Beginner looking to learn

I should start this with I have never worked with Arduino before. I was directed here by an automation expert. He thought this would be a better way of performing a particular type of automation I was discussing. I have some basic knowledge of networks and linux coding.

Now, to my project. I am trying to help my uncle design an automated system for our grain storage on our farm. We use a roof top grain dryer to dry corn after it is picked. The dryer runs for about an hour at which time someone must operate a winch to drop the grain from the dryer to the storage below, wait about five minutes for the grain to drop, then reverse the winch to close the floor and then fill the dryer. I am looking for a system that senses a voltage drop when the dryer shuts off then operates a 1hp winch to drop the grain, then wait x minutes, then reverse the winch to close the floor.

How difficult would this be for an amateur like myself? what type of Arduino hardware would I need for this?

This should be quite viable with an Arduino. I'd say something as simple as a basic Arduino program and a relay/servo will do the work for you. For starters, check out the examples to get acquainted with Arduino programming.

bphillips: I am looking for a system that senses a voltage drop when the dryer shuts off then operates a 1hp winch to drop the grain, then wait x minutes, then reverse the winch to close the floor.

How difficult would this be for an amateur like myself? what type of Arduino hardware would I need for this?

An Arduino Uno will be able to manage this easily.

As @DivinityArcane has said a relay can be used to control the winch.

Detecting the shut-off of the dryer may not be so simple. Have you some sensor in mind? Can you get access to the cable that carries power from the shut-down switch to the dryer.

Are you competent to interfere with dangerous mains electricity?

...R

As the winch needs to be both stopped and reversed, you will need two relays. One for forward motion and one for reverse. If the drier is operated solely on time, this can also be controlled by the Arduino and another relay. If there's some other factor involved (such as the relative humidity of the drier output) you'll also need some type of sensor to detect when the grain is dry enough to be dropped. There's nothing difficult here, but do please heed Robin2's warning about mains electricity, especially in an outdoor/farm environment.

A good starter project because it only needs to do one thing at a time IF that's all the operator is supposed to do and not keep an eye out for anything going wrong. If there is more you might need to learn more which eventually you probably will do anyway.

The Arduino IDE has built in Example Sketches already typed up with everything compatible to the IDE version you download. And the Arduino site has guides to those:

http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/HomePage

I would suggest working through at least enough of those in sections 1,2, 3 and 5 (skip section 4!) to learn the basics about pins, timing, arrays and loops and C code to get started. The Examples are not perfect but they do work, be ready to find out there's better/different ways here and there later. Don't sweat it, you have to start somewhere and this is a good path.

Thanks for the replies!

As for detecting the voltage drop when the drier shuts off, we had the electrician rig up an exterior 110V light on the outside of the building that is on when the drier is on and off when it is off. So I planed on using this to clip on the wire going to that light and use that to tell the system the drier is off.

For the winch, I should be able to tell the system to run in reverse for X seconds, then wait Y minutes, then reverse for x seconds. But, it would be nicer and more exact if I could tell the system where the winch is in it's travel. Could I rig up some kind of sensor, or magnetic switch that would know when the winch has gotten to each end point? I could mount a magnetic sensor (like a door open sensor) on the winch wire and the other on the bin. but I haven't seen that type of magnetic switch in the Adruino store. Can any magnetic switch be used?

I'm glad to hear this is feasible. I'll start doing my research. Thanks!

$10.80 just to know when a lightbulb is on? Holy Cow! You can do it for a lot less than that!

One thing though, the light bulb is a fail point. If it quits then no current will flow through that line. Other than that, there are less than $1 light detectors and even a LED can be used to detect light.

But there's better, more no fail ways and we have engineers here that can tell you better than I.

You might want to look up Security Hall Switches for the winch limit switches. They run about 50 cents from Mouser or DigiKey. With the minimum shipping cost you might buy the rest of what you need from the same place. Mouser and DigiKey are not the only electronics distributors either.

The magnetic sensors are maybe the best. They don't wear out that I know of (maybe in 20 or 50 years) like micro switches, aren't affected by dust, dirt or water (if you seal the connections) within reason. But how you hook them up can be close not exact, there's ways to deal with that. Some magnetic sensors can count gear teeth going by at engine speeds, you can be sure as you need and you don't have to spend go out for lunch or dinner money to do so.

If you want, you can get affordable temperature and humidity sensors as well. Some you can string several to 100 or so along a pretty long one or two strand wire and read with 1 or a few pins.

bphillips: we had the electrician rig up an exterior 110V light on the outside of the building that is on when the drier is on and off when it is off.

If you can rig things so a small LED is on (much reliable than a bulb) then a smal Light Dependent Resistor can detect it.

If the drier has a control panel with a light that shows it is ON you could just put an LDR beside that.

...R

Whenever I read about grain storage I would like to point out one major warning, as an ex-firefighter: THEY BLOW UP! The grain and dust in those storage tend to become explosive if the right mixture between grain, dust and air is reached. As a fact, all fine powders become highly flammable if spread correctly in the air.So every spark, element, switch, light/lamp or fuse can cause a big (although awesome if nobody gets hurt) boom... Just check youtube for examples what happens to powdered milk if tossed in the air and a flame is introduced. Make sure everything is outside of the silo and in a closed container. If you want to put it inside the silo, look for ATX-proof containers at own risk.

The light is stated to be outside the silo.

While you can detect the light being on, that's kind of a kludge and subject to the bulb working and there are ways to directly detect the part that turns the light on. We have engineers here that will tell the best ways to do that though they might need to ask a question about what does that.

All of the connections should be sealed in at least heat-shrink tubing. There should be no electrical taped wonders. Silicone glue also works wonders. And none of that is completely vermin-proof so perhaps metal conduit is called for if you want to go total on it. Just don't use iron/steel fasteners with aluminum parts or other dissimilar metals as even the least bit of water flow will have one corrode quickly. I wonder if PVC pipe makes good long term conduit?

It's going to take long enough to learn coding before buying anything to get those issues resolved.

I've been thinking more about this and would like to start working on it, but I want to simplify it. I just want the system to detect the dryer is off and have it run a winch for x seconds. I will then have a button that can be held on the system to reverse the winch manually. After the dryer is done we need to drop the grain, that takes about 7-8 minutes to let it drop. It will be much better to have the system automatically run the winch to drop the grain. Then, by the time we get there to reload the dryer, the grain will be dropped, saving 7-8 minutes of waiting time. We can easily enough reverse the winch to close the dryer using a button.

So, to get started I would like to get the hardware so I can see that my code will work with it. Can anyone point me in the right direction on what I would need for hardware? I assume I need a Arduino uno board and the AC Current sensor. Is that correct? What else will I need? Relays to run the winch? A button to manually reverse the winch? A case??

Any help would be appreciated.

You could get your sketch right on a model before installing on the real thing.

There will be a lot to learn about software and likely code rearranging.

Of course a relay to control a winch but be aware that cheap relays are 10A 240VAC limited.

In a model, a led can serve to indicate relay action since the same code does either.

You will likely have to learn a bit about buttons and maybe have two relays, down and up.

The dryer makes heat and airflow doesn't it? You could sense that as well as current to tell if the switch is on, but that's up to you. If that light bulb quits you can end up with a load of wet corn dumped into the silo so no biggie, right? It's not like making sure is important when you can overspend on a current detector. If the bulb quits, no current will flow through that power line.

Never time to do it right. Always time to do it over.