More then a year since the last post … shame on me … but recently a nice little package “triggered” (hint on the package content) the editing of a new post.
If everything would have worked like planned, we would have finished our first active pulling season by now. It doesn’t need a lot of explanations, but with the overal situation going viral in the first months of last year, it was clear that there won’t be any pulling for us. Time to focus on other priorities and projects. There was still minor work done on the tractor, the most fun work is always with fire 😉
But it doesn’t always turn out as expected. Heat is fine for mounting bearings and anealing gearbox parts to allow easier machining. The original input shaft of the gearbox was modified to our needs, but the process of hardening (with several perfect testruns on not so worthy parts) turned the part into a piece of scrap metal. Twisted and bent, with several 1/10mm out of balance its just worth as a paperweight now. Time to learn some more machining skills and the “brother of another mother” just turned out perfect.
After “some” aluminum chips, the gearbox can be mounted to the rear axle, all driveshafts got the needed bearing support and we prepared the mounting of the drive shaft protection. Drive shaft and drive shaft protection will be worth an episode on themselves, since the length (close to 1500mm) will get us to our machining limits.
… but we started the episode with a small package, and that package contains the result of a two year development.
Beginning the pulling project, one thing was clear from the beginning: We don’t want to run something without learning what happens. And there is only one way to find out: “Daten, Daten, Daten” (data, data, data) I used the german expression on purpose, since it doesn’t come from me, but is one of Stefan Heuels (www.schluckspecht-pulling.de) favorite expressions. If you don’t know his blog so far, go have a look and take some time. Stefans work and engineering are a perfect example how close genius and insanity are 😉
Looking for the perfect device to collect these data, we were not able to find anything which fitted our expectations or wallet, so it was again time for a selfmade, custom sollution. With no practical experience in pulling, it was time for some investigations, what others would want to have. Somewhere there, everything ran out of control … again. It ended with a custom 20 channel datalogging system, with 8 thermocouple channels, 8 analog inputs and 4 rpm inputs. Data will be stored on an SD card. Would have been enough for me, I can get all the data, put it in custom graphs and do analysing behind a computer screen for hours … must be an engineers thing 😛
To go with the spirit of the time, it needs a large display and graphics and …. . Well, time to look out what can be done. Knowing some display stuff, I just had lots of programming effort and poor results in my mind. So, why not use something which comes directly with a high resolution display and brings some more interesting features, like a smartphone. But getting your smartphone out of the pocket and plug it into your tractor, well no, in the third decade of the 21st century this has to be wireless. Time for some prototyping …
Looks feasable, time for some more serious circuit development and further proving the concept and making the smartphone application look more professional and learn how to bake SMD PCBs 😉 …
Not bad for a first prototype, but it was already time for some changes and improvements. Test them on the board, upgrade the board design, get new boards made, test again, … . Now it was time for an enclosure and some connectors. All the world and a whole generation of “makers” are solving their problems with 3D printers. Quick enclosure design and print it on a borrowed 3D printer.
Fancy, but this was not really what I was looking for. It was nice for testing but the final version should get something more sturdy. Having sourced a real “ECU”-housing for the homemade ECU, they should be able to provide me with the right housing for the datalogger as well …
Now we are talking 😎
For someone who is not really into electronics and PCB development, it might be hard to see the time which goes into such a project. The final PCB is only the result you can physically see, in parallel there was the firmware development and getting all to communicate with a smartphone app. So lets talk about what this piece of witchcraft can do for us. First of all the datalogger creates it’s own WiFi network to which you can connect with your smartphone. For Android there is a specific app which lets you use all the dataloggers features. On startup it can be used as a dashboard to show all current measurements.
On top of that, all the setup an definitions of the parameters on the different channels can be done in the app, without the need to connect a laptop. There is even no need to calculate the offsets and factors for sensors yourself. Connect an unknown sensor (for example a temperature sensor) to an analog input of the datalogger, put the sensor at two different temperatures (0°C in ice water and 100°C in boiling water), read the values with the datalogger setup tool and all the mathematical craziness will be done for you.
But most importantly for us, you are able to directly see the data you logged during a pull with the app.
Here the datalogger was connected to a stimulator, which is used to test all functions and do all the development work.
Since we didn’t have the possibility to test the datalogger with our own tractor so far, lets see if we can make a video, showing what the practical use could look like 🤓 … well, and with all the free time without pulling, we also started improving on our video editing skills 😎