Tests

Here’s are some initial non scientific test results of the prototype.

Sidenote: I had some fun testing these outside at night, everytime a car drove past I triggered the strobe, instant brake lights, hehe (The use of speed cameras are notorious here in Western Australia).

The Unit, both the master and slave are identical, personality is determined at powerup by pressing the trigger button if you want a master.
IMG_5569

Test Rig of slave mounted on a strobe.
IMG_5560

Running at 12500bps, camera syncs to 1/125 ~60m
12500

running at 9600bps, camera syncs to 1/100 ~120m
9600

Downloads

Well there aren’t really any downloads for this projects just yet.

However for the prototype based on the PIC16F88:

  • Drawings are available here
  • BoostC source code and Eagle files are here .

If you have any questions please contact me via the contact form.

Firmware

Firmware Details:

At the moment it’s pretty basic, but works!  Source is available via SVN (see download page)

The mode is set at powerup by pressing the manual trigger button. If pressed then mode is set to Master, default powerup is in slave mode (i.e.. do nothing). Master mode is identified by a single flash of the LED, Slave is a double flash. This way any of the units can be master or a slave.

Master mode sends a remote trigger command to the slaves when the manual trigger button is pressed, or a trigger signal is detected on the Trigger Input. The LED is light briefly when triggered.

Slaves will only trigger the local strobe if trigger test button is pressed, or a remote trigger command is received via RF. The status LED will light briefly when triggered by either of these means.

The Master will send out a keep-alive broadcast once every 5 seconds. The units LED (master and slaves) will blink briefly to indicated successful RF Link.

Back-Prototype Triggr Home Next – Protocol Details

Prototype

Prototype boards RF module Testing

Prototype Specs:

  • PIC16F88 running on internal 8MHz Clock – low cost and very popular, free development tools available, i.e. C compiler.
  • Works in unlicensed 915MHz ISM Band(Australia/US), can work at 433Mhz by changing RF module(US/EU/Australia).
  • RF uses FSK Modulation – Less prone to interference sources.
  • All aspects of the RF module is configurable via the firmware, i.e. frequency, Tx power, receiver bandwidth, modulation, datarate etc.
  • Indoor Range – ~30m+ works all through my house non line of sight, i.e. through multiple single brick walls, with transmitter at furtherest end, close to AV, TV & WIFI (i.e. interference sources) and receiver roaming throughout the house in different rooms, microwave oven also in the mix. No packets lost or dropped so far, but more testing needing to be done.
  • Outdoor Range – Untested, but from indoor tests I would guess 150-250m easily.
    Update:
    Outdoor Test Results here
  • Antenna – Simple 8cm whip (i.e. a single piece of wire), these RF units are matched to 50Ohm so an SMA antenna could be used
  • Sync to 1/125 – in theory it could easily sync upto 1/1000 as the Rf modules are capable of the bitrate necessary, however range will be affected by the higher the speed, also the processor / oscillator arrangement may need to be revised to handle the higher interrupt rate to process data, i.e may need to use a chip with onboard SPI support etc.
  • Can act as Master or Slave.
  • Can be programmed to use any frequency from 902Mhz to 928Mhz (using the 915Mhz module), using the 433Mhz Module will allow similar channels.
  • Can be triggered by a contact closure on Trigger Input. i.e. from camera
  • Can be manually triggered by test button.
  • Trigger output is isolated upto 400V, i.e. can safely trigger old stobe units with high voltage on hotshoe / sync terminals
  • Powered by x3 AA batteries. Currently no power management in the firmware.
  • Cost per prototype board AUD$ ~25

Note on the costs:

  • Most components are sourced via local retail outlets so are probably definately more expensive that sourcing elsewhere, i.e. this can be built a lot cheaper i.e. Sub $10 in parts.
  • Some of the components I had lying around at home so I’ve just used market prices in my estimates.
  • No freight was added to construction costs.
  • Some components have minimium order quanties such as the RF module.

Back – Triggr Home Next – Firmware

Strobit Triggr Prototype Finished

After a hectic and very hot Christmas (41DegC) I managed to get some development time and finished 2 prototype boards.  My RFM12 header boards still have not arrived, caught up in the christmas mail I guess 🙁  So I’ve had to resort to hand soldering some wires to the header in the meantime. (Murphys law suggests that as soon as I finish soldering these headers the breakout boards will arrive in the mail)

Tomorrow/Later tonight I will test both of them and see if I can get a remote trigger happening woohoo.

Sorry about the quality of the photos as they were taken with my phone 🙁

Strobit Triggr PrototypeRFM12 HeaderRFM12 Header SolderedRFM Development

StrobIt Triggr

Introduction

20/03/09 *UPDATE * This project now has a new home and is actively being developed on Google code project hosting http://code.google.com/p/strobit/

IMPORTANT    This page is no longer being being maintained please go to the new project page.

Welcome to the Strobit Triggr Project, an open source hackable wireless trigger used in photography lighting by using low cost strobe units triggered remotely via RF. This was started while trying to find a cost effective and reliable solution to the commercial alternatives out there. At one end of the market is the Ebay or Cactus Trigger, which is low cost but rather unreliable. At the other end of the market there is the industry standard, Pocket Wizards, very reliable, but very expensive (i.e. way out of my price range).

What I wanted to do was to create an open platform that anyone can easily build for a low cost and then be expand upon by the community. The pair of prototypes I’ve built were a proof of concept that I can get a camera to trigger a strobe unit reliably at a low cost. From early tests it appears that I’ve succeeded in my goal, but further testing is required.

triggr0103

Project Status :

– Prototype successfully working in single master/slave configuration !

– (20/03/2009) Project now has a home at Google Code – http://code.google.com/p/strobit/

Still Todo:

  • Specifications
  • Hardware Design
    • Schematics
    • PCB
  • Software Design
    • Wireless
    • User Interface
    • Protocol
  • Hardware Prototype

License

The strobit hardware design is covered by The TAPR Open Hardware License. Please see http://www.tapr.org/ohl.html for further details.

Schematics:

Strobit Triggr Block Diagram Strobit Triggr Topology StrobIt Triggr Schematic

Prototype Details

Firmware Description

Protocol Description

Downloads – Files associated with the project

Tests – Tests done so Far

In the Wild – Version of this trigger made by others

I’m toying with the idea of putting together a low cost kit for the enthusiast. i.e. PCB, pre-programmed PIC, etc. So we could all benefit with a bulk order of the components. If your interested please email me using the contact form the top menu or use the mailing list signup on the right to give me an indication of numbers interested. Once I finaliaze the design and get some idea of numbers I’ll get a better idea of price. At the moment it will only be available in kit form due to FCC and other Licensing regulations.

Future Improvements:

  • Higher Sync Speed.
  • Frequency Hopping.
  • Forward Error Correction.
  • Power management.
  • UI to change settings, Channel etc.
  • Save settings in Flash memory.

BuzzBot – Initial Testing

I started testing last night after finishing initial motor and wheel sensor hookups to my development board.  Couple of minor issues so far. 

Issues 

I’m using a pic based board from Modtronics. These are great and reasonably priced, along with the prototyping daughterboard.  However I have since found that the onboard RS232 is not on the same pin as the PICAXE28X, so I had to wire in an additional programming circuit, no biggy.  The other issues so far were the wheel sensors.  From my initial design I had used 10K resistors to bias the output of the opto-transistor, this was not tested and when testing the logic probe was picking things up ok, but not the PICAXE, after much stuffing around and not being able to find my multimeter (it was still packed away from shifting house) I ended up prototyping the same circuit, still had some issues, so I went  hunting for my multimeter and of course it was on the bottom box lol.  Luckily thanks to my trusty multimeter I found that the sensor was just dropping down to 3.8v when interrupted, anyway the solution to the problem was a larger resistor, a 22K on the output, this tested AOK, now getting ttl levels when switched, I also noted that the distance of the sensor to the reflective object (paper in this case) was fairly critical.  I modded the breadboard and then found one side was working fine, the other was not being seen.  Checked and found that the sensor was slightly further away than the one that was working.  So out with the hot glue gun and moved the sensor.  Both side are now giving me a reading on the PICAXE.

Motor Tests 

Next I adapted some motor control routines on Hippys PICAXE site to test my motor circuit.  First I tested without my motor control board plugged in, didnt’ want any smoke to escape, and all logic tested aok, then came big crunch of running motors live.  I can gladly say that all tests worked A1 with no issues.  Motor was tested though a range of 3 speeds in FWD, REV, Turn right FWD , Turn Left FWD, Turn Right Rev, Turn Left Rev, Spin Left and finally Spin Right.  While Testing the FWD and REV, I checked the Pulses from the wheel encoders to see how much the same each drive was over 100 counts from the wheel encoders and it looks like the Right side is slightly stronger than the left, no real surprise here as no two motor/gearbox combinations are the same.  I had thought about this a few days ago and knew that with any differential drive system I will encounter this type of problem.

Motor Control Algorithm 

This then leads me onto my motor control algorithm.  Over the last few days I have been researching PID Controller and their application to motor control for robots, as I want Buzzbot to drive in a straight line, also been looking at fuzzy logic, but I think will give that a miss at the moment.  I have been thinking of using and adaptation of the PI Proportional controller from the book “Robots – Inspiration to Implementation”  however so far I’m not 100% happy with the PWM and the way it is from the code I adapted, while it is very simple and works,  I would really like to use the onboard PWMout routines, but as I mentioned in an earlier entry it is only limited to two PWM and to two physical pins on the PICAXE – Bummer!!!!   I also thought I can use the old PWM command.  This command requires it to be refreshed, much like what is happening in  my test code, except with a agreater resolution, unlike the PWMOUT that runs in the background, perfect I thought!, but when I went to test it I found it’s only available on the 08 series…double Bummer!!!!!  So now may have to look at teh PulseOut command.

While the existing configuration does give me three speeds, the lowest is time critical and I notice that when I add a debug routine the slowest speed does start pulsing, also I don’t think it will give me the fine control needed on each of the wheel speed controllers.  I’m going to have to think about this a bit deeper.

Conclusion 

All in all everything is working as expected, with a couple of minor hicups along the way.  Biggest issue will be PWM resolution and time of my routines.  I think I’ll need to come up with another way of doing what I want simply and without too much additional hardware if I want a closed loop control system.  While I ponder on this I’ll test the IR Sensor circuits.  These I’ll prototype first before I hardwire in.  Once I finish these I can then start working on behaviour.  I would like to look at using some sort of subsumption model, but will look at it deeper as I get closer.

buzzbot -  Motor Testingbuzzbot -  Motor TestingBuzzBot - Modtronics PIC Board