Spring has sprung: Sprinklers use industrial controllers, programming software

National Instruments product manager uses NI LabVIEW and FieldPoint in a self-described do-it-yourself geekout, setting out to create the most elaborate lawn sprinkler ever. On the upside, neighborhood dogs have learned about remote control capabilities. The process included electrical and mechanical implementation, control design, start-up, testing, and operations.

04/17/2009


National Instruments LabVIEW and FieldPoint technologies control a home sprinkler system.

National Instruments LabVIEW and FieldPoint technologies can be used on smaller projects, as well, such as a home sprinkler system.

National Instruments LabVIEW and FieldPoint technologies can be used on smaller automation projects, such as a home sprinkler system. While NI controls some huge systems, including James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and

CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

, the "the little guy" shouldn't be overlooked, suggests Rick Kuhlman,
Kuhlman admits some may see a home sprinkler automation project as slightly geeky. Perhaps even "Socks-and-sandals, Unix-bearded, MMORPG geeky." The first personal project was to automate an aging home sprinkler system. Armed with a traditional, real-time NI FieldPoint system and a few relay channels (rescued and repaired from the recycling bin), "I set out to create the most elaborate sprinkler system ever seen."
The four-step process went something like this, Kuhlman says:
Step 1, mechanical, electrical : Make the plumbing, sprinkler heads, and electronic valves leak-free and wire them to the garage.
Step 2, controls design, testing : “Overengineer” a LabVIEW state machine with file I/O, multiple unused states (for future scalability), a type-def enumeration, conditional compile structures, a customizable test sequence, a remote front panel, and many other intelligent, credibility-building LabVIEW constructs. "As expected, my program compiled and downloaded nicely to the controller where I observed my oh-so-clever heartbeat LED whirring away. With my working system, some DIN rail, a wireless access point, a 'Powered by LabVIEW' poster, and an NI screwdriver, I mounted and wired everything on the garage wall. All zones seemed to work in test mode."
Step 3, startup : Worry, rejoice, and get humored. After a restless night, the system came alive as scheduled at 6 a.m. The water turret swept the front yard on cue. "I was ecstatic, and my wife was unimpressed," Kuhlman recalls, though, "I have earned a lot of credibility with my coworkers."


Step 4, operations : Teach area dogs a lesson in watering supremacy. "I enjoy logging into my sprinkler system wirelessly from the couch to spray dogs that are about to you-know-what on my lawn."
Learn more about Kuhlman and the NI sprinkler project on the NI community site in Kuhlman's blog entry.
- Edited by Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief
Control Engineering News Desk
Register here to select your choice of free eNewsletters .





No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.