Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Hydra - Your Plant Care Companion Part 1

This is my first Kickstarter project featuring an automated indoor plant care system :D Since there is a lot of content to blog about, this will be split into a few posts spanning the length of the Kickstarter campaign, which starts today! The topic of this first post will cover my motivations for starting this project and challenges encountered when building the alpha prototype.

For those of you interested viewing the project on Kickstarter, here is the link:

Also, if you guys find this interesting, I would be sincerely happy if y'all help spread the project via our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/plantcarecompanion

Now, I started this project as architecture school was getting really busy and my plants were getting neglected as a result. As I could not find a suitable system in the market to take care of my 20+ plants, I decided to come up with some watering automation of my own. The idea to put it on Kickstarter was on the back of my mind, but I needed to get the device to work first.

The aim of the game was to create a simple, compact watering system that could be installed anywhere. The water source would be a bucket on the ground and there would be a pump that sucks it up to distribute many potted plants, so I ordered a few peristaltic pumps to test the concept out.

For those of you who don't know, peristaltic pumps mimic the motion of peristalsis (the action that makes food move down our gullet and through our intestines) to move liquid through a flexible tube. Compared to the common centrifugal pumps, peristaltic pumps have no problem switching on and off frequently and are much more precise, which makes them more suitable for laboratory and medical applications.

However, I was soon to learn about gravity! It turns out that branching the outlet of the peristaltic pump into many different tubes to water many plants will not cut it as the all water will flow out of the tube outlet closest to the ground, no two ways about it!

One option would have been to make the outlets very small (basically pinhole) and use pressure in the tubes to even things out. However, we found that even with this, the bottom-most outlet was still favored and it would have been very hard to quantify the amount of water each plant received. In addition, one watering system in the market did exactly this and reviews did mention tubes popping out due to the pressure involved!

To find out how I solved this problem, stay tuned for the next blog post!


Fish Tank Stand

Hi, I just finished architecture school (with a masters) so I FINALLY have time to update this blog. I did a few projects since my last post so do look out for DIY fish tank lights, a cello with a broken neck and my next series of posts (right after this one) that will feature my first Kickstarter project!

Now, onto this project, it's a 2' x 1.5' fish tank stand (height: 3') made out of Kapur dimensional lumber, plywood and blockboard. 

The Kapur lumber was recycled from 2 previous fish tank stands I made (they were one of my first woodworking projects, even before the plywood bookshelves). Those creations were wayy over-engineered so I took them apart and trimmed the salvaged lumber down to size for use in this project. The plywood and lumber were spare pieces found in my school's fabrication lab so this a 100% reused wood project!

For those of you who don't know blockboard, it is a much lighter alternative to plywood (and particle board or MDF for that matter), although it does not have the strips at the side which I like to exploit in plywood for visual effect. It is not as strong as plywood, but is excellent for bracing in projects like these where the stress exerted on the material is not too high.

Structurally, the tank is held up by 4 'pillars' of solid kapur wood. The top structure is made out of kapur wood 'beams', one along each side and one across the middle of the rectangle to support the span of plywood in between. The entire structure is braced on all sides (except the bottom) with either plywood or blockboard.

Being a 2' x 1.5' tank, I would expect this stand to hold up a 2' x 1.5' x 2' fish tank, which should weigh in at around 200 - 225 kg with the weight of the glass and substrate factored in.

The stand was designed with a double leaf door and 2 openings at the side for wires, air tubes and pipes to find their way in. The openings also serve to ventilate the interior of the cabinet if a sump (a secondary tank that connects the primary aquarium, a sump serves to hold aquarium equipment and misbehaving fish) were to be placed there.

The stand has held a 1' x 1' x 1' nano reef tank for the past year or so and serves as a hub for the power chords all the rest of my aquariums use. Now I am finished with architecture school, I may consider upgrading the reef tank in the near future :)