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Thread: Options for automated blast gates

  1. #1
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    Options for automated blast gates

    Based on my research I have found a few options for automated blast gates. There may be more, if so, please link.
    1. Pneumatic linear - pnuematic cylinder to open a linear slide gate (us-duct)
    2. Motor driven linear leadscrew - similar to pnuematic linear using a leadscrew instead of cylinder rod (sorry, I couldn't find a mfr)
    3. Motor driven linear rack and pinon - use a motor to drive a rank and pinon gear setup to move the gate (iVac)
    4. Motor driven swing gate rack and pinon - use a motor to drive a a rack an pinon on a gate the rocks from a pivot point oppposite the motor (ecogate and grngate)

    I can and plan to build my own. The manufacturers listed are only for reference (sorry, pictures not working, don't know why).

    Both the pnuematic and motor leadscrew have options of inline with the gate (us-duct ro nordfab) or on the side of the gate (nordfab, has both options)

    I am trying to decide on the design and drive I'm about to delve into. Being a EE I am leaning towards the motor driven and away from the pneumatic (easier to find a broken wire than a leaking airline ).

    Which design did you use or do you prefer? Which design should I avoid?

  2. #2
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    As an ME my leaning is toward pneumatic. Motors contain precious smoke that can leak out. Fire is also a possibility in a dust handling system. Intrinsicly Safe might lack might. When a blast gate gets stuck will the motor just keep trying?

    How about water power? Or maybe a windmill on the roof with belts and pulleys? Hamsters will work for peanuts. Lots of other options.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bender View Post
    As an ME my leaning is toward pneumatic. Motors contain precious smoke that can leak out. Fire is also a possibility in a dust handling system. Intrinsicly Safe might lack might. When a blast gate gets stuck will the motor just keep trying?

    How about water power? Or maybe a windmill on the roof with belts and pulleys? Hamsters will work for peanuts. Lots of other options.
    The electronics/electrical are no in the, possibly but doubtfully (I didn't do the calculations since the predominant particle size is more than 10x wood flour size) C2-D1-G6 classified area. The electrical controls is outside the ductwork (outside any C2 area) in the unclassified space.

    The circuit for the motor drive contains limit switch with built in cut-off. The programmign could easily contain a timer such that if the limit switch signal is not detected in the amount of time, the motor stops.

    Motors do have the potential to let out the magic smoke. That point is valid to the OP question.

  4. #4
    Spiral Manufacturing has electrically controlled pneumatic blast gates. They are listed in the high pressure section on their home page under blast gates (I can never remember the TOS rules on links).

    Having fixed lots of things built by engineers, I would lean towards pneumatic, mostly because you can hear leaking air, but those leaking electrons are darned sneaky to find.

    Based on your last post, it sounds like this isn't for a hobby shop?

  5. #5
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    Oh, it is for a hobby shop. I just have more knowledge of electronics, electrical systems, and classified hazardous than the average person.

  6. #6
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    You have to balance the cost/complexity with an automated gate system vs whether or not you would actually benefit from it vs just plain enjoying building it out. There have been some pretty kewel setups folks have built over the years to automate gates.

    Honestly, I even abandoned a "remote control" on/off switch for my DC and just use a centrally located wall switch. It's simple. It works. And I also have found over the years that I don't bounce around between machines all that frequently when working a project...flattening, thicknessing, cutting all gets done in batches.
    --

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

  7. #7
    Since I like doing that sort of thing, I had a cool system all planned out for triggering the cyclone when I open up a blast gate, with micro switches on the gates and a 24V relay for the contactor, etc. I had even set up a couple gates with microswitches as a POC. Then when I bought my cyclone, Oneida had a deal where if you bought an extra remote, you could buy as many more as you wanted for $10 a piece. I ended up ordering 5 extra remotes and attached them to the walls around the shop near the machines. It wasn't as fun as wiring up the control system, but it was a whole lot faster (and cheaper). I haven't regretted it in the least.

    Right now my automated method for opening and closing the ceiling mounted blast gate for my table saw is a 4 foot stick. It is inconvenient, but not enough to have changed it for the last 10 years. I'll probably mount a blast gate on the saw when I get around to adding overhead dust collection to the guard.

  8. #8
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    I have the remote on my apron, so turning the DC on and off is no issue, but I could see the value of automatic blast gates. I recently made a bunch of solid wood edge banding. Starting with wide stock of the proper thickness I would route the profile on each long edge, then go to the bandsaw to rip off two strips, then to the jointer to joint each edge, then repeat, and repeat and repeat.

    I ended up leaving all 4 blast gates open (router table, jointer/planer, and 2 for the bandsaw) because it was such a huge pain to keep opening and closing them. Dust collection was just OK (3 HP Oneida). Not nearly as good as it would have been with only the appropriate gate(s) open.

    Granted, I don't do that particular operation often, but there are other times when a similar sequence happens, like making shop sawn veneer.

    I don't see myself ever actually getting around to doing it, but I can appreciate the usefulness.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  9. #9
    I tried building some electronic ones (the leadscrew variety) a few years ago. I built boxes that would plug in-line with the tool, which would sense the current drawn by the tool (when it was turned on) and output +12VDC that would drive the motor to open the gate. When the tool turned off, after some brief delay, the box would output -12VDC to reverse the motor direction and close the gate.

    Note that for an motor-driven design, you need to account for detecting the end of travel. The way I did it was with limit switches. With 2 limit switches and 2 diodes, you can configure it to drive the motor forward until it hits the end-of-travel and opens the circuit, then reverse the voltage polarity for the reverse, and only use a single pair of conductors.

    Ultimately, I threw it all away, though. The gates (necessarily home-built) were sticky. The leadscrews accumulated dust. The motors would stall and get hot. The motors I selected were far less torquey than I expected (given their size). It caused more hassle than it solved. If you're worried about the gate binding, is automating it really helping you any?

    If I were to do it again, I'd do pneumatic. There are so many advantages: self-wiping (no sawdust accumulation), can be safely stalled, high force-to-size, easy to add pneumatic cylinders to off-the-shelf blast gates (much easier than building your own blast gates), etc.

    If the EE in you needs some fun, though, you can use electrically-actuated air valves and build current sense circuits to trigger them.

  10. #10
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    The lead screw accumulating dust, I had not thought of (hence the thread). My concern with the side driven gates (whether pneumatic or electric) if the toque placed on the gate slide to open. But the inline system appears to be much larger (longer), so I not sure I'm a fan of that either. The rack and pinion drive is an interesting option (either linear or swing gate).

    I am NOT looking for auto gates or auto DC start/stop. Push button selection and turn on/off is fine. I'm looking at this because in my latest re-org, three gates are terribly inaccessible to open-close. Not all of my projects execute in a batched order (flattening, thicknessing, cutting). My current projects has had two rounds of jointing, resaw, and thicknessing already and one, maybe two, more rounds to go.

  11. #11
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    My biggest problem has been forgetting to open a blast gate, or leaving another one open. With a 5 HP Oneida it's not the end of the world (although forgetting to open a blast gate or turn on the cyclone for the wide-belt sander is both messy and creates one heck of a large dust cloud), but I would love for things to go automatically.

    Periodically I look at the Ecogate system, but with mainly 6" ducts, and Nordfab ones to boot, the cost is huge.

    DIY pneumatic is tempting, but sounds like a ton of work.
    - Its not that Im so smart, its just that I stay with problems longer. Albert Einstein
    - Welcome to Florida. Where the old folks visit their parents

  12. #12
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    IMO, automatically or manually open the gate just has a different complexity. Not more or less complex, just different. I think manual control is easier to diagnose and build. Pnuematic depends on how you want it to work. If you use spring close cylinder or valves, then while energized the air flows to that one gate and the gate stays open. When you remove the signal (either auto or manual) the air is removed and the gate closes in the case of spring closed cylinder, or the valve switches position and the air is directed to close the cylinder. Toggle switches could be used to open close gates. That gives the option to open multiple gates but means if you only want one gate you must turn on one and turn off the others manually.

    There are many options. Just depends on how you want it to work and how fancy you want it.

  13. #13
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    Instead of leadscrew search for "linear actuator". They are the same thing, but sealed, often with limit switches already installed. Common to find 12 and 24 volt dc and 120 volt ac units on the bay.
    They are often ballscrew and have enough force they will break any thing that is jammed. Either the blockage or the entire blastgate.
    link is some company I never heard of with nice pictures.
    Bil lD.

    https://www.ewellix.com/en/nl/products/linear-actuators

  14. #14
    I just wathced a video where a guy had manual blast gates with low voltage switches on them. The low voltage ran a contacter that turned on the machine. he liked it because he never leaves the gates open since he would hear the collector running. Seemed simple enough.

  15. #15
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    I have seen that, but it doesn't solve the problem (of not being able to easily reach the gates).

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