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Old 07-28-2013, 03:51 AM   #1
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Default Introducing...AutoBrew

I started a project about five years ago and have had it substantially finished for a year now. What I ended up with is a software program that controls a mash pump and mash heater, reads the mash temperature and controls my RIMS. I wanted the program to be fairly universal so that it could be used with various microcontrollers and PLC's, so I wrote a process control class that allows my program to do the actual controlling while using the microcontroller/PLC as a simple I/O module. I am posting some screenshots here. This was used last Fall to brew an attempt at a Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale and the mash temperature controlled to +/- 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit with minimal loop tuning. My RIMS is a Sabco Brewmagic which necessitated my learning some ladder logic to configure the PLC to work as an I/O module instead of controller. I have also written a program for a Basic Stamp II and one for an Arduino to allow them to work with my program and both do work. The program is called AutoBrew for the time being and has too many functions for a short write-up. Perhaps I can do a You Tube video even though I'm not much of a narrator.

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Introducing AutoBrew

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Old 07-28-2013, 03:55 AM   #2
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A few more screenshots.

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Introducing AutoBrew

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Old 07-28-2013, 02:09 PM   #3
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Default More pictures...

Here is a picture of my Sabco along with a shot of the PLC screen showing the additional choice for AutoBrew. As you can see, I can still use the Sabco in its normal mode if I want to. However, AutoBrew makes it so easy to store recipes, mash schedules and boil schedules on my PC and recall them for brewing that I probably won't use the standard control method anymore except for the sake of comparison. In the near future I plan to experiment with using an Arduino as the I/O for the mash on the Sabco, replacing the Vision-120, to see if there is any noticeable difference in precision. Since AutoBrew does the actual controlling I don't expect much, if any, change. The beauty of all this is that this program along with a BS-II, Arduino, or just about any microcontroller, along with an inexpensive thermistor or Dallas sensor and some interfacing relays could be used to control a pump and heater with great accuracy for virtually any sort of brewing rig and wouldn't cost very much money. I know...using a Vision-120 for simple I/O is a huge waste of capability, and I wouldn't suggest anyone buy one for this purpose, but an Arduino can be had for about $20.00 or a BS-II for about $50.00 and either one should be just as suitable as a PLC for this purpose.

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Old 07-28-2013, 02:18 PM   #4
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Default AutoBrew - Simulated Brew

Here are some pictures of a simulated brew session in various stages of completion. I included simulation mode mostly for performing tests as development proceeded, but it can also be used as a demo mode so it's staying. The first picture shows the mash screen along with a loaded mash schedule. Notice that the boxes on the mash screen have been updated with the schedule values. This is all done automatically.

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Old 07-28-2013, 02:25 PM   #5
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Very Cool ! I really like how it looks so user friendly.

Cheers

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Old 07-28-2013, 02:28 PM   #6
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Very nice

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Old 07-28-2013, 02:52 PM   #7
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Default Simulation - page 2

The first picture shows the mash screen with simulation mode selected. The start mash button is highlighted indicating the system is ready to begin. The second picture shows the mash temperature overridden and a manual value entered. This is invaluable for verifying system response to changing mash temps and a great way to demonstrate how things work. The third picture shows the system as a mash is begun. The pump is running but the heat has not started yet. The rest has not officially begun since the system is still checking the mash temperature and comparing it to set-point. The mash temperature must be within three degrees of set-point for the rest to officially start and the countdown timer will not begin until that condition is met. The fourth picture shows the heat in operation and the rest in progress now shows yes. Looking at the PID output and actual pulse time will indicate that the heat is cycling. If the PID output is zero the heat will remain off, if PID is 100 the heat will be on constantly. Anything between 0 and 100 will have the heat cycling proportionally. Without a video it can't be shown that the heat is cycling on and off based on the PWM value and the pump graphic is rotating, but that is what is happening. The fifth picture shows the brew in progress and the timer has counted down a few minutes. In a real brew the mash temperature would be responding to the heat and the PID would be responding to the temperature which would cause the system to reach equilibrium. Once the timer reaches zero the mash is automatically stopped unless a multi-step mash is employed. With a multi-step mash the next set-point and time values would be entered and the system would wait until the mash temperature is within three degrees before performing the step. I have incorporated audible prompts and a real-time graph which saves all the graph data to a file for later study. There is also a delayed brew function which couldn't possibly be used with a Sabco but would be great in a system with automatic gas valves.

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Old 07-28-2013, 03:02 PM   #8
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WileE and Pratzie

Thanks for the nice comments. This has been a labor of love for me and it's working really well. I work construction and don't get to brew as much as I'd like so this has been my substitute. I'm in the de-bugging mode right now and the thing is getting better and better. It is sooo much easier to type recipes in on a keyboard instead of those tiny PLC buttons and you can change your recipes easily too. I will add some pictures of the boil process soon.

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Old 07-29-2013, 01:17 AM   #9
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Was there an open source driver you used or did you write your own driver? You really went all out on the program, did you just used visual studio?

I have kind of gone the same route, I used advancedhmi as the driver and prebuilt classes to build a HMI. I have it to where the PLC still runs the interlocks and pid routines, but i just write and monitor word files for the temperature control and times, and toggle bits.

You write programs and work with PLCs much with construction?

Looks great, not to mention its matched up with a great system. You'll brew lots of great beer with it.

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Old 07-29-2013, 02:13 AM   #10
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The driver for the Vision-120 is supplied by Unitronics in their free VisiLogic software. There was some older information on their website that made it appear that you could use standard calls from mscomm32 to interface with their PLC's, but I found that only some of the commands would map properly and I eventually gave up and used their proprietary driver. I wrote the program with Visual Basic 6.0 since it was what I had. I have run AutoBrew on everything from Windows 95 to Windows 7 with no problems, haven't attempted Win-8 yet.

I am a controls technician at work but we don't use PLC's, we work with Jace's and other LON-based systems. I had to learn a bit of ladder, though, to modify the Sabco program so I could access the inputs and outputs. I also had to learn enough C to do the Arduino program so it would make its inputs and outputs available across the RS-232 network. My future plans are to add more capability so I can operate multiple pumps, valves, sensors, and have a more fully automated system. But for now I'm concentrating on working out the bugs (it works great for me because I wrote it, but someone unfamiliar who inputs some wrong info might crash it).

I appreciate you stopping by for a look. I will add more pictures as I go along. Perhaps during a real brew session.

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Introducing AutoBrew

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