A manual attempt for the Gilson 817 Valve Actuator

Got it by mail today. Works nice! Of course, unscrewed it. Of course, screwed it! Actually, almost almost only. Not really: I saw a nice chip inside, labeled “Lithium Battery”. A battery? a chip? both? – Let’s unplug it and have look!

Oh, it’s a chip with a battery!

A closer look: It’s a M48Z12, a zeropower SRAM. I have unplugged its brain! At least: its memory!!!. Plug it back quickly, Dr. Frankenstein…

[A note to the nescient: A valve actuator is a device that controls the state of a valve. Very convenient if you have a system with many and/or complex flow ways, like a HPLC. The 817 is a versatile electrical actuator that may be controlled manually or by a computer. It is designed for automated processes like “inject the sample when the column has equilibrated for 10 minutes, but do not require the operator’s attendance”].

… 28 pin socket. 24 pin chip – Aaaaaargh! Stupid me (wo Blödmann!!!). Didn’t record the position. 6 possible combinations. 5 of them will kill the chip, for sure. Luckily, this didn’t happen: Had a quick look with the DVM where the 5 volts were and another quick look in the internet to know where the chip wants to have the power aligned. -> 1 possibility left.

But: If I hadn’t almost screwed it, I never had had a chance to discover the possibilities of the the 817. When it came, it was configured for a 6port/6position valve. With no hint that it’s capable of more. An no manual (I am sure you know that manuals are highly volatile and tend to disappear to places most far from the device they belong to). Of course, the box didn’t contain any. Nor the Internet.

But now: Power!
memory failure :)
<of course, amnesia. Same will happen when someone unplugs YOUR memory>

<15 minutes follow of pressing various keys, interrupted by several power off/on cycles>

Then: Heureka! Solved!

Here it is: The short Gilson 817 Valve Actuator manual:

(usual Disclaimers apply)

  1. If you have set everything properly, just power it on. Thanks to zeropower RAM, 817 remembers the valve style, the last position of the actuator and its role in HPLC society. At least for about 10 years. Then you might have to invest 7.70 Euros for a replacement 2kx8 24pin zeropower RAM. You have been advised to record the position of the chip before you remove it.
  2. If you a) screwed the memory (or its battery has fainted forcing you to replace the chip, too), or should want to b) insert or c) change THE VALVE, then please read on:
    Press the “PosA/Enter” Key and keep it pressed (no need for de-pressed). Turn on power. Release the Key. (You should have turned the 817 off before)
    The Display doesn’t say “hello” to you (this was not yet common in 1993), but “config” after some secret codes telling the inaugurated about 817’s identity.
    Press “Enter”, then select the slave operation mode with the arrow keys. Then, press “Enter” from time to time, the 80C51 microcontroler inside teaches you how to change/insert a valve (remove plate/unclamp/valve out/valve in/ clamp / attach plate).
    Then, the display tells you a number and “Pos”. With the arrow keys, adjust the figure according to the valve you have inserted. Press “Enter”.  Then you have the possibility to adjust the actuator position. This might bring you into the lucky situation that you finally may clamp the valve handle to the actuator. Then “ready” should appear.Install the valve properly and there you are!In the Master mode, you might have the possibility to control other machines of this type, e.g for directing the flow through different columns. But the Master refuses to operate when no slaves are present.

    Now have fun!

    Oops! I almost forgot to tell you how to operate the 817: The Arrow Keys turn the valve one step forth or back. The display shows the actual valve position: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H. The PosA/Enter Key -guess: brings the valve in the “home” position. There are two further keys (on the lower left) you may use them to set to external connectors on the backside of 817 to +12V for controlling anything you like as long it does not eat more than a total of 0.5A.

    After a regular power on, the 817 tells you the valve setting it has remembered. The actuator supports valves with 2,4,6 and 8 positions. While the 4,6 and 8 position valves may be flow diverters (the actuator rotates in aliquots of 90, 60 or 45 degrees), the 2 position valve may be a 6 port valve, for the classical “Rheodyne” style HPLC sample loop / injector combination, the actuator just switches from A to B and the short way back. No rotation.

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