I was lucky enough to finish off my “SS” boards by purchasing two separate boards from DIYC members who are changing their displays next year. They were purchased through DIYC which meant the sellers sold them as hardware cost only. I paid the same as I would for a bare PCB and parts, no labor costs.
One is a Frank’s Renard SS24 v3.3 board which is very well built. The board has a grounding setup and all, so everything is using 3-prong cords and properly grounded. This board came in an enclosure and has some nifty labels I will be looking into for the units I’m building.
The other is a Renard SS24 HC board, which is also a Frank Kostyun design. It’s similar in look/layout to the Ren24SS v3.3 board, and similar functionality to the standard Renard ss24, although provides support for up to 6 amps per channel. This will come in handy when using incandescent lights, specifically my C7s around the roof-line of the house. This one still hasn’t arrived as the seller has real winters, unlike us in “sunny” California.
One of the plans I have for testing, sequencing, etc. will be to affix lights to the rafters in the garage that I can use when testing hardware/sequences/etc. I’m sure at some point I’ll have a horrible video of our messy garage blinking and flashing. Stay tuned!
Tuesday night I was able to get started on soldering the Renard boardsw are starting with. I have two 24 channel boards giving us 48 total channels for now. I hope to buy at least one 64 channel controller with a group purchase between now and Christmas 2011. For now, here are a couple of pictures of the start.
Since I’ve never soldered PCBs before, this was a new task. I already have a really nice soldering iron, but I bought a fine point tip, and some fine solder for this work. I actually found it much easier than I thought it would be. The fine tip, and accurate temperature control made it relatively easy. For now, I don’t have a PCB holder, so I would either put the board on my lap, my work bench, or clamp it with the alligator type clamps depending on where I was working on the board.
In about 3 hours I have all resistors, diodes, LEDs, caps, fuse holders, and IC sockets soldered to the board. I think all I have left are the triacs, RJ45, DB9 connectors, and the screw terminals. I should be able to complete those with another hour of work, then I can start tinkering with the software side of things. I will need to program the PIC microcontrollers, get some “tests” going with Vixen on a windows machine. Then I will start looking at the rs485 protocol and my own software to sequence/control the show. I don’t like the fact that vixen requires windows and hope I can easily “record” the output and convert to something I can plop into eeprom on an arduino or similar MCU.
For now, I’m just excited to actually have hardware ready to play with. I will probably get a little “test” setup in the garage so I can visually see lights blinking and flashing. I spend a lot of time reading, learning, etc. on DIYC where I heard this gem: “It’s not a hobby. It’s an obsession. It is only a hobby for 6 months.” We’ll see if we make it past the hobby stage, stay tuned!