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Old 19-06-2016, 14:05   #1
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Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

So the story goes, for the last year Otto my Simrad wp32 wheel pilot has been giving me grief, Lots of grief, with slipping belts and jammed motors. This summer after it decided to stop working altogether, I decided to keel haul otto and press-ganged Wilhelm my old AUTOHELM 3000 (non ST version) autopilot that I had repaired after installing Otto 9 years ago.

JOY, a working autopilot. I must say that the old autohelm 3000 does yeomen work. It works better then the simrad ever did.

As I single hand almost all the time having a remote where I can adjust heading while at the bow messing with anchors, raising and lowing the main and or bow lines is pretty much a must have. Alas the old handheld remote for the autohelm 3000 is getting to be a rare bird indeed.

Then I thought, Hey, I'm an engineer, I can just make one. Then I had the bigger better idea, hey why not make it wireless.

I hunted about for a 12V wireless board and remote. I found one on amazon and Ebay for about $13 including two remotes and shipping ( via slow boat from china). Here's a link to the exact unit I purchased though I got mine on ebay. https://www.amazon.com/INSMA-Channel...ireless+remote

I opened up the back of willhelm and started finding out which wires are which. Now on the autohelm 3000 I have, it's a 4 wire remote. A hot/high and three signal/ input wires.

I added power off the 12v power / wires and cut and connected the port and starboard wires to the first two relays. I daisy chained the hot/ high wire to the center common pins on the relays. A pin on each relay is NO or normally open.

The remote board has a shorting block define how the relays work. Having the first (left) two pins shorted gives momentary contact when a remote button is pressed. Just want I wanted.

One minor problem is the relays are single pole and there are three input wires for four relays Not going to work, right out of the box. I'm just using the first two signal wires / pins for 1 degree port or starboard for the time being. I need to add at least diodes (which I don't have aboard) to isolate the one degree port starboard pins from the third wire, which I'm guessing gives the 10 degree turn when pulled high with one of the other inputs high also. So for the moment I only have 1 degree port and starboard wired in.

Now the cool thing is, the relay board fits inside the autohelm 3000 housing. I had to remove the little P/S red plastic switch from the back and plug the hole. I used a small piece of velcro and a dab of JB weld, to secure the relay board over the main processor. Also added an insulator to the back of the relay board to keep it from touching the metal backing plate.

So for $14 dollars and an hours time, I've added a wireless remote to the autohelm 3000. Bitchen..... Best of all the range is roughly 600 feet, so I'm thinking it might help should I fall overboard to turn the boat into a circular course. Assuming I can make the remotes water proof.

I'll need to order a few diodes to add the 10 degree port/starboard to the system. But all and all, I'm pretty happy with my $14 wireless remote upgrade.
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Old 19-06-2016, 14:10   #2
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

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Old 19-06-2016, 17:08   #3
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Great job!
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Old 19-06-2016, 17:31   #4
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Thrilled that a sailor can still fix something and more so improvise an elegant hack!! BZ!!


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Old 19-06-2016, 18:22   #5
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Well done.
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Old 20-06-2016, 10:12   #6
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Nice job! I'd be happy with just the wired remote for my 3000. One day a few years back and not knowing the gyro makeup of the controller... Had the bright idea to take the controller with me forward while I lowered the mainsail in a busy channel. Well, the rest turned out to be rather comical and happily not tragic. made a few surprising turns that escaped my logic. The things we learn the hard way.
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Old 20-06-2016, 11:05   #7
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

OK a few clarifications and photo's

Second from right plug with the grey wires is the remote. The farthest right is for the wind sensor.
connections are as follows:
Upper left is hot
upper right is port
lower right is starboard
and lower left and 10X add

On the wireless board power is at the left with a two connector block.
+ and - are labeled and I used black - and red +. The power wires to the autopilot in the first photo in the first post are blue + and brown -. I simply stuck long tails from + and - in to the plug and ziptied them. (I'm blonde I can do that). It might be better to add crimps for the extra power to the relay board

Relay 1 is to the right on the relay board and each relay has labeled contacts A,B C. You will use A (NO or normally open) for the signal/ input wires and B (common) will be a hot wire daisy chained to all B connectors.

Relay 1A gets top right Port
Relay 2A gets bottom right grey wire starboard
Relays 3A and 4A get the 10X grey wire daisy changed to from 3A to 4A.

Diodes would be connected from 3a to 1a and from 4a to 2a. The Diode would conduct towards 1a and 2a. Without the diodes you can only use the 1 and 2 relays, which is still nice

I used a pair of scissors to cut the grey wires off the 4 plug port and directly connected them to the terminals. The wireless board is situated so that the relay terminals point toward the heading sensor.

You could also solder wires to the remote plug but that requires that you remove the control board and heading sensor from the autopilot which has many failure modes. It's really easy to break the 30 year old plastic.

I took the simple approach of just cutting the grey ribbon wires off right at the connectors. There is just enough wire on the ribbon connect to make that work. You'll have to carefully separate the grey ribbon wires about another inch. Use great care here as its 30 year old stuff.

Once the diodes I ordered from china arrive is 3 weeks I will draw up a simple schematic showing the wiring. It's quite easy, No soldering is required

I used velcro that was epoxied to the top of the autopilot processor and to the top of the relays. The relay board sits upside down. over the processor with the terminal strip facing the heading sensor. Be sure no wires impair the movement of the heading sensor.

On the wireless relay board the shorting block is at the lower right. The photo shows the block on the left two pins, but it MUST be on the right two pins for intermittent operation.

BTW the wireless relay board works great but it comes with zero instructions.

You could add this same wireless remote to the newer autohelm 4000 and maybe the autohelm 5000 but you would need to use a waterproof enclosure mounted adjacent to the control head.
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Old 20-06-2016, 11:07   #8
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Quote:
Originally Posted by Verities View Post
Nice job! I'd be happy with just the wired remote for my 3000. One day a few years back and not knowing the gyro makeup of the controller... Had the bright idea to take the controller with me forward while I lowered the mainsail in a busy channel. Well, the rest turned out to be rather comical and happily not tragic. made a few surprising turns that escaped my logic. The things we learn the hard way.
I bet that was exciting. The control head really does not like being moved while its powered and working. Good way to test that is works though.
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Old 20-06-2016, 11:15   #9
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Wow
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Old 20-06-2016, 11:56   #10
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Impressive.
Having placed additional metal parts (relay chassis) near the heading sensor, did you see any need to recalibrate the pilot or was there no noticeable need for that?
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Old 20-06-2016, 13:29   #11
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

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Impressive.
Having placed additional metal parts (relay chassis) near the heading sensor, did you see any need to recalibrate the pilot or was there no noticeable need for that?

I was concerned about that. It's not a problem with the relays just sitting there. The issue is when the relays energize. The relay field does effect the heading for the momentary time the field is active, in all cases moving to port, but then goes back to what it was calling for. A little annoying but I can live with it.

So what happens is calling for 1 degree to starboard cause the boat to turn slightly to port, 2-3 degrees before turning back to starboard. In all cases energizing a relay cause a port movement of about 2-3 degrees. It's not a problem turning to port, only starboard.

So it works a bit like a slightly drunk sailor. It's not too bad on my old and slow full keel boat.

As the small bits of iron in the relays don't move it should be fine when the coils are not energized. I checked it using my bearing compass. No real effect just sitting there, but a huge, though momentary effect when energized.

EDIT:

I should note that the old autohelm 3000 does not have a calibration mode and only responses to changes to the magnetic field value on a heading. It does not know the heading, only when it changes by a degree or so. This would not work on a newer ST type autopilot. There you would need to build a board to decode the seatalk signals. Doable but complicated.

With the costs of autopilots being WAY up there, it should be easy to roll your own using one of the simple single board controllers, a remote or wifi board a heading compass board and an old autohelm 3000 motor, belt and drum.
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Old 20-06-2016, 16:52   #12
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Hi from another engineer. Most interesting development.
Some years ago we had a similar waterproofing requirement for a remote control operating on 433 Meg. These are standard car remotes operating on this frequency, and typically use rolling code to synchronise remote to receiver.
We designed and tooled 2 plastic mouldings to replace the traditional remote outer parts, and designed and tooled a silicone seal which is sandwiched between the two ABS mouldings.
The Silicone membrane covers the PCB and protrudes through the top cover to depress the buttons.
It also has a wall bracket to hold the remote inplace.
In the image below I have highlighted the silicone seal in pink to show how it is sandwiched between the mouldings.
Our application was a remote control handset to operate a pump for a Jacuzzi.
We have this available for sale if you like. It is waterproof and works underwater.
Des
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Old 20-06-2016, 16:55   #13
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Had problem attaching the images -
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Old 20-06-2016, 16:57   #14
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

I still cannot upload the images, I even tried creating a word document and cannot upload the word document file
How do I attach images?
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Old 21-06-2016, 01:04   #15
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Re: Adding wireless remote to a old Autohelm 3000

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorchic34 View Post
I was concerned about that. It's not a problem with the relays just sitting there. The issue is when the relays energize. The relay field does effect the heading for the momentary time the field is active, in all cases moving to port, but then goes back to what it was calling for. A little annoying but I can live with it.
Yes, I see how that unshielded field can be a problem. How about a small modification and getting rid of relays altogether?

Working with a few assumptions I made a schematic of how it might work. Your current (assumed) setup is drawn on the schematic. For clarity only a single input channel is shown. If a remote receiver and Autohelm share a common supply it could be possible to use a relay drive signal TP2 directly to drive Autohelm input TP1.
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