Push buttons from a distance wired or wirelessly

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by cwinhall, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. cwinhall

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 3, 2013
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    Hey everyone!

    New to the forums here and a TOTAL newbie when it comes to anything electronics, never really given it the light of day before, but I find myself in need of it for a project I am working on and I've spent the last few days trying to research how to do this and have just ended up going round in big square circles.

    So here I am, to seek advice.

    I have a gigapan epic pro unit (gigapan.org) and I want to be able to press the buttons on the unit wirelessly. There is no support for any kind of remote for the unit unfortuantely, so I am looking for some form of workaround with possibly some kind of robotic arm that can push the buttons physically.

    What would be the best way to go about this? The cheaper the better, but if a slightly higher prices gives better functionality, I may be willing to extend the budget.

    A little info on the unit, it has 7 buttons, a picture of the unit can be found here;

    http://reallyrightstuff.com/mmRRSNET/Images/gallery/GPCB-in-use.png

    It doesnt need much force to press these buttons at all really. What I would love is some kind of controller or joystick to use for the arrow keys with 3 other buttons for the others... IDEAL!

    Look forward to hearing your suggestions! :)

    Thanks for taking the time to read this all :eek::cool:
     
  2. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
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    It would be possible to build an assembly of seven solenoids arranged so that each solenoid, when activated, would push one of the seven buttons. The solenoids could be controlled remotely via an RF link. How do you plan to know which buttons to push and when? In other words, do you need feedback on the camera's orientation?

    That's the good news. The bad news is that it would be quite a complex electromechanical project that would take a lot of detailed design work. But given the cost of the pan unit, maybe you have several hundred to spend.
     
  3. cwinhall

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 3, 2013
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    Thanks for the reply.

    I was hoping it would be a simple project and inexpensive (less than $100)... I guess that was being hopeful though.

    Maybe I will just have to wait for the gigapan company to release a remote that interfaces with the unit. I know nothing of this sort of thing :(:confused:
     
  4. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
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    If you could get inside the pan unit, there would likely be a fully electronic solution, but that wouldn't be easy either. And then, there's the risk to the pan unit.

    But there are probably other ways to accomplish what you want, and someone else will come up with a bright idea.
     
  5. elec_mech

    Senior Member

    Nov 12, 2008
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    Ooo, how fun. Welcome to ACC by the way.

    I see a couple of ways of doing this which Tracecom as already mentioned, but I have a slightly different idea.

    Option 1: Mechanical interface

    Use a hobby radio system with 4 or more channels capable of controlling four servos (hopefully included with said system). Use your preferred building material, e.g., acrylic, wood, metal, to make a mechanical fixture to hold the servos above the buttons. The off position of the double-ended servo arm should be parallel to the buttons. Since the center position buttons are close together, you'll need to "stack" the servos over those buttons. Use wood dowels or the like to attach to the servo arms and place just over the buttons. You'll probably need a guide close to the buttons so the dowels stay in place but can move freely up and down. When one servo is turned in one direction, it will push a button. When turned in another direction, it will push another button.

    Pros: The original system is left alone and the warranty and operation remains intact.

    Cons: Lots of time and labor to fabricate. Cost will likely be well over $100 for the radio and servos, not counting building material

    One possibility: http://www.hobby-lobby.com/optic_5_5_channel_2.4ghz_sport_radio_system_1041984_prd1.htm - unfortunately does not appear to include servos.

    Option 2: Electronic interface

    Use a couple of cheap RC cars with different frequencies and remove the circuit boards. Find the wires going to the motors, remove from motors and feed them into a Schmitt-trigger circuit. The output of the Schmitt-trigger might be able to go directly to the main unit, but will probably be safer going through opto-isolators or perhaps relays to avoid messing with the power on the main unit. The main unit would have to be opened and small wires soldered to the button contacts or some point on the board where the button contact traces go to.

    Pros: Cheap (well under $100), relatively quick and easy to build

    Cons: Will void warranty - requires opening main unit and soldering wires to board, possible to damage main unit if not careful, also have to keep in mind cheap cars come with common frequencies, so this may be triggered by another RC remote if in vicinity

    I can help with option 2 and provide schematics and a parts list. We can assist you in adding wires to the main unit if you take it apart and post pictures of the front and back of the board where the buttons are located.

    I don't know if you want to go this far or not, but hopefully this gives you some ideas and options.
     
  6. cwinhall

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 3, 2013
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    0
    Elec mech,

    Thanks for your post. I think option 1 is definitely the better option here as I am really a TOTAL newbie when it comes to this stuff, so I would prefer not to open up the unit at all.

    Perhaps I can find parts from broken RC cars on gumtree/ebay or something in order to lower the cost?
     
  7. elec_mech

    Senior Member

    Nov 12, 2008
    1,513
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    Hmm, certainly possible. One factor that impacts the cost a bit is how many buttons do you need to control remotely? Do you need all 7? Controlling only 4 would reduce the cost of project considerably, but I don't know if that would be enough for your purposes.

    You could do this with some cheap toy remotes and either solenoids as Tracecom mentioned or use cheap servos and build several 555 servo testers. Not sure either would save any money versus buying a true RC system.
     
  8. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    Would ALL the buttons need to be activated remotely? Are some for menu or other option that you need to read the screen to use?

    You can get mini-servos with plastic gears and bushing bearings for as cheap as $4 that are capable of pushing buttons.

    If you use the 4 way servo horn, it could be mounted in a way that going in one direction would push one button with one horn extension, and going all the other way would push another button with another extension. This would work well for buttons mounted next to each other, and provide a way to get the buttons pushed using a 4 channel remote system. You could even use one channel to move another servo glued to the horn between two button locations, then have the move-able servo push the buttons if they aren't close together.

    I'd suggest a 2.4Ghz Digital Spread Spectrum Tx/Rx if you can find it, they are very good at interference rejection.

    The complicated part would be designing the mounting so the horns would line up with the buttons.
     
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