Arduino Consulting and Development
Specializing in Arduino, Robotics, and Control Systems
Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC

 

Main Arduino Robotics Consulting Arduino Wireless Networks What Sets Us Apart Background About Us

Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC is one of the most well-known consulting firms for Arduino and robotics engineering projects. We can ensure that your project will be a success!

 

Robotics / Arduino boards

You may not even be aware that your project might be able to benefit from the latest robotic upgrades and enhancements, such as the Arduino platform. With robotics boards and microprocessors becoming more common and less expensive incorporating the latest robotic technology into your designs can reduce cost by replacing many different components and add functionality that you never thought possible! Several projects have been designed to take advantage of the capabilities of Arduino boards and custom-designed shields.

 

What is an Arduino board? (Image taken from arduino.cc)

 

An Arduino board is a low-cost open-source electronics board with its own programmable microcontroller that makes it easy to communicate with computers and sensors, and to control things like motors, servos, and relays. The possibilities are endless!

 

What can an Arduino board and robotics do for you?

  • Replace complicated mechanical components and assemblies - we have been able to eliminate wear items, simplify the design of products, and reduce costs dramatically by developing a control system based on the Arduino

  • Replace expensive PLC control systems - in many situations a control system based on the Arduino can offer more functionality and lower cost than a typical PLC

  • Allow for communication with other devices and the Internet - you can log data, monitor an instrument, or send instructions to your product remotely

  • Allow for much easier customization and modifications to products - it is much easier to change code than manufactured parts, reducing development time and costs

  • Simplify circuit and electronics board design - the Arduino contains a powerful microprocessor, eliminating the need for complicated circuits that may have been needed in the past

  • Interface with a variety of sensors - your product will be able to obtain and act on data in ways that were previously impossible

  • Make your product smarter and more capable by making decisions - this can make your product safer, faster, more capable, and more efficient

  • Provide a friendly interface for the end user - you can easily include a nice LCD or touchscreen, making it look like a much higher-end product and making it easier to use

  • Perform diagnostics and troubleshooting - make your product easier to repair and less prone to having problems

 

You can even have a wireless sensor or remote control network! Here's how we can help.

Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC has experience engineering Arduino-based solutions involving wireless communication, Wifi, and Xbee, interfacing with VB.NET, sensors, cellular communication, motor control, sophisticated control systems, and data storage. In addition we have relationships with suppliers who work with machining, sheet metal, 3D printing, and production of electronics boards to carry projects from concept to full production. We were one of the first consulting firms to get involved with using the Arduino for commercial products and have taken advantage of the capabilities of these boards to deliver superior results for our clients including cost reduction, customization, ease of assembly, and durability improvements. Our projects have been deployed all around the world!

 

 

Are you considering a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller)?

PLCs are commonly used in industrial and manufacturing environments to control and monitor electronic systems. When should you consider an Arduino over a PLC?

 

PLCs have several advantages over the Arduino.

  • Toughness - The PLC is specifically designed to withstand the rigors of the industrial environment, including dust, extreme temperatures, electrical noise, and surges. The inputs and outputs are generally isolated from the controller itself to protect the processor. There is no question that the PLC is a well-tested, proven, durable piece of equipment.

  • Compatible and replaceable parts - PLCs are designed to interface with standard components not only for mounting on DIN rails in a case, but also with the appropriate electrical interface components necessary. If one fails it's a matter of finding and replacing the failed component with another standard part.

  • Backed by major manufacturers - PLCs and related components are supported by well-known major companies that have been in business for years.

 

However, the Arduino has several advantages over the PLC.

  • Cost - We can manufacture and engineer an Arduino system very inexpensively compared to a PLC, especially with the design of custom printed circuit boards for your application that make expensive major components unnecessary. Often a PLC system is designed for one specific application. If you have an application where the same control system will be used in more than one unit the cost savings can add up quickly with the Arduino. In systems where a PLC would be too expensive, the Arduino could be the solution to get the capability you need at a much more reasonable cost.

  • Size - PLC systems are generally large, have large control cabinets, and large components that they interface with. While this is acceptable in some situations, this certainly wouldn't work in a lot of smaller self-contained equipment. You can have the power of the Arduino starting in a package that's the size of two postage stamps!

  • Capability - The PLC is generally designed to handle digital and analog inputs and outputs, as is the Arduino. However, the Arduino goes a few steps farther. The Arduino can handle more sophisticated output, such as PWM (pulse width modulation), serial communication, and servo control, which allow it to interface directly with other sensors and components. The Arduino also uses the C++ programming language as opposed to the ladder logic that many PLCs use. While ladder logic is "simpler" and may not require an expert, the Arduino can be programmed to do many things that a PLC simply cannot do.

  • Open source - While PLCs are supported by major companies, this means that support and service is dependent on that company. Obsolescence is a huge concern. The Arduino is open source, meaning that the specifications are available free online and any company can make Arduino-compatible products, and many do.

  • Low power consumption - PLCs typically require large power supplies and consume significant amounts of power for all the additional interface cards and components they interface with. While this may not be a problem when power is available nearby, this wouldn't work in a remote area. We can engineer the Arduino to run off 3 AA batteries for several years, which enables remote sensing capabilities that can't be matched by a PLC.

 

Is the Arduino as reliable as a PLC? The short answer to that is yes. There are many electronic devices produced very inexpensively that run reliably for years - including common consumer items like phones, microwaves, calculators, and clocks. The Arduino is based on the industry-standard and proven Atmel AVR microcontroller. While the PLC is technically designed to be tougher and handle harsh environments, this is overkill for most situations that a control system encounters and that doesn't make a PLC more reliable than an Arduino outside those situations - and there are things that can be done to toughen up the Arduino if necessary. Sensors and communications base stations that we designed using the Arduino have run for weeks at a time. And we've made sophisticated laboratory equipment based on the Arduino that is sold around the world!

 

 

Typical types of problems we've solved:

  • How can we make it easy to customize and upgrade our product?
  • How can we interface our product with a computer and store data in a database?
  • How can we have a powerful control system in our product for a reasonable cost?
  • How can we take advantage of wireless communication?
  • How can we make our project much easier to assemble?
  •  

    Ask yourself:

  • Is my competition offering fresher products with more capabilities?
  • Is my current product difficult to manufacture and support?
  • Would the ability to control and monitor add value to my product?
  • Do I want to add features that my product doesn't currently have?
  •  

    Did you answer "yes" to any of the above questions? We can help!

     

     

    Here's how we've helped other clients harness the power of Arduino. You could be next!

     

    Case One - A Better Way to Seal Ampules

    A local company desired to improve upon an ampule-sealing device that they were selling by developing the next generation of their product. By listening to their customers they knew what types of characteristics and features would be necessary to ensure that the redesign would be a success.

    The redesign involved improving the reliability and durability by replacing many mechanical components with electronics and sensors in conjunction with an Arduino robotics board and a custom-designed shield, which allowed for customer-requested adjustments to be made while using the device, such as speed and timing control. Any parts that were wear items were designed to be easily replaceable and many wear items were completely eliminated. Other attributes that were important to the customers such as noise and ease of adjustment were also addressed. In addition the modular design of the updated device allowed for flexibility in manufacturing and future product development. The building of subassemblies could be contracted out and assembly was simplified, reducing the amount of labor and lead times necessary to build the device.

    The system was also designed to accommodate add-on modules (which also use Arduino boards) so that it would be easy to expand the device to handle additional needs that customers had, including gas purging and liquid filling of ampules. Through clever engineering both add-on modules were designed to have commonality of over 80% of the parts, reducing development time and costs, and simplifying production. By developing these add-on modules the company was able to serve a segment of the market that previously was unable to automatically fill ampules, which made the device very popular among their customers. With the improvements and additional capabilities of the product line the company is also able to target new markets and applications, further increasing the potential for sales.

    Results:

    • Reduced production cost by 15-20%

    • Reduced assembly time by 30%

    • Improved customer experience through easier use and better durability

    • Doubled revenue and profitability of a mature product line by offering compatible add-on modules

     

    See the Ampule Sealer in action!

     

     

    Case Two - Complete Redesign of a Laboratory Instrument

    A client had a major laboratory instrument that had last been designed approximately 20 years prior. The instrument was designed to connect with a PC for data collection. There were several problems that needed to be addressed with the design. Many key components were now obsolete and getting increasingly difficult to find, and others were rapidly increasing in price. The parallel interface to the computer was also quickly becoming obsolete and difficult to support. And among other issues, the motors that were used in the instrument generated a lot of heat, were difficult to control, and were prone to failure. Since a lot of the customers for this instrument were international it was also important that this unit be able to operate on non-US power.

    A complete engineering redesign was undertaken to address all the issues. The proprietary power supply was swapped for more commonly-available power supplies that met an industry standard for ensuring good power quality and support for non-US voltages. The motors were replaced with a much newer and less expensive technology that reduced the heat generation by over 90% and allowed for much more precise control. The temperature controller, which consisted of a resistance heater and refrigeration loop, was replaced with several thermoelectric modules for scalability, reliability, more precise control, and cost reduction. An Arduino Mega robotics board was programmed to control the entire system, integrate self-diagnostics, take advantage of the latest available sensors, and allow for USB communication and data collection with a PC into an Access, mySQL, or MSSQL database. A special shield was developed to integrate with the Arduino board to handle all the wiring connections and sensors. By taking an overall view of the system the redesign was able to make every system significantly better than its predecessor and the instrument as a whole was able to combine and share components to reduce cost in a way that was not possible before and to not only copy what the competition was offering, but leave them in the dust.

    Results:

    • Reduction in production cost of 25% by taking advantage of newer technologies

    • Power consumption reduced by 80% through redesign of temperature controller

    • Modular design allows for sale at different performance and price points, increasing potential market

    • New user-friendly interface makes software much easier to use and more powerful

    • Built-in self-diagnostics simplify troubleshooting and reduce warranty and service costs

     

    This is a prototype shield developed for the Arduino robotics board that interfaces with all of the necessary sensors and controllers and all eight reactors. 

     

     

    Case Three - Tank Telemetry Sensors

    A prospective client contacted us as they have a business that involves filling tanks with their products for customers in a multi-state region. Their customers used their product at different rates, and filling the tanks involved sending a truck. The client desired a tank monitoring solution that would ensure that the clients would not run out of product, but also that they didn't incur unnecessary expenses by making extra deliveries. Commercial solutions were available but they had incredibly high monthly telecommunications fees and a lot of the client's sites were in remote areas where cellular communication was unreliable.

    A tank level monitoring system based on the ATMega328 used by the Arduino was developed that solved all the problems the customer had. Data from multiple tank sensors at one location was bundled through one communications base station using inexpensive Xbee modules to reduce telecommunications costs because many customers had multiple tanks at their sites. In addition, several different communications base stations options were offered to eliminate reliance on the cellular networks. The tank sensors were designed with very low power consumption in mind for an expected battery lifespan of three years. Manufacturing costs were kept very low so that the upfront costs were competitive with existing offerings. The data from the sensors was fed into an online SQL database, eliminating any IT setup for the end customers and allowing for analysis and integration of the data into any systems in the future.

    Results:

    • Reduction in monthly telecommunications costs of over 95%

    • Battery lifespan of three years eliminates external wires and reduces maintenance needs

    • Data stored in online SQL database for advanced reporting and analytics in the future

     

    This is a prototype of the electronics for one of our tank level sensors. 

     

     

    Case Four - Aircraft Sensor Display Board

    A high-end aircraft manufacturer needed to have several different pressure sensors read and displayed so that they would be able to deliver the aircraft to their customers. We developed a custom printed circuit board for ease of assembly and the robustness necessary to deal with the temperature variation and vibrations encountered within aircraft. The display was driven by an Arduino Pro Mini and the code was developed to make calibration and configuration of the outputs very straightforward. All the necessary power and sensor connections were routed through one DB15 connector for easy hookup inside the aircraft.

    Results:

    • Extremely quick development and turnaround - engineering sample provided within 30 days

    • Easy configuration and integration into the aircraft for the customer

    • Designed to be robust enough to handle the demands of service within an aircraft

     

    This board will display readings for several aircraft sensors. 

     

     

    Case Five - TOBOR, the giant robotic dinosaur

    TOBOR was developed to showcase the many different talents of the people at the Northampton Community College Fab Lab in Bethlehem, PA. The project featured machining, woodworking, 3D printing, resin casting, wireless communication, audio engineering, and robotics all combined together in a 6-foot robotic dinosaur controlled by a glove with haptic feedback. Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC served as the lead for the robotics engineering. This involved specifying the robotic and electronic components and developing the software and wireless interfaces between all the different components. TOBOR was a combination of the efforts of many people at the Fab Lab and was exhibited at the Maker Faires in the Bay Area in 2015 and in New York in 2015 and 2016. At the 2016 World Maker Faire in New York TOBOR won 6 Editor's Choice awards and was chosen as the #2 Coolest Project At Maker Faire by PCMag. Going forward it will serve as a teaching tool for the lab and will be displayed at future Maker Faires and events around the nation.

     

     

     

    TOBOR was exhibited at the Maker Faire in the Bay Area in 2015 and in New York in 2015 and 2016. 

     

     

    Case Six - Escape Room Games

    Escape Room games with themed scenarios containing multiple puzzles for participants to solve have been increasing in popularity. But many of the franchises and storylines that are purchased don't contain the necessary electronics to power the puzzles. Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC has developed a robust solution to handle multiple RFID readers, and interface with many other components such as magnetic door locks, solenoids, and keypads. The printed circuit boards developed greatly reduce the number of connections and wiring and simplify long routing runs through walls and ceilings. In addition, the code for the Arduino is highly flexible and easy to modify, making it very easy to customize for a variety of puzzles and challenges - making it easy to upgrade and update the games to keep customers returning!

    Results:

    • Standardized hardware greatly reduces development effort and time for getting puzzles up and running

    • Flexibility in the code allows for customizing puzzles to keep them challenging

    • Robust hardware keeps games up and running and eliminates problems and troubleshooting

     

    A themed room full of puzzles to solve makes Escape Room games lots of fun!

     

     

    Case Seven - Arduino PLC Replacement for a Powder Dispenser

    A client bought out the remnants of a product line for a powder-dispensing device that used a traditional PLC. Upon assessing the situation for manufacturing this product in the future it was determined that the incredible complexity of the wiring would make these very difficult to put together. Furthermore, the design of the system used components that were unnecessarily complicated and expensive. By replacing the PLC with a custom-designed PCB incorporating an Arduino the amount of wiring was greatly reduced and the client is now able to order fully-assembled boards from suppliers in the US, which simplifies manufacturing immensely. A very expensive external thermostat was replaced with a much simpler thermistor and relay on the board to control the heater. A nice color screen was also added to make it easier for the end users to see how their equipment is operating. Fault detection capabilities were also added to the controller. The cost of the fully-assembled boards ended up being less expensive than the original PLC in addition to the savings gained from simplifying other parts of the system and the reduced assembly complexity.

    Results:

    • Control cabinet assembly time and complexity reduced by 80%

    • Arduino-based control system allows for simplification and cost reduction of other components

    • Arduino-based code allows for much more flexibility than previously-used ladder logic 

    • Color screen makes it easy for user to see how equipment is operating

    • Integrated fault detection simplifies troubleshooting for both client and end users

     

    Everything is easy to connect and the major components are easy to replace.

     

    Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC has also worked on smaller Arduino projects including general troubleshooting, sensor connections, wireless communication, shield design, and timing issues. We're a leading provider of Arduino and robotics engineering services. If you need an Arduino expert - you've found the right place!

     

    Are you interested in Arduino wireless networks? See some of the possibilities here!

     

     

    Brian Feldman's answers to Arduino questions on Quora:

     

    Main Arduino Robotics Consulting Arduino Wireless Networks What Sets Us Apart Background About Us

     

    Your project could be a Breakthrough! Contact us today to find out how!

    Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC has worked with clients all over the world and is based out of Macungie, PA.

    Phone: 484-695-5651

    (c) 2017 Feldman Consulting Enterprises, LLC