tripping the tuber alarm.


OK, seriously. [24Gospel] works for a potato farm as a systems/software developer. (How big does a potato farm have to be to require a dedicated software guy?) His system is still a first step, but the goal is to grade the potatoes, record data about size and defects, and even tell different potato types apart. And he’s found decent success so far, especially for the money. We don’t often build projects that need to operate in hostile environments, but we appreciate the nice plastic case and rugged adjustable steel frame that supports the Pi and camera over the sorting bed.

Even more, we applaud the hacker spirit here. [24Gospel] is obviously working in a serious production environment, but still he’s trying out new things in an attempt to make it work better. While it would be impossible to quantify the impact of this kind of on-the-job ingenuity, we bet it’s not insignificant. Why don’t we see more documented workplace hacks around here? Would the unsung heroes please stand up?

[via /r/raspberry_pi]

Prusa Shows Us the New i3 MK2 3D Printer and Where the Community is Headed

Josef Prusa’s designs have always been trustworthy. He has a talent for scouring the body of work out there in the RepRap community, finding the most valuable innovations, and then blending them together along with some innovations of his own into something greater than the sum of its parts. So, it’s not hard to say, that once a feature shows up in one of his printers, it is the direction that printers are going. With the latest version of the often imitated Prusa i3 design, we can see what’s next.

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Vacuum Gauge Display; Arduino Replaces Industrial

Arduinos! They’re a great tool that make the world of microcontrollers pretty easy, and in [cptlolalot]’s case, they also give us an alternative to buying expensive, proprietary parts. [cptlolalot] needed a gauge for an expensive vacuum pump, and rather than buying an expensive part, built a circuit around an Arduino to monitor the vacuum.

pressure-gauge-thumbThis project goes a little beyond simple Arduino programming though. A 12V to 5V power supply drives the device, which is laid out on a blank PCB. The display fits snugly over the circuit which reduces the footprint of the project, and the entire thing is housed in a custom-printed case with a custom-printed pushbutton. The device gets power and data over the RJ45 connection so no external power is needed. If you want to take a look at the code, it’s linked on [cptlolalot]’s reddit thread.

This project shows how much easier it can be to grab an Arduino off the shelf to solve a problem that would otherwise be very expensive. We’ve been seeing Arduinos in industrial applications at an increasing rate as well, which is promising not just because it’s cheap but because it’s a familiar platform that will make repairs and hacks in the future much easier for everyone.

Retrotechtacular: The 10-year anniversary of plastic


This footage called Industry on Parade is a unique look back at the golden age of plastics. We also value the footage as a look at America’s manufacturing sector at its height.

We remember a middle-school teacher recalling his father — who was a research scientist working at Dow — bringing home a pair of discs for him to play with. His first ever encounter with plastic. Here we see a snapshot ten years after plastic manufacturing went mainstream. It starts off with a tour of an injection-molding factory. The screenshot seen above is from the second vignette which tours a production line for naval ship models which will be used to train Navy personnel and as props for strategic planning maps. The film wraps up with the production of plastic fabrics starting with raw materials and ending with synthetic bug screen.

Just to prove it’s an authentic blast from the past, hang in there for the last two minutes when you get an anti-communism PSA. Classic.

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