For the past few years I have been building Animatronics controller boards for a client that builds really cool skulls (https://www.halloweenskulls.com/ ).  This client had posted a job, to replace an existing controller board with a lower cost product.  This has been a really fun project that continues to grow.

 

Animatronics controller boards The three boards (from left to right) are as follows:

 

First Generation - 12 servo channels, 3 dimming LED channels (with common strobing channel), jumpers for DMX terminator and individual board power source. Features include programmable current limit (Maximum of 8 Amps) and trip time for servo power and auto shutdown of servo power based on inactivity.

 

Second Generation (under development) - 6 servo channels, 3 dimming LED channels (with common strobing channel), program control of DMX terminator. Features include programmable current limit (Maximum of 8 Amps) and trip time for servo power and auto shutdown of servo power based on inactivity.  This design includes a new reverse voltage protection scheme with a super low voltage drop (high power MOSFET switch).

 

Second Generation, Arm controller (under development) - 4 servo channels, program control of DMX terminator. Features include programmable current limit (Maximum of 8 Amps) and trip time for servo power and auto shutdown of servo power based on inactivity.  This design includes a new reverse voltage protection scheme with a super low voltage drop (high power MOSFET switch).

 

All three of the controllers can have the firmware reprogrammed via the DMX bus using a bootloader program.

 

In addition to the electronics and firmware design, I have created control panel software to exercise all of the servo/LED channels, configure firmware features and to update the firmware..

Animatronics control panel software

 

This project is not actually scary, but it does do a great job of controlling some really scary skeletons.

 

Update (11/8/2019) -

Not long after I created this blog, I was talking with my Granddaughter (Emily).  She had just got a pumpkin while on a school field trip and wanted to do something cool with it.  She is a big fan of HalloweenSkulls skeletons (as is her younger brother), so I suggested that I might be able to come up with some LED eyes for her pumpkin.  I did not think that I needed the whole DMX connected control, so I made a quick update to the controller board firmware to create a standalone/demo mode, where a stored script (in EEPROM) could be used to drive the RGB LEDs.  I also made some 'eyes' that I sew into a mask, for a simple (no carve) jack-o-lantern.  A day before Halloween I shared the setup with her and asked if she thought it would be OK.  She was happy with the effect, but quickly decided that she would like if to switch between Yellow and Pink (I had demoed the much simpler Red/Green), so I brought the setup home and rewrote the script.  Here is the resulting result:  (Note: the colors are Pink and Yellow, but the video ends up looking more like white as the camera most likely saturated the LED images)