An Arduino Uno microcontroller.

Using the Arduino in Model Engineering

The tools and equipment available to the model engineer are rapidly evolving, with traditional approaches being augmented by CAD, CAM, CNC, laser cutting, 3D printing and so on.  On the modelling side, electronically controlled and web-linked models and drones are becoming ever cheaper and more capable.

Microcontrollers have been around for some time, and the Arduino microcontroller in particular seems to be opening this area up considerably.  However, despite their common use in robotics, I have seen little evidence of the use of microcontrollers being adopted in more traditional model engineering circles.  This seems like a lost opportunity and I am starting to think about using the Arduino to control functions in my own models.

Applications that I have in mind are:

  • Engine Control Unit (ECU) for the AMD series miniature ic engines.  The Arduino could be used to trigger the sparks, perhaps with variable ignition timing dependent on rpm, temperature, throttle setting and so on.
  • Gear change for the Mk II car.  The Arduino could be used to automatically or semi-automatically change the gears by driving servos to control engine rpm, engage/disengage the clutch, select appropriate gear.
  • Control of lighting system, e.g. make headlights light sensitive or to control all lights with one R/C channel.
  • Full vehicle autonomy.  Do away with the R/C altogether and use satellite navigation instead.  Not an easy challenge though!
  • The Arduino can also be used for partial control of workshop machinery, e.g. to drive a stepper motor to rotate a dividing head automatically or to control a milling machine axis for repeated operations.

I will update this page in line with any developments.