Sunday, October 2, 2011

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)

Cost of the open source paintball board...

I have been asked a time or two about the cost of the OSPB, so I thought I would do a running total of the cost. The below would be if YOU MADE YOUR OWN. If it was ever sold commercially the costs would be totally different because someone else would be doing all the work/assembly/testing!

I will try to update this post to reflect costs as they arise, but so far thats what they appear to be!

This also assumes you have the tools to assemble (so far a drill, soldering iron, laser printer)

Arduino Nano - 25.00$

2 Sided Copper Clad PCB - 4.19$ (Your gonna have alot left over!)

PCB Etchant - 10.49$ (Your gonna have alot left over!)

NPN Transistors - 0.72ea x2 = 1.44$

Voltage Regulator - 2.80$

2 Pole Connectors - 1.35ea x4 = 5.40$

4 Pole Connectors - 1.81$

6 Pole Connectors - 1.85$

TOTAL = 52.98$

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)


So im narrowing down board designs and wiring. Here are some of my observations so far.

Linear Voltage Regulator - This basically takes the 9v and reduces it to 5v. The excess power is given off as HEAT. This appears to be how most other PB boards operate and the main reason I suspect is price and space.. LVR's are SMALL and simple to use.Why not use the LVR included on the Arduino Nano? The nano has a LVR that can sustain 500mA, the F1 5way takes 200mA, and the sear tripper takes 1A (peak, not sustained). That means that I believe that we would overload it VERY quickly and either burn it up or just overheat it and it would turn off. If battery life is a serious issue I will look into a Switching Voltage Regulator as the new ones from MAXIM electronics look nice.
As well, this is why I could never get the Universal T Board to work on my Racegun.. I took a look at the schematics and the LVR on it couldn't sustain anywhere near that much.. I would be curious to know if anyone got a univ-t-board to work in a Racegun. As well if anyone has gotten this to work, it would allow me to know if I could go to a smaller size transistor since the power draw isn't needed.

Linear Voltage Regulator
Part Number - LM2936MP-5.0
DataSheet -
Size - SOT223

NPN Transistors - These are what takes the low voltage signal from the microprocessor (arduino) and triggers a switch to turn on the higher current solenoids. I chose transistors with integrated diodes for simplicity, and that can handle 1A sustained.. This is overkill for the F1 5way and I may change it down the road for space savings. For now it will be the same so I don't have to organize so many different parts.

NPN Transistors
DataSheet -
Size - SOT89

Connectors - Argh.. If it were up to me I think I would just hard solder the connectors because I dont know how many people I have helped with microscopic bits of broken plastic.. That being said, not everyone can solder, so I guess connectors are handy.. Just be careful when removing those things! I decided to go with straight headers (current race board is right angled) due to my space needs, but if it doesn't work out right angled connectors might come back into play.

2 Pole Connectors (Noids, Batt)
4 Pole Connectors (Eyes)
6 Pole Connectors (Button Pad)

I placed a order from Digikey (Try mouser, they are GREAT as well) for the parts and I hope to get them, and the soldering station in soon.. Then the fun will start, since Ive never soldered SMT components in my life, or custom made my own PCB! Oh well, should be fun all the same!

Now that I'm using CAD software (NRO I'm sure can relate) its making it a lot easier to make changes if needed.. EAGLE CAM is awesome if you ever need to set something like this up, and there is even a free version so you can try it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)

Been digging around and thought I would run my tagline through the ol google and see what I could come up with.

Apparently this ISNT the first, second, or third time this type of project has attempted to get off the ground! Now I will say I think im the only one to have actually posted vids of working programming, and to have posted some basic schematics, but its interesting to see that this path is well trod.

Seems like most of the others start down the road of open source, but then cant get a big enough group together to make it work.. Not that many electronics/programmer paintballers I guess! :-)

Anyways, the reason for this post is because Scenario Dreams made their schematics public. THATS A AWESOME MOVE and is honestly like 50% of what im doing.. The only downside to what the UTB is, is that its based on a PIC.. And to develop for PIC, you have to pay for the software which is VERY expensive. Honestly thats why im going for Arduino is because the IDE is free..

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)

Updates updates! Since the wife has been out of town I have had a lot of time to dedicate to the project!!

Ive almost completed the schematic for the arduino/daughterboard interface.. I decided to go the route of tall and skinny for the board in the hopes that I might be able to make a set of grips where the board is actually embedded in the rubber. This would make it truly universal since you wouldn't need any space INSIDE the frame.. Feedback seems to be that this wont work, but I'm gonna give it a shot. If it doesn't its minimal work to re-shuffle components to a different form factor. I think the one thing that will have to change for this project is the USB port soldered directly on the arduino. The solution is to take the connector offboard and for Raceguns this is great because I think I can route it to the hole where the old LEMO connector was. If you were to use the board in another project.. Well.. Creative routing of the cable would be needed!

Now I was working on my schematic and got to the frame NRO sent me (thanks again!). Whipped out my multimeter to read what pins controlled what button. Since they are RED/BLK I thought, well this will be easy.. One pair per button/LED.. NOPE.. For posterity sake, here is the pin out for anyone down the road.

From left to right looking at the TOP of the connector (you can see little silver bits through the white plastic).
Positive for Down Arrow
Positive for Main Power Button
Positive for Up Arrow
Positive for LED color (Unknown)
Positive for LED color (Unknown)

If someone could get me a picture of the back of a button board, I want to make sure there isn't any switching electronics (without tearing my frame up!!) so if you have one out of a gun and could take a GOOD pic I would appreciate it!

In the end how Race did it makes sense (common ground) but I wouldent use red/blk combos because of the mistake I made in IDing each pair.. Oh well!

Aside from that been working in EAGLE alot to get the schematic rockin and rolling and have made alot of progress.. I'm wiring it all up, and once that's done I will be able to homebrew my first PCB. I cant believe it but radio shack actually still sells the copper clad PBC and etchant (ACID!) so I went and grabbed some. Some of the nerds on the Internet devised a method of using a laser printer to transfer the traces to the PCB and for prototyping this will be the quickest method of getting everything down on a circuit and test fitting it into the gun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)

Sorry for the time between updates, but you ever get caught up in doing things that you cant take the time to document them?!?! :-)

So here are the updates.. I did some additional testing and the electronics work fine so I'm pushing forward. What does that mean you may ask?

Well, I'm going to try to get everything to fit on a circuit board, and get it 95% into the gun frame and perhaps take it out shooting and do some real testing (2k shots) and get a idea on the real world battery life..

Biggest challenges so far?
SPACE! Like everything paintball, I was optimistic about the space required and things are getting tight.. I might in the end have to make a decision on features (9v possibly, or USB programming) to make it all fit, but I'm working hard to see if I can get all the features in there.

Firestarter 9000 - Homeowners insurance not included!

What am I doing right now?

Well, I ordered a new Hot Air Rework Station since my soldering iron (Model - Firestarter 9000 in case you want to buy it from me) just wasn't cutting it. You should have heard my wife when I told her that I needed a soldering station otherwise her sewing machine wouldn't get fixed. Quickest buy Ive ever made!!! :-D

And I'm also working with a program called "Eagle". Its a circuit design program that I hope will allow me to design the board without so much hit and miss trial work.. It will take longer up front but I hope it will pay off in the end with a product I can test in the real world quicker. If I can get the schematic correct (did I mention Ive never done schematic design?) I should be able to print my own prototype PCB's..

Anyways, thanks for all the comments, and keep the suggestions/concerns coming!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB) - Electronic Notes

So the wife is working the OU football game (she is a Paramedic and I love her tons for letting me do this stuff!!!) and I flipped on Transformers - Revenge of the fallen.. Wow, great looking, but missing something. I dunno.. A PLOT!?!?!?!

So since I can multitask I decided to do a little work on the project!

Some electrical considerations....

The RACEGUN F1 noid (Jucomatic)
5 - Volts (Datasheet)
1 - Watt (Datasheet)
200 - mA (Datasheet) (Better performing, but higher power)

The Racegun Sear Tripper Noid
5 Volts (Measured)
1A (Measured)  HOLY CRAP! thats 5x the F1!!!

Older SMC Racegun Noid
5 Volts (Measured)
90 mA (Measured)

I had high hopes that I would be able to run the noids direcly off the Arduino to conserve space, but that wont be possible. Im going to have to use transistors for the switching as per my prototypes in the video.. Not the end of the world, but more space will be needed.. :-)

I have come up with a few different possbile formats for the board and these are based on a few options...

Using the Arduino Nano
Pros - USB for updating the programming
Cons - Size.. Not sure if I can cram it all in with a 9v battery. Might need to consider LIPO or some other battery.

Using the Arduino Mini
Pros - I think I can make it all fit inside of the top 1in of the grip frame (Laying side to side) and it will make a 9v battery fit.
Cons - To program it, it requires a special cable (5 dollars)

Also, I figured out how Race was able to get such high shot counts out of their charge and the basic idea is like this.. Most battery powered electronics run on either 3.3v or 5v as their voltage of choice. Since Race used a 5v battery, it didnt have to reduce the voltage at all to make it usable.. Other guns im supposing are using something called a Linear Voltage Regulator which basically takes the 9v from the battery, dissapates 4v of it into heat, and passes the resulting 5v to the electronics.. Now there is a more expensive version called a switching voltage regulator, which doesnt convert the extra voltage into heat, but its more expensive than the standard version. My personal choice is still to use 9v batteries even though they arent as efficient simply because I have run out of juice on the field and not had my charger. Whereas everyone on every PB field has a spare 9v batt floating around..

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)

Alright!!! 2 bits of good news!!

Got the Arduino NANO in and while it might be tight, I think it can definitely work! The package came with pin headers on it so thats why its so thick.. If it were ever to be in a real gun, the headers would be removed and thats where the connectors could go.

Here is my vision as it stands today :-P The board would go right behind where the button pad currently sits. The USB connector would NOT be on the board, but would be routed to where the LEMO connector is. Micro USB will fit in the same hole, just need something to fill in the void space. There would be a small board where the trigger button sits, and this would also house the transistors to fire the solenoids.
Still trying to work in a OLED screen in there somewhere but babysteps right?

This week sometime I should recieve my protoboard (for prototyping the trigger mount).
-2x Hbridge in a IC package for driving the solenoids
-Frame to mount it into for testing
-Connectors so that I can stop using aligator clips (Finally!)


Like everything in life, its all about compromise, and one of the things I had to compromise on was power usage. The arduino platform is good, inexpensive, and EASY to design, but the downside is that its not really that battery friendly. Well I did a test and the board uses 13mA running just the code. Each time you fire, the 5way uses 7mA, and the MQ uses 9mA (getting my sear tripper in soon, so I will have figures on that! Thanks NewRaceOwner for loaning!) Running some rough numbers they are coming out to be better than I thought! With some extra programming to enable sleep modes, and disable a few things we arent using (ADC, Timer1, Timer2, Spare digital pins) we should be able to make it more than usable! Might not be as efficient as your Tadao, but I dont think they could build their first board as quick as I am doing either.. Compromise!

As always I appreciate the feedback so keep it coming! I love those feature requests too since even though I might want something, I want to make sure its something that others will want too!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Open Source Paintball Board - OSPB

Ok, So I was able to make some progress on programming the board and here are the fully operational features.

Semi fire mode
3 Round Burst mode
Sniper mode
Programming either solenoid via the button pad (Originally was going to be via the trigger but programmatically that was a pain in the butt, so for now its going to stay like it is :-))

Things remaining for a completed "Alpha version" of the gun...
Eye Programming (I will try to work on it this week but programmatically its nothing difficult)
Physical mockup (NRO has shipped me some parts for this, and waiting on the Nano to come in)
A method of changing modes thats tournament legal..
     - Open up the gun to change the fire mode?
     - Only be able to change the fire mode via USB?
     - Gun will only change fire mode with smoke signals?

Racegun Software Repository

Wow.. The other day I went digging for the Racegun software and it took me a hour or two to find it!

It was worse than looking for a Full Racegun Barrel Set!

I finally did find it hosted on a guys website, but I hate to see it hosted personally.. So I went ahead and uploaded it to my google docs account and shared it out to everyone.. Hopefully we can keep it around somewhere in case someone needs it!

RACEGUN Software Link

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The old Racegun board

So while we are on the topic of replacign the old board, I thought I would take a moment to document what its specs are for posterity..

Board Information
0.72in Wide
3.48in Long
Processor - PIC16LF873-041SO
Firmware (Of processor NOT the Race program itself) - 9.8.2002
Serial Com provided by a intersil ICL3221CA (Bottom right of board)
Memory storage (settings) provided by 24LC08B (Below the silver capacitor)

Battery Information
4.8v Ni-MH (made up of 4x 67AAAA cells)
600 mAh
MicroMolex Connector (I will try to look up the PN for these).

Oddly enough it looks like the board was programmed with normal serial commands.. I know people (the 5 of us who still use Raceguns!) have been struggling recently due to a lack of programming cables/charging cables but this one looks to use a standard TTL/UART interface.. Connectors for those are cheap (search ebay for USB to UART), and then you would just need to connect the pins to the correct pins on the connector..

 You COULD even build in a connector into it and make the board USB programmable! I would get one of the ones on EBAY that has the cable all made with just the pins on the end.. Plug them in the correct order and it should work just fine with the current RIP software!

Open Source Paintball Board (OSPB)

I don't know why but, when I got into paintball (a long time ago), I was really into how mechanical the guns were. Because of this interest I chose to be a "Autococker" guy and still love Autocockers to this day. These guns were the pinnacle of technology at the time and had ALOT of moving parts that had to be timed perfectly if you wanted a gun that shot well.

Look at the curves on this one!!!
Well the march of paintball continued and rate of fire became a very important factor, and Autocockers weren't known to be the fastest gun in the west. To resolve that problem several companies came forward (Sandridge - Out of business, Eblade - Out of business, Racegun - Out of business) to source a new generation of faster Autocockers. I chose the Racegun and to this day its been my most favorite gun.

At the time RACEGUN was the top dog, but because interest in the Autococker has waned, almost all the companies that supply the electronics have disappeared as well. And that brings us to the present day and the reason for this post.

A 05 Racegun with 45 reg.
 I think this was the last version made.
There is a small but dedicated Racegun Autococker group across the US and after a post on about a grad student wanting to make a NEW board, we all started drooling over the possibilities. Unfortunately he decided to take a different route, but myself and a few others have chosen to press on and see what we can come up with.

The tentative name is the "Open Source Paintball Board" and it aims to firstly
     - Be a replacement board for the Racegun with updated features
     - Possibly be small enough and configurable enough to use in many other guns

I know what your thinking.. Joe, there are other boards out there that do that ALREADY (Scenario Dreams). So there is a 3rd mission for this board that I feel like the other solutions dont have. To be transparent with information so that if we decide to stop work on the project, others can pick it up. That's been the flaw with Racegun, Scenario Dreams, etc, is that when someone wants to make changes or improvements they are forced to design a solution from the ground up. Hopefully with this project, if someone wants to make a different code version, they can take what we have, and build on it. That being said, I will post my code, but I want to get it past the alpha stage before I show off what I have! :-)

If you want to suggest features, please feel free to do so below! By trade I work for the 3rd largest computer company, so none of this is my profession and I am NOT an expert. If you want to help out, or give suggestions we welcome it!

Here is the project as it stands today.

Board - Arduino (ProMini)
Power - 9V, but you could put up to 12V in it without issues
Gun will NOT be rechargeable (9v batteries are cheap!)
Board can be programmed via USB

A-List features (Most important!!!)
Use existing racegun cables/connectors (Minus the propriatary LEMO connection.. This would be replaced with USB)
Use existing racegun buttonpad/LED
Programming via trigger/buttonpad (Racegun used to be programmed via serial com and since serial is almost dead...)
Semi-Auto mode
Piezo speaker for audio feedback

B-List features
All classic racegun fireing modes (Sniper, FA, Ramping, ETC)
Tournament fire modes (the common ones)
ROF cap

C-List Features (Throw in the kitchen sink!)
OLED screen
Blue tooth programming
Haptic Feedback (Vibration.. Like in your cellphone)
Pressure Monitoring - Beeps/Vibrates when your gun is low on air
Timing Wizard
Audio output chip
Re-work button pad for racegun