Building a better PID smoker controller

[Matt] wanted to have more control over his meat smoker so he built this advanced PID smoker controller. It uses the solid state relay seen in the bottom-right of this image to switch the smoker’s heating element. But all of the other goodies that are included add several features not usually found in these builds.

This is a replacement for the commercial PID unit he used on the original build. That monitored the temperature in the smoker, using predictive algorithms to maintain just the right heat level. But this time around [Matt] is looking for extra feedback with a second sensor to monitor meat temperature. Using an Arduino with an SD shield he is able to data log the smoking sessions, and his custom code allows him to specify temperature profiles for resting the meat after it has hit the target temperature. It kind of reminds us of a reflow oven controller… but for food.

Building the backend of Internet controlled devices

[Adam] and [Jeremy] took on the challenge of designing a system that would make it easy to control appliances from the Internet. We’ve seen the concept many times before; it involves some method of switching mains power and connecting that mechanism to the Internet. This design is both well planned and nicely executed.

We’re always very interested in the power switching for a project like this. It’s good that an approved electrical box houses all of the high-voltage parts in the project. Here a GA8-2B02 solid state relay switches power between the incoming cord and the two outlets. We didn’t get a look in the box, but hopefully there’s a partition between those wires and the low-voltage control wiring which uses a standard 3.5 mm audio jack as an interconnect.

An ATmega644 drives the control signal for the relay. It’s connected via Ethernet cable to the Internet through the use of an ENC28J60 chip which takes care of LAN communications. This is essentially a light-weight web server that will be easy to adapt to receive commands from just about any web-connected sender.

[Thanks Bruce]

Spaduino heats up a used hot-tub

[Ryan] and the roomies decided that a hot tub was just what they needed to spice up the place. They hit Craig’s List and found one for the right price. After acquisition and setup they were pleased to find that the jets and pump worked great. But you’re not going to want to stick as much as your big toe into this ice-cold cryogenics experiment. Some poking around in the control system exposed the dead relays which are responsible for switching the heater. Instead of swapping the parts, [Ryan] began building a control system that will replace the twenty-year-old original.

The heating element still works, but it’s rated at 5.5 kW and here’s no way to automatically switch it on and off. [Ryan] found a 60 Amp solid state relay which can handle the load, and plays nicely with his Arduino. Initial tests got the tub up and running again. Obviously you want the tub to maintain temperature and so a thermistor was added to take readings from the heater core. There’s also a potentiometer to adjust the temperature, and an LCD screen to show the current settings. But [Ryan] hopes to add more features over time, like incorporating jet control, and adding wireless communications via an Xbee module.

How to build a life-sized electronic game

life_size_light_games

We’re very impressed with [Steve's] Electronic Snowball Fight game. It consists of two life-sized players standing opposite of each other. Each can throw a snowball or duck, the object is to hit the other person and not get hit yourself. He’s utilized a lot of good building techniques that could be easily adapted to other types of game play. [Read more...]

Giant bulb VU meter

bulb

The latest Inventgeek project is a 12 outlet control box. They decided to demo it using a giant bulb based VU meter. The control box has 12 individual outlets hooked up to two layers of six solid state relays. [Jared] notes that SSRs can be very expensive, but he purchased his on eBay for ~$10 each. Wiring and installation on this project is incredibly clean and they plan on using the control box for future how-tos. The simple audio circuit used for the VU is based on the LM3915. You’ll find full plans on the site or you can watch the overview video embedded below.

[Read more...]

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