• Temperature testing

    David H. Bronke08/19/2019 at 00:29 0 comments

    So, I managed to get everything working well, and even managed to tin the tip! However, the thermocouple in my RT-1 seems to be rather inaccurate. (also, the readings vary quite a bit... not sure what to do about that yet)

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  • Finally working!

    David H. Bronke08/17/2019 at 03:45 0 comments

    Temperature control is working now! Haven't checked with my thermocouple to see if it's accurate, but it gets to the target temperature pretty quickly, and hovers within around ±2°C, even though I haven't implemented PID control or anything yet; right now it's just setting the PWM pulse width to either 254 (for heating) or 8 (for cooling). Once I verify that the detected temperature is decently accurate, I'll raise the maximum temperature and try soldering something!

    Also, you may notice that I switched back to the Nano. I still haven't been able to program the WAVGAT Pro Mini boards, so I switched back to one I know will work, and after fixing a couple of bugs in the code, it's doing great! (especially considering I'm still only heating the tip with 5V, not 12V like most of the other designs)

  • Failure to Program

    David H. Bronke08/05/2019 at 01:09 0 comments

    Earlier today, I made what I think are the necessary changes to the code. I should be able to test everything out now, but I have yet to be able to actually program the Pro Mini. I've tried using the USBTinyISP (which worked fine on the Pro Micro) and the FTDI adapter, but avrdude always fails. I've even pulled the Pro Mini out of the circuit entirely in order to program it, and it still won't work. Probably serves me right for buying cheap knock-off parts from AliExpress.

    At any rate, my latest code is pushed to the GitLab repo, so feel free to check it out.


    Edit: Apparently, the WAVGAT chips don't work correctly with ISP-style programming (SPI interface) but they do work when you program them via serial using the bootloader. On the other hand, the bootloader doesn't seem to allow you to read the flash, so it can't verify whether or not the write succeeded. I'll be testing it out tomorrow to see if the flash actually took.

    Edit 2: Nope. Even though avrdude claimed it succeeded in programming the chip, it doesn't seem to actually do anything when put back in the circuit. I asked the seller on AliExpress about it, and after he shared the same instructions with me that were in the item description, he said he'd refund the $2.82 it cost me for 2 of these. That still means I have 2 of these sitting around, apparently unusable.

    Edit 3: I've even tried using LGT's LarduinoISP to program it, clamping directly onto the chip's SWC and SWD pins since they're not exposed on the board... and still, no dice. More discussion can be found at https://hackaday.io/page/6452-wavgat-avga328p

  • Slow improvements!

    David H. Bronke08/03/2019 at 17:38 0 comments

    Since my last project log, I've made a few improvements:

    • Swapping out the op-amp circuit for an AD8495-based board
    • Swapping out the rotary encoder for a 5-way D-pad
    • Switching to the USBtinyISP for programming
    • Switching back to another Pro Mini clone, this time with a clone of the ATmega328P instead of the ATmega168
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  • More reworking, and trouble with thermocouples

    David H. Bronke03/01/2019 at 05:16 0 comments

    So, since the last project log, (actually, since Monday) I've actually switched microcontrollers twice: first, from the Nano to the Pro Mini, and then to the Pro Micro. (the Pro Mini doesn't have enough code space to fit the library for the OLED screen I'm using and still have room for anything else) Oh yeah... I also added an OLED screen!

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  • It lives!

    David H. Bronke10/01/2018 at 02:26 0 comments

    So, I had a realization earlier... the USB interface on the Nano DCCduino is actually on a separate chip. On a hunch, I plugged it into the breadboard to see if it would light up if I powered it externally...

    Well, then. That makes things easier.


    So, in light of this... I'll be switching back to using the Nano for this project. (more pins makes a lot of things easier, and I won't need to worry about weird DigiSpark-specific library ports) I just need to solder the ICSP pins on and hook up my BusPirate, and I'll be back in business.

  • Serial output and freezing weirdness

    David H. Bronke09/16/2018 at 17:28 0 comments

    Now that I've switched to the Digispark for the brain of this project, I've updated the code to support it (using a preprocessor define so we can switch between that and the Nano) and added in a software-based serial port for communication. (I couldn't get the Digispark's software serial-over-USB to work, and it doesn't have a hardware serial port apparently)

    The weirdest thing here is that I got no output on the serial port TX line at all for quite a while... until I unplugged the heat sensor amp circuit from the Digispark. The heater control circuit is apparently fine, but something about the OPA4228PA's output was apparently killing the Digispark - when it was plugged in, I couldn't even get lights to blink!

    I'm really kinda stumped on this one... I don't understand why connecting the output of an op-amp to an input pin would cause the whole microcontroller to freeze. I've pushed my latest changes to the GitLab project, if anyone reading this would like to take a look and maybe fill me in on what I'm doing wrong. (the Fritzing file for the Digistump version of the circuit is available here)

  • R.I.P., Nano DCCduino

    David H. Bronke09/15/2018 at 23:52 0 comments

    So, after I started troubleshooting why it was behaving as if the Mode button was always pressed, I found out that that actually was the case; the button I was using was broken, and was always a closed circuit. Once I removed it, suddenly the Nano shut off, and since then I haven't been able to get any response out of it; not even the power light comes on, and it doesn't show up in dmesg.

    Rest in peace, Nano. The last couple of days were brief, but enjoyable.


    Since the only Nano I have has now passed on, I needed to find something else to drive this whole project. I could have pulled out another of the PICs I have in store, but honestly... they're more of a pain than I want to deal with right now. So instead, I dug up this tiny one:

    It's apparently a Digispark clone, and it was given to me a couple of years ago by the same friend who donated the Nano. (thanks, Rusty! I couldn't have done this project without you :D)

    Turns out, if I'm not tied to driving an LED display, I can do everything on 4 I/O pins, and still have a serial connection for doing stuff like display, if I get creative. (maybe I'll make a companion app for my Raspberry Pi Zero or something) Sadly, it can't do the serial monitor over USB like the Arduinos can, but there's other ways to get output.

    If all else fails, I have an MSP430 (also given to me by the same friend), and I also still have a new "Pro Mini" Arduino clone coming... which is basically a Nano without USB.

  • GitLab project; Op-amps

    David H. Bronke09/15/2018 at 14:46 0 comments

    I just added a link to the new project on GitLab! Now everyone else can actually access the code and the Fritzing sketch for this project.


    In other news, I'm still trying to figure out if one of the OPA4228PA I have on hand will suffice for reading the temperature sensor in the RT tip, or if I need to wait for the OPA344 that was used in @banjohat's project... The OPA4228PA isn't rail-to-rail, but it is "high precision, low noise". I'm going to try breadboarding it and see if I can get it to give me useful results.

    Also, I realized that the common anodes on the LED display will actually each need a transistor to drive them, possibly paired with a resistor to limit the current. That makes things significantly more complicated, since it only seems to work if I use PNP transistors, and I only have 2 of them that actually do anything in the circuit right now. Looking at the possibility of a Darlington array chip (and maybe also a resistor array) to keep component count down.

  • Testing!

    David H. Bronke09/14/2018 at 16:56 0 comments

    I've now put together the driver for the heating element in the soldering iron, and started testing. Here's a close-up of the second stage of the driver (soldered to cheap perfboard because this MOSFET is in an SO-8 package):

    Hand-soldering SO-8 to a breadboard with a cheap Velleman iron: fun!

    Note that the first version of this was just leads soldered to one of the chips, but on that one, the gate pin ended up breaking off, despite some attempted strain relief. I should really have known better.

    Next, I plugged everything in, and set up the soldering iron tip with a thermocouple touching it so I can check the temperature as it heats:

    Look at how nice and clean that tip is! Well... it didn't stay that way for long. I made the mistake of actually following the schematic and connecting the iron supply to 12V... and I wasn't able to disconnect it quickly enough when it started heating like crazy, so it ended up getting up to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This oxidized the tip, though I was able to fix that with some flux and re-tinning... but the rest of the tip piece is now nicely blued:

    The tip got a bit toasty.

    Good news, though: I didn't burn out the tip or any of the components! (though some smoke did emanate from the headphone jack, and it looks like the insulator in it has melted some... I might have to see about replacing that with a jack that makes a better connection)

    I've been able to test out heating using different duty cycles (so far I'm using a 200ms period, though I may increase that) and it seems that the iron actually heats pretty quickly even on 5V instead of 12V. (though I'll need to check whether or not I can actually pull 2.63A from the Arduino's supply pins... I get the feeling that might not be feasible, which will mean I'll need to use something other than USB for the 5V supply) It even works OK on 3.3V, but doesn't actually heat very quickly. (though, to be fair, I've only tried that with up to a 15% duty cycle, so it may still give somewhat passable results if I try a higher duty cycle... and at 3.3V the heater will only draw 1.74A)


    Next step will be to get the temperature sensor hooked up so I can start building a model based on my thermocouple readings... and then, on to PID control!

    Also, since the heater switching causes my power supply to click audibly, I should probably figure out how to filter the transients out of the supply rails before trying to run this thing entirely off USB.