This project sucks! ...Motorized blast gates

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time! There’s a video at end of this post, if you want to skip to the action.

I ran off all the parts for the gate components first using 1/2" poplar ply.

From my testing, these gates do a pretty good job of sealing off areas, notably better than the standard plastic and metal gates which all leak terribly. I had to wax up the slides pretty good to get everything moving well as the fit doesn’t leave much play. There are a few more than this, but these were the first batch I made.

They aren’t the most beautiful, but that was never the goal as they are supposed to be functional. All of the gates are controlled from a central panel. The logic is run by an Arduino. A single switch toggles multiple gates, as there are three different zones within my existing system and some of the switches activate more than one zone. The system will also toggle the vacuum on when any gates are open. Currently, I have to walk around the shop and do all of this manually any time I want to use a different tool.

In the future, I can always replace the switches with tool sensors if I want to automate everything based on tool usage. I would just need to add a shutoff delay into the code to let the vacuum run a bit longer. But my shop is fairly small, so I expect this will be fine.

There is still work to do, including running the wiring to each gate location on the actual system and a few programming tweaks. But it’s very satisfying to see everything working as this project has taken longer than expected.

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Nice work!
Is there any leakage from the bottom or the sandwiched pieces of ply?
Any gasket incorporated on the gate side?
Have you considered making them easier to open, possibly a finger hole in the top-center? The off-center tab for opening may attribute to the trouble, opening. (Edit: did not see the video, that they are actuated - doh!)

I may be stealing some design aspects from these!

I’m not going to be so bold as to say there is no leakage. I’m sure there is some, but I still believe they are better than any of the plastic or metal gates I have purchased in the past. No gaskets at the moment, just relying on a good fit. When closed, the suction pulls everything together for a pretty nice seal, which is the most important part as my system has a lot of connections, so I need to be able to keep everything closed off well when not in use. I will need more time to determine if it needs something more.

I initially tried using thin cardboard spacers cut on my laser to offset the faces and allow the slide to move, but in the end, it was easier to send all of the slides through my drum sander until they fit perfectly.

I did consider that opening/closing from the center would be better, but it would have required offsetting the actuators and I was trying to keep everything compact. Plus, offsetting the actuator would have reduced the total movement in relation to the open direction, and these only have a 4" stroke, so I did not really have the extra headroom to do so without sacrificing some suction.

I’m not going to pretend this is/was the best way to do it, but it’s what I knew I could do and had a good understanding of the components. In hindsight, it may have been better to use a solenoid of some sort instead of the linear actuators, but I had already committed myself to this path.

I actually can’t open the gates manually with the actuators attached. We’ll see if I regret that later…

Sure. Go for it. I will attach the design here if you want to play with it, make it better, whatever. It’s pretty simple. I just used 1/4-20 x 1.25" machine screws with washers, plus T-nuts on the back side to hold everything together. And a heavy-handed amount of CA glue around the seams of the PVC coupler.

blast-gates-7-array.crv (410.5 KB)

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Thanks, I really appreciate you sharing the file and providing feedback. I have to situate some new shelving in my shop, and re-route the dust collection, it will come in handy when I get at it (eventually).

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I must say, now your just showing off but I also must say…I think that’s just my envy showing thru…HAHA

Very nicely done!

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That qualifies as wicked cool! Seriously nice project. Just super. I love using tools like a CNC to make other tools :slightly_smiling_face:

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Tight work! I love Arduino projects, combined with a 3D printer and a CNC, one can really get their geek on. As I watched this, my first thought was “I wonder what his shop looks like?”. My shop is in the garage, with a fan, a shopvac, and a few portable saws on wheels. I did recently buy a remote control power switch for my shopvac, so I have that going for me.

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Thanks! Yeah, I actually did have to fire up the 3D printer for this project too. That was when I realized I the control box I bought was too small for everything that needed to go inside…oops. So I made the funky blue extension for the connectors which can be seen in the photos to get the stiff stems out of the way from the box interior.

I would bet that 5 years ago, my garage was a lot like yours. It has definitely been a process. I previously posted a short shop tour in another thread, since you asked. And it actually references the need to make these blast gates, lol — full circle.

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I have definitely been accused of spending more time making/collecting tools than creating actual projects.

Wow that is amazing. Well done.

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If we were wannabe rock stars, we would call this “chasing tone”

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Great work! I have a few boost gates in my shop but i only motorized the one i have installed for my CNC. I bought the gates to save time - they’re the ones everyone knows, some metal some plastic, they work ok, but not great. The plastic ones seal better but they are hard to move, and the metal are leaky but seal better with suction.I do like yours though! Looks like taking the time paid off with better and cheaper gates. I had motorized the gate for the cnc using a geared motor i had laying around, fitted with a small pulley around which i wrapped a steel cable connected to both ends of the blast gate slide/valve. Works well but adding the travel limit switches and another one for the dust collector control, came to a little more messy assembly than i would like to see.
I really like your linear actuators. I looked at those before and they were pretty costly for my budget.
What model and store you got them from?

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Thanks. I initially attempted to use some small linear actuators I picked up from AliExpress, but that didn’t work out as well as planned. Ultimately, I went with these:

image

They are a good tradeoff of speed and power for what was needed in this project, and the limit switches are already built in. Many of the actuators in this class were too slow at half this speed or less, and way stronger than needed.

You are correct, they were not particularly cheap — roughly 3-4x the cost of the AliExpress actuators I wanted to use initially. But when compared to the cost of an IVAC system (which was my alternative), I was still able to save a significant amount by DIY, particularly at the scale of my system.

I have only been using them for a couple weeks now, but everything is working great and it’s so satisfying. I wish I had done this ages ago.

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Matticustard, thanks for the info.
These actuators look nice, but are indeed more costly than I could afford to invest for my whole home shop. However, I am tempted especially given the fact that they integrate limit switches, I think that they come really close to worth the expense even for my budget. There’s a lot to like about them, things I didn’t think of considering before I got to actually build a couple of motorized gates using discrete components. Just judging the labor these actuators are saving from not having to install limit switches and tweak their positions, wire them all with the motor (cut, strip, solder, route, secure all wires), had to make and attach a motor bracket to the blast gate and mechanically link its axle to the gate. All these operations indeed fairly simple and easy to do but there are many and they add up to a fair amount of time spent. The second aspect where these actuators shine is the fact that everything is enclosed for much better dust protection, leading to better reliability.
So yeah, I think I will get me at least couple for a good start to only build the blast gates I use the most, then we’ll see.
Thank again for sharing your good work with all of us and good luck with what coming next in your plans!

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