Automating the Vulcanizer

Hi all,

I have a customer that is local and wants to help out with automating our gasifiers. I guess for starters we are looking at a stationary set up. So we are looking at a way to monitor the system to maintain flow for now. More will come but we’re just going to start here.

What we are thinking is using an input from a thermo couple that will be built into the hearth just below one of the jets to monitor temp. This input will be used to trun on a hopper shaker and an automated actuator to move the grate.

In my opinion I think its too elaborant and this could be done with proper timing. But this is what this guy wants to do, so I guess that what we’re going to do. He is going to fund it and do all the programing.

Any other sugestions??

Does any one know where I could find a good hopper shaker and timer set up that is not too expensive??

Here is the cheapest Hopper Vibrator I have found and also an adjustable timer.

Any one ever used iether of these. I will be ordering these later this week to test unless someone here knows of a better source.

Have you looked into the Masonic method on GEK? That would be a good thing to have your friend read. Not sure if you were the one posting about automation on Yahoo woodgas last week or not.

anthony Meschke

Nothing against GEK but I dont go there or any other competitors sites. If they have something that works I guess I will need to do something different, its there design not mine.

i understand where your coming from but wouldn’t wayne’s site be the same as the GEK site. They are both selling something with gasifiers and are both pretty much open source. I’m not saying steal their ideas but it would be nice to see what the “competitors” are doing if it advances the community goal of getting gasification more mainstream. I don’t really think anyone who is selling gasifiers is competeing right now. There is a very large and untapped market out there that needs a lot of people getting the word out. i’m sure that Jim and Wayne both wish you the best of luck. I do look forward to all that your doing. very interesting stuff.

anthony meschke

How about something original that could use some perfecting? I did some R&D on my own pellet feed control for a bbq smoker last year and ran into auger/motor issues that led me back to gravity fed charcoal with a 10 channel, data logging homebrewed Arduino controller.

For bbq, I had a need to regulate the speed of my auger motor so I can have closed loop PID temperature control that would also drive the pellet auger. The basic problem is that unless you have a REALLY slow auger motor, the PID controller would drive the auger too much and cause the pellets to overfill the burn cup. There may be a way to program the PID parameters or auto-tune it, but my research shows that could take a really long time, and there may be limitations with the parameters that my particular PID controller offers… so I wanted something easier to understand and adjust.

I think I have found a great solution. I located a repeat cycle timer (turns a device on for a short period of time and turns it back off for a longer period of time, then repeats the cycle automatically). The Futurekit FK432 hat two knobs to adjust “on” and “off” times, here is a link to their site:

My system runs on 12v DC power provided by a “wall wart” adapter for now. The combustion fan is on a manual switch so I can turn it on or off for lighting or making smoke. The red wires carry 12v DC.
The combustion fan uses yellow wire to indicate power is switched.
I took my JLD7100 PID temperature controller and set it for RELAY output. (no need for a solid state relay SSR).
I use the RELAY output of the PID to control the 12v power to the FK432 cycle timer circuit using yellow wire,
The output of the FK432 timer provides 12v power to drive the 2RPM auger motor using orange wire.
The timer is set for 20 seconds of “on time” and that delivers 1 revolution of the auger. I have the off time set for 2 minutes just to show the on/off times are independent.

In the center of the photo is a quarter for size comparison. The components are not really that big. Starting above George Washington’s head, we have the FK432 timer, and going clockwise, a 2RPM 12v DC auger motor, a 12v DC fan, the JLD7100 PID temperature controller, a K type thermocouple and the 12v DC power adapter.

My caution is that adding electronics or moving parts takes away from the reliability and natural beauty of a gravity fed unit.
My caution is that adding electronics or moving parts takes away from the reliability and natural beauty of a gravity fed unit.
My caution is that adding electronics or moving parts takes away from the reliability and natural beauty of a gravity fed unit.

Just wanted everyone to know where I am when it comes to gadgets.
I also realize that using pellets as fuel takes away from the natural beauty too…

BYW - I need to get an auger working on my pellet fired G5-WK next so I will be working on this again using an automotive door window motor…

for small motors with a lot of umph and slow rpm i found that treadmill incline motors work well (the motors that raise and lower the treadmill). My grandfather has a corn/pellet stove and the treadmill incline motors are darn near exact to the ones on his feed auger to the stove. just wanted to throw that option out there for everyone.

and plus the treadmill drive motor is permanent magnet so is a nice motor to have around.

anthony meschke

Thats a pretty sweet set up Gary. I have netduino to play with. I might play with something like this later.

As far as Waynes site goes Im not a premium member and have no idea how his unit is built. So no worries there Wayne lol.

I like it here there is some really good people here with lots of good experience. Im not here to take ideas but some times you need help and if any one is willing to help Im greatfull for it.

If we all copy each other than we will never evolve. Wayne has a good design that works. I would rather take my own path though and try to my own twist in this. We have a unit that is still in development that has a jet less hearth (at least in a traditional sense) that is working very well. But this system still needs much development yet and requires a compete rebuild to tweek it. Right now I just dont have the time or budget for it. But I will definatly get back to this unit. I may even open source it.


Best of luck with your automation project! I am building a Wayne Keith style unit and when completed I will begin to explore automation options myself. I figured I’d construct the unit and get some experience running it before getting too high-tech but I’m starting my idea stage now!

I come from an industrial automation background and will be utilizing a PLC for my setup with an HMI interface on a 7" touchscreen in the dash. I plan to monitor temperature, airflow, vacuum, and gas flow throughout the various stages of the unit. I’m also working on an auto-feed for larger woodchunks (while maintaining the sealed oxygen deprived environment within the gasifier).

You have a good head start on my project, but I am anxious to see what you come up with. Perhaps the more experienced woodgas drivers like Wayne, Chris and others could offer suggestions about what should be automated, controlled, and monitored? This would be helpful to us, and as you pointed out in an earlier post this will certainly make the system more appealing to others. Of course, if it gets TOO appealing we’ll all be fighting over wood! (Hopefully that’s a good ways down the road though).

Thanks Guys for the input. Yeah Ill keep you all posted on progress. Like I said earlier Im just looking for the simpilest possible way to do this. Im goin to purchase the shaker and timer I posted earlier and do some testing with this set up to start. If it works than that will make it less complicated and cost effective.

Hi Henry,
From what I have seen, Woody and maybee Sean French seem to be using the most instrumentation and they have OBD2 gassers. I think John Wells uses a PID controller and thermocouple setup for some monitoring, but not sure if they are using any of this stuff as a closed loop system for controlling the gasifier.

If all you need is a shaker, the cycle timer should be just fine. For steady state operation with known fuel like pellets, it seems that the cycle timer could be used to shake things up ever few minutes as needed. What about using a motor with an offset weight on the shaft ? It would spin off balance and that would give out some vibrations, or the offset object could become some kind of “knocker” to shake things loose.

For feeding the fire pellets, I have seen larger diameter (2" or larger) valves used to airlock in the fuel. I am not sure how to keep the valve from binding if there is a pellet that is in the way as the valve is closing. For wood chunks, I have looked at garden sized augers, I think they are 6" or 8" in diameter, and would probably need a pretty strong motor… then there is the challenge of controlling the feed to the need. Wood burns relatively slow, but quite a bit faster in a gasifier compared to my BBQ smoker (2 lb/hr). The gravity fed smoker is simple - just measure temperature and modulate a fan for combustion air. It works the same for 20 lbs of meat as it does for 200 - just takes longer to get to temp when there is a larger meat load.

How many pounds per hour does your pellet burner use to run a generator, for instance ?

I hate high tech. I like to keep it simple. I would mount the gasifier on springs. As the fuel is used up
the unit would rise and trip the auger start switch.The weight of the new fuel would settle the unit and
shut off the auger. This is like the float switch on a sump pump. Simple.



Those are some great ideas. Yes for me it has to be simple or Im just not interested. Simplest is usually the best. Even adding an auger seems a bit elaborate to me. But I am interested in posibly trying this on later more advanced systems.

But first I want to investigate more eficient set ups that wont require as much from the gaisfier unit. I have a PMA that I have specked to run off from a 16 hp engine with electric start. Im figuring I should get 10 of those 16 horsy’s and have figured I could get about 7000 DC watts out of it. Also I have a heat exchanger to capture waist exhuast heat for hot water. The engine and PMA should arrive in a couple days :slight_smile:

This timer works great if any one is interested. I hooked it up to the not so great shaker I ordered and ran 3 min off and 30 sec’s on all weekend. It never skipped a beat. Here is the link…

This is a simple plug and play devise, no programing just turn the dials to set it.

I am pretty diapointed in the shaker motor I orderd though. But thats R&D for ya. The frequency is about rite but Id like a little more amplitude. I installed it on an E series and compared it to the M-1 mounted on the tractor while the tractor was running. They actually felt very close. But even with the tractor I get a little bridging here and there. But that unit has a small hopper and IM running chips in it. But in any case I want it as bullet proof as passible. So Im just going to do what Gary has suggested and build my own shaker. Just a simple motor with an aluminum pully on it with some wieghts to off balance it.

Actually Gary on the unit I have set up for pellets bridging isn’t to much of an issue. It does bridge acationaly but not that much. Now the units have a better flow design too, but I have yet to test pellets in one. Originally the fire tube was straight and there was a step in the transiton from the hopper to the hearth area. Now the fire tube is taperd and the transiton is smooth. Its more of a pain to build because I have to lay out, cut and then roll a cone. But the unit on the tractor, is set up for chips and I dont think it will run pellets with the grate I have in it. The pellets will probably fall right through Its actually a bit big I think for wood chips even.

If any one is interested Ill start a thread on how I built my slip roller. It was built from mostly off the shelf parts from Lowes. I think I had something like 100 bucks into it. This is the back bone of my comp. If it goes down every thing stops for the most part.

I built the rollers out of 5/8 solid rod and put Black iron pipe over the rods. I had to do this twise to get them up to the diameter I needed. The pipe required me to cut a slit in them to slip over one another. I got the gears from Reed Tool all the rest I get from Lowes. It will handle 14 ga mild steel and has a capacity of 12" and will roll as small as 1" diameter.

i’d be interest in seeing your slip roller plans

yes Matt, we’re always interested in hands-on info around here.
as far as improvements that have occurred to me, especially talking about automating, i would like to have a propane lighter built in at the bottom of the gasifier, with a pizo-electric starter. are there reasons why that is a bad idea?

I had thought about incorproating a HHO cell for lighting. But how to controll it safely and make it bullet proof I think would be dificult. I thing a pellet stove igniter woutd be a better option or a diesel glow plug.

When I get time Ill whip some simple drawings of this thing. Its not pretty but it does the job.

Hi Matt,
HHO burns way too fast to light anything solid like little pieces of wood. Think about setting off HHO in a 2 liter plastic bottle… you have a better chance of melting plastic with the amperage from the power cables than with the HHO gas. That was so four years ago…

I see several ports around the silver colored band at the middle of your avatar photo… do you use a propane torch through a lighting port now ? Could you adapt a propane hot water heater controller somehow ?

If thinking electrical lighters, something that glows red hot - like over 350 F degrees pretty quickly and wont burn up at nearly 2000 F degrees for extended periods of time…

I started a project (really good at that part…) to convert a bead roller into a slip roller a couple of years ago, and did not complete because I got all into BBQ for a while. I put my bead roller back together last weekend because I need it for the floorboard of my project car, so I am interested in the slip roller as well, especially if you can roll cones with it, like for a cyclone.

Also, can you share a picture of the charcoal pieces from one of your pellet burners ? Just curious to see what is left when the pellets burn down through a grate.