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Thread: A Software guy in a Hardware world...

  1. A Software guy in a Hardware world...

    Hi all!

    I’ve done a bit of web searching over the past few days, and I’m happy to have found this community! It looks like a really fun, helpful site. Thank you for that!

    I’m a professional software geek (currently C#), but I had a dream about creating a mechanical device that was driven using my computer. For my application, I’m particularly interested in either driving a small set of solenoids or stepper motors. As with anything (well, lots of things) in life, I’m particularly interested in “cheap” and “easy”.

    If I prioritize “easy” over “cheap”, then it looks like Phidgets is the way to go. The 0/0/4 Interface Kit looks like exactly what I’d need to drive 4 solenoids (please correct me if I’m wrong). From the looks of it, I’d hook up the solenoids to the relays, and the USB to the computer, and use the software library to make the calls to turn ‘em on and off. Right? Easy-peasy.

    I also see the EasyDriver v3 stepper motor controller. It looks easy enough to hook up the power supply and the motor. How do I create a signal to the Step and Direction inputs? I’m assuming it needs some sort of pulse input. If I’m able to output bits from a parallel port, is it enough to simply hook up some of the data lines to those inputs? What else do I need to know?

    Finally, if I wanted to prioritize “cheap” over “easy”, can you point me in a helpful direction?

    Over the last couple days, I’ve found lots of information on the hardware side, but not a whole lot of information on the actual interfacing with the computer. Phidgets masks it all behind an easy USB connection, which is great. What if I wanted to roll my own, using parallel port output?

    Thanks for any help you can provide. I really look forward to hearing what you all have to say!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    bout 12 miles west of town, make a left, go 2 miles, make a left, then a right, got the end.
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    Re: A Software guy in a Hardware world...

    I dont know where you would find "cheap" over "easy" other than the Phidgets. maybe if you wanted to do more of the hardware your self but I couldnt imagine. The 0/0/4 would be perfect for the solenoids and would only require a power supply suitable for your solenoids. The USB power only drives the relays.

    If you wanted to do more of the "roll-your-own", I think you would also have to do more of the hardware yourself. I am more or less a software guy myself and what I like about the phidget DLL is that I can spend more time on what I actually want to do with the capability instead of figuring out the low level stuff. But maybe you are more into the low level stuff.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Carol Stream, Illinois
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    Re: A Software guy in a Hardware world...

    Welcome Adman! Be sure to introduce yourself "officially"

    I’m a professional software geek (currently C#)
    Awesome; Same here, haha!

    The 0/0/4 would be great for solenoids. It sounds like you have the connection all figured out. Just remember (a lot of people don't realize this) that the Phidget 0/0/4 requires a constant connection. There are no brains on it; it's just a slave board to the computer, sort of like a USB mouse.

    The Phidget library is sweet! It makes programming electronics sooo simple. It's entirely event driven and written from a OO standpoint. There is no messing around with serial ports, commands, etc.

    About the EasyDriver though.. I'm not sure. Hopefully someone else can chime in on that for ya. I'll look at it a bit and let you konw if I figure anything out (but again, not an EE guy). Hopefully someone more experienced can chime in on this one.

    �In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed�
    - Charles Darwin

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Chicago Illinois
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    Re: A Software guy in a Hardware world...

    I have to agree that your time is going to be worth more than the $15 change in price you might find by using a more raw board.

    We don't sell these yet, and the prices aren't cheap, but it sounded like you wanted to fully research what is out there so take a peak at control anything stuff too.

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