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Thread: DIY Automated Dust Collector System- over my head?

  1. #1
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    DIY Automated Dust Collector System- over my head?

    Hi Folks,

    I'm finally nearing the completion of my basement shop build out an will soon be ready to move machines in.

    Dust collection was a big focus of my project. I've built a sound-proofed closet, cast some concrete trenches in the floor for ducting, etc. Now I'm turning my attention to ducting, blast gates, and switching the central DC and vac on and off. I'm considering a fully-automated blast gate system and could use help determining whether this is over my head... and if not, advice to get me started on the journey of self-education.

    My setup:


    • 3HP cyclone, will be plumbed with 6" duct
    • DIY central vac cyclone (using an oneida dust deputy and a tangential bypass motor from household central vac systems). This will be used for handheld sanding machines, a domino (someday!), handheld routers, my TS blade guard, vacuuming the floor, router table fence pickup, etc)
    • Both of the above will be vented outside (I have a high efficiency furnace, an electric water heater, CO detectors, no close by neighbors, and a relatively mild climate- don't worry, I did my homework)
    • Blast gates in the wall for make-up air
    • The usual hobby machinery- cabinet saw, router table, BS, Jointer/Planer combo, a drum sander, oscillating spindle sander, two dewalt RASs, etc.


    I'm starting down the path of deciding how to control the dust collection system.


    1. At one end of the spectrum, is a fully-automated system. Pneumatically controlled blast gates that open automatically when I turn on the corresponding machine, DC that turns on automatically when I turn on the machine, and make-up air blast gates that open/close depending on whether the DC is running. This is over the top of course for a hobby shop. But when I think about my dream shop, this is one of the elements.
    2. At the other end of the spectrum, I'd just use remote controls for the vac and DC, and manually operate the blast gates. K.I.S.S., as they say.
    3. And in between those two options, I'm considering wiring up a low voltage switch system to turn the DC and vac on and off... and maybe a defeat switch that won't let the DC turn on if the make-up air gates are closed, and some annoying blinky lights to tell me that the make-up air gates are open (so I don't forget to close them)


    My biggest concern isn't so much the time savings and convenience. It's more that I'm a forgetful person and often leave blast gates open, etc. I can also see myself forgetting to open/close the make-up air blast gates. While I do have a relatively mild climate, I want to keep the basement warm in the winter. Past experiences with venting outside have led me to conclude that concerns about heating loss are overblown (at least for my climate). But I don't want to leave the make-up air gates open for a week, or forget to open them and choke my DC. Furthermore, the cluster of machines around my TS will be laid out in such a way that the blast gates will be difficult to access.

    I've looked at the commercially available systems (iVac, nordfab, green gate). iVac and Green Gate only seem to sell 4" blast gates, and Nordfab is prohibitively expensive. I've read all of the write-ups I can find online, and it seems that the blast gates themselves aren't all that complicated or expensive to make yourself.

    But I get completely lost when it comes to the electronics though. Most of the write-ups seem to be from engineers who understand this stuff, and do their write-ups with the assumption that their readers have a reasonable amount of prerequisite knowledge... which I definitely do not have

    I'm not asking to be spoon fed, but I could use some direction on where to start the research and self-education process. Here is my understanding of the components I'd need for a fully-automated system:


    1. pneumatic cylinders for the blast gates, and related tubing and fittings for the runs. I would use the spring-loaded cylinders to simplify, so that I only need oneair line to each blast gate.
    2. Voltage sensors at each machine, wired to a circuit board or switch board of some kind that will tell the right blast gates to open, and the DC and/or vac to turn on and off
    3. A manifold connecting the compressor to a series of electronic valves, which are connected in some way to the voltage sensors, which send air to the correct blast gates to open them.
    4. A low voltage contactor or relay to power the 30 amp 220v and 20 amp 110 volt DC and vac, respectively
    5. Some kind of time delay device, which keeps the DC running and the blast gates open for 10 seconds or so after I've shut off a machine (to clear the lines)
    6. I'm thinking that it might simplify things to put the make-up air blast gates on a separate circuit or switch box, so they are simply triggered by the DC or central vac turning on or off.


    So finally to my questions:
    First, is this over my head? Should this be left to a professional electrician / engineer / brainiac?

    Second, am I missing any general components?

    Third, what are the official names of the components I'm attempting to describe?

    Fourth, where should I look for said components?

    Fifth, any questions I should be asking, but am to uneducated to ask ("unknown unknowns", to quote Rumsfeld)?

    Thanks in advance, especially if you've read this far.

    Peter
    Last edited by Peter Aeschliman; 03-25-2017 at 1:47 PM.

  2. #2
    I don't think it would be over your head to do the fully-automated system. The advantage of the fully-automated system is that you never forget or "cheat" - I always find myself thinking, "Oh, I have to lean over to open this blast gate and since it's just a quick cut...", or forgetting to close it, or whatever.

    The current sensors to detect when a machine is on are a nice luxury, but you could more easily just rig up a toggle switch (placed next to the machine's power switch) for each machine. Not that the current sensors are excessively tricky, but if you were trying to simplify...

    You don't necessarily need spring-return cylinders. Most manifolds have two ports going to the cylinder, and they sell tubing that is 2 tubes side-by-side just for this purpose. I'd also suggest just buying blast gates and attaching the cylinders to them. The DIY blast gates are easy, of course, but it could save some time...

    I always thought that a little 12v emergency tire inflator would make an excellent air source for something like this. Maybe a piece of copper pipe as a "tank" for the air. No need to bother hooking a permanent line up to your big air compressor, since these gates use so little air volume.

    Pneumatics are really fun to work with, and the components available on the surplus market are super inexpensive for the quality/functionality/ease-of-use.

  3. #3
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    [Moderators, my apologies! I just realized that i posted this to General Woodworking rather than Workshops. Please move the thread if you don't mind!]

    Thanks Dan!!

    I'm back to researching PLCs, arduinos, contactors, relays, solonoids, etc. Pretty overwhelming. I've started this research numerous times in the past and have gotten frustrated and have given up. Hopefully I can persevere this time, because it would be such a cool thing to have in the shop.

  4. #4
    I'd suggest breaking the system into discrete pieces and seeing what sorts of interfaces are necessary, and it might help simplify things.

    For instance, each blast gate gets 2 hoses ran to it. Those hoses run to a valve. If you have x blast gates, you buy a manifold with x valves. Each valve is controlled by a 12V signal (for instance). The DC and vac can be controlled with contactors with a 12V inputs. Each machine could have a switch or current sensor that outputs y volts. At this point, you just have a logic problem: how to get the 12v signal to the contactor(s) and valves to respond appropriately to the inputs from the switches or current sensors. A little Arduino might be perfect for that - it would let you program how long the DC/Vac stays on after a tool is turned off, how long the intake air vents stay open, etc.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Friedrichs View Post
    I'd suggest breaking the system into discrete pieces and seeing what sorts of interfaces are necessary, and it might help simplify things.

    For instance, each blast gate gets 2 hoses ran to it. Those hoses run to a valve. If you have x blast gates, you buy a manifold with x valves. Each valve is controlled by a 12V signal (for instance). The DC and vac can be controlled with contactors with a 12V inputs. Each machine could have a switch or current sensor that outputs y volts. At this point, you just have a logic problem: how to get the 12v signal to the contactor(s) and valves to respond appropriately to the inputs from the switches or current sensors. A little Arduino might be perfect for that - it would let you program how long the DC/Vac stays on after a tool is turned off, how long the intake air vents stay open, etc.
    Makes total sense. I'm confident that I can figure out everything except the arduino piece fairly easily. I don't know how to write code, although I know the arduino is considered fairly remedial and there's a lot of open source code available.

  6. #6
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    I went with Grngate - very satisfied. All automatic, nothing to remember to change - works great with my Jet 2hp collector. Not the cheapest, but basically plug and play.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Molaver View Post
    I went with Grngate - very satisfied. All automatic, nothing to remember to change - works great with my Jet 2hp collector. Not the cheapest, but basically plug and play.
    I like the idea of buying the grn gate system. Only hang up is that they don't seem to offer 6" blast gates, which I'd need for some of my machines. I suppose I might be able to hack their electronics and connect some DIY 6" gates. Not sure though.

  8. #8
    IMO - Keep it simple.

  9. #9
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    I have to agree with Josh...and that's what I personally did after playing with various "multiple remotes" type things. I have a single, centrally located switch in my shop to turn the cyclone on and off. (It's a 120v circuit that triggers a contactor which in turn controls the power to the cyclone in the closet) As an individual woodworker, I'm only one to five or six steps away from that switch from anywhere in the shop and I don't find it inconvenient in any way. And it's just another way to keep the pace sedate since rushing results in mistakes or worse. Inexpensive, too.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
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    I have a single remote for my 5 hp cyclone and it works fine for me. I thought about an automated system but the cost and especially the time to install and work was the too big downside.

    However, if you want one then do it. For a hobby shop, it is whatever makes you happy.

  11. #11
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    Some folks paint their cabinets to match their favorite tool brand colors, some display tools on peg board with outlines indicating each position, some have armor-plate look floor tiles, etc. My shop is not large enough that taking a few steps to reach a gate is an issue for me; that is not the point. If having an automated gate system is a goal for your shop I say more power too you. Like others, the cost versus the benefit and the potential maintenance down the line doesn't pay off for me . . . I also have shop cabinets made from materials and tools in colors that do not match each other ;-)
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  12. #12
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    Why use air to operate blast gates, not electricity? Your control electronics are going to be electric, so why not use electric motors to operate the gates? You don't have to make sure the compressor has run. If the controller runs, the motors run. And wires are easier to route around the shop than air hoses.

    BTW, iVac does sell 6" blast gates. part number MBG-06-NA.
    Last edited by Jamie Buxton; 03-26-2017 at 11:57 AM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Frank View Post
    However, if you want one then do it. For a hobby shop, it is whatever makes you happy.
    Yeah, that's where I land. There's no logical reason for wanting to do this at all. My shop isn't a high output production facility, and to Jim's point, it's really not hard to just flip a switch and open/close a few blast gates.

    I think it will be a great introduction to electrical circuits and programming, and will make me smile every time it works!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie Buxton View Post
    Why use air to operate blast gates, not electricity?
    An excellent question to which I don't yet have an answer. The difference between a relay and servo (or similar device), vs. a solonoid and a pneumatic cylinder might come down to cost and reliability. But I haven't done the research yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie Buxton View Post
    BTW, iVac does sell 6" blast gates. part number MBG-06-NA.
    Aha. I got grn gate and iVac mixed up. $250 each though- yikes. I could build my own for probably $50 or less.

  15. #15
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    So.. For the KISS approach, you use manual blast gates, and a remote control of sort sort to turn the cyclone on/off. A radio-based remote is nice in that it means you don't need to run wires -- again KISS. For the make-up air, perhaps you make/buy a blast gate. It gets operated by the same relay that operates the cyclone; when the cyclone is on, the make-up air gate is open, and when the cyclone is turned off, the make-up air gate closes.

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