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This is the story of the first version of a Arduino based Telescope Mast Controller.

While I worked my way through the Arduino stuff, I discovered a lot of new things every day.

So after a while I decided to rework everything, based on the new knowledge. I started to setup the first few pieces of a home automation system and wanted to integrate the mast controller into the system

More about all that new stuff in another article, I will write soon.

I leave the old version online just for reference and because it will work even though it will never be used.

So here is the old articel about the old controller:

Telescoping Mast Controller

Here I will tell something about a simple controller I made for a crankup mast.

The Starting Point

Inside Device

Outside Device

 The Starting Point

The starting point was a heavy thunderstorm that damaged my TA 19 crankup mast. One of the guy wires broke and the mast bent to one side. I was able to crank it down, but not til the end, because the second element did not want to go in, because of the bend.

So a new mast has to come and the time, it takes the company to make the mast, I used to design and make a controller to be able to crank the mast up and down from within the shack. It is Arduino based and has some nice features.

 Inside Device

The inside device is a small box I can place somewhere in the shack to control the motor that cranks up and down the mast. It is driven by an Arduino Nano, has 2 push buttons and 4 LEDs.

The 2 buttons are for up and down control and for some kind of a programing function. The LEDs show the state of the mast and the movement as well as what is going on during programing. The device is connected to the outside device by a CAT5 patch cable. Power is provided via a power supply with 5V up to 24V or via USB. The power is internally reduced to 5V which is the power the Arduino needs. The case is 3D printed on my Flashforge Creator Pro 3D Printer in PLA.

Here is how it looks like, when it is ready.

 

 Parts Used

Most of the parts I used came out of the junk box. The heart of the controller is an Arduino Nano I bought from Banggood.

Click here for the Arduino Nano

Besides the Arduino I needed a step down converter, to step down the voltage of any power source I use to the 5V the Arduino needs. Here I use one from Banggood too. The link will take you to a bundle of 3 pcs. For this project I used 2 of them. 1 for the insiode device and one for the outside device.

Click here for the step down converter

The LEDs I used as well as the switches, I desoldered from the front panel of an old analog SAT receiver, and the Ethernetport, I extracted out of an old 5 port DLink Ethernet switch, that did not work any more. That gave me a 5 port Ethernet port that I cut into 2 halfes, destroying the middle port. Every one of those 2 halfes was put into each devices. I only use 1 port of the 2 that are now in each device.

In the following picture you can see the inside of the controller. On the right side are the 2 old push buttons and besides them the 4 LEDs I got from the old SAT receiver. The green LED shows, if the Arduino is working. The red LEDs show the state of the mast. The top one is glowing, when the mast is on it's highest position. The upper end switch of the mast is then open and the LED goes on. The center one of the red LEDs will blink, while initialisation processes are active. The bottom red LED is glowing, when the mast is all the way down. Then the bottom end switch is open and the LED goes on.

On the top left side you see the half of the 5 port Ethernet port. The contacts are wired to the several digital pins of the Arduino. In the left middle you see the Arduino Nano and on the left bottom side there is the setp down converter. Right besides it, there is a power socket (the orange little thing), so that it can get powered up by a power supply or a battery connected to it. The socket is also one I unsoldered from the 5 port Ethernet switch.

 

 

That's pretty much it from the hardware side of the inside device. 

 Wiring

The wiring is pretty much straight forward. As soon as I find a free and easy sketching software for wiring diagrams, I will sketch it and post it here.

Besides the electrical wiring for the power supply of the arduino, I needed to connect the end switches, push buttons and LEDs to the digital pins 2 up to 12 on the Arduino. A look at the Arduino sketch shows which pin is connected to which button, switch or LED. Of course everyone can change that to his own needs.

To connect the inside device with the outside device, I found out, that I need 8 wires. As there is not much current running over the wire the length of 30m I need does not do any harm, even though I decided to go with a standard CAT5  patch cable. That is a cheap and easy solution and it works pretty well. 

 Software

Programming the Arduino was not that difficult. I am an absolut beginner in Arduino, but have decades of software development on my back. Unfortunately no C, which would have helped me a lot. So I had to get used to the syntax. The hardest part was finding beginner tutorials, that do not cover the whole beginners stuff for people never made any peace of software before. I found some nice tutorials that were not too basic and the fast forward function of youtube did help too.

I will post a new version of the Arduino sketch later on. I also made a small Windows application that can control the Arduino via USB to let you crank the mast up and down by mouseclick and also can do some initialisations like meassuring up and down time to be able to display the current height of the mast depending on how long it is raised or lowered from an endpoint. More on this topic will come soon.

Functions that are implemented at the moment:

Continuous up and down movement when pressing a button for a longer time. After a short delay the mast starts to move up or down and does so as long as the button is pressed or it reaches the end point.

Short press a button starts the motor and cranks the mast up or down till the endpoint is reached or any button is pressed.

Whenever the mast is moving up or down, the up or down LED is blinking. When it is at an endpoint the accoring LED is lit. If it is half way up or above the center LED is lit. 

Connectivity  with a Windows program to control the mast via mosueclicks.

 Case

The case was designed in Fusion 360, sliced with Simplify3D and printed on my Flashforge Creator pro in PLA plastic. I had some black PLA on a spool that was too few for the whole case, so I fed some blue PLA into the printer as soon as the black was finished. That's the reason way there is some blue plastic on the top of this case.

The cover and the push buttons I printed with the same blue PLA. Maybe I will reprint the whole thing in another color, but for the moment, that is not the most important thing I am thinking on. 

 Outside Device

The outside device is mount near the mast motor. It has a socket for the patch cable to connect it with the controller in the shack and the case has holes to lead the cables from the power supply, the end switches and the motor to the inside, where they are connected via insulation screw joints.

 Parts Used

To get the power for the relais I use the same step down converter that is used for the controller to supply the Arduino with power. Ther out voltage is 5V to the control side of the relais. At the moment I do not have the motor and so don't know exactly how the wiring to the motor will be. As soon as it arrives, I can finalize that.

The relais are from Banggood. I bought a pack of 5 that costs about €5,30.

Click here for the relais

In the picture you see the bottom part of the case that is printed in ABS with the step down converter and the 2 relais allready mounted. You also see the socket for the RJ45 patch cable on the upper right side. In the center between the relais and the steup down converter,thee is some space left for the insulation screw joints to connect the power supply, the endswitches and the motor. The free standups on the top will carry the push buttons for controlling the mast directly from the outside device. This buttons will be connected to the buttons in the inside device and have the same functions. I am thinking about connecting them to seperate pins on the Arduino though, to be able to let them work in a different way, if necessary.