Eight years ago, after a trip to Disney World, real estate developer Greg Slagen decided to put up an animated Halloween display in his front yard. One of his tenants, who was in robotics, helped him set up a pneumatically powered coffin lid.
But being a self-confessed "kid at heart," Slagen's display grew by leaps and bounds each year. "We couldn't live with random motion and just end-of-stroke sensors" that simply reversed the action without coordination of the display elements, says Slagen. "We needed to control the motion."
His pneumatics suppliers and his own Internet research led Slagen to Omron Electronics (Schaumburg, IL). The company's SRM1 PLC was selected four years ago to provide control of the display's motion sequences, such as skeletons rising out of the ground and doors opening. The PLC now runs as a slave to special-effects software running on a PC that controls the story and time sequences, which now include dialog. "The software signals the Omron controller which is programmed with the motion sequences," notes Slagen. "The controller will then, for instance, bring up a skeleton, turn on the eyes and start the heart beating, then light its cigar." After any audio tracks, the events are coordinated in reverse.
This year, Slagen and crew are adding another PC to run DVD video projections of famous movie monsters who will appear at the cemetery.
The project takes up three or four months of the year, requiring Slagen's imagination and attention early on. "The characters' heads and bodies are changed each year—this year it's Halloween in Hollywood with clips from the movies," Slagen says. He has his own full-time electrician working on the cemetery. The electrician's work and the support he gets from Omron and other suppliers allows Slagen to "dream this [stuff] up over a bottle of wine, while these guys make it work."
For more information about controllers from Omron Electronics: Enter 537