Temperature Control System Beta Testers Needed!

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
Hello everybody. I work for a small company called Embedded Control Concepts, specializing in engineering services. I'm also an avid homebrewer, and my process has definitely improved by reading threads on this forum. I've created a web-based temperature control system that is now essential to my brewday equipment. I've built this system from the ground up to be user friendly, and of course expandable / future proof. The plan is to offer the system to fellow homebrewers if there is enough interest.

Here's some of the specs of the BCS-460 Temperature Control System.
-Web based user interface
-4 temperature probe inputs
-Data logging with interactive charts
-6 outputs for relay control, 4 inputs

For additional screenshots and example systems, check out our website:
Embedded Control Concepts

The BCS system is still in the Beta stage of development. We have working prototypes and the hardware is stable, but there are still plenty of firmware bugs to be worked out. We need your help! We're looking for people from the HBT community to be part of the Beta test program. You will receive a beta prototype of the BCS-460, under the agreement that you will stress the system and report back any problems. We would also like any suggestions for features not implemented that you would find useful. Since we only have a limited supply of beta prototypes available, the current plan is to select one person from this forum.

Ideally the Beta testers would have a somewhat "automation ready" system. In other words, a HERMS/RIMS system with pumps, heating elements or gas control valves, etc. The BCS system has the potential to be very powerful, so the more stuff you have to control, the better. Fermentation control and/or a keg system is also a plus, although not required. Your HBT reputation is also a huge factor, since we're giving away some fairly valuable equipment. We expect you to post your experiences for the benefit of others in the community, as well as get good discussions going for feature requests and suggestions.

What you get in return for you efforts:
(1) BCS-460 functioning beta prototype. Firmware can be updated when the production firmware is available.
(2) temperature probes
(2) Solid state relays

If you are interested in becoming a Beta tester, please post here or PM me. Include a brief description of your system, how you intend to use the BCS-460, and how you would get fellow HBT'ers involved. If you have any questions, post on this thread and I'll answer as many as I can.

eccsynd
 

david_42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
189
Location
Oak Grove
Looks like a great system. I'd jump on it, but my methods are too basic.
 

p4ck37p1mp

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2008
Messages
391
Reaction score
1
Location
Acworth, GA
*jaw drops* ME! Just what I was wanting. Sadly I still need to build a stand and get all the valves. :( What is the price of the final product estimated to be? Wait, I don't need a stand, just the valves?! This reminds me of my Neptune Systems Aquacontroller for my reef tank, which I love.
 

DutchK9

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2008
Messages
368
Reaction score
2
Location
Springfield, Illinois
Sounds like a great deal. I wish I could help you out. I am a techno geek and love trying out new software systems.
 

missing link

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2007
Messages
650
Reaction score
4
Location
Highland, MI
While I do have a system that this would work on, I don't know if I brew often enough to make this of use to you. How would this interface with what I have today?

Here is what I have, tell me if it will work.

HLT = Cooler with 1500 watt element installed in cooler. Pump to recirculate, no temp control, I just monitor the temp via digital probe.

MLT = Cooler that drains into heat exchanger with 1500 Watt element. I control the output of the heat exchanger with love control and use a pump for recirculation.

BK = standard Keggle with propane.

I brew about once a month with this system.

Linc
 

GilaMinumBeer

Half-fast Prattlarian
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
65,437
Reaction score
10,794
I would be thrilled to take this opportunity but, unfortunately the only gas control I have is a cheap aftermarket regulator (well, that a nd Gas-X) :(. Out side of that I have cobbled toghether a system that meets your other criteria. My system is direct fired (all 3 tuns) and recirculatory.

Leaves HBT to go price 3 each LPG solenoids..........
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
Here is what I have, tell me if it will work.
Hi Linc. Yes, it will work. Here's how I would setup your system using a BCS-460.

You are very close to the example system that I list on the website:
Embedded Control Concepts: Documentation and Example Systems

I would setup one process to control the MLT element and the pump, almost identical to the one linked above. All you'd have to do is replace the love probe with one that's compatible with the BCS. I'd also add an SSR to control the pump (do you have 2, or use the same one?), so that both are under complete control.

Then you could setup another process to control the HLT. The BCS unit can support upto 4 temperature probes, and they're cheap (~$15), so why not? A PID for the HLT is probably overkill, but it's available. The BCS can support upto 6 outputs, each under separate PID control.

With both the HLT and MLT under control of the BCS, you could log onto your system remotely via the web, and kick off the processes so your Strike and Sparge water are heated up and ready to go when you want to start brewing.

So if you're selected to receive a beta test unit, you wouldn't have to buy any additional equipment (assuming you already have at least one SSR for you elements).

eccsynd
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
Although final pricing hasn't been set, I can give you an estimate. It will be somewhere between $150 - $190. I definitely want to keep it under $200 so that it can be accessible to any brewer.
 

Orfy

For the love of beer!
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 27, 2005
Messages
11,732
Reaction score
121
Location
Cheshire, England
Sounds reasonable.

I will keep an eye on this in case I decide to move away from KISS brewing.

I build a pid/ssr system but have not managed to get it working yet.
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
I had a question via PM about how to vary the duty cycle of an output.

For instance, say that you have a heating element in your boil kettle. Due to the wattage of the element, keeping it ON all the time is too much. But through experimentation, you've found that 75% on, 25% off maintains the proper boiling rate.

A 2 state process will give the desired results.


In State0, we setup a timer to count down 3.0 seconds. The element is ON during this time. The exit condition of State0 is when the timer has reached zero, at which time it transitions to State1. During State1, the element is OFF for 1 second. This gives and effective duty cycle of 75%. The cycle repeats until the process is disabled.

So by abstracting the control algorithms to state machines, we can achieve very complex behavior. This is a basic example, but the BCS unit can have 4 active processes, each with 4 states, and each state can have 4 unique exit conditions, so you can see the potential. On top of that, you can save the whole works into a file, so that you can reload new configurations.

We want to give the user complete control over the system. But by doing that, we run the risk of being too complex, and turn people away. That's why feedback from this forum, and the beta test are so important. What do you think?

--EDIT--
The BCS-460 now supports the ability to vary the duty cycle directly by setting a percentage ON in a state, without setting up timers and exit conditions. However, the above method still works.
 

slnies

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2007
Messages
851
Reaction score
10
Location
Maple Lake MN
I also have a question for you. Once the control is written, is a connection to the internet still required? I ask because I have a mostly automated system, but I like to take the mash tun out for brew togethers. Some times those parties are in remote places as far as the internet is concerned. This requires that I have something that I can stand alone.
FYI, my system is an electric RIMS mash tun, and I am in the process of completing my electric boiler and HLT. There are also two pumps in the complete system a couple of level sensors and future plans for some experimentation with some solenoid valves. I am seriously considering using a mini brick PLC, a thermocouple module, and a HMI to automate it. This really is not needed as the PIDs that it currently runs on do the job, but I like automation to a certain degree, because it provides built in consistency. For a look at my five gallon system look athttps://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/rims-set-up-54277/ I have 15.5G kegs that I have welded fittings into and I am now changing over the RIMS to the Keg, so it will be online for the October 24th brew together. I think that you will also like that I use the same equipment for fermentation control. Anyway I am sure that is overkill for what you need to know. I just like the idea of a slightly cheaper alternative to do the same thing. Thank you for your time. S.
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
Once the control is written, is a connection to the internet still required?
Nope. Internet connection is not a requirement. The only reason that you would need the BCS-460 connected to the internet is if you want to monitor/control the system remotely.

For instance, you can setup the BCS-460 to maintain the temperature of a keezer. Just set temperature setpoint, turn it on, and you never have to connect the computer to it again.

That being said, to get the most out of your BCS-460 in a more involved application like your setup, some type of computer should be used as an HMI. This is mainly for monitoring, since the system doesn't have an LCD screen. You can hook an ethernet cable directly from your laptop to the BCS-460, which works very well on the road, no network required.
 

slnies

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2007
Messages
851
Reaction score
10
Location
Maple Lake MN
That answers the question. Thank you. Then I may just put your BCS-460 to use when it becomes available. I am very interested to know what other criteria you have for a beta tester besides equipment? S.
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
I am very interested to know what other criteria you have for a beta tester besides equipment? S.
I've gotten inquiries from many brewers, all with unique and outstanding systems. It's definitely not going to be easy to pick just one from this forum.

Here are the criteria that I'm going to use, in no particular order of importance:
  • System (but you said besides the equipment). Ability to integrate the BCS-460 into your system quickly and easily. I'd rather focus on tuning/fiddling/messing/debugging the controller than playing with the system. Having too many new things at the same time is hard.
  • Complexity of system, how much 'stuff' you have and are able to stress the system.
  • Ability of the tester to get others involved. I want as much feedback as possible, good and bad. This forum is a great place to get opinions from others, so if you have authored monster threads in the past, that's a huge plus. Club involvement also fits in this category. If you've noticed reading this thread, I have yet to get anyone to say "this thing is a POS because ..." or "I really don't get how ... works". I really need these types of discussions to get a quality product out the door, so I definitely need help in this area ;)
  • Number of posts, forum reputation. Not really as important as above, but important for the same reasons.
  • Time. Ability of the tester to spend the time to integrate into his/her system. You'll probably have to take the time to run a few water tests, as well as a full brew.
 

Seabee John

Swing the BIG hammer
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Oct 1, 2007
Messages
2,309
Reaction score
70
Location
Sunrise
Just a bump here....

What kind of burner control would work best for this application?
I've got a gas / electric hybrid system where I need the extra heat from my MLT burner to ramp from a protein rest to the sacc rest in 15 min or so.

Also, I have a 120v SSR, will the control unit run this adequately?
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
Just a bump here....

What kind of burner control would work best for this application?
I've got a gas / electric hybrid system where I need the extra heat from my MLT burner to ramp from a protein rest to the sacc rest in 15 min or so.

Also, I have a 120v SSR, will the control unit run this adequately?
The 6 outputs of the controller are 5VDC. If your SSR has a 120VAC control input, then it will not be compatible.

We've had good luck with finding used SSR relays on ebay for reasonable prices. For example, we recently purchased 5 used Crydom D2440 (3-32Vdc in, 0-240V 40Amp max out) for <$30. Since the outputs of the BCS-440 are 5V, the 3-32Vdc inputs are perfect.

We also plan to offer used SSR's on our website, but availability will be spotty as we don't have a single consistent supplier.
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
And the Beta Tester is .... slnies. Stay tuned for more info on integrating the controller into slnies's system. Please post any feedback (good and bad) that you may have about the controller, and any feature requests that you'd like to see.

I want to thank all of the people who expressed interest in the beta testing program for the BCS-460. It was truly hard to pick just one. All of the brew systems that were submitted were very impressive, and each would've tested the controller in its own unique way. But in the end I had to pick one. As a special thanks to those who volunteered for the Beta Test program, you will get first dibs on a BCS-460 when they are released. I'll PM you with the details.

eccsynd
 

whitehotdawn

Member
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
22
Reaction score
2
Location
Portland, OR
I'm curious. What kind of controller are you using? Is a computer interface required (like the LabJack that John Beere is using on his system)?

I just recieved my order of solid state relays from sure electronics. They operate an ebay store. If you message them for orders, you can get reduced prices and combined shipping. Of course part of the reason why their deals are better is because their transactions take place off of ebay. I ordered the following from them (they are shipped from China which takes just about 2 weeks to the West Coast 9/25-10/9).

10 x Solid State Relays SSR 24-480V AC, 25A - 10 x $5
Liquid Water Level Sensor Internal Horizontal Float Switch - $6
The combined shipping cost is $24
The total price is $80 (that's about $7.40 for a new relay)

These relays are controlled by 3-32 VDC which means the would work for this system or a similar system (in my case one controlled by a Arduino). I decided to go with the new SSRs on ebay over the used lots for two reasons. First, I know they are not going to be DOA or have any misuse in their past that would reduce their lifespan. Remember, SSRs lifespan is reduced considerably by mistreatment. Secondly, I wanted to buy my own heat sinks. The heat sinks that are provided with most new and used SSRs on ebay are not rated for very many amps. I bought some used CPU heat sinks ($5 each) that will be able to handle the thermal energy produced as a result of using more amps.

Well, I just wanted to share my good experience with the sure electronics people. I think it was a very fair price for new SSRs (and I'm excited to get that float switch on my HLT).
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
I'm curious. What kind of controller are you using?
Yes, the Ardiuno is a nice little board. The 8-bit ATmega168's are perfectly suited for running a serial or USB interface.

However it doesn't have the performance needed to effectively run a TCP/IP stack for an embedded webserver, although it's probably possible. Also, thermistors don't give a linear response, and solving the Steinhart-Hart equation isn't trivial. The BCS-460 uses a 32-bit ARM based microprocessor on a custom board.
 
Joined
Jul 24, 2006
Messages
14,262
Reaction score
778
Location
Southwest
Thermistors don't give a linear response, but the LM34 does.

I'm working on beefing up my Arduino based brew system. The Arduino in my system is simply the link between the real world and a Java app that runs on a PC.

Wish I'd seen this thread last week! I'd love to have given that controller a test run.
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
The Arduino in my system is simply the link between the real world and a Java app that runs on a PC.
Hi Yuri. The BCS-460 can be operated in that mode as well. Although the State Machine interface is intuitive and works very well for 95% of the systems that are out there, if you really need more horsepower, it is available. I'm referring to the soon-to-be-open HTTP GET/POST mechanism. Since the BCS-460 is web based, advanced users can use the open interface to control it from a different computer on the network. What this allows you to do is take the control algorithm off of the controller, and run it on a computer using your favorite programming language, similar to your setup. I like perl, so an example program would look like this.
Code:
#!/usr/bin/perl
use LWP::UserAgent;

$ipaddr = "192.168.0.63";                           #IP address of the controller
$url_read_IOs = "http://$ipaddr/ulsysio.dat";  #File for reading the IO (temperature probes and inputs)
$url_set_IOs = "http://$ipaddr/uinputo.dat";    #File for setting the outputs

# Create a user agent object
$ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;
$ua->agent("MyApp/0.1 ");

# Control Loop
while(1){    
  #GET Data, Create a request
  my $req = HTTP::Request->new(GET => $url_read_IOs);

  #Insert control algorthim here!
  $new_outputs = control_sequence($req);
  $write_outputs = $url_set_IOs . "?" . $new_outputs;

  # Set new outputs
  my $req = HTTP::Request->new(GET => $write_outputs);
}
Obviously this isn't for everyone, but it allows users to create their own GUIs, data logging software, and even link multiple BCS units together.
 

whitehotdawn

Member
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
22
Reaction score
2
Location
Portland, OR
I plan on using the DS18S20 digital temperature sensors and may use a one wire controller to conserve digital pins.

When you say your controller has "6 outputs for relay control, 4 inputs" does this include the 4 analog inputs? If so, how did you decide upon that number of digital pins? I'm just thinking about my project which has 5 SSRs and 2 solenoid valves...

Yuri, how are you beefing up your system?
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
When you say your controller has "6 outputs for relay control, 4 inputs" does this include the 4 analog inputs? If so, how did you decide upon that number of digital pins?
There are 6 outputs, 4 temperature probe inputs, and 4 discrete inputs. The 4 discrete switches can be used for level switches, etc.
 

BrewBeemer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2006
Messages
3,492
Reaction score
28
Location
native islander my paradise
PC's are totally beyond what I can work with, slow learner unless it's mechanical. 12KW on down electrician not into computer programing or electronics.
Question; a couple pages back your example was heating at 75% on, 25% off times for a boil element control. Can these on and off boil times be set in different single percentage times like needing only 67% on time 33% off times? 0% to 100% on with 100% to 0% off or is it limited to 25% on off steps? Your price is affordable. You got a winner keep at it and thanks for your efforts. I was looking at PID's, SSR's with temp probes. One step up from basic brewing control with temp gauges only. Thanks in advance.
This panel l bet will cost a lot less than that "industrial touch screen" that was presented on this forum around a month ago or longer. Those temp probes look like they can take some banging around while cleaning and take more, great strong size. Four level switch controls, this thing is great. At what temp or how tight can it hold the HLT or MLT in degrees the temp controller responds to unless I missed the above specs and replies? Shame on me if I missed these temp control tolerances it can hold.
 
OP
eccsynd

eccsynd

control freak
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Minnesota
Yeah, the duty cycle percent can be varied by simply changing the initial value of the Timers. In my example, it's programmed to turn ON for 3 seconds, and then OFF for 1 second. You could change that to 2on 1off for a 66% duty cycle.

Currently the minimum frequency that an output can switch is 1sec. Would you find it useful for it to switch faster than that? In you example, 0-100%, 99% would have to be 99sec on, and 1sec off, not exactly ideal. I would consider adding a setting to allow the output to switch at 0.1sec intervals if there was interest. It could be programmable as well. I'm also considering making it easier to integrate duty cycle control so you don't have to setup timers and state machines. Would that be a useful feature?

As far as how tight the controller can hold the temp, that's really system dependent. The probes have an accuracy of 0.2*C, but I don't limit you to only use my probes, any NTC thermistor probe will work. With this controller, don't plan on getting an accuracy of less than 0.2*F

Here's a practical application, my brew rig under PID control. The chart is limited by 1* increments, but you can see that it holds the temp easily +-1 deg. You can see the output (bottom blue solid line) is ON during the ramp, and then starts switching as it approaches 154, and switches to hold the temperature. Its zoomed out pretty far because I'm sampling every second for the datalog, so it's not exactly easy to see. But the charts are interactive, so when you hover over a point, it lists the temperature.

Also, stay tuned to see slnies' rig integration for the beta test. If you have any input or suggestions, please post them. I'm doing the beta testing publicly because I know homebrewers love to share their opinions, which is what I need to make this product successful.

 
Top