They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, there's no question who the parents are!
Imagine you've got your latest and greatest project ready to go, whether that's Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or even a bunch of LED lights for your home, but you want to be able to remotely control the power to these devices.
Perhaps you're placing the project on a remote mountain top, or the project is battery powered and you want to be able to turn off devices to save power, or maybe, you're just automating that amazing home LED lighting.
You need a Power Distribution Unit!
It's a simple concept, imagine a power strip, but for DC power, and you can control and measure the power usage of each outlet!
The DC PDU has a port for a DC supply, anywhere from 0 to 40V DC, and will supply that to 8 other individually controlled ports, up to 3A each! Each port has current and power sensing, voltage sensing on the input port, and individual control for each port!
Ready to light up the night? A simple 'PON 1' command turns on the power to Port 1! Want to see exactly how much power the device on each port is passing through? The 'STATUS' command will print a summary of all the ports, if they're on or off, how much current and power they're using, and more! Check out the GitHub page for documentation and examples for all the supported commands!
The PDU connects via a standard USB-B port on the board, and shows up on your OS X, Linux, or Windows device as a USB Serial Port. Using your favorite serial program (screen, PuTTY, minicom, etc), you can connect to the PDU, request data, and send commands!
The PDU can be powered via USB, or via a regulated 5V supply connected to the onboard 2.1mm Barrel Jack! Just flip the solder jumper on the bottom of the board from USB to Jack!
Have a need for more than 3 amps, or need to control an AC powered device? Attach a simple relay to a PDU port, and you can manage power for any device you can imagine!
I designed this device for a project I volunteer with that places network infrastructure (wireless access points and routers), at remote mountain top sites for emergency connectivity. Some of those mountain top sites are hard to reach, or a long distance away, and we needed a way to remotely reboot a router if it hung up.
There are a number of options for doing this with AC power from companies like APC or TrippLite, but very little available for DC power, which was important for our solar powered locations. Equally important was to ensure the PDU itself drew as little power as possible to avoid being a significant load on the batteries. The PDU runs from a 5V supply, and draws about 20mA. A tiny little figure, great for running off batteries.
As I mentioned in the paragraph above, there are numerous options to control AC power, but they tend to draw a lot of power themselves, and at battery powered locations, you have to use an inverter to go up to mains voltage, and then another supply to regulate it back down. What a waste! Using a low power device that switches DC power directly removes the inefficiencies and makes a great option for solar or battery powered locations!
The PDU also includes an onboard temperature sensor, to give you a clue as to the environment your projects are running in. There are six extra analog inputs that accept voltages from 0V to 4.5V and will be read out via the status commands, so you can use the PDU to help gather your data!
I've designed a 3D printable case for the PDU, and it's available in the GitHub repository for you to print yourself, print at your local hackerspace, or send to a company like Shapeways for printing!
Everyone has a different use case for a device like this, so I haven't attached connectors to the ports. You're free to solder in wires, or whatever connectors you like! I have designed them to be compatible with the wonderful Anderson PowerPole connectors with the straight PC board contacts!
Thanks for checking out my project, and I hope that it can help you wrangle the power management for your project!
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I'm an electronics hobbyist and enthusiast in the Pacific Northwest, and all my projects come from an interest or necessity I've run across.
I've been fiddling with electronics for as long as I can remember, and am grateful for my parents and family putting up with me taking apart every old VCR, Garage Door Opener, or anything else I could get my hands on as a child so I could better understand how it worked.
These days I design circuits and boards from scratch, and enjoy getting creative with the process. It really is an art form, and my wife will testify to my excitement at a beautifully routed board, or finally getting a project working right!