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Water Level Controller with Reed Sensor

This is a way by which you can monitor the level of fluids like water in a tank. Based on data from the sensor you can control things like solenoids or motors as required or even turn on a buzzer, hooter or annunciator in a control panel. A simple Water Level Controller.


Look at the picture on the right, the float can be a Styrofoam type with a couple of ceramic magnets stuck inside. The float must move freely up and down a long plastic pipe of around 10 mm dia. If the fluid is not water but a solvent then design a non-soluble float or coat the float you made with something like an epoxy resin.

Water Level Controller

Then you need to assemble a small circuit within the long plastic pipe. Many reed relays with a chain of resistors in series has to be inserted in the pipe. The resistor and the glass reed relays should be in different levels of the pipe where you need an alarm or indication. Seal the pipe hermetically at both ends with epoxy resin after taking out a shielded cable of just 2 wires + 1 ground shield.

When the fluid level changes, the float moves up or down with it, when the float moves over a section of pipe where the reed relay is mounted, the magnets on the float make the reed operate and the resistance of the sensor changes.

The resistance is measured and the alarm can be operated as you like. The advantage of this arrangement is the electric circuit does not come in contact with the fluid, no sparking risk.

Reed Relay. It was invented by Dr. W. B. Ellwood at Bell Labs in 1936. Contacts are in a sealed glass tube filled with inert gas like in a bulb, so they do not corrode. It is faster than regular relays and as no spring is used it has a longer mechanical life. The two contacts are ferromagnetic blades plated with rhodium. When you take a magnet close by, the contacts touch each other. You can also put the reed in a coil, then when you energize the coil the reed operates. Used in telecommunication.OKI is one manufacturer of this type of component.

Design and Caution.

When you drive inductive loads you have to use RC snubbers, freewheeling diodes, varistors or zeners. when you drive lamps the cold current is high so use thermistors. The Reed relay is best used in telecom and instrumentation and avoided in power electronics. It can handle high RF frequency as the path of current is straight and footprint small.

Here is a Circuit to Build and Learn this Concepts – This can help make a Water level controller from sump to overhead tank. This can also be used in industrial fluid level control like oils and thick fluids. It may not work with highly viscous fluids or sticky mixes.

Fluid or Water Level with Reed Relays

“When you use the DMM or digital multimeter, try not to use it for high voltages and currents, use external shunts and attenuators instead. If you try to measure 230V AC in the Ohms mode or in the Current mode with the probe in the current socket then you will see fumes in your DMM and a hole in your pocket !!”

– Solderman Talks 1702

Modbus-IDA – Distributed automation systems

Group of individuals and firms supporting and helping the implementation of Modbus communication protocol suite and the evolution to address architectures for distributed automation systems.

Modbus Communication Protocol Suite

Some Activities of the Modbus Organization are …to Encourage, support and evolve …

  • Participation in standards activities worldwide.
  • Leading the evolution of the Modbus protocol and its variants.
  • Modbus across a broad spectrum of physical layers and transmission media.
  • Conformance testing program to insure greater interoperability of Modbus devices.

Some Facts –

Modbus Protocol is a messaging structure developed by Modicon (Schneider Electric) in 1979. It is used to establish master-slave/client-server communication between intelligent devices. It is a de facto standard, truly open and the most widely used network protocol in the industrial manufacturing environment.

The semiconductor industry has implemented a Network Communication Standard and an Object Messaging Protocol using Modbus TCP/IP. This allows SEMI Sensor Bus compatible sensors to communicate with each other using Modbus TCP/IP.

Modbus mMint

The mMINT (Modbus Master INCOM Network Translator) Module is an Eaton accessory product that will provide communication between a Modbus RTU network and an INCOM network.

The mMINT module is a slave device on the Modbus network and as such requires a master that will exchange register objects with the mMINT module. 32 products can be connected to INCOM network port (246 unique addresses maximum).

Two Stage Sequential Timer Docs

The circuit is a two stage sequential timer with auto reset. It can turn a Solenoid On/Off after a Sequence of delays that are preset. This is also a basic example of timer usage in automation.

Design Documents

Source Files Orcad Format

All Timers are 1 – 30 Secs Analog with Presets to adjust with a screwdriver. The Switch, Solenoids and Power supply has to be via terminal blocks or plug-jacks. The PCB may be upto six Square Inches for standard DIP components but with SMD it may be smaller.

Block Diagram :

Sequential Timer Specs

The PCB has to be tested to conform with the circuit, this has to be Meticulous. The Circuit is for the Battery and Solenoid Specified and will have to be modified if battery and solenoid are different. D1 to D4 can be replaced by a 300V 3A Bridge Rectifier Module. F1 fuse could be 2A – 3A Slow Blow depends on Solenoid inrush current. Presets can be with some graduations if possible for ease of adjustments. LED resistors can be a bit lower if more brightness is required.

Four Channel Temperature Alarm Docs

The temperature in a pipe is monitored with four RTD Pt-100 Sensors, The type of probe could be Extruder RTD probes with Bayonet or Compression Fitting, Get it from Omega. To keep costs low you can choose small thin film RTD sensors, they will be fast but on rough usage may break.

Design Documents

Source Files Orcad Format

The time taken to measure the temperature at the 4 points will be less than 4 seconds. An optional display of the measured temperature as shown above can be avoided by using a DMM to adjust the setpoint.

The Analog Timer Module can be set from 0- 30 minutes. If out-a remains high even after set time a out-b alarm goes on to sound a buzzer and flash a LED light.

Block Diagram :

Four Channel Temperature Alarm

It all started with a email from a client like this ……….

“I am looking at an idea for a circuit design; The idea is to sense a temp of 130 degrees and then light an LED and start a timer delay. The delay would be 3 min, after the delay if the temp is still above 130 sound alarm.

With the LED I would like to drive a counter display to show how many times the temp was sensed. I would like powered by 120vac and a 9 volt battery backup for counter circuit. If you can assist please let me know.”

Three Point Preset Counter

This is a prototype of a Preset Counter. It is built with ICM7217. The cabinet is ABS Plastic DIN 96-96. The Panel is Engraved on Acrylic.

I don’t remember for which application it was used. It has three thumbwheel settings, when the proximity switch counts upto the set-value, the corresponding relay turns ON, with a State Indicating LED on front panel.

Three Point Preset Counter

These can be configured sequentially or to work synchronously, this depends on what customer wants. Both modes may give the same result. In sequential operation, Some of these counters-timers may need to wait for an external trigger or feedback from a limit switch or another process like pressure alarm. Then more Input options may have to be provided.

Basic Electronic Digital Circuits

Counters, timers, analog-process and its interconnectivity makes up the various process loops or chain-reactions in Machine control. The various types of sensors for measurement and feedback of analog and event parameters, monitor the mechanical system and communicate the data to the process instruments.

The below circuit is a reference, i used the old intersil hot ideas book. There was no internet then. Databooks were valuable reference material. In the below timer circuit replace the clock with a schmitt trigger signal conditioning, it becomes a event counter or preset counter with thumbwheel input. See photograph above.

ICM7217 Timer and Counter

The Actuators like Drives, Solenoids, Pumps, Valves and Heaters act in accordance to the commands of the control system. This regulates and manages the process or machine to deliver consistent and repeatable yield of the end product.

Control system design Notes

Proportional Controllers not only save energy, they can give a controlled finish or treatment to a job. An on-off controller or thermostat limit protection has to be used in series, this is to to stop a Runaway Process.

control system design

There was a real life instance when a Temperature cycling oven maker (environment chamber), faced large liabilities as an 8086 based profile controller and chart recorder just locked up and all the electronic equipment were roasted. Here even a bimetallic thermostat would have saved the day. Nowadays we have a watchdog timer to prevent such uP mishaps, but still use an analog controller in series as an over temperature trip.

Other Reading

The basics of control system design: Part 1 – Moving beyond PID

“This series of six articles will explore the use of six variations of P, I, and D gains: Proportional Control, Proportional-Integral Control, Psueodo-derivative feedback with feed-forwared (PDFF), PID control, PID+ control, and Proportional Derivative Control.”

Mini RTD Pt100 Three Wire Transmitter

These are the circuits and boards of a Mini Temperature Transmitter for a Platinum hundred ohms temperature Sensor.

Transmitter RTD

The customer wanted a two wire system, this needs low power opamps which were ten times the price. If this transmitter works at 3mA it could have been two wire. Those parts were in short supply and the budget of customer was low. So i made it with regular opamps but three wire. The customer was satisfied as he got a cost effective solution. But now the situation of markets and products are different.

RTD  Three Wire Transmitter

If you need to transmit the temperature from a high voltage area or toxic environment. You will need to hermetically seal the transmitters, convert the Voltage to frequency, frequency to IR LED flashes or RF. This can be then remotely monitored. Then the transmitter has to be battery-solar operated, low power too. ICL7135 is a simple solution. It has a serial output that can be used to Drive IR Leds. Remotely sense these flashes in a Micro-controller and you have a reading. You may be able to use optic-fibers too. Where volatile liquids are present so that the risks of sparks can be eliminated.

3 Wire Transmitter RTD

More at Process Control Circuits

This is the same Mini RTD Pt-100 Transmitter but in its case. Encapsulated in epoxy, hermetically sealed against harsh industrial environment. This will work well even near fumes of Ammonia with no corrosion. But not near vapors which can be ignited by sparking as terminals are still open. The side view shows zero and full scale ten turn bourns trimpots heads, for calibration. After cal it can be sealed with RTV compound.