I found some time to solder some more of the group buy purchases which came in a couple months ago. So far I soldered one Renard64XC and 8 SSRNeons. They are similar to the SSRez, but with two neon lamps so you are made aware when 120VAC is present.
I was able to complete the Renard64XC in one evening in a couple of hours. Two nights later I was able to complete 8 of the SSRNeons in a few hours. I was able to test them briefly by using the Simple Renard Tester 8 channels at a time. I moved one SSR through each group as I tested dimming across all channels. There appear to be no problems with the Renard64XC, although I have yet to try a full sequence that will stress the current drawn and could find issues.
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!