Gas station without pumps

2019 August 14

Beginning design of a cat drinking fountain

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:11
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One of our cats likes to drinking from running water (a bathroom sink on a trickle setting), so my wife challenged me to make a drinking fountain for the cat that recirculates water in a water dish.  This project will be mainly physical design (3D printing, gluing things together) with a little electronics to control the pump.

I started by buying a very cheap pump from American Science and Surplus: an ET 23 series pump that they are getting rid of for only $2.50.  Somewhat surprisingly, there is a data sheet available for this pump from the manufacturer: http://www.et-pump.com/brushless_23.html, but (not so surprisingly) the specs are different from what American Science and Surplus claims. The manufacturer says that the pump is submersible and can be run at 5V to 12V, while American Science and Surplus says it is not submersible and runs on 4V to 6V.  Because the pump electronics are fully potted, I tend to believe the manufacturer on this one.

The pump uses a brushless motor with two sets of windings (and only 2 transistors to power them) and seems to start pumping at about 4V.  To characterize the pump, I used my Analog Discovery 2 to sweep the power-supply voltage from 0V to 10V, measuring the current through a 0.5Ω resistor.  The results were interesting:

At low voltage, the current seems to be exponential with voltage, as would be expected from having a diode in the circuit—the nonideality of 5.6 is consistent with about 3 silicon diode drops. Above 4V, the motor behaves about like a 26Ω resistor, though with a lot of noise. The turn-on and turn-off behavior between 2V and 4V is interesting—the pump takes a lot of power at these voltages. All these measurements were taken with the pump running dry—it likely behaves differently when pumping water.

The “noise” in the I-vs-V curve is not random noise—it is fluctuation in the amount of current taken as the circuitry for the brushless motor switches between the two sets of coils. If we set the power supply to a constant 5V across the motor in series with the 0.5Ω resistor, we can observe the voltage and the current for the motor:

The two coils seem to take slightly different peak currents when the switch for them is turned on, but both spikes are about 2.8 times the average current. The frequency is around 643 Hz, which implies a speed of around 19300RPM.

I tried controlling the pump with one of the PWM LED controllers that I made for the desk lamps. With a 6V power supply, I need about 60% duty cycle to start the motor, but then can turn it down to about 15–20% duty cycle.  With an 8V power supply, I need about 40% to start and with a 10V supply about 30% to start. All these were crude measurements by turning a potentiometer until the motor started, but they are consistent with about a 3.3V average starting voltage and ability to keep running down to almost 1V.  If the pump stalls at low voltage, one has to bring it up to about 3.5V to turn it back on.

The motor runs even with fairly slow, low-duty cycle PWM. The current spikes at the beginning of each cycle are large.

The PWM control seems to work even with a PWM frequency as low as 270Hz, which is somewhat surprising.  There does not seem to be much in the way of voltage spiking, even with no capacitor or flyback diode added.  There is a short-lived initial current spike of about 3.5A (staying above 2A for about 4µs), which probably comes from charging capacitor C3 in the motor, which is across the power lines after the diode D1 (which seems to be there to prevent reversed power supply).  The 11µC spike is consistent with C3 being about a 1 µF capacitor (or maybe 2.2µF), which seems plausible.  I’m not sure why the current drops to 0 before the motor voltage drops more than about a volt.

I bought some cheap plastic bowls from a thrift store, and my next task is going to be to design a 3D-printed base to hold the pump and the electronics under the bowl and a clip to hold a ¼” ID vinyl tube over the bowl.  The pump is not self-priming, so I need to drill a hole in the bottom of the bowl and glue on the pump to make a gravity feed to do the priming.

2019 January 6

OpenScope MZ review: Bode plot

Filed under: Circuits course,Data acquisition — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:47
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Continuing the review in OpenScope MZ review, I investigated using the OpenScope MZ for impedance analysis (used in both the loudspeaker lab and the electrode lab).

Waveforms Live does not have the nice Impedance Analyzer instrument that Waveforms 3 has, so impedance analysis is more complicated on the OpenScope MZ than on the Analog Discovery 2.  It can be done well enough for the labs of my course, but only with a fair amount of extra trouble.

There is a “Bode Plot” button in Waveforms Live, which performs something similar to the “Network Analyzer” in Waveforms, but it uses only a single oscilloscope channel, so the setup is a little different. I think I know why the Bode plot option uses only one channel, rather than two channels—the microcontroller gets 6.25Msamples/s total throughput, which would only be 3.125Msamples/s per channel if two channels were used. In contrast, the AD2 gets a full 100Msamples/s on each channel, whether one or two is used, so is effectively 32 times faster than the OpenScope MZ.

We still make a voltage divider with the device under test (DUT) and a known reference resistor, and connect the waveform generator across the whole series chain.  Because there is only one oscilloscope channel, we have to do two sweeps: first one with the oscilloscope measuring the input to the series chain (using the “calibrate” button on the Bode panel), then another sweep measuring just across the DUT.  The sweeps are rather slow, taking about a second per data point, so one would probably want to collect fewer data points than with the AD2.  Also there is no short or open compensation for the test fixture, and the frequency range is more limited (max 625kHz).

The resulting data only contains magnitude information, not phase, and can only be downloaded in CSV format with a dB scale.  It is possible to fit a model of the voltage divider to the data, but the gnuplot script is more awkward than fitting the data from the impedance analyzer:

load '../definitions.gnuplot'
set datafile separator comma

Rref=1e3

undb(db) = 10**(db*0.05)
model(f,R,C) = Zpar(R, Zc(f,C))
div(f,R,C) = divider(Rref, model(f,R,C))

R= 1e3
C= 1e-9
fit log(abs(div(x,R,C))) '1kohm-Ax-Bode.csv' skip 1 u 1:(log(undb($2))) via R,C

set xrange [100:1e6]
set ylabel 'Voltage divider ratio'
plot '1kohm-Ax-Bode.csv' skip 1 u 1:(undb($2)) title 'data', \
      abs(div(x,R,C)) title sprintf("R=%.2fkohm, C=%.2fnF", R*1e-3, C*1e9)

The fitting here results in essentially the same results as the fitting done with the Analog Discovery 2.

Although the Bode plot option makes the OpenScope MZ usable for the course, it is rather awkward and limited—the Analog Discovery 2 is still a much better deal.

2019 January 5

OpenScope MZ review

During the CyberWeek sales I bought myself an OpenScope MZ USB scope from Digilent, to see how it compared with the Analog Discovery 2, which I use frequently.  I particularly wanted to see whether I could recommend it as a low-cost alternative ($89 list) for the AD2 ($279 list, but $179 with academic discount).

I’ve not had a chance to do much testing yet, but the short answer is that I would recommend saving up for the Analog Discovery 2—the OpenScope MZ is nowhere near being a professional instrument, but the AD2 is close.

The first thing I tested was the function generator.  The OpenScope MZ does not have a real DAC, but uses digital output pins and a resistor ladder to generate analog voltages.  The result is a “DAC” that is non-monotonic.  The non-monotonicity can be observed by generating a sawtooth waveform and observing the result with an Analog Discovery 2.

The non-monotonicity is worst when the DAC switches from 0x1ff to 0x200 (from 511 to 512 out of 1024 steps). This was a 3Vpp sawtooth at 10Hz. The OpenScope MZ also has a much larger offset than the AD2.

To get clean measurements, I set the AD2 to average 100 traces.  I also did 16-fold oversampling, so that I could get good time resolution while recording the whole period.

The steps are not of uniform duration, but don’t seem to be a simple pattern of single or double clock pulses:

The step durations vary here from 64µs to 136µs in this small sample, but with 1024 steps in 0.1s, I would expect 97.66µs.

The step heights are not completely consistent either, but seem to average to roughly the right value:

The step size should be 3V/1024=2.93mV, but in this range the average step size is a little high. (but the first step at the bottom left is too small).  The variable duration of the steps is also very visible here.

The speed limitations of the amplifier for the OpenScope’s function generator are also quite clear:

There seems to be a 12V/µs slew rate limitation, and the large step at the end of the sawtooth has a 258ns fall time. By way of contrast, the AD2 has about a 40ns fall time for the same 10Hz ramp up and a slew rate of about 120V/µs.

I found the Analog Discovery 2 falling edge rather interesting—the stepwise descent may be an artifact of recording the waveform with the same instrument used for generating it (so that the oversampling does not work correctly), but it might also indicate that the ramp edge is digitally pre-filtered to keep it from overshooting.

2018 November 27

Analog Discovery 2 sale

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 08:30
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For today and tomorrow only, Digilent is having a 30% off sale on Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscopes.  The price is not quite as good as the Academic discount, so this sale is useless to students and university faculty, but it might be of use to some of my readers:

Enter the following coupon code at check out

Coupon Code: ANALOGDISCOVERY-JERICHO

Offer cannot be combined with any other offers (such as the Digilent Academic Discount). Coupon is valid for the Analog Discovery 2 and is active until 28 November 4 AM PST. Coupon must be redeemed on digilent.com and is not valid at any other distributor or website.

2018 July 9

Analog Discovery breadboard adapter

Filed under: Circuits course,Data acquisition — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:16
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As I mentioned in Analog Discovery Impedance Analyzer, I recently bought two new attachments for my Analog Discovery 2.  I reviewed the Impedance Analyzer in the earlier post, so in this one I’ll review the breadboard breakout.

The breadboard breakout provides a simple way to attach the Analog Discovery 2 to a breadboard, without using the female headers that come with the device.

Here is the breadboard adapter, plugged into the end of a breadboard.

The Analog Discovery 2 can plug into the breadboard vertically, which is compact, but requires disassembly to put the test setup back in its box for carrying.  Here it is shown plugged into the last 15 rows of the breadboard, but I had to move it in two rows to keep the weight of the AD2 from tipping the breadboard.

I tried doing a little work with the breadboard adapter and found it to be a mixed blessing. I used it for testing a circuit where I needed both oscilloscope channels, one power supply, and one waveform generator, which would normally use 7 of the 30 wires on the AD2.  Some of the wires (the power, ground, and oscilloscope 1- and 2- wires) could be quite short, as they connected to the power busses on the breadboard, but the other wires had to be fairly long, as they had to skip past all the trigger and logic-analyzer inputs that I wasn’t using.  I could have plugged the adapter into the breadboard the other way around, but then the AD2 itself would interfere with convenient wiring.  It would have been nice to have the most frequently used connections at the tip of the adapter, instead of the base of the adapter.

For a fixed setup, where the oscilloscope channels are always looking at the same signals, the breadboard adapter is more convenient that the standard flywire connections, which have a tendency to slip off the double-ended male headers that I use for connecting them to the breadboard.  The female headers of the flywires are not designed for many cycles of attaching and detaching, and end up getting too loose after a while.

But for debugging, when the oscilloscope channels have to be moved rapidly from node to node, the breadboard adapter is less convenient than having the separate flywires—unless much longer wires are used (with the attendant problems of extra inductance and capacitive pickup of 60Hz interference). Losing 17 rows of the breadboard to the adapter is also a problem, as it leaves only 47 rows of a standard 64-row breadboard, or 15 rows of half-length breadboard for building the test circuit.

I think that I will use the adapter for lecture demos, where I have fixed wiring to carry around, as I can spend less time setting up the demo just before class, at the cost of slightly more time the night before. My standard lecture setup will use a full-length breadboard with the adapter in one end and a Teensy LC in the other end (for PteroDAQ demos) using up 31 of the 64 rows, leaving me with the equivalent of about a half-length breadboard in the center for the circuitry being demonstrated.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll find the adapter useful for regular debugging—probably not much.

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