visual basic barcode scanner input BUILDING A BALANCE SYSTEM WITH A MERCURY SWITCH in Software

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BUILDING A BALANCE SYSTEM WITH A MERCURY SWITCH
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You can construct a simple but practical balance system for your robot using two small mercury switches. You want mercury switches that will open (or close) at fairly minor angles, perhaps 30 35 or so just enough to signal to the robot that it is in danger of tipping over. You may have to purchase the switch with these specifications through a specialty industrial parts store, unless you re lucky enough to find one on the used or surplus market. Mount the switch in an upright position. If the level of the robot becomes extreme the switch will trigger. You can directly interface the switch to an I/O (input/output) line on a
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SENSORS TO MEASURE TILT 681
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FIGURE 41.1 A typical ball-in-cage switch.
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PC or microcontroller. However, you ll probably want to include a debounce circuit in line with the switch and I/O line since mercury switches can be fairly noisy electrically. A suitable debouncer circuit is shown in 29.
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BUILDING A BALANCE SYSTEM WITH A BALL-IN-CAGE SWITCH
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The four-conductor ball-in-cage switch is a rather common find in the surplus market, and it s very inexpensive. If the switch is tilted in any direction by more than about 25 30 , at least one of the four contacts in the switch will close, thus indicating that the robot is off level. You can use a debouncer circuit with the ball-in-cage tilt sensor. Because the ball-in-cage sensor has four contacts (plus a center common), you can either provide independent outputs of the switch or a common output. With independent outputs, a PC or microcontroller on your robot can determine in which direction the robot is tilting (if two contacts are closed, then the ball is straddling two contacts at the same time). However, unless you come up with some fancy interface circuitry, you ll need to dedicate four I/O lines on the PC or microcontroller, one for each switch contact.
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682 EXPERIMENTING WITH TILT AND GRAVITY SENSORS
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Conversely, with the common output approach you can wire all the outputs together in a serial chain. The switch will close if the ball touches any contact. This approach uses only one I/O line, but it deprives the robot of the ability to know in exactly which direction it is off level. A variation on this theme is to use resistors of specific values to form a voltage divider. When you connect the resistors to an I/O line capable of analog input (an analogto-digital converter, for example), you can easily determine by the changing voltage at the input which contact switch has been closed.
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Using an Accelerometer to Measure Tilt
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One of the most accurate, yet surprisingly low-cost, methods for tilt measurement involves an accelerometer. Once the province only of high-tech aviation and automotive testing labs, accelerometers are quickly becoming common staples in consumer electronics. It s quite possible, for example, that your late-model car contains at least one accelerometer if not as part of its collision safety system (such as an airbag), then perhaps as an integral part of its burglar alarm. Accelerometers are also increasingly used in high-end video game controllers, portable electric heaters, and in-home medical equipment. New techniques for manufacturing accelerometers have made them more sensitive and accurate yet also less expensive. A device that might have cost upwards of $500 a few years ago sells in quantity to manufacturers for under $10 today. Fortunately, the same devices used in cars and other products is available to hobby robot builders, though the cost is a little higher because we re not buying 10,000 at a time! In the following two sections, I ll show you how to construct highly accurate angle sensors using either of two affordable accelerometers from semiconductor maker Analog Devices. Both accelerometers are available through a number of retail outlets, and neither requires extensive external circuitry. While the text that follows is specific to the accelerometers from Analog Devices, you may substitute units from other sources after making the appropriate changes in the circuitry and computer interface software.
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