Particle as/with an Industrial Controller

I am excited about the many potential uses for the Particle platform and have been working on an industrial controls use case for the past year or two. The idea started as a way to augment the existing 70’s era electro-mechanical control systems still used in most parks with a connected monitoring solution. That way, when the “low water level” alarm went off or when a pump was called to pump, it could inform the maintenance staff thereby reducing staff labor costs and improving the reliability of the system. Here is a picture of one of these old systems with a Particle Electron based monitor.

I put a few of these in a local park over a year ago and the park staff has been very pleased. This takes me to the next step of moving from monitoring the water systems to (co-)controlling them. The idea is to use the Particle controllers for the well heads and a PLC / Particle combination for the water storage controllers. I am sharing this project for two reasons: 1) I might get some free advice :wink: and 2) This might get folks thinking about new use cases for the Boron.

Control board specs:

  • Powered by 110v-240v for both the sensor board and the Boron
  • Six digital line sensing inputs (110V)
  • Two current sensing inputs
  • One 4-20mA controller
  • One 4-20mA receiver
  • Two digital outputs (110V / 1.2A)

Caveat - If you build one of these, please be careful as the high-voltage parts (indicated on the board) are dangerous. OK CYA complete.

It will connect to the Boron using two 6-pin JST - SH cables (and a power connection for the Boron carrier).

I have received my boards back from OSHPark and will be assembling and testing them this week.

What do you think?


Chip, I like this.
First, thanks for sharing.

I have used Electrons for many Municipal and Industrial cases like you’ve mentioned.
But I’ve always struggled with the associated liability when adding Supervisory Control.
Thus, I’ve always leaned towards Monitoring & Reporting Only, with no Pump/Motor Control.
It’s my understanding this avoids the Safety Code issues (proper HOA control, Certifications, Interlocks, etc) with the additional Particle System.

Every time I almost talk myself into adding Control, I always think about how will my system fail if it’s smashed with a hammer or receives a high transient voltage. It’s hard to design the system that will fail in a Safe State 100% of the time when switching relays/starters.

Pump Stations:
There is a substantial market for sanitary pump station monitors.
One existing cellular product is ~$1,000 USD and it only has an Alarm Float.

From my experience, I like the following as a minimum for pump stations:
3 digital inputs (for float switches)
2 inputs for pressure transducers
2 CT’s
1 Liquid Level Measurement (additional pressure transducer for a Bubbler, Ultrasonic, etc)

With the CT’s, pressure transducers, and Liquid Level, the Electron/Boron can calculate the influent and effluent flow rates. This allows the Client to see/quantify the substantial flow increase during wet weather, and allows you to monitor the pump performance for predictive maintenance. The effluent pressure can also indicate pipe breaks, plugs, etc.

The same board could obviously be used for Elevated Tank Monitoring, wells, etc.

Thanks again for sharing. I look forward to seeing how this progresses.

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Very good point on liability and one I have thought about. For now, I am keeping my control function very limited. The Particle device will only turn on a remote pump or turn it off under control from the water storage facility’s PLC. This is not any different from the situation today where they run 135V control lines for up to a mile to signal the well heads to pump. Problem with the buried wires is that they get cut over time and implementing a wireless solution is very expensive - until the Electron / Boron arrives. I think the liability in this scenario is limited as the enclosure has physical security and only trained park staff have access. They have a process to deactivate the panel before opening as remote activation is a possibility today but, I will add an additional lockout on the door.

In your pump station list above, can I assume the pressure transducers are a 4-20mA current loop? Also, and please excuse my ignorance, but what is a CT?

Here are some pictures of the bare board - love OSHPark’s new After Dark. Went a bit crazy with the copper ground pours so need to trim some before building.
IMG_4229 IMG_4228

Thanks, Chip

4-20mA is certainly available, but that’s not “normally” the best option without something like your board.
I’ve had the best luck with Dwyer Series 626 & 628 pressure sensors.
These are the output options:

CT = Current Transformer, just like you’re already using :slight_smile:

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