About this project
Who we are
We are Tenkiv, a next generation science and technology organization. Our objective is to make more energy available with greater intelligence, and our first step forward is the creation of the Tenkiv Building. Based on our breakthrough power system, the Tenkiv Building is an entirely new kind of structure that is highly intelligent and generates more power than it uses. Our power system isn’t made by assembling a bunch of existing parts and using traditional energy processes; it’s something fundamental enough that its development is completely tied to the development of an entirely new mechanism for handling energy - the PII Thermal Mechanism. It’s a dynamic, thermodynamically integrated, reconfigurable, extremely efficient mechanism for collecting, distributing, using, and converting thermal energy. In addition to having the potential to make much more energy available on a global scale, this truly revolutionary technology lays the groundwork for the construction of a massively improved energy, data, and building infrastructure.
What is the Tekdaqc?
Tekdaqc stands for Tenkiv data acquisition and control. The Tekdaqc is an ARM based board with unprecedented performance and affordability. We designed this board to be the heart of the Tenkiv Building’s intelligence and control subsystem, but you can use it for any application that requires collecting analog or digital data, and using that data to control practically anything. The Tekdaqc was designed with the idea of uncompromising performance. Not only does it have precision, accuracy and features not found on any other DAQ board, but it also functions reliably in practical, real world environments in which sensors are scattered around an electrically noisy home, commercial structure, lab or other unoptimized areas. Where ground potentials are likely to vary by tens or even hundreds of volts, and static discharges or large line voltage spikes are a common occurrence, the Tekdaqc will continue to provide reliable ultra low noise performance where virtually all other DAQC boards fail.
Even the most expensive DAQ boards, costing $15,000 or more, can’t handle the strenuous conditions that exist in the real world outside of laboratories or self contained devices. Only a select few boards have channel to channel and channel to ground electrically isolated inputs, but the Tekdaqc has 48 of them. Many boards have 12 or perhaps 16 bit resolution but the Tekdaqc has up to 23.5 bits of noise free resolution. While other boards have processor driven digital outputs that can drive a few milliamps, the Tekdaqc has short circuit protected outputs that can output 240 mA on all 16 channels simultaneously (enough to directly drive small motors, solenoids, large relays, etc.). Some boards have digital inputs that will be damaged by excessive voltages, can only monitor 3.3-5 VDC signals, and must all be at the same ground potential, but the Tekdaqc has 24 optically isolated inputs that can monitor from 3.3 VDC all the way up to 240 VAC. Other boards have serial or USB communications but the Tekdaqc has serial, USB and ethernet (also SPI and I2C), so it can be located far from the user (even accessed over the internet). The Ethernet connectivity also means the system is scalable to virtually any number of boards connected to one PC, Mac, or Android device. This scalability means that there is no limit to the number of sensors you can monitor and devices you can control, and no limit to the size of an installation.
So what are potential applications for the Tekdaqc? Examples of who the Tekdaqc is a perfect fit for are: anyone in the maker community that needs an analog to digital conversion system that provides extreme accuracy and precision, any college or industry lab that is tired of blowing out DAQ boards, anyone who doesn’t want to spend countless hours trying to find the noise source or ground loop that is causing noisy, unusable data, anyone who needs to pick out sub microvolts of change from a 5 Volt signal, or even nanovolts from a smaller signal -- imagine being able to see a microgram change on a kilogram load cell!
If one were to look at a “cost is no object solution” for what the Tekdaqc does, it might be possible to come up with an equivalent by putting together a number of boards and a chassis, but that solution is going to cost more than $20,000. The Tekdaqc was designed to push the boundaries of DAQ technology by providing unprecedented performance, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. We hope that this new technology will open up a whole new world of applications that cannot be addressed with any current DAQ platform.
- Create an open standard for ultra reliable, scalable, and precise data acquisition and control.
- Provide an easy to use, economical platform for real world data acquisition and control.
- Build a user and developer base for this standard, so that it can be more effectively implemented in the Tenkiv Building’s intelligence and control subsystem.
Tek Specs:Analog Inputs
- 32 differential channel to channel and channel to ground isolated analog inputs (400 Volts isolation per channel)
- 24 Bit 30 kSPS very low noise analog to digital converter (TI ADS1256)
- Up to 23.5 bits of noise free resolution (less than 1 part per 8,000,000)
- Input noise as low as 0.03 uV (depending on sample rate)
- Input impedance of 80 MOhm
- 1-64 gain programmable gain amplifier (independent for each channel)
- Input range of 5 Volts at gain of 1 (up to 400 Volts with resistive divider)
- ADC settles in a single conversion
- Open sensor detection and auto calibration
- Screw terminals built in
- 24 optically isolated 3.3-240 VAC or VDC inputs
- Screw terminals built in
- 16 high current outputs (1 amp max 1 output, 240 mA on all 16 outputs)
- 12 VDC or 5 VDC selectable (with included power supply)
- 3.3 - 28 VDC at 250 mA per output with user-supplied power supply
- Outputs current limited (short circuit protected)
- Output circuits over temperature protected
- Output faults, open circuit or overcurrent, reported for each channel
- Screw terminals built in
- 8 pulse width modulated outputs with 4 fault interrupts.
- Arduino compatible host - female header
- TI 32 bit 80mhz M4 (processor on production board could be faster)
- 1MB Flash
- 64KB RAM
- Connector for programming flash
- Industry standard connector for JTAG interface
- SPI I2C
- Logic level UART
- 120-240 VAC auto switching
- Comes pre-programmed ready to run with LabVIEW drivers
- User can create custom firmware for stand alone operation
- Source code included
- Comes with LabVIEW drivers
- Comes with a Java JAR library to interact with the board
- Comes with Windows and Mac software for testing and basic data acquisition
Using the Tekdaqc
We've gone to great lengths to make the Tekdaqc as easy to use as possible. It has a standard ARM core processor (for those who want to write their own application) and we’ve included drivers for Labview (the most widely used software for graphical data acquisition and control) that will allow the user to have the Tekdaqc up and running within minutes.
- Unpack the board and attach the sensors and controllable devices to the included detachable screw terminals.
- Download our latest Labview driver and Labview app and install on your PC or Mac.
- Connect the Tekdaqc to your ethernet switch/hub and configure your network.
- Plug in the Tekdaqc power supply and start reading data and controlling devices.
- You can also easily build custom Labview VIs to perform a huge array of DAQC tasks.
For the more hardcore developers in our community, it is entirely possible to program the built in ARM processor through the serial ports (JTAG) and onto the built in 1MB of flash memory.
What can I do with Tekdaqc?
Any application, experiment or product, that requires analog or digital inputs and/or outputs is a potential use for the Tekdaqc. The Tekdaqc can also be used for home automation, laboratory experiments, robotics, precision measurements, industrial control, solar energy measurement and control, along with anything that requires measurement or control of real world devices.
- Home automation system: The multitude of inputs and outputs, plus the ability to collect data in less than ideal conditions, and the ability to use as many boards as necessary in a single system, makes the Tekdaqc ideal for any sort of automation system.
- Glass blowing, glass bead making, glass fusing or ceramic kiln control: A single Tekdaqc could control 32 separate kilns, annealers, fusing ovens, or crucible furnaces. The Tekdaqc will provide a level of precision and flexibility that is unmatched by any other system, at any price. Imagine monitoring and controlling your kilns from your home or your Android or iOS device!
- Energy control system: This is specifically what we had in mind when we designed the Tekdaqc. Many low-noise isolated inputs to take temperature input from the panels, storage tanks, heat exchangers, hot water temp, cold water supply, outside air temp, valve positions, solar insolation level, etc., and a lot of high current outputs to control pumps, valves, heaters, etc. spread over an electrically noisy structure, along with the durability to run in any environment, trouble free, for years.
- Industrial or laboratory DAQC system: The Tekdaqc was designed to work in the harshest industrial environment yet still produce unprecedented levels of accuracy and low noise. The ability to scale the number of boards in a system to include as many inputs and outputs as necessary for the process, and the ability to place these boards at virtually any distance from the host (even across the internet) makes the Tekdaqc ideal for any industrial automation application.
- DIY Farnsworth fusor monitoring and control system: Measure and control the chamber pressure and deuterium injection, measure neutron emissions, measure and limit voltage and current of fusor. The Tekdaqc would make an all-purpose measurement and control system, instead of a wall of meters and manually operated valves, switches, etc.
What’s the big deal with isolated inputs?
Though the concept is simple, most people, even those who have used A/D converters or DAQ boards in the past, don’t understand the significance of isolation in data acquisition. Most potential users of the Tekdaqc have used a digital multimeter, but few have ever considered the difference between that simple device and a multi channel A/D converter. There are two issues with a multi channel A/D converter that introduce potential problems that aren’t present when using a handheld multimeter.
A multimeter is battery powered so signals are isolated from ground, but the A/D converter on a DAQ board (or built into a processor, like an Arduino board) connects all signals to the same system ground. If you connect the multimeter to a 240 VAC line the entire multimeter circuit is floating at 240 VAC but since you are isolated from the circuitry you get no shock and no current flows through the meter. If you use an A/D converter on an typical DAQ board, or Arduino board, everything connected to the board (every servo, sensor, GPS receiver, etc.) will be connected to the 240 VAC line. If you touch anything connected to the board you will get a 240 VAC shock, but in addition, that 240 VAC signal will likely blow out the first bit of electronics it comes in contact with, or will melt a circuit trace as it finds its way to ground.
If there is more than one channel of the A/D converter connected at given time, and any channel is at a ground potential of more than about 5 volts different than other channels then current will flow from one channel to the next, and the readings on that channel (and potentially on every other channel) will read incorrectly or the A/D converter will be destroyed, possibly along with much of the rest of the circuitry.
So what do we do if we want to measure several channels of data that are at different ground potentials, or at voltages exceeding the range of the A/D converter? We must electrically isolate every channel, power supplies, chassis, ports, etc. The Tekdaqc has 400 Volts of isolation between each channel and the ground. Using the Tekdaqc, you could connect one channel to a sensor that is connected to a 240 VAC line in addition to a separate sensor connected to ground, or another potential and, not only would you not damage the board, you would still get the same ultra low noise, high precision data as if the input was connected to an isolated sensor at the same ground potential as the rest of your circuitry.
Now you may be thinking, in my application I intend to only use sensors that output less than 5 Volts, and all my sensors are connected to the same ground. If you don’t need superb accuracy, and you are operating in a relatively low electrical noise environment you may get good enough data. But if you intend to run sensors at any distance from the A/D converter, or if you have sensors at different ground potentials, or you are in a noisy environment, or you need absolute precision, or you want to measure sensors connected to line voltages, you simply can’t do it with any other DAQ solution.
Risks and challenges
The Tekdaqc is the most sophisticated, sensitive, accurate, and robust DAQC board available. The project has been very complex and time consuming, but Tenkiv has a skilled, innovative team with many decades of experience designing and manufacturing DAQ systems for industrial use. We have several working prototypes with essentially only one real issue: the ethernet driver built into the ARM processor has not met our standard for industrial duty reliability. We are going to redesign that section of the board to incorporate a more reliable ethernet driver, so that it meets our goals of no-compromise reliability.
As with any product early in it’s product cycle there is some potential to run into delays. Anything from parts availability to software drivers could pose unforeseen issues, there is always some potential risk that the final production could be delayed. We intend to ship only when we are convinced that the boards, firmware and software all work as intended.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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