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Title:
A CONTROLLER FOR ELECTROMECHANICAL DEVICES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/215603
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A controller for electromechanical devices is disclosed, wherein the controller comprises a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a digital signal to an electromechanical device, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that the signal corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element.

Inventors:
ATKIN, Ross (17 Meynell Gardens, London Greater London E9 7AT, E9 7AT, GB)
Application Number:
IB2019/053723
Publication Date:
November 14, 2019
Filing Date:
May 07, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ROSS ATKIN ASSOCIATES LIMITED (17 Meynell Gardens, London Greater London E9 7AT, E9 7AT, GB)
International Classes:
G06F3/0484; G06F3/0488; G06F9/451; H04N5/44
Foreign References:
US20100268426A12010-10-21
US20100138764A12010-06-03
US20120310386A12012-12-06
Other References:
ANONYMOUS: "Competition Challenge Programming Guide (LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS)", 23 August 2016 (2016-08-23), XP055621380, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20190911]
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BIRKETT LONG LLP (Birkett Long LLP, 1 Amphora PlaceSheepen Road, Colchester Essex Co3 3WG, Co3 3WG, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A controller for electromechanical devices, wherein the controller comprises a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a signal to an electromechanical device, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that the signal

5 corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element.

2. A controller according to claim 1, wherein the controller comprises a plurality of control elements, each control element corresponding to a signal provided to an

10 electromechanic al device .

3. A controller according to claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the or each control element

may be a region of a touch sensitive screen device.

4. A controller according to any preceding claim, wherein in the configuration mode, the controller is adapted to provide a user with a plurality of selectable graphical

15 representations which may be chosen as control elements and those control elements may be arranged at locations on a screen.

5. A controller according to claim 4, wherein a screen device is divided into a plurality of notional cells.

6. A controller according to any preceding claim, wherein when a user has

20 completed the configuration of the control elements the controller can be

switched from a configuration mode into a control mode.

7. 7. A controller according to any preceding claim, wherein, in the configuration mode, the controller is adapted to provide a user with a menu to assign an output to the or each control element.

8. A control unit adapted to receive one or more signals from a controller and convert the or each signal into a supply signal for an

electromechanical device.

9. A control unit according to claim 8, wherein the control unit receives a digital

signal from the controller and converts that signal into an analogue voltage.

10. An assembly of electromechanical devices comprising a plurality of electromechanical devices and a controller, wherein the controller comprises a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a digital signal to each of the electromechanical devices, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that a signal corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature

of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control

element. 11. An assembly according to claim 10, further comprising a control unit according to claim 8 or claim 9.

12. Computer software adapted to operate a controller for electromechanical devices, wherein the computer software enables a controller to comprise a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a digital signal to an electromechanical

device, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that the signal corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element.

13. A kit of parts comprising a controller according to any of claims 1 to 7 and at

least one electromechanical device.

14. A kit of parts according to claim 1, further comprising a control unit according to claim 7 or claim 8.

15. A kit according to claim 13 or claim 14, wherein the controller is adapted to include computer software according to claim 12.

Description:
A controller for electromechanical devices

Field of the invention

The present inventive concept relates to controllers for electromechanical devices, to related assemblies of electromechanical devices, and to computer software.

Background to the invention

Products are made available to assist non-specialists in the construction of digitally controlled electromechanical devices. Such non- specialists could be children or young people wishing to experience the engineering process or older individuals or groups engaging in the creation of digitally controlled electromechanical devices as a hobby or to serve a particular purpose in the home or workplace.

Where a digitally controlled electromechanical device has been user constructed a predefined arrangement of control elements in a controller may not be best suited to the characteristics of the device that has been constructed. For example, a user may purchase an“off the shelf’ controller which has control elements relating to features

not used in relation to a particular electromechanical device, or the number of degrees of freedom provided by control elements may be insufficient for the number of independently actuated mechanisms of such a device, or the control elements provided could be of an inappropriate type for a particular mechanism and its use, or the control interface could have an inappropriate layout creating confusion and limiting the usability of the system.

Summary of the invention

The present inventive concept is directed to a controller for electromechanical devices, wherein the controller comprises a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a signal to an electromechanical device, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that the signal corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element.

Thus, a user may create and/or change a correspondence between an actuation of a control element and the signal provided upon actuation. This provides the advantage that the controller may be customised so that the control element and signal are optimised for the electromechanical device concerned.

The controller may comprise a plurality of control elements, each control element corresponding to a signal provided to an electromechanical device. An electromechanical device may receive a signal from more than one control element. For example, one control element may provide a“start” signal to an electromechanical device, and a further control element may provide a“stop” signal to the same electromechanical device. Alternatively or in addition, a single signal from the controller may be provided to more than one electromechanical device.

Thus, an electromechanical device may be provided with a plurality of signals by the controller, wherein the signals are provided in accordance with actuations of one or more control elements of the controller. The or each electromechanical device may be connected to a control unit. The control unit may be adapted to receive one or more signals from the controller and convert them into a supply signal for a particular electromechanical device. Thus, for example, the control unit may receive a digital signal from the controller and convert that signal into an analogue voltage suitable for driving an electric motor or solenoid.

The or each control element may be a region of a touch sensitive screen device. Thus, for example, the control element may comprise a touch sensitive region and a graphical representation of a device or action such as a button, direction arrow, joystick, slider (for example horizontal or vertical) or the like. Actuation of such a control element may be by a user touching such a sensitive region of a screen. On such actuation, the controller would provide the user-determined signal to an electromechanical device.

In the configuration mode, the controller may further be adapted to provide a user with a plurality of selectable graphical representations which may be chosen as control elements and those control elements may be arranged at locations on a screen. Thus, in this mode, a user may place control elements at a plurality of locations on a screen device and determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element. Control elements may be labelled so as to correspond to connections on a control unit.

Accordingly, a user may design a layout of one or more control elements on a screen and determine the nature of the signal which is sent on actuation of the or each control element.

Preferably, in the configuration mode, the controller is adapted to provide a user with a menu to assign an output to the or each control element.

Thus, a user may design a controller which is optimised for the particular arrangement of electromechanical devices.

A screen device may be divided into a plurality of notional cells. A cell may comprise a control element or part thereof. Thus, the screen device may have areas in which there are control elements and areas in which there are no control elements, in accordance with the user’s design selections.

Once a control element is thus positioned, the relationship between the degrees of freedom of the control element and the mechanisms embodied in the digitally controlled electromechanical device can be defined by the user by selecting elements from a second menu or list or similar.

When a user has completed the configuration of the control elements the controller can be switched from a configuration mode into a control mode whereby manipulation of the control elements by the user are translated into signals that are sent wirelessly - for example - to the digitally controlled electromechanical device and translated into the actuation of a mechanism connected to the device, in the manner previously defined by the user.

Digitally controlled electromechanical devices may be user constructed, purchased as a kit or purchased complete and it may be convenient to control them using a smartphone, tablet or similar device featuring a touch screen and wireless connectivity to such electromechanical devices via, for example, Bluetooth (TM).

Suitable electromechanical devices include motors, solenoids and the like. Such devices may in turn be connected to mechanisms such as wheels, levers, cams, propellers, racks and pinions or any other kind of suitable mechanism.

The present inventive concept is also directed to an assembly of electromechanical devices comprising a plurality of electromechanical devices and a controller, wherein the controller comprises a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a digital signal to each of the electromechanical devices, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that a signal corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element.

Such an assembly may include a control unit adapted to receive one or more signals from the controller and convert them into a supply signal for a particular electromechanical device.

The present inventive concept is also directed to computer software adapted to operate a controller for electromechanical devices, wherein the computer software enables a controller to comprise a control element and the controller is adapted to provide a digital signal to an electromechanical device, wherein in a control mode the controller is adapted so that the signal corresponds to an actuation of the control element by a user, and wherein in a configuration mode the controller is adapted so that a user may determine the nature of the signal corresponding to the actuation of the control element.

Brief description of the figures The present inventive concept will now be described in further detail, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 shows in a schematic style a controller exemplifying a controller of the present inventive concept and a wider assembly of the present inventive concept;

Figure 2 shows in a schematic style elements of user activity interacting with a controller of the present inventive concept and software related thereto;

Figure 3 shows a control unit suitable for use with a controller or assembly of the present inventive concept;

Figure 4 shows a chassis having elements of an assembly of the present inventive concept; and

Figure 5 shows an alternative embodiment of a control unit suitable for use with a controller assembly along with wider assembly items.

Detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention

In Figure 1, a representation of a touchscreen device 1, which is a controller with wireless communication capability, is shown in a control made. The device 1 can display a control interface 2 which in turn can be used to control a user constructed digitally controlled electromechanical device 3 by sending wireless signals to a control unit 4. Control unit 4 receives such signals and converts them into supply signals suitable for the connected suitable electromechanical components 6. Thus, one or more suitable connected electromechanical components 6, connected to output ports 5, can be actuated. Suitable electromechanical components may include motors and solenoids, for example. These electromechanical components 6, are in turn connected to mechanisms such as wheels, levers, cams, racks and pinions or any other kind of suitable mechanism 7. Thus, a control signal actuated by the control interface 2 may effect an action by a electromechanical device 6 to act on the physical surroundings via a mechanism 7. A configuration mode is shown in Figure 2, in which the control interface 2 is comprised of a multiplicity of cells. When a user 8 selects a cell 9, a list or menu 10 appears

containing a multiplicity of representations of control elements that could include buttons 11, direction pads 12, two axis joysticks 13, horizontal sliders 14, vertical sliders

15 or other suitable control elements (not shown).

Once the user selects a control element, one or more additional lists or menus 16 may be displayed for each degree of freedom 17 associated with the control element selected. The list or menu contains entries 18 corresponding to the labelled output ports

5 on the control unit 4 (shown in Figure 1). Menu entries 18 can be selected by the user

8, and will be highlighted 19. Suitable menu entries may be symbols, characters or character combinations such as‘Ml’,‘M2’,‘M3’ or‘SF,‘S2’,‘S3’ (not shown).

Once all the degrees of freedom associated with a control element have been assigned to output ports on the control unit the control element (exemplified here as 20) appears in the control interface 2. A complete control interface corresponding to the digitally controlled electromechanical device constructed by the user 8 can thus be created, including a plurality of control elements as desired by the user 8.

When the user 9 switches the control interface from a configuration mode to a control mode, manipulation of any of the control elements 20 will cause a wireless signal to be sent to the control unit containing the state of the control element and the output port that has been assigned to it by the user.

Turning to Figure 3, a control unit 4 comprises a connection 30 to an electrical power source, a micro controller 32, a Bluetooth (TM) radio (not shown) connected to an antenna 34. The micro controller 32 is further connected to electronic components, such as H-bridges 36 and specialised integrated circuits 38 for providing a reversible variable voltage to electrical connections 40. The electrical connections 40 may in turn be connected to DC loads such as motors, other solenoids, relays or the like. The micro controller 32 may also provide power and pulse width modulated control signals to three part electrical connections 42. In turn, the three part electrical connections 42 may be connected to servo motors or other digitally controlled devices such as light emitting diodes, In the embodiment shown in Figure 3, a control unit provides four bipolar electrical connections 40 (labelled Ml to M4) and ten three part electrical connections 42 (labelled S l to S10). In Figure 4, the same control unit 4 as described with reference to Figure 3 is shown as part of a chassis 50 having elements of an assembly of the present inventive concept. Within the chassis 50 the control unit 4 is supplied with electrical energy by a battery pack 52. Bipolar connections 40 of the control unit 4 supply two electric motors 54. In

turn, the electric motors 54 are connected via a gearbox assembly 56 to output shafts

58 which in turn are connected to wheels 60. Thus, in use, the operation of the wheels

60 can be controlled by a signal received by the control unit 4, the signal in turn being received from a controller (not shown).

In Figure 5, a similar control unit 4, as described with reference to figure 3 is shown in an enclosure 61 with output ports 5 labelled with marks 62, corresponding to menu entries 18 in the control interface 2 configuration menu 16, on the enclosure outer surface.

In another envisaged embodiment of a chassis, the chassis may have two servo motors

which are electrically connected to three- part electrical connections on the control unit.

In this embodiment the chassis may be adorned to resemble a humanoid character with a head and mouth that are actuated respectively by the two servo motors which change position in response to control signals sent by the control unit.

In another envisaged embodiment the control unit may be connected to DC motors

present in an existing electric toy, such as a miniature earth excavator, through bipolar electrical connections with changes in the state of the connections (controlled by the control unit and controller) causing those motors to move and change the position of the excavator chassis or arm.

In another envisaged embodiment the control unit may be connected to a low- voltage

household electrical items, such as motorised blinds, through bipolar electrical connections with changes in the state of the connections (controlled by the control unit

and controller) causing the blinds to move up or down.