The above video shows a group of students from Khalifa University, located in UAE, showcasing their very well thought out project consisting of a heliostat array design, collector, and control system. Even on this small scale, it is reported to be able to generate steam.
It was the video’s narrator, Fatima Adly, that originally contacting me asking for clarification on how different parts of the Arduino Sun Tracking / Heliostat Program worked. The same algorithm that calculates the sun’s position and heliostat angles is in fact incorporated into their program. They also added much more to the program such as wireless control via PC and tablet along with a backup tracking system.
I’m not sure what the breakdown of responsibilities were, but Fatima does seem to have done her fair share of the work. For example, there was more than one instance of her contacting me around 4:00am (her timezone) to try and work out one bug or another. When exactly she slept I do not know, but one thing that is clear is that she is a extremely hard worker!
The pdf and code files below were provided by Fatima.
I finally got around to making a video of the CNC machine I built over the winter. I have built a few different CNC machines in the past, but none of them were especially accurate. I took my time with this one though, and it actually turned out really well. Finally! I have a CNC that cuts out circles that actually look like circles!
It probably took about 100 hours to design and build this machine, so obviously I’m going to show it off now that it’s finished! I only have the video for now, but if people show enough interest I might do a full write up on it.
This heliostat was built by Josema of Spain. The machine itself is controlled by the Arduino Sun Harvesting Program featured here on Cerebral Meltdown.
You may have noticed that the mirror is mounted on top of a solar panel. This is because this heliostat also doubles as a sun tracker! Here is a quick video he made of it switching between heliostat and sun tracking mode.
Josema reports that the machine has great tracking accuracy due in large part to the worm gears he is using. These worm gears were originally used to move the power windows in cars. If you are interested in designing / building your own machine, this type of worm gear would be a great starting point.
This next picture shows Josema’s DIY electronics circuit wired together, which appears to be quite similar to the circuit used in the Arduino Sun Harvester Shield. Very Cool!
You can find more pictures of Josema’s heliostat on his blog. (The link should go to the Google translated version.)
You can also find his forum post on this site here.
The Stepper Power Control Boards which allow you to control multiple machines with the Sun Harvester Shield are now in stock! I only have 14 available right now, 8 without screw terminals, and 6 with screw terminals. It’s possible that they will sell out fairly fast since people will need to purchase one for every machine that they want to control. Thus they will most likely buy multiple boards at a time.
I will order and assemble more boards as soon as I’m able though, so hopefully they won’t be out for long when they do sell.
You can find out more about the Stepper Power Control Board without Terminals here,
and more about the Stepper Power Control Board with Terminals here.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is one of my goals to put together a worm gear based heliostat design that can be assembled with basic off the shelf components found at your typical hardware store. Aside from the stepper motors, limit switches, and Stepper Power Control Board (not strictly required), I was able to get everything needed to build this machine at my local Lowe’s store.
Experience has showed me that worm gear based machines are much easier to set up than the linear actuator based machines I have put together in the past. It probably only took me 15 minutes to mount and align this one, and that includes the time it took to get all of the various tools and things together.
The first batch of Sun Harvester Shields have all been sold off. Using the profits from it, I was able to purchase the parts for the shields in larger quantities. Put simply, this has allowed me to lower the price of the boards by $4.00 due to the fact that the cost of electronic components decreases when you buy them in bulk.
I’m also going to try and have the Stepper Power Control Boards available relatively soon. I just need to order more parts and assemble them. They keep selling out before I have a chance to put them in the store.
I’ve heard it mentioned that the Avayan Electronics driver board is no longer available. There are of course many other driver board that can be used with the Sun Harvester shield. One example is the Easy Driver board. If you go to this forum link, I have posted a PDF wiring diagram that will show you how to wire them to the shield. (The link should automatically take you to where it is located, Reply #49)
I finally had the chance to document the Linear Actuator based heliostat that I built. In general, linear actuator based heliostats can be a pain, so I don’t know if you really want to bother building one. I did need to have one around for testing the program though, so I went ahead and built this one.
I hope to have a wormgear based heliostat put together fairly soon. I’ll make sure to document that one too once it’s up and running.
You can find tons more information about this heliostat on the forums here.
I have recently realized that the majority of the individuals I have encountered who are interested in building either a sun tracker or a heliostat are in fact students. For whatever reason, most students seem to prefer to communicate with me through email, which is cool, but this method of communication has a downside. Basically, you guys never get the chance to meet each other or see one another’s projects.
To help remedy this, I have created a new forum category which is specifically for students who are interested in building either a sun tracker or a heliostat.
Here are a few tips for this category:
1. Don’t be shy! Everyone here is quite friendly.
2. If you’ve never used a forum before, don’t worry it’s easy. You can’t hurt anything, so don’t be afraid to try it out. The “Help” tab in the upper left hand corner should give you all of the information you need to get started.
3. Don’t worry if your English isn’t perfect. I have probably communicated with more individuals who speak / write English as a second language then I have with English as a first language. This is very much so a multi-language forum!
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Obviously, you shouldn’t expect anyone to do your whole project for you, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask questions if you get stuck.
6. Please do share your project when it’s completed. Your work will most definitely inspire others once they see what you’ve done.
I’ve just gone through a bunch of the out of date documentation pages and brought them up to speed. Most of these pages were out of date because they did not clearly reference the way the Sun Tracking / Heliostat Program now uses different azimuth angles depending on whether you are either north or south of the equator.
Other pages just weren’t very well documented to begin with.