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Questions about purchasing a Robo-Tank DIY Aquarium Controller Kit
#1
Question 
Regarding this page https://www.robo-tank.ca/en/Robo-Tank-Ki...57c59.html
First a comment, the wording on this confused me at first:
"
Available Options
Assembly
O None Required
O Solder Jumpers to VGA Sockets (4 connectors, 40 wires) (+$20.00 USD)
O Assemble Complete Kit (+$100.00 USD)
"


Maybe change it to something along the lines of
"
Assembly:
Available Options
O Purchaser assembles everything
O Seller solders jumpers to VGA sockets (4 connectors, 40 wires) (+$20.00 USD)
O Seller assembles complete kit (+$100.00 USD)
"
Also "Assembly" does not match the other formatting on the page. "Case Colors Available:" and "Kit Addons:" both have colons and are bold while "Assembly" does not and is not.

Not trying to be rude/nit picky...just trying to help you! Sorry if I'm coming off as obnoxious Blush .

Questions:
  1. As far as the purchaser assembles everything option what exactly does that mean? I would guess soldering "jumpers to VGA sockets (4 connectors, 40 wires)" and some sort of additional assembly...
  2. "Boards will have a small mod made to them but you'll barely notice." What mod specifically is made? I am guessing it's this one: https://www.robo-tank.ca/forum/Thread-Ge...d-Required? Are there any other mods made to the Gen2 that's on sale?
  3. I plan on purchasing the "Robo-Tank DIY Aquarium Controller Kit - North America" and the "Automatic Top Off (ATO) Kit". I would like to know exactly what I will need to get everything included in the kit running. As far as I can tell I will need: a "standard Ethernet patch cable" and 2 sensor cables (based on "DS18B20 Digital Temperature Sensor (no cable included)" and "DHT22/AM2302 Digital Temperature and Humidity Sensor - (no cable included)"? Is that correct? Initially I thought the "Kit Addon" "DS18B20 Waterproof Digital Temperature Sensor Probe - 5 meter cable" was the cable I needed to buy (x2)...but the small image next to it shows what looks like a sensor and the description seems to also imply cable+sensor...so I'm thinking that addon is actually an additional sensor and cable. So...where do I get the cables for the 2 sensors included in that kit that don't have cables?
  4. Does this robo-tank kit have the possibly bad "Combo AC Power Switch/Fuse/Socket" (from here https://www.robo-tank.ca/forum/Thread-Po...use-Socket)?
  5. I plan on buying 5 "GroBeam Ultima"s (http://www.aquarayusa.com/grobeam.html) and just wanted to confirm that the robo-tank can indeed dim them (pwm).
Thanks in advanced for reading this huge wall of text and helping out! ^___^
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#2
Hi Jeremy, thanks for pointing that out, I'll make some changes to how things are labeled. As you read different things on the site you probably see a pattern of that, unfortunately I have a hard time explaining things. I did notice that "Assembly" header didn't match the others formatting, I haven't taken the time to find where the problem is. If the assembly options are clearer it will make more sense if the small "assembly" isn't noticed.

Answers. :)
  1. Yeah the full assembly has the VGA patch cables soldered and include mounting the circuit boards, different patch cables and wiring up the AC 8 outlet power bar. That takes the bulk of the time as there's a lot of wires to cut, strip and crimp. Basically there is nothing left for you to do but label the case ports and wire up the 3 temp sensors. As you know one has wire which you simply screw in place on the connector and the other 2 add wire and do the same.
  2. That link you posted is the mod I'm talking about. There will be some components missing and on the bottom of the board I solder some jumpers. It's done to last and no messy wires or anything like that. There would be one other mod for each of the flow meter ports, this would be a resistor soldered across the connector on the inside, you wouldn't see this once the boards are in the box and they don't get in the way.
  3. You're correct on the extra parts required with that kit, I haven't been able to find affordable cable that looks good so its basically the same cost to take another sensor, cut it off and use the cable. So if you don't have or can't find cable that would be my only solution. A lot of people use cat5 wire but its not as nice because its stiff and thicker.
  4. Definitely not. I immediately got some good 15amp switches. The ones I have don't light up though.
  5. Unfortunately I don't have an answer for this, these light manufacturers make it very difficult. None of them specify which signal type and voltage they use to dim and they don't include any external connections to use an external controller. For sure you would have to open the lights and connect wires to the ballasts so the controller can do its thing. Obviously that scares a lot of people, its a little difficult to start hacking expensive lights. The only nice one that I know of to work with is from Kessil, it has an external connector and states the signal type used. http://kessil.com/aquarium/Freshwater_A360.php
Hope that helps, if you have more let me know.
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#3
5. In those light description says "Future-proofed with built-in capability and compatibility for digital control including timing and dimming" so i think it has some kind of port or something to external controller.

Also they sell controller to it, so i think there is good changes that is working with robotank, but clearly im not 100% sure

http://aquaraylighting.co.uk/aquaray-control/
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#4
Thanks Niksu, I just emailed them to find out.
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#5
Thanks Rob and Nisku! I should have also linked the two TMC controllers that they sell for their lights. Their "smart controller" is $400 and only has 4 channels! I figured for $100 more I might as well have a full aquarium controller and this is the best I've found that has PWM. ^___^
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#6
I missed the controllers, it does say its PWM, hopefully its 0-5v. I'll let you know when I hear back from them. Yes I know I'm giving the controller away, hopefully one day I can have things setup so I can start overcharging as well. :) Must be nice to get away with that lol...
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#7
Additional information:
http://aquaraylighting.co.uk/downloads/
http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/...controller

http://aquaraylighting.co.uk/wp-content/...INGUAL.pdf
says
"
Input: 24V DC 5A
Output: 8 x 15.5-19.5V DC 0.7A (0-100% PWM)
"

Rob: "None of them specify which signal type and voltage they use to dim and they don't include any external connections to use an external controller. "

So I suppose the voltage required by the lights is 15.5-19.5V DC @ 0.7A.
I'm not sure what you meant by signal type?
As far as the connection I saw a video about the TMC controller which led me to believe the TMC lights plug into the controller via a USB cable.
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#8
The 3rd link I haven't seen yet, in there it says this, not really sure what it means though but least its a number that looks good to me. 

Quote:The SmartControl 8 can be connected to any external
lighting controller or aquarium computer with a 1-10V
output and it will slave from that signal

The voltage you referenced is likely the input voltage to power the lights, doesn't necessarily mean the signal needs to be that high although it could. Until recently I assumed if something used PWM it would be 0-5v or 0-10v however I came across a light that requires 0-15v or something. So it could be any range it response to. If it uses 1-10v like the controller can switch to then it'll be ok. I have a converter board that will output that voltage range.

I didn't notice that USB plug, that would be easy if it can be used. Just get a patch cable, cut one end off and plug into controller using the screw terminal connectors that come with it.
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#9
Hm. Near as I can tell the lights need 19.5V. Are there devices/circuits that can up the PWM voltage out of the robo-tank from 5V to 19.5V?

I searched a bit (not really knowing what I'm looking for) and came across this: https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/e...ND/6137684 the price is high considering I'd want 16 (1 for each PWM channel on the robo-tank) AND I noticed the Current - Output (Max) is 42mA. GroBeams are 12W each. P=VI, 12W=19V*I (that component is 19V output and not 19.5V), 12/19=0.63157894736842105263157894736842 or about 632mA...well over the max 42mA which that component supports.
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#10
Sorry for taking so long to reply, I was out of town yesterday and just got back.

That link for the converter won't work, as I can tell its just a DC-DC isolated converter. A circuit can be created to up the 5v PWM signal from the controller to 19v if necessary but we don't technically know its 19v. I do have a converter board that will up the 0-5v PWM to 0-10v PWM. I think that 19v is the input for powering the actual LED's, they require more power, the ballast supplies a separate wire to control dimming which would connect to the controller along with a common ground.

I did receive a response yesterday from Tropical Marine Centre, this is typically the response I get from light manufacturers, they never answer my questions about voltage or signal type.

Quote:Good morning Rob
Thank you for your email.  The Grobeam Ultima lights are only compatible with either the 2-channel controller or the 8-way smart controller we supply.

Code 1999:  AquaRay 2 Channel Controller @ £69.99 RRP. This is can be used to control 2 strips or one tile.   It has two outputs and each output can run up to 24W. The right PSU will be needed depending on what is being run. It features the ability to have daylight, moonlight and off phases within the set photoperiod, and gives a power readout (Watts).

Code 1997UK 8 way Smart controller @  £249.99 RRP  This can be used to control  8 x Aquabeam/Grobeam strips or MiniLED tiles, 4 x Aquabeam/Grobeam tiles or any combination.  Please see some information on both attached.

Kind Regards

Unfortunately anything else I say is just guessing, without a light there isn't a way to tell unless you can get that info from the manufacturer.
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#11
"I think that 19v is the input for powering the actual LED's, they require more power, the ballast supplies a separate wire to control dimming which would connect to the controller along with a common ground."

Agreed, 19.5V is the input for powering the actual LED's. I watched several videos on youtube of the GrowBeam and of the TMC Controller...didn't find a separate control wire. Then I had a light-bulb above my head moment: I realized USB connectors have something like 4? wires in them. So the control wire is probably just "hidden".

Then! I had another light-bulb moment and realized it's extremely likely only 2 wires are used in the USB connection (for power) because I had seen and read about an adapter you plug into your lights or controller if either are the "older" version. The older version cables are 2 wire only connections. Here's a picture: http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/...supply.jpg (the adapters are at the bottom =P).

So I'm very convinced at the moment that the setup is: Power supply/transformer > Controller > LED's. I strongly believe the LED's draw 100% of their power from the controller up to 19.5 volts and that the power is turned on/off at varying frequencies for PWM dimming.

In any case it sounds like you believe the robo-tank could be setup to control the lights via PWM without the TMC controller huh? That's great news, I barely got my wife to "be ok" with the $400 for the TMC controller and then the $500 (ish) for the robo-tank...no way she'd let me get both haha.

Also no worries on the late response. I expect no/very late responses when dealing with forums/emails/etc haha. Certainly appreciate how promptly you've been responding. ^^
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#12
I have this same lighting and the smart controller 8 gives you a 1-10v PWM option:
Directly from the manual:
1-10V Control
The SmartControl 8 can be connected to any external lighting controller or aquarium computer with a 1-10V output and it will slave from that signal.To enable this mode, simply navigate through the menu system on the controller and turn 1-10V to ON. Cables to connect to various devices are sold separately. If you wish to make your own cable,
connect via the female type A USB connector on the temperature sensor cable, where Pin 1 is 1-10V and Pin 4 is GND (see diagram).
Tropical Marine Centre does supply a male Type A USB to 2 core bare ended cable to help with this task (supplied separately). Contact your local retailer for further details.


However the controller is expensive. This makes me think we could hack it somehow and controll the lights directly. I'm just not sure how to start.
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#13
What if you guys just use those http://www.tme.eu/en/details/ldd-1500l/d...mean-well/ Robotank can control those, and then you can hook up your lights to it ? Or am i understand this completly wrong :D
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#14
Yeah the USB cables have 4 wires in most cases, if a light is 2 channels then its possible the signal wire is going through that cable. Only thing that's hard to know is what's the maximum voltage being used for the PWM frequency. Maybe they are using the full 19v as the other light I got specs for used 15v I think which was close to the power going in. The only way to know is to put a volt meter on the signal wire and see what the voltage is when the controller's on high.

I do believe the controller can dim any voltage of PWM signal with a converter but that's where it gets difficult for me. Electronics isn't my strong point so it would be trial and error. I just checked the specs for the IC that does the conversion and its good for up to 32v so its possible the input voltage only needs to be increased to the 19v and it would put out 19v in a PWM signal. I can check one of them by adding more voltage and see what comes out.

Hi Chris, you like ripping lights apart don't you...  K05163  I read that in the manual but wasn't sure what "The SmartControl 8 can be connected to any external lighting controller or aquarium computer with a 1-10V output and it will slave from that signal." really means, is it taking that voltage and increasing it to match the lights? That's what I wonder.

If the SmartControl actually puts out a 1-10v PWM signal to the light then it shouldn't be hard to connect to the controller, just need to figure out wires in USB cable. I think you have one of those signal board converters from me, if you set the jumpers to 0-10v PWM it should be a direct connection to the light. I would first open the light if possible to see the USB connections, see which pin goes to the ballast which would be the signal wire. Then power up the light using its own DC adapter, find out which pins on the USB are power and ground. Then you should know which pin is for the signal to dim. Then it should be just a matter of running a ground from the controller to any DC ground on the light (for a common ground) powering up the light and connecting that signal wire to the output on the small converter board.
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#15
(02-23-2017, 08:39 PM)niksunen Wrote: What if you guys just use those http://www.tme.eu/en/details/ldd-1500l/d...mean-well/ Robotank can control those, and then you can hook up your lights to it ? Or am i understand this completly wrong :D

A quick look that could be a great find, I'm going to read up on it now.
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#16
"The SmartControl 8 can be connected to any external lighting controller or aquarium computer with a 1-10V output and it will slave from that signal."

I think that inside "smartcontrol" is same kind devices like thos ldd, and it controls those light independently, but if you want you can enable function, which monitor incoming 1-10v pwm data, and use it to control "inside chips". But this is just something that i think of :D
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#17
OK I'll get my electronic scalpel out tomorrow and see if I can figure something out.
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#18
(02-23-2017, 08:46 PM)niksunen Wrote: "The SmartControl 8 can be connected to any external lighting controller or aquarium computer with a 1-10V output and it will slave from that signal."

I think that inside "smartcontrol" is same kind devices like thos ldd, and it controls those light independently, but if you want you can enable function, which monitor incoming  1-10v pwm data, and use it to control "inside chips". But this is just something that i think of :D

I get confused easy with this stuff. Now looking at that LDD-1500 I'm pretty sure that's just a driver, you would use that if you build your own lights. I should have known that I use LDD-700's for my light. The number is just how much current they can handle. I don't think they can be used to change the PWM output voltage but I'm never sure.

Thanks Chris, if you can confirm the dimming wire going between internal USB port and driver I would use the 5v PWM signal coming from controller this way nothing could be damaged. Since the max is 5v it should still dim but not light up full as it probably needs 10v so 5v should be 50% brightness.
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#19
Chris I know/knew you can hook up the lights+light controller+robo-tank. The main reason I was stoked to find the robo-tank is because I could spend a little more and have an aquarium controller that would also control my lights...gets way too pricey if I also have to buy the TMC controller.

"However the controller is expensive. This makes me think we could hack it somehow and control the lights directly. I'm just not sure how to start." 100% agreed!

I think niksunen is on the right track with the LDD-1500, the only number that doesn't seem to line up to me is the input voltage of the LDD at 6-30V (robo-tank outputs 5V) but I suppose Rob has mentioned he's able to up the V to 10 so that shouldn't be a problem.

Chris could you check the output voltage of your TMC controller at 100% lighting setting?
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#20
(02-23-2017, 09:22 PM)jeremyh Wrote: Chris I know/knew you can hook up the lights+light controller+robo-tank. The main reason I was stoked to find the robo-tank is because I could spend a little more and have an aquarium controller that would also control my lights...gets way too pricey if I also have to buy the TMC controller.

"However the controller is expensive. This makes me think we could hack it somehow and control the lights directly. I'm just not sure how to start." 100% agreed!

I think niksunen is on the right track with the LDD-1500, the only number that doesn't seem to line up to me is the input voltage of the LDD at 6-30V (robo-tank outputs 5V) but I suppose Rob has mentioned he's able to up the V to 10 so that shouldn't be a problem.

Chris could you check the output voltage of your TMC controller at 100% lighting setting?

You dont input that robotank 5v pwm signal to ldd input pins :) There is pwm pin for that :)  So that  6-30V  is using to lights.

There is how you hook it up 

   

Like you see there is designated pin for that pwm signal :) 

   
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