New CTEC Keycoder

I think I’m almost done with my new keycoder, it’s gone thru several iterations and I’ve ironed out most of the bugs.

I’d posted earlier this week that I’d started with a box I made out of aluminum angle, and added a bunch of momentary toggle switches, I then took the guts out of two RF remotes and wired them up inside. Sounds easy but it didn’t feel like it at the time.

The switches are mini (on)-off-(on) momentary, I really wanted to try and get sub-mini’s that just did (on)-off, but I couldn’t find any at a price I was willing to pay. I think the switches I ended up with worked out to be around a $1 each after shipping.

Space is very tight and I really didn’t want to make the box any bigger than absolutely necessary, so I ended up trimming the RF boards down and consolidating the antennas as well as removing the two batteries.

The switches center solder tabs are common and wired together

This is the spaghetti I’d created once I was “done” wiring the switches in

With being generous with the wire I’d forgotten it all had to fit in the box somehow! So I ended up shortening everything down. I also wrapped the backs of the switches and any critical parts of the boards in electrical tape.

I’d tried really hard to fit rechargeable batteries inside too, but ended up with a better solution I think. I ran a cable out and up into the battery compartment of the Futaba to share it’s battery. The cable has a Y split in it for easy removal. The RF remotes come with a 12V battery, but I’ve tested and found that they work very happily on the 10VDC coming from the Futaba. When I double checked my older remotes their batteries had dropped to 6V and were still working fine.

So, that’s my new CTEC keycoder almost done.


  • Having the antenna internally limits range so I’ll be moving it outside.
  • Total cost was roughly $94 (incl. two RF setups $60, aluminum $10, switches $24), and about 2 or 3 days of work. On the other hand the Vantec Hitchiker product is around $450 – and only works with their special Futaba 75Mhz FM 9CAP, but does have some great features that I will need a cheap micro-controller to replicate.
  • My keycoder weights in at 10oz, adding to the already heavy Futaba setup at almost 2.5lb. So I may look into making a plastic box – but the weight of the switches definitely adds up.

One last trick I learned is that you can have multiple remotes control a single RF receiver. Yep, you heard that right. I’ve been controlling multiple RF receivers with one remote for a while, but had no idea it would work the other way around – each remote doesn’t not need to have the same code even. I accidentally found this out while trying to mate the new keycoders remotes to my droid and found that my older remotes still worked.


Posted by Chris on August 6th, 2008 in Electronics | 3 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mystery Box

Anyone want to hazard a guess what I’m trying to make here?

This photo should give it away

More photos in a few days

Posted by Chris on August 2nd, 2008 in Electronics | 5 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mounting RF Remotes to the Futaba

I had to find a better way to mount the RF remotes to my new Futaba transmitter. I’d originally had them mounted to the sides of Vex transmitter, but really didn’t want to go this route this time around.

I’m still toying with the idea of taking the electronics from the two RF remotes and installing it all in a custom box that would look similar to the Vantec HitchHiker /keycoder, but it’s been almost a year since I blogged something similar, and I’ve yet to do it πŸ™‚

After some experimentation, I went with a very simple acrylic bracket to fix the main RF remote on the front of the Futaba, making it very easy to control with either hand. It does cover the screen, but to be honest it’s rarely used and the bracket is easily removed or lifted.

The bracket is only secured in one spot, the bottom of the Futaba with Velcro for easy removal.

I mounted the second RF remote sideways on the battery compartment on the back of the Futaba. Right now it only has functions that aren’t used often, so I don’t think it’ll be to inconvenient having it there.

The only real catch with this setup is the antennas, occasionally I’ve found it necessary to extend them if I get to far away from Artoo.

Posted by Chris on July 6th, 2008 in Electronics, RC | No Comments

Tags: , , ,

Mounting Dome Electronics

I was getting tired of my disorganized electronics in the dome, so I made this little holder that mounts everything cleanly and is easily removed.

It’s just a piece of acrylic bent into a U-shape with an extra L-shaped shelf glued in the middle.

The various electronic boards are velcro’d into place for easy removal and the whole thing attaches to one of the dome ring supports.

Top: Syren10 Speed Controller (Dome Periscope), 12V/24V DC/DC Power Converter
Middle: Power Distribution Board
Bottom: 12 Channel RF Receiver

I secure the wires that run up to the dome to make sure I don’t accidentally pull everything off when the dome is removed

Please ignore the 16 gauge wire as well, I was running short of something lighter but didn’t want to make a special trip to the store.

See also:

Posted by Chris on April 28th, 2008 in Dome, Electronics | 8 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

Sound System Demo Video

As promise here’s the demo video of the new CF-III setup. Sorry it’s so long.

P.S. Don’t forget the laptop is only used to show the diagnostic messages. It’s not needed for normal operation. Electrically this setup is exactly the same as all the other CF-II/CF-III systems in droids today. I’ve only added my custom code to add the extra functionality.

Posted by Chris on December 21st, 2007 in Electronics | 4 Comments

Tags: , , , ,

Sound System Work

It had a busy weekend, but I did find some time to work on R2. I decided to continue focusing on the sound system and electronics in general as it’s easier to start and stop with minimum mess and cleanup.

I did hear back from ACS about the specs on the internal amplifier in the CF3 sound system. It turns out I was right and it can deliver 25W per channel, or 50W total. Their manual is rather vague and states it can only do 20W total, so I’m glad I checked now. I bought some new generic 4 1/2″ 4 ohm 30W speakers to test and they sound pretty good and seem louder and clearer than the single 15W horn speak I was using. Each speaker is connected to it’s down channel and delivers more sound than my ears could handle comfortably. I’m probably going to mount them behind the front vents for now, but may end up moving one into the skirt to bounce some sound off the floor to help it travel further and in more directions.


With the speakers out of the way I started to think about how I had the electronics laid out. Some of you may remember this is what my original electronic mounting panel looked like for C4.

It’s worked great, but I need to add a few things and as it stands, once the skins go on, I think it will be hard to use the hinged electronics panel to get access to the internals of the droid for maintenance, e.g. the batteries. I’m thinking it maybe simpler to move some or all of it internally to the droid.

With that said I started to disassemble the rear panel. I needed to do it anyway to add the Contact 24 I/O daughter card to the CF3 sound system. This will give me more options on the range of sounds I can trigger.

I’d been putting this off for a while as everything was working okay, and I could sort of live with only being able to trigger two banks of random sound vs the possibility of twelve banks.

With the everything disassembled adding the daughter board to the CF3 was a snap.

While I had the CF3 open I wanted to add an external connector to the white 3 pin header which bring out the volume control. It’s located just below the new Contact 24 daughter board and next to the CF card slot. I plan on connecting it to 2 channels on an RF receiver/relay board to allow me to adjust volume remotely.

3 pin volume header

The plug is pretty standard and I ended up buying a $2 fan extension cable as I couldn’t find loose plugs locally.

But there was a slight problem, the plug is too long and stops you from putting the Contact 24 card back in it’s place so I had to chop down the plug a bit.

I drilled a hole in the side of the box for the wire to pass through

I temporarily wired up the three contacts (up, down, common ground) to my RF receiver to try it out and it worked first time which surprised me. The plan is to have the volume on it’s own RF remote as I wanted to keep all 12 channels free on my original RF remote just to trigger sounds.

Now that the Contact 24 board was in place, I could start wiring up all 12 channels to the RF receiver using some hacked-up twisted pair LAN cable I had laying around.

Basically all the connectors labeled “A” on the RF receiver are connected to the adjacent “A” and then over to the common ground on the CF3 sound system. Then I connected the “B” connector of each relay over to a contact on the CF3. Starting at the top left going down is relay 1 thru 7, then on right starting at the bottom going up is relay 8 thru 12 . Each connections maps over to contacts 1-12 on the Contact Sense 24 board in the CF3.

RF Receiver wired up

This is the CF3/Contact Sense 24 side of the wiring. Each block of green plugs/connectors has 10 connections. The outside two are common ground. I’m only using one from each block and routing it over to the the two halves of the remote relay board (brown wire)

CF3 Connections

Here’s the the connections on the smaller 4 channel RF Receive from the CF3 volume cable. Note that on the 4 channel receiver we’re using connections B and C instead of A and B. This caught me of guard as the documentation that comes with the board is incorrect.

I’m going to Velcro each of the RF Receiver to the top of the CF3 case.

Right now I have the two RF remotes Velcro’d to the side of my transmitter, but I’m tempted to create a small box with better switches on it similar to the Vantec KeyCoder and have the RF transmitters hidden inside.

And finally here’s a wiring diagram I created that will hopefully make things a little easier to understand. There’s also a PDF version for printing.

CF3 and RF Remote Wiring Diagram

Next step is to reprogram the CF memory card to use all 12 channels of the remote.

Posted by Chris on December 17th, 2007 in Electronics | No Comments

Tags: , , , , , ,

12 Channel RF Remote Notes

There was some discussion on the builders message board recently about reprogramming the unique encoding on the newer 12 channel RF remotes.

Much of the documentation and notes on various R2 sites are for the older remotes. I thought it might be a good idea to document my findings on the new remotes.

I don’t want to repeat in detail why or how R2 builders use these boards, but the most common is to trigger sounds in your droid when combined with a CF3 sound system. Most of what’s been written about integrating the board into your droid applies no matter which revision you have – but changing the encoding has.

First up, most people find these boards on ebay. Just search on “12 rf remote” and you’ll find a lot of sellers offering them from all over the world. Don’t pay more than $30-40 with shipping. There’s still a few sellers offering the older boards too.

So what’s the difference between them? Not a lot to be honest. The newer boards are easier to reprogram the unique identifying code, and the transmitter is a little smaller. However the new receiver board does have an annoying buzzer that needs disabling.

For the geek in you – On the receiver board, auto learning decoding scheme has been programmed into the MCU IC chip, and inside the remote control or transmitter there’s an Encoding IC Chip, an SC-2262. This set of IC chips can be used to encode your signals so that multiple remotes in close proximity will not interfere with each other. In theory you can pick from 6561 different combinations.

Do you need to worry about changing the code? That’s easy, most boards are shipped with the same factory default code, and you don’t want your droid to clash with some else’s.

For reference, here’s the older board and the remote which is somewhat larger

If you have one of these then jump over to Alex’s original RF remote tutorial.

Warning: The Positive/Negative terminals are swapped on the new and old boards. Please double check everything you’re doing with the latest wiring diagrams from the manufacturer. Don’t assume this tutorial is up to date.

And, here’s the new RF remote/receiver – notice the circle/tab toward the back of the board. That’s the buzzer. If yours has one of these then you have the newer board.

Unlike the older board, to change the unique encoding all you have to do is set it on the remote transmitter and then set the receiver to auto-learn mode, with a press of a button and you’re done. Well that’s the overly simplified explanation.

Here’s an overview of the receiver board with the location of the learn button marked at the bottom left.

Procedure to Learn and Erase Codes

  • Press the β€œLearn” button on the receiver board, the siren will beep indicating the receiver is ready and waiting to learn from transmitter.
  • Press any designated keys to teach and select Output modes. (See list below)
  • If you need to reset/erase the the receiver due to lost or new remote, press β€œLearn” button for ~10sec until the siren beeps 3 times, which indicates previous learned codes have been erased.

Output Mode selection

Press 3 for Momentary Mode
Press 6 for Latched Mode
Press 9 for Toggle Mode
Press 12 for Ch1-Ch6: Toggle Mode, Ch7-Ch12: Momentary Mode

To set the encoding, first open up the transmitter

The chip at the bottom labeled SC-2262 is what does all the work.

Remove one more screw and separate the green circuit board from the casing

Notice the 3 rows of 8 little solder tabs at the bottom. That’s where you set the unique code using a soldering iron (one of 6561 or 3×8 combinations.)

Pin 1 through 8 bring out the Encode function of your remote transmitter. The receiver board will automatically learn from the transmitter by pressing the learn button.

On the older boards they used to labels the back of the board with a “H” for High, “L” for Low and numbers of the pin outs. Unfortunately the newer boards don’t have this luxury. I’ve marked up a photo to show the pin outs.

Low or ” L” – Low digital state (Close to GND level).
High or ” H” – High digital state (9-12V).

You should also be able to figure out the β€œL” and β€œH” states yourself. After you connect the system to power, use a Voltmeter to measure the contacts on both sides of the column of eight pins (1-8). Voltage level on each side should be consistence. If one side is β€œH”, the other side should be β€œL”. β€œH” level voltage can be measured only when signal is transmitting/receiving. Or simply use the above photo as reference.

Also, you don’t have to connect all eight pins to High or Low, just one will do. In my case pins 3 and 4 are connected to Low, and 7 to High.

Often remotes are default encoded to be 00000001, i.e. pin 8 is shorted to GND.

Encoded IC has following representation:

If the pin is not shorted to anything, its code value is β€œ0”.
If the pin is shorted to Low, its code value is β€œ1”,
If the pin is shorted to High, its code value is a β€œ2”.

A couple of useful sites

  • Light Object – they sell on ebay under the name of coldfusionx, are based in the USA and a lot of R2 builders buy their boards from them. This link has a bunch of support documentation on it.
  • – Jerry Green’s write up on integrating the remote with a CF2 sound system.
  • – Alex’s original RF remote write-up.

Warning: I’ve just been informed that the Positive/Negative terminals are swapped on the new and old boards. Please double check everything you’re doing with the latest wiring diagrams from the manufacturer. Don’t assume this tutorial is up to date.

Posted by Chris on November 30th, 2007 in Electronics | 25 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Mist / Fire Extinguisher Test

Well I’m back working on R2. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything on him and I’ve still got a long list of big to-do’s. Sadly, instead of working on the small things I’ve been avoiding everything.

Inspired by reading Victors success with the Mist/Fire Extinguisher effect this week I decided I’d give it a go this weekend, hoping it would kick start me going back to work on more difficult things like the skins.

The mist is created by an inverted can of compress air normally used to dust PC’s and office equipment. When it’s inverted rather than spray air, a watery/icy mist comes out.

I decided to put the air cannister and output in the dome instead of the body. I really liked the idea of popping open a dome hatch/side panel and having something come out, and I thought this would be perfect.

I’d already bought a cheap solenoid which was part of a trunk release kit I found on eBay. I had looked locally, but eBay seemed to be cheaper. Wiring it in was a snap and it’s only a few wires. It’s triggered with a spare channel on my RF remote.

I cut a 1 1/2″ acrylic strip and bent it into an L shape. I bolted it to the Dome Mounting Ring and then used clamps to hold the cannister and solenoid to it.

I drilled a small hole in the trigger of the air cannister and connected it to the solenoid with a bend paper clip.

Here’s a rough diagram of how it’s wired

Space in the dome is tight and I’m sure I’ll need to move things around or lower/angle the cannister more to accommodate the periscope lift mech.

Here a short movie clip of the first test with the dome off

Then with the dome on

I still need to add a hinge to the hatch and power it with a servo. I did tinker a bit with the Robart hinges but decided to leave this for tomorrow.

Posted by Chris on August 4th, 2007 in Dome, Electronics | 1 Comment

Tags: , , , , , , ,

« Older Entries