Spring has sprung: Sprinklers use industrial controllers, programming software
|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
, 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
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