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Development Archive

View a sampling of our quality work

Programmable Linear Solenoid
Programmable Rotary Solenoid
Programmable Solenoid
Ultraviolet Illuminator
I-Wash Coin Box
Controller Board
XL-12 Controller
I-Wash Single Board Controller
Arrow Sensor
Kopin Miniature Digital Display
Apogee Pump Motor
Hexapod Motor Controller
Polaroid Shutter Controls
Robot Arm Plus
Stepper Motor Amplifier Board
Aperture/Shutters & Zoom Drives
USB Relay Board
View our Patents published with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

Linear Solenoid PPS-2 Linear Solenoid PPS-2
Programmable linear Solenoid

The Picard Programmable Solenoid (PPS-2) gave the motion capability of a sophisticated stepper motor system to a simple linear solenoid. This provided new levels of application to the user. Relatively smooth motions were now available without the need of an expensive motor control system. PPS-2 provided the linear motion of a linear solenoid without the nonlinear force and erratic (clunking) motion. Additionally, users had the ability to set the stroke and speed of the linear motion for the desired application due to the on-board electronics of the unit.

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Programmable Solenoid PPS2-17 Programmable Solenoid PPS2-17
Programmable Solenoid

The Picard Programmable Solenoid (PPS2-17) provided linear solenoid motion capability to a sophisticated stepper motor system with greater simplicity, smaller size, and lower cost. The PPS2-17 provided this motion with a constant controlled force and velocity (no erratic banging motion). The onboard electronics of the PPS2-17 allowed the user to program and store the desired stroke and speed using a simple three button interface. The PPS2-17 only required power, ground, and a control (activation) signal connection for proper operation. Any device connecting the control signal to ground (by switch, sensor, relay, open-collector or open-drain transistor output, etc.) could activate the programmed motion.

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Programmable Solenoid PPS-1 Programmable Solenoid PPS-1
Programmable Rotary Solenoid

The Picard Programmable Rotary Solenoid (PPS-1) gave customers the motion capability of a sophisticated stepper motor system with the simplicity of a simple rotary solenoid. This brought new levels of application to the user. Relatively smooth motions were available without the need of an expensive motor control system. The PPS-1 provided the angular motion of a rotary solenoid, without the nonlinear torque and erratic (bang-bang) motion of a standard rotary solenoid. The PPS-1 was packaged with all the electronics it needed for programming and simulating a solenoid built onto a size 17 (1.6" sq.) stepper motor. This gave the user the ability to set the amount and speed of rotation to the desired application.

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i-wash boxInside the i-wash boxCBC board
I-Wash Coin Box Controller (CBC) Board

Picard Industries was brought in to design a single board controller to operate a manual car wash system. This controller was required to do many of the following functions in real time (simultaneously):

  • Monitor insertion of coins and bills, track totals for auditing.
  • Calculate, track and display wash time, based on the inserted money.
  • Monitor the non-contact (magnetically coupled) wash function selector knob.
  • Display function LEDs based on wash function selected.
  • Control an audible alarm when knob is rotated, time has elapsed, and money is inserted.
  • Interface and communicate to a credit-card service system.
  • Control high pressure water pump based on wash function selected.
  • Control chemical solenoid valves based on the wash function selected.
  • Monitor outside temperature and control a freeze protection function.
  • An owner programming mode for setting (editing) scrolling message banner, cost for wash time, and bonus time, temperature setting to start freeze protection functions, and check money auditing totals.

Picard Industries designed this single board controller using a single flash-based microcontroller. An integrated on-board power supply was developed that provides complete isolation between microcontroller power and any external device power. The utilization of a flash-based microprocessor allows for in-circuit reprogramming (i.e. upgrades).

Production versions of the CBC board are being built, assembled, tested and delivered to the customer. This is an example of the capabilities that Picard Industries can provide for your company.

To see the CBC board in use, please visit: www.iwash.biz .

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XL-12 Controller
XL-12 Controller

The XL12 was developed to control the position of a smaller linear stepper motor. It has a front panel display with manual control switches to activate various motion sequences of the motor.

The XL12 can be integrated with other process equipment for automated control. It can be remotely controlled with hardware for use with PLC, or by a computer through the use of a serial port.

This is an example of how Picard Industries can provide the design and manufacture of custom electronic control systems for your product.

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Old I-Wash ControllerI-Wash SBC

Old I-Wash ControllerNew I-Wash SBC        

I-Wash Single Board Controller (SBC-2000)

Picard Industries was invited to look at an existing industrial controller for the possibility of improving the systems’ reliability and reducing manufacturing costs. Production versions of the SBC 2000 were built, assembled, tested and delivered to the customer for less than half the cost of the original unassembled and untested design. This is an example of the capabilities that Picard Industries can provide to enhance your operations.

The Original I-Wash Controller:

System reliability of the old I-Wash controller was compromised by the fact that it was designed with 13 small interconnected printed circuit boards (PCBs). Nine of these PCBs had dedicated microcontroller chips. The power supply design led to electrical noise issues due to the logic power not being isolated from the actuator power. Also, the PC boards were manufactured separately and delivered to the customer untested, thus leading to problems once assembled in the final product.

The New I-Wash SBC 2000:

Picard Industries designed a single board controller (SBC-2000) using a single flash-based microcontroller chip to replace the 13 PCB, 9 microcontroller chip design. This drastically reduced the number of connectors in the design. An integrated on-board power supply was developed that provided complete isolation between logic power and actuator power. The utilization of a flash-based microprocessor allowed for easy reprogramming of the software in the controller (i.e. upgrades).

To see our improved SBC 2000 in operation, please visit I-Wash: Intelligent Washing System.

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Arrow Sensor Arrow Sensor

Our enhancements to the Smart Arrow Sensor greatly advanced the value of this type of sensor. We took a product that had to be adjusted and shielded from room lights, and developed a sensor that could use any sensor from a varied lot to detect any material in normal open room lighting conditions. This was a very successful transformation of a simple sensor; typical of the type of ingenuity that Picard Industries can offer you.

The Original Sensor:

The Arrow Sensor is a photo-optical infrared reflective sensor. The sensor head is shaped like an arrowhead and houses the infrared LED (transmitter) and the complementing infrared sensor (receiver). The receiver and transmitter are set at an angle to each other. This sensor is activated when enough infrared light sent from the transmitter is reflected by a target back onto the receiver. Unfavorable variables that affect the sensitivity of the sensor are:

  • Due to wide manufacturing tolerances, the sensors vary in response to the same level of reflected light.
  • The material being detected affects the response of the sensor. A shiny metal target will reflect many times more light than a dull translucent target.
  • Ambient light in the room and its intensity can greatly degrade the performance of the sensor.

After Our Improvements:

Picard Industries overcame these performance-robbing issues by adding a small eight-pin microcontroller (PIC12C672 from Microchip) to a small PCB attached to the sensor.

  • The microcontroller was able to determine the ambient light in the room and compensate accordingly.
  • In compensating for ambient light, the transmitter is modulated. This allows it to be energized at a greater intensity, and thus better detect a poorly reflecting target.
  • A bicolor status LED was added to help the operator adjust the sensor to properly detect a target. It also alerts you if the ambient light is too high, and if a target is or is not present.
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Kopin Miniature Digital Display Kopin Miniature Digital Displays

The following are two examples where Picard Industries further developed the use of a standard Kopin Miniature LCD display. This display is a transmitive (light passes through it) type LCD and therefore requires a backlight. All interfaces and required software were designed to the users specifications.

Display the screen of a Personal Computer into an eyepiece:

The Kopin miniature LCD display was used to display the VGA screen of a PC into an eyepiece, which allowed an operator to control machinery that used a PC without a bulky full-size monitor. Picard Industries developed the electronics to take the signals from the standard video port of a PC (VGA port) and adapt them to this display which involved:

  • Generating the pixel clocking signals and synchronizing the vertical and horizontal sync pulses of the VGA port to the Kopin display.
  • The timing and control of the device was accomplished with an Altera EPLD (electrically programmable logic device), which is in-circuit programmable.
  • The device is programmed in HDL (hardware descriptive language) code.

Display is projected as an overlay image into an optical sighting scope:

In this example, the display was projected as an overlay image in the field of view of an optical sighting scope, which allowed the user to look through the scope and see information (such as compass direction, distance to object, GPS coordinates, etc.) without losing sight of the object. In this instance, a microcontroller was added to work in conjunction with the Altera EPLD to control the data and icons on the display. The microcontroller also allowed the device to:

  • Communicate with other electronic devices (compass, GPS, range finder) to retrieve the data that needed to be displayed.
  • Function as the user interface by monitoring a keypad that allowed the user to navigate through menus that configure the data to be displayed. It essentially became the controls for each of the electronic devices that produced data to be displayed on the Kopin display.
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Apogee Pump Motor ControllerApogee Pump
Apogee Pump Motor

Our enhancements to an existing pump application added programmability and flexibility, all in a smaller package. For this project, Picard Industries designed the electronics (PCB - printed circuit board) and software, and built prototypes to insure the dependability of the product. This new pump resulted in a much-improved sense of sophistication for the user.

Their Original Pumping Product:
  • Ran on a single speed AC motor turning a mechanical cam that pushed on the squasher tube.
  • To change the flow rate, the operator had to physically change the position of the cam to affect the stroke against the tube. This was a tedious and cumbersome task.
  • The original unit was much larger in size and the higher AC voltages were a safety concern.

Our modified Apogee Pump Motor:
  • The pump motor was changed to a low voltage DC stepper motor with linear action.
  • A plunger was attached to the end of the motor that pushes the squasher. As fluid is pushed through the tube, a check valve maintains flow in the correct direction.
  • Controls on the back of the motor consist of three buttons and three LED's, which allow an operator to quickly adjust flow rate by controlling speed and stroke length.
  • The flow rate setup is kept in flash memory to save valuable reprogramming time in the event of a power loss or shutdown.
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Hexapod Platform Hexapod Motor Controller

The goal of this project was to develop a Hexapod platform with a reduced positional accuracy, compared to the competitor's product. An added bonus was its creation at 1/10th the cost. Picard Industries was hired to design a motor control system to move 6 small stepper motors simultaneously. The motors needed to be micro-stepped to achieve the necessary smoothness and resolution in step position. These 6 stepper motors are linear actuators and are used to move the upper platform relative to the base. With 6 linear actuators placed in 3 triangular pairs, the upper platform can be moved in all six degrees of motion. They are X, Y, Z, and Theta X, Y, and Z (these are the rotations about X,Y, and Z). A microcontroller was used to coordinate the motions of the 6 motors and communicate with a PC over a serial port. Commands from the PC were sent to the motor controller over this serial port and the motor moves accordingly.

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Polaroid Shutter Controls Polaroid Shutter Controls

This project was completed for a digital camera manufacturer that purchased their shutters from Polaroid, but did not know how to control them. Since Picard Industries has a vast background in controlling miniature stepper motors like the one used in this shutter, we were contracted to design the electronics and controlling software to make the shutter operate correctly in their camera.

We built incoming inspection test fixtures to test shutters as they were received from their shipping department. The test fixtures were also used to test different software algorithms and do life testing of the mechanism.

This shutter consists of a pair of sliding blades that are driven linearly with a rack and gear system by a small 10mm, 5-volt, stepper motor. The shutter has an integrated position sensor that verifies that the blades are moving. Motion control algorithms were devised to step the motor with this sensor. This allowed the shutter to be moved much faster and with greater certainty by ensuring that it was moving properly.

Errors in the motion of the blades could now be detected and reported to the camera. This gave the camera manufacturer a shutter that was small, fast, and “smart” in that it knew if something went wrong during an exposure.

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Old PCBNew PCBRobot Arm


Robot Arm Plus

The Robot Arm Plus project turned a stock battery powered, 5-axis toy robot that uses simple joysticks into a teaching tool that gives students a true (although simple) representation of how robots and their software work in real life industry. To enhance the capabilities of this educational robot, Picard Industries was hired to design and manufacture a printed circuit board (PCB) along with a computer-control interface.

We redesigned the internal PCB so that the motors could not only be controlled with the joysticks, but with a Windows Interface PC program through a serial port. Each motor and gearbox has been modified with an encoder so that the true position of the axis could be determined. A microcontroller on the new PCB coordinates motor motion commands sent through the serial port and sends the motors to their correct position. All motors on the robot arm can be maneuvered simultaneously, resulting in a fluid motion.

Errors in position are detected and reported to the user on the PC screen. The computer-control interface gives the user the ability to move individual motors and store these motions in a program script file so that these sequences of motion can be repeated as desired.

View the PC User Interface (PDF) Download Adobe Acrobat Reader for FREE

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Low Cost Stepper Motor Amplifier Board Low Cost Stepper Motor Amplifier Board (LC AMP)

This project goal was to develop a custom low cost stepper motor amplifier board that could be controlled by an industrial PLC (Programmable Logic Controller). The LC-AMP is a compact low cost intelligent micro stepper motor driver with the following features:

  • This Amp will control small bipolar stepper motors.
  • It has a constant current (PWM) control that is user selectable.
  • Maximum current drive of 1.0 amps
  • The RUN and HOLD currents are independently controlled.
  • Step sizes are user selectable as full, half, quarter, and eighth steps.
  • DIP-switches are used for the setting of these options.
  • It operates from a wide supply voltage, 12 to 28 volts DC.
  • All control signals are Opto Isolated.
  • The Amp is protected from accidental power reversal.
  • The Amp is thermally protected with sensors to automatically shutdown and safe guard the drive electronics and the motor.

The LC-AMP board was design with two methods of connecting to the motor, power supply, and PLC. It could use screw type terminal strips for discrete wiring, or D-type connector (see picture). The D-connector configuration, allow the LC-AMP boards to be stacked together for multi-motor application. This was done for better (smaller) packaging and easier cable routing between the PLC, LC-AMP, and the motors.

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Camera Shutters
Aperture/Shutters and Zoom Drives

We at Picard Industries have extensive experience with aperture/shutter systems used in a leading camera manufacturers film cameras, digital cameras, and motorized zoom lens systems.

All these mechanisms, including the Aspen and Ghost aperture/shutters used miniature stepper motors as small as 8mm in diameter. These motors move a group of blades that form an iris. Being an iris in form, the shutter doubles as a controllable aperture by stopping the motor before the blades fully open. The mechanics were designed so that each step of the motor defined a new aperture size. The trick was to move and stop the blades, or motor, fast. The shutters could perform a 1/500 second exposure at the smallest aperture, and operate as fast as 1/100 second at the largest, or full open, aperture. We also developed a constant current drive circuit to operate the drive electronics on battery voltages from 2.0 (dead batteries) to 3.5 volts (new batteries).

Zoom drive motors were similar, in that they were also small stepper motors. These motors are attached to very fine pitch lead-screws that move small lens groups on rails. Two lens groups are moved relative to each other when zooming. This motion is not linear and the motor’s velocity, or step rate always varies. The term used for this type of motion is an “electronic cam.” Picard Industries developed the software methods (algorithms) necessary to accomplish this cam-type motion.

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Solid State UV Illuminator Solid State Ultraviolet Illuminator

This illuminator design uses a solid state, high flux, ultraviolet (UV) light emitting diode (LED) as a light source, and is a representative of the multi-disciplined skills (mechanical, electrical, optical) that Picard Industries has to offer in developing customized products.

The design consists of a housing to hold the UV LED and its heat sink in place. A conical reflector, together with a condenser lens, collects the light and channels it into a fiber optic bundle. Integrated onto the housing is a self-contained power supply with a momentary power switch to ensure safe operation. This design results in a highly compact, low cost, rugged module for supplying UV light to a remote location.

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USB Relay Board USB Relay Board

The USB-Relay is a unique, relatively low cost, mechanical relay control system. It is powered and controlled solely by a standard USB port. This system provides the method of automated PC relay control unmatched in size, simplicity, and ease of use. The USB-Relay includes Windows based application software that runs on any standard PC with Windows-XP/Vista and a USB port. This user interface provides for individual manual control of all four relays.


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