First Container Delivery

Container at previous home

Container at previous home

On Tuesday May 2, 2011 our first container was moved from Haiku to Pu’unene. It was supposed to be a quick pickup and haul but didnt quite work out that way. The container was located in a field behind a house on a plateau overlooking the Pacific. Nice view. There were several trees that blocked access directly from the driveway, so we had to circle around them. The trees were just close enough that the truck could not back straight up to the container.

Maui Tow and Transport

Maui Tow and Transport

I was impressed by Maui Tow and Transport trailer. The triple rear axle moves forward and back to alter the support and turning radius. It can also be angled slightly. This makes it a bit easier to walk the trailer into place with repeated moves. I was also a bit surprised that when loading, It was not the container that did most of the moving. The winch pulled the whole rig backwards under the trailer. Pretty cool hydraulics.

If you look closely, you can see a large dark cloud rising up behind the rig. Thats a sugar cane burn. Its how they harvest cane sugar here on Maui. Every couple weeks they burn several dozen acres of cane. I’m not sure off hand why. I suppose it makes it easier and perhaps does something to the sugar. Anyway, the smoke can make for a mess sometimes, but generally goes up pretty straight. Looks ominous.

Not Quite Straight but...

Not Quite Straight but...

Since the trailer was not lined up with the container, the latter did not load straight. It was off the front, right side by several inches, with a foot or more to spare on the left side. The MT&T driver spent a looong time trying to winch it over and straight. First he put a hook/pulley on the left side to angle the winch line. This worked fairly well, along with repeated up/down walkings of the trailer. After a long while he managed to get the container fully up on the trailer. It was still hanging off to the right a ways, so he moved the whole rig a few feet to the side and unloaded the container about 1/2 way. More walking and side winching later, the container was back on-board and looking pretty good. We picked up the concrete blocks and tossed them onto the trailer for use at the other end. Then away we went…. to the end of the driveway. As the rig went down the steep, short last bit to the road, the back end bottomed out… PING!! the back strap popped off and the back end moved two feet to the right. DRAT! The driver moved the rear axle to the back, raising the rear enough to get it out of the driveway. Then he spent another 30minutes trying to get it back on straight. Ugh.

Driving Hana Hwy
Finally it was good enough and we started our slow trip down through Haiku Center (bustling town that it is) and along the Hana Highway. I got some fairly nice pics as we passed Ho’okipa Beach. There were a fair number of wind surfers out that day.

Our Space-to-be, with Habitat For Humanity steel building parts

Our Space-to-be, with Habitat For Humanity steel building parts

We got down to Pu’unene and Miley came out to help us site the container. We are going into the space directly back down the driveway. Its a fairly large open area that currently has some Habitat For Humanity (HfH) materials. Apparently this includes most of the parts of a steel building that got donated a while back and has been quietly rusting away. Hmmmm. There is also a big pile of electronics HfH collected a while ago, dumped here and has yet to get it disposed of properly. Might be some useful stuff there, but its probably rusted beyond use now. Too bad. We could use a few good power supplies, etc.

Happy Maker and His Container on site

Dropping the container was a LOT easier than picking it up. We put down the concrete blocks and, for the most part, it sits on those. The ground is NOT level but for now it works. Once we talk with the CWD Board of Directors, we will make plans for building out. We will need to do a bit of grading to flatten the area (do un-occupied area first, move #1 container, flatten other side, drop in #2 container). We need to talk with MECO to get AC power. Then figure out best way to get internet access.

Here’s the Flicker Set for the First Container Delivery:
[slickr-flickr tag=”FirstContainer” descriptions=”on” flickr_link=”on” sort=”title” use-key=”y” ]

April 30, 2011 Final Day of Chill Box Build

Cole and Jerry holding final Chill Box.

On April 30th, Cole and I met at my home in Haiku to try and get the Chill Box operational. This was to be our last attempt, as we are down to the last days of The Challenge and need to at least get the project documentation complete so we qualify.

The original water pump was a cheap one completely sealed in plastic. Tests on thursday had shown it gets very warm when running – putting heat INTO the cold system and completely defeating the cooling effect of the peltier. Since we were replacing it with the micro-pump, we decided to fire up the Dremel and see what was inside. A quick bit of surgery (we are hackers after all), showed that it was basically a standard DC motor stuck on an impeller and enclosed in plastic. We exposed most of the metal motor body and then sealed it up with silicone sealant. We didnt test it but perhaps it will still work for some other project – with better heat dissipation characteristics.

Cheap Water Pump - ready for surgery Cheap Pump getting shaved
Cheap Pump with top removed Cheap Pump with better heat dissipation

The Corsair fan needed a larger inlet vent, so we used the laser cutter to clean up the messy wave side of the acrylic box. We had previously broken off some of the waves that were partially attached. Putting a 4.5″ square worked pretty well. The box was a bit deep, barely fitting in the laser. Even though it was a bit high, it still managed to cut. I put a piece of cardboard over the other side to protect it. Good thing too – although the laser was fairly diffuse by the time it reached it, the cardboard still got burned. On the second pass, I put a piece of scrap wood over the bottom side.

Squaring off Fan Inlet 1st pass Squaring off Fan Inlet 2nd pass

Corsair Chiller Fan now has larger square air inlet

Corsair Chiller Fan now has larger square air inlet

New micro-pump with in, out and drain fittings

Cole brought his micro pump. This tiny 5vdc pump turns out to be quite powerful, silent and runs very cool. It also has a 3rd fitting for use as a drain. We took out the old pump, rerouted the tubing, replacing much of it with aquarium tubing, and filled the system. The drain valve now exits the bottom front next to the corsair fan. It was MUCH easier to fill and bleed air with this new setup. However, the T-fitting that attaches the (rather bulky but effective) fill valve leaks on the chiller side. It appears the weight of the chiller system is bending the plastic tubing. We stuck a plastic cup under the chiller to support it, and a bit of tubing to align it with the T-fitting. This looks like a major hack, but it stopped the drip. Water circulates quite nicely. We were pleasantly surprised with how effective the micro-pump is at moving water, even with the larger volume tubing.

After we got the whole thing setup again, we decided to give the chiller a full shakedown – run the peltier and see if it can condense water. If it works, then we’re good and will proceed with rigging up a better chiller support and power wiring setup. If it doesnt, well, it was a good learning experience. So we hooked the peltier and Corsair up to the 12v battery, and the little micro-pump to the 5vdc out on Cole’s hacked PC power supply. It starts off looking good. Water circulates, the peltier (or at least the copper block) starts getting cooler. We let it sit – I had to whack Cole a couple times to keep him from tweaking plumping or other parts. The setup is rather fragile and each time he tried to make it better, something got worse. Distract ourselves, we started working on the project documentation. After about 5 minutes we checked the system. The copper block itself seemed to be getting quite cold (condensing a bit where it was exposed). The screws attaching the acrylic water channel to the copper were getting cold. But the pipes were not condensing. They were a bit cooler than ambient, but not much.

AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!

At this point, we quickly discussed some modification (try to replace epoxied in peltier, rip out the whole chiller and replace it with an alternative system, turn it into a simple drip irrigation with servo control, etc) and dismissed them all. It was already 6pm on Saturday. We had only 3 days until the challenge was over, and barely any documentation. If we wanted any chance to complete the challenge, we at least needed to document the failure, and lessons learned (things to do different next time). So we shut down development, took a bunch of pictures and called it a night.

Its been a good run. We learned A LOT. We need to sit down and write up a full set of lessons learned for the documentation. I documented some of those lessons in the Acrylic Chill Box Build blog post. One for the chiller system is ‘do not irreversibly connect (epoxy) critical, expensive components‘. Another is to listen when lots of people say an approach (peltier) is highly inefficient.

Here’s the Flicker Set for the April 30 build:
[slickr-flickr tag=”ChillBox-April30″ descriptions=”on” flickr_link=”on” sort=”title” use_key=”y” ]

New Wiki for Maui Makers – mostly Chill Box at present

You probably have not noticed but our wiki got hammered by spammers.  I tried cleaning it up and installing spam blocking stuff but to no avail. Ben W did a big cleanup job a few weeks back and it was good for a couple days.  However the spammers came back, got around the blocks (creating 100s of user accounts) and posted all sorts of garbage. None of it was linked in to main pages but probably got put there to game the search engines.

We had been using MediaWiki (same as Wikipedia), but had found it quite cumbersome. Adding images and other media apparently requires uploading them separately using ftp, and then linking them.  Yeech.  Our experience with QTask was a bit better, but its wiki feature does not make it easy to create collections of pages, especially if the whole collection is intended to be publicly accessible.

So last week, needing someplace to document The Chill Box Project, I wiped out the old wiki and installed a new one. This time its based on DokuWiki.  At present the editor requires you to use its syntax (not wysiwyg) but it is a LOT easier to create pages and insert media.  I only brought over the front page for now.  I’ve got the rest archived on my macbook and will upload soon.  Meanwhile Cole and I have been working on the Chill Box Project Documentation pages.  Take a look.  If you would like to help, you need to create an account, and then email me so I can add you as an author.

April 28 Chill Box Build and Meeting

Our regular Thursday meeting this week was pretty much exclusively a Chill Box Build.  Cole and I arrived a bit before 5pm. We spent about 20 minutes walking the grounds and looking for places on which to put Our Container.  There are not many places with enough space and access for the trucks to drop off.  Rai would like it to be not all that visible from “street”. However, there are not a lot of places where we could set up a 40×40′ container building. I think the best site is straight back in the open space. There is a fair bit of Habitat for Humanity material in this area. It looks like the parts to make a steel building, and a whole lotta roofing tiles.  The CWD people know the container shows up Tuesday AM and will be planning a spot, at least for temporary siting.

After our walkabout, we got down to business – building the Chill Box.  We brought the parts and tools inside and started assembling. The chiller parts (plastic tubing, the Corsair cpu cooler, peltier, valves, etc) are a tight fit. Tubes dont bend as easily. We tried adding a bit of larger tubing on one end, and it fit better.  Cole made a quick run to Home Depot for some clamps and silicone sealant.

3-pin CPU Fan Connector

I worked on building some power cables for the Corsair. It uses small 3pin CPU Fan connectors. Two leads are power and the third is for speed sensing (see pic at left). Cole had previously cut three header pins from our stock and was using them in a breadboard with alligator clips to power the device. Two cables are needed. One connects to the Corsair’s pump, the other connects to the double fans with a vendor provided Y-cable. I used some 4-wire cable, stripping off the green wire. I soldered these to the pins, covering each with small shrink wrap, and then shrink wrapping the entire connector.  The other ends were connected to an 8-pin connector strip. We wired up the Peltier and water pump to this 8-pin connector too.

Wiring up 3pin connector for Corsair Chiller

Wiring up 3pin connector for Corsair Chiller

Power Connector for Chiller Subsystem

8-point connector block for chiller power connections

When Cole returned, we clamped the tubes, calked around the edge of Peltier (to avoid condensation shorting it), and filled the tubes with water.  Filling the tubing is tricky. The basic fill is easy, but there remains a bubble that takes a fair bit of manipulation to remove.  Perhaps there is another arrangement that would make it easier. Perhaps a bleed valve as well as the fill valve? (spoiler – on April 30 build we did major improvement to plumbing and fill).

Tommy and Brian chat with Cole about Chill Box

Brian T, Tommy and Jen R came by about 8pm to see the space, project and  and chat.

Then came moment of truth – powering it back up and seeing if it still pumps and cools. We got it hooked up, but went through a couple false starts with power not being connected properly. We’re using a hacked PC 300w power supply – kinda wimpy and it sometimes shuts down. We get it pumping and … well the block seems to be getting cool, but not icy like last week. There is a lot of hot air blowing around in the container. Perhaps the vents are not working well enough? The wave side of vents already has some broken pieces where the laser cuts got too close together, so we break out some larger chunks. This seems to help, although arrangement of components in this area is problematic. The corsair now seems to be pulling cool air in and pushing out only slightly warmer air.

The little IR temp tool Cole got shows it cools down a bit, and the pipes cool, but then it starts warming up. Drat… Maybe its the wimpy former PC power supply? Several times these have kicked off (shorted?) and then reset themselves after sitting for a bit. We pulled out the 12v battery, which had done a better job last week, and hooked it up to the 12v supply. It works good for all the 12v stuff (Corsair and peltier) but the water pump is 5-9v. Since the pc supply was down, we decided to test the pump using 12v. It worked – pumped fast and heated up quick. Wait, it heated up? Oh drat – its heating the water! Shutdown, try the pc supply again – it works and runs the pump ok. The pump still heats up. This little beastie is fully enclosed in plastic, so the heat has really no where to go but into the water. They really sell this thing as good for cooling systems? We let it run for a while but it appears the water pump is countering whatever the peltier can do to cool. Drat! It worked last week right? Ok. dont panic yet. Cole has a little micro-pump he ordered early on. Its got really small hoses but is supposed to be really good (rather expensive too). Unfortunately, he left it home. Since its getting on 10pm and we are fading, we decide to call it a night. Cole takes the container and pump system home to work on it a bit. We plan to get together one more time over weekend to try and get it running.

Here’s the Flicker Set for the April 28 build night:
[slickr-flickr tag=”ChillBoxApril28″ descriptions=”on” flickr_link=”on” sort=”title” ]