I've decided it is time for us to have an aquarium controller that everyone can afford. My goal was simple.. make a controller for under $100 that can do what available controllers on the market can do. Because of the manufacturing cost involved for a project like this, the only way to do it is by offering it in a kit form that everyone can build. Ultimately, this kit will have a very nice case that is CNC'd, button overlay with reefbuddy logo, and professional PCB ready for you to solder the kitted components to along with an instructional video to step you through the entire process of completing your build.
We have chosen the Arduino controller as the microcontroller for the project. The choice was simple. Arduino is Open Source and backed by a devoted following of people that are willing to help with projects free of charge. The community is rapidly expanding and there are many controller choices you can choose from. The controller already has the power system and usb designed into the product at a very low cost. All development software and tools needed for design are available free of charge so getting into this is relatively inexpensive.
Here is a list of available functions that will be available.
4 line LCD Screen
7 button interface
Screen and Buttons remotely mountable from the control box (Similar to Reefkeeper products)
4 switched inputs (can be used for ATO's, etc.)
16 available timers
16 switched 110 outlets (available in groups of 4 or 8)
All modules will interface via a standard phone cable up to 10' in length
There has been a lot of progress made with Arduino by others in our community and was the reason I got excited about this initially. As I get further in the project I'll update here. TEMP, Switched Inputs, Timers and Power Outlets are all up and running. We are currently working on the Menu system. This is going to take the bulk of the programming and memory from the controller but will give complete flexibility to the end user. There are two of us completing the project. I'm working on all the electronics/PCB designs and some coding and my partner is working on coding. The PCB designs for the most part are complete and I'm hoping to etch samples this weekend.
So the big question is "What will $89 get me?" and "When can I get it?" Well right now I'm hoping it will get you the basic controller which includes the Button/LCD panel, control unit, 4 switched outlets, and temp guage. It should be compatible with available probes on the market and allow you to plug them into the control unit. Our list is long but we have set a goal to have the product in a final form by the end of the summer.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this project as much as I enjoy working on it. I'll post more information as it is available. We might be asking help from our community in the form of letting us borrow probes as we move along (If you can help in this manner please IM me) any help in this manner will be appreciated.
Super Ugly Prototype