This device will trigger a camera or flash unit to automatically take a picture when an object (target) enters a specific location. It uses two, crossed infrared light beams to detect the presence of the target and close a relay that trips the camera or flash unit. Response time is about 2 ms from detection to relay closure, so if your camera doesn't have long shutter-lag, it will capture even fast moving targets.
The optical part of the device consists of two IR LEDs and two Sharp IS471FE optical ICs (OPICs). The optical ICs have built in LED modulators and synchronous detectors, so they won't see light from each other's LEDs. The outputs from the OPICs are connected to an 8 pin PIC microcontroller that handles interpreting input signals and driving the relay and a visible LED that indicates the operating mode. Though there are 11 operating modes, the controller has a very simple user-interface consisting of a pushbutton switch and an LED.
On power up if the beams are properly aligned and unbroken, the LED lights continuously for 1 second then goes dark to indicate the unit is ready to operate in the continuous mode. In that mode the relay will close and remain closed and the LED will light up as long as both IR beams are interrupted. The unit is now ready to connect to your camera.
With some targets you may want to take more than one picture when the target breaks the IR beams. I have included a basic intervalometer function in the controller to allow cameras that don't have a built-in rapid-fire mode to take multiple pictures as long as the IR beams are interrupted. Pushing the mode select button once takes the controller out of continuous mode and puts it in pulse mode. The LED will flash one time to indicate that the relay will close 1 time per second. Some cameras are faster so pushing the button again will move up to 2 pulses per second. By repeatedly pushing the button, the speed will increase from 1 pps all the way to 10 pps, each time flashing the LED to indicate the pulse frequency. Holding the button down for 2.3 seconds resets the unit and takes you back to continuous mode.
Step 1: Gather Electronic Parts
Here are the parts lists for the electronic stuff.
All of the electronics can be obtained from Digikey or other sources. You will need a bunch of different colors of wire, too.
You will need to be able to program the PIC microcontroller- a PICKit2 or ICD-2 or any of hundreds of other programmers can do the job. A suitable programmer will cost about $20, but once you have it you will find all sorts of projects that can use microcontrollers and will get a lot of use out of it.
When I bought my PICKit2 from digikey I ordered an accessory pack of five PIC10F206 chips with 8 pin DIP adapters. The IC is in a tiny SOT23 package which is fine if you're going to make a PCB but pretty useless for breadboarding and one-off construction projects. The 10F206 is also available in an 8 pin DIP package- I suggest you use it.
I have not provided PCB layout info for the controller here because I didn't use a PCB. The circuit is so simple that it seems sort of silly to make a PCB for it. There are only 4 parts on the board- the relay, the uC, the bypass cap, and a resistor. The circuit requires fewer parts than a 555 timer chip circuit. Just cut some perf board to fit whatever box you're using and wire the thing up. It should take all of 30 minutes start to finish.
The optical circuits are pretty simple- an IC, a cap, and a LED. The LED and optical IC go into diagonally opposite corners of the pipe frame, so you're going to need a bunch of colored wire. I "assembled" the IC and capacitor on small pieces of perf board that fit into cap-plugs for the PVC elbow fittings in the frame- see photos on the next page.