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In my new shop, I hadn’t properly set up my dust collection system. With this blank slate, I had an opportunity to improve on my older automated system that worked off a key pad. I wanted the ability to simply turn on a tool and the dust collector would fire up and all the blast gates to close like they should.
In a shop with many tools, there are valves that can isolate the suction to help improve air flow, the more tools you have, the more gates you would have to close in order to use one tool. With the help of an Arduino micro controller, I was hoping to automatically control these gates and have the DC turn on and off with the tool.

There are commercially available systems that do this, but they are expensive and don’t offer a way to add additional IoT functions later. Eventually, I’m hoping to connect the system to other sensors set up around the room to make the ultimate workshop of the future!

I started by laying out the pipes that would connect the DC to each tool in the most efficient way. I found some drainage piping at Lowe’s which was much cheaper than traditional PVC pipe. Because the walls of this drainage pipe were thinner than regular PVC, most of the blast gates and fittings wouldn’t connect.  Josh designed and 3d printed a bunch of adapters to connect the whole system together. After connecting all of the tools to the pipes and fittings, we played it safe and added a ground wire from one of the pipes to an existing ground wire in the basement. This is said to prevent static buildup which could be dangerous in a dusty environment, so I added it just in case.

With the ducting in place, I focused on the sensors that would read the amperage spike when each tool is turned on.  I made a housing that the tools would plug into to receive power and also connect to the voltage detector that connects to the Arduino. Once you turn on a tool, an amperage spike is detected and an input signal tells the Arduino to shuttle the appropriate blast gates and to trip the relay that controls the DC. The blast gates are controlled by a servo mounted on a bracket that swings an arm connected to the gate. When the servo moves, the arm pushes or pulls the gate open or closed.

There are a lot of components to this system so managing all of the wires, plugs, connectors, and servos was very important. All of the connecters were pinned and protected with heat shrink, all of the wires were bundled and labeled, and the servos were dialed in to make sure the gates weren’t hitting any hard stops.

The system works great except for one component that kept giving us trouble. The 15 amp relay that was controlling the dust collector would fail after a few days. After some research, I discovered that they were a bit underpowered for the 2 horsepower DC. I have ordered a beefier relay and when we get it hooked up and working, it’ll be listed here. If you want the Arduino code for I made for this project, you can find it here.

I hope this project inspires you streamline your workflow and find ways to improve efficiency in your shop or home. If you liked this type of project, there are more videos in the playlist above!

  • Jay

    Do you have any issues with sawdust sticking to the pvc because of static electricity?

    • AJ Campea

      No he doesn’t because in his video he talks about that issue but he resolves it by putting a screw in the pipe. Then he grounds the screw to the main ground of his house.

  • jmo

    Do you have actual circuit diagrams or high level design layout for the electronics here? Maybe I missed those. Great video and really like the work!

  • Hans

    Nice project – it has surely inspired me! It seems to me however that the ACS712 board is not really designed to run with mains voltage – the isolation is nowhere near correct for the high voltage. I would much rather use a current sense transformer to keep isolation.

  • rollinns

    I really like these kinds of “set it and forget it” type projects, they can take a decent amount of time to set up, but you save time on every project afterwards and that adds up quickly, Please do more like this.

    With servo controlled gates spread out all over the shop, and only 1 arduino. Are there any problems caused by the long length of wires needed to reach the gate servos?

    Signal problems?

    lack of power by the time it reaches the servo?

    Again, Bob, thanks for your work, it’s appreciated.

  • Brian Rees

    You got me interested in this concept of auto blast gates with your prev keypad video. I have no exp with arduino but I did get an uno and some servos to play around with. Im not seeing any link to your Arduino code above..can you send to me? What im ultimately trying to do is make a servo motor turn blast gate (to open) and return back (close) based on whether a contact is open or closed. Im just not sure what the simplest way to achieve that is. I saw this on AMZ but SparkFun Servo Trigger Link: http://a.co/4oLVmmG
    I already have a Control4 system that does turn on/off vac when tools turn on/off – just need to trigger the servo motor to open and close the gate – via a contact switch (which I can trigger thru Control4 programming)

  • Chad Gehring

    Seems the link to the code is missing. Is there another source for it?