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Nutkicker_ControlBox - Wiring a rig with as few wires as possible

Discussion in 'DIY Motion Simulator Projects' started by Dirty, Sep 24, 2019.

  1. Dirty

    Dirty Active Member Gold Contributor

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    Hey there :)

    After working on my software for the past ~9 months straight, I had to take a little time off from coding. Instead I started to work on the hardware controller that runs the PID loop for the actuators :)

    Initially I thought I could throw an Arduino onto a breadboard, plug a few wires in here and there and that would be about it. Boy, was I wrong!!! I found out to drive the PID loops for 6 actuators (with sufficient precision) I needed...
    1. Two general purpose In/Out chips (MCP23017)
    2. Two 16bit analog/digital converters (ADS1115)
    3. One PWM driver (PCA9685)
    4. One logic level shifter (BSS138)
    5. One I2C bus to read/write all the data from/to the breakout boards
    6. One SPI bus to display some basic status-info on...
    7. One OLED screen
    8. Lots of processing power (ESP32 Feather, 2 cores @ 240MHz)
    ...phew.....!!!!!

    With me being a total noob, who literally never held a soldering iron in his hands, it became quite obvious that aside from having to write a firmware for the controller, the real challenge would be to keep overview of the circuitry and the 150+ wires required to build it. Not to mention the nightmare it would be trying to find a loose connection in this spaghetti-mess of wires.

    I looked around and found www.easyeda.com. A program to create electronic circuits and have them printed onto a PCB (printed circuit board). I can't go into too much detail here, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, but let me tell you: IT'S GREAT!!! I can TOTALLY reccomend it.
    Tutorial part 1
    Tutorial part 2

    I created the entire circuit for the controller of the rig in the editor, placed all parts onto a PCB, let the autorouter do the routing for me, paid 7$ plus shipping and got 5 squeaky-clean PCBs a few days later in the mail:
    IMG_0479.jpeg IMG_0481.jpeg

    Soldered the components (breakout boards from Adafruit) on, printed a nice enclosure for it and out came this:
    IMG_0453.jpeg IMG_0454.jpeg IMG_0452.jpeg IMG_0472.jpeg

    I wanted a screen to display some basic info:
    IMG_0470.jpeg

    So, what I have now is a little orange box. One cable goes in (USB), six cables go out (Cat5 network cable to the actuators). Thats it. I won't have to spend time crawling under the rig trying to find that loose connection, but can instead spend more time here sippin' coffey :)
    IMG_0475.jpeg

    I can imagine that pro's like @Thanos may well chuckle at easyEDA, but it is beginner friendly and it allowed me to do something I would otherwise not have been able to. Try it out!

    Cheers,...

    Dirty :)
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