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Old 26-07-2017, 10:49   #1
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Boat: Tayana 58 DS
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Replacement controller for Sea Recovery Aquamatic

Our boat is equipped with a Sea Recovery Aquamatic 900-1 (900gal per day) water-maker. The previous owner installed it in 2006 and then replaced the controller in 2012.

That 5 year old controller works, but the display screen has stopped working -- it is entirely black. I know which corner of the screen I need to press to start it -- and so far it runs okay for me -- but I have no ability to change any settings or view any status.

I called the Sea Recovery folks, and they do not repair controllers, they sell new ones. A new controller sells for $2079 plus shipping.

The controller is a small PCB with terminal blocks to drive the relays controlling the pumps and valves and accept input from several sensors (pressure, flow and salinity). It has a small low-resolution (3"x5") touch screen color LCD. The touch part of it works, the display part of that doesn't.

I am interested to hear if anyone has any ideas, other than forking over $2100 for a new controller, on how I might fix it.

Here are a few things I've considered:
- I suspect that an Arduino, Pi, or similar would be more than sufficient to sequence the startup and shutdown of the watermaker. Although the hardware would be << $100, it would take a significant amount of time. Is anyone aware of an open-source watermaker controller project, or similar?

- I could attach a remote display. According to the SeaRecovery tech, the recovery allows only simple operation of the watermaker -- that if there is a problem you need the manual mode/tools of the controller display to get it working. Sea Recovery sells a NMEA2000 remote control ($949 -- which strikes me as steep). I wonder if a multi-purpose NMEA2000 control/display would be a better choice, but it still would be limited as to what it can do.

- I could seek to replace the display only. For now, it works as a blind controller, but this would risk having that stop working too. Sea Recovery would not share with me the display part number for me to replace it. There are two flexible ribbon-style cables to the display -- one wider than the other. I suspect that unless I exactly duplicated that display, I will get nothing. Has anyone (successfully) replaced the display on their Aquamatic controller? A brief search of the web did not bring up any leads. I could try to take the controller apart and look for part numbers on the display, but this would be not be trivial.

- I could adapt a controller from another watermaker to this one. Are there any controllers from other manufactures that could be used? How similar are the connections to sensors, pumps, etc. ?

Electrical diagram including controller

Plumbing diagram of watermaker

Does this community have any guidance to offer?


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Old 26-07-2017, 14:41   #2
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Re: Replacement controller for Sea Recovery Aquamatic

I looked.over your electrical schematic and any RO controller would work with your system as long as the main voltage to it was 12volt DC. Just Google RO controllers. There are many different controllers available and I wouldn't be surprised if you ran across the manufacturer of the exact panel because few watermaker manufacturers make their own control panel. Of course you would have to wire in another type of panel, but it's not a big deal. Just wiring. Good luck.

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Old 26-07-2017, 18:04   #3
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Re: Replacement controller for Sea Recovery Aquamatic

Originally Posted by JstaRebel View Post
... any RO controller would work with your system .... Just Google RO controllers.
Thank you for the suggestion. I have tried, but most of the RO controllers I've encountered are lacking in one or more areas. They either want the inputs to be switches (e.g. HP switch, LP switch) and not transducers; or they have no mechanism to regulate the pressure; or, they require re-plumbing in order to monitor pressure and flow; or, a combination of the above.

There are many different controllers available and I wouldn't be surprised if you ran across the manufacturer of the exact panel because few watermaker manufacturers make their own control panel. Of course you would have to wire in another type of panel, but it's not a big deal. Just wiring. Good luck.
I came across a company called iControls. They make the controllers that many of the smaller RO companies use. They don't sell retail, but I am working with one of their resellers. It would seem that they require I change two TDS transducers, add three pressure switches, and re-plumb for monitoring. While this is potentially doable, I was hoping to, as you said, just wire in a different panel.

It'd be great if I could find a drop-in replacement. It seems, however, that SeaRecovery (now Parker) does make their own controller.

There are many industrial RO controllers, but in several hours of searching I haven't found any that are a good match. Some operate on 3-phase 415V. A number of them are made-in and targeting the market in India -- and the datasheets are less than thorough. It seems that the vast majority are for operation <70psi -- for purification not desalination -- and thus lack both the raw TDS sensor and the pressure regulation.

Are there any controllers you can recommend?

Based on a conversation with Rich Boren of Cruise-RO, I may roll my own with a raspberry pi. (As if I didn't have enough projects to do). Or maybe put together a system based on an off-the-shelf industrial PLC -- which, although more limited (how fancy do I really need?) should be more robust & rugged.

I'm still looking for a ready-to-use controller, but I haven't found one yet.
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Old 18-06-2018, 17:43   #4
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Re: Replacement controller for Sea Recovery Aquamatic

As a technician who works on these watermakers, and Supervises other technicians, I agree with the complaint of the expense involved in replacing displays, or adding remote touch screens, or even the combination Display/Controller on a watermaker. I liked 1990 better, a knob to twist, some safety switches built in to keep our equipment and ourselves safe from harm, and a simple bar display consisting of colored LEDS. Green was good, red was bad. Venturi style Flow meters were on the panel face, and we could watch both the brine and product water flow. You had to go to the water maker and operate it. If it was outboard an engine in a sportfish, it was hot noisy, you might have to crawl over to it.
What changed?
Boat builders and even consumers wanted remote control and interface with other equipment like ships information systems, and touch screens. Captains and owners wanted not to crawl and start the watermaker. They wanted a button, a remote, anything to not get one more 2nd degree burn as they crawled outboard that big Diesel with hearing protection on their head to start the watermaker.
So, Sea Recovery responded to their biggest customers, boat builders. Circuit boards, touch screens, automatic control, even down to when to shut off, so you would not have to remember to shut it down later. We all must remember, the biggest customer of watermakers are boat builders. Boat builders like to offer as much convenience as possible to their customers.

When it is time for you to purchase a replacement water maker there are less automated options. Sea Recovery offers Aqua Whisper and Aqua Whisper PRO. Primarily targeted to those end users who do not mind, or even prefer a more hands on operation.

If you have an Aquamatic from Sea Recovery, Either Version 1 (the monocolor touch screen) or the later Color Touch Screen made as a part of the controller itself I caution you to be careful in considering a generic controller.
1) An automatic back pressure regulator is used to control membrane pressure. This is controlled by product water flow rate measured by the controller based on a pulse output from the product water flow sensor.
2) Pressure transducers and NOT Pressure switches are used for the measurement of boost pump outlet, High Pressure Pump inlet, and Membrane pressure. These signals are monitored by the "Controller" and are simply a DC voltage that varies with the pressure sensed. These same signals are used by the controller to monitor safe operating conditions.

So no, a generic RO Controller will not replace all of these functions without further modifications to the watermaker which must include:
1) a salinity/TDS controller to operate the product diversion valve. You obviously don't want the water maker sending water of low purity to the tank.
2) A manual means of both controlling and displaying the "Back Pressure" or the pressure created within the membranes between the outlet of the High pressure pump and the back pressure regulating valve.
3) Low pressure and High pressure safety switches to protect the machine, disable operation in case of trouble, and protect persons nearby (it is very startling when a high pressure hose or membrane housing lets go at more than 1000 psig). The high pressure pumps used in water makers can create tremendous pressures. The very expensive High pressure pump can also be damaged by low inlet pressure.

I realize, and even empathise with the complaint of the cost of a replacement screen, a remote, and even the controllers themselves when they go bad. But an Aquamatic water maker is not easy to convert back to 1990. By the time you have done all of this, the new display won't seem so costly.

The news gets worse with time, electronic controls lose support over time as new technology replaces older technology. And since the controllers and displays are proprietary parts, custom made for the application, to make a generic display work on your Sea Recovery watermaker isn't going to be possible.

My best advice is to replace the touchscreen while it is still available. A generic screen will not work, simply because it must be programmed with everything from the Screens Art to the address locations of all of that data within the main controller, button functions, etc. And we are just not going to get that information, or the software necessary to program that information into a "Generic" touch screen. They are definitely not plug and play.
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Aquamatic, Sea Recovery, watermaker

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