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Author Topic: Automated Cat Feeder Project  (Read 504 times)

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Offline KeithRobicheuxTopic starter

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Automated Cat Feeder Project
« on: January 07, 2014, 01:07:39 PM »
Hello,

I am starting to plan the construction of a automated timed cat feeder with dual hoppers and bowls for two different cats.

To give you an idea of my idea, I am planning on using something like candy machines for the hoppers/dispensing mechanism. I would attach servos to the knob shafts that turn them. I would fabricate all the metal for the custom mounts and the unit in general.

I was looking for guidance on the electronics for the unit. I've taken electronic classes a long time ago, so I'm familiar with standard things like soldering and whatnot. I've been looking at the audrino, and it seems like this would be an easy project to execute. But it's also clear that I'm way out of my depth.

Here is my general thought for how the unit will fuction:

A LCD time face shows the current time. A two button (possible one button but probably easier with two, or more) panel selects between the current time and the alarm time. The unit could just have one alarm time and it would operate every 12 hours. Ideally, the unit would have all the controls to set the alarms on the unit, so no computer would be required to set them (It's gonna be a present so it needs to be simple). A 110 power cord would power the unit.

Does anyone have a good idea of how to put this together? I'd really like to have a good plan in my head so I don't waste money on unnecessary/incorrect equipment or parts.

Thanks,

Keith

Offline jwatte

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Re: Automated Cat Feeder Project
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2014, 04:38:43 PM »
If the goal is to reliably feed a cat or two, then look here:
http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Pet-Supplies-Automatic-Cat-Feeders/zgbs/pet-supplies/2975260011/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=enchage-20

If the goal is to build it yourself, then I think a 16x2 LCD with a keypad, an Arduino, and an H-bridge/motor controller per actuator is a good start; additionally you may want to add a ChronoDot or similar battery-backed clock to keep time over time.

If you do not know how to program computers at all, though, then that approach will likely be very frustrating, because there are multiple things to worry about (reading time, reading/updating the UI, actuating the food dispensing, etc) and writing code that's robust over days is harder than writing simple experiments.

Also, if cats are going to be trying to knock it over to get to the food inside, there are some mechanical construction challenges, but it sounds like you are more confident about those?

Offline KeithRobicheuxTopic starter

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Re: Automated Cat Feeder Project
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2014, 02:35:44 PM »
Thanks for the information. I really appreciate the help.

I've made a list of items for the electronic components so far.

NEOMART Brand New Original High Quality Chips L298N Stepper Motor Driver Controller Board Module
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E58EA90/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3A4GLZSHJDVJH&coliid=I1O0WVQVIRC99M

16X2 LCD Keypad Shield for Arduino version A
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ADZ1I7G/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3A4GLZSHJDVJH&coliid=I39YR796VUD2SF

Chronodot Module
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CBZ17D6/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3A4GLZSHJDVJH&coliid=I1FCKJCKO3TUYX

Starter Kit for Newsite Uno R3 - Bundle of 6 Items: Newsite Uno R3, Breadboard, Holder, Jumper Wires, USB Cable and 9V Battery Connector
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0051QHPJM/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3A4GLZSHJDVJH&coliid=IK5ZL46N04PA5

I'm not sure on the servos. They might have to have some juice in order to crank a gumball machine. Any recommendations?

Are all of these items compatible?

Time isn't really a factor in this build, so I can take my time and get things right. I wanna make it look nice, i.e. build a base, mount the clock face, make a case to the wiring and electrical components, etc. So if I have to take the time to learn how to program this unit (and I will) then I'm totally fine with that.

I actually didn't realize the Audrino was a thing, or I'd probably have automated some other stuff by now.

Thanks for your reply.


Offline jwatte

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Re: Automated Cat Feeder Project
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2014, 11:13:32 AM »
Quote
I'm not sure on the servos. They might have to have some juice in order to crank a gumball machine. Any recommendations?

My favorite servos are from the Robotis Dynamixel line. They are a bit fragile if you run them at high voltages (16V) but at 12V they run fine. They start at $40 or so for the AX-12A, and go up from there pretty steeply. I think the AX-12A could do it.
The AX-12A can actually do full-turns, as opposed to the 180 degrees of a hobby RC servo, which is nice.
You control these servos using a serial port, rather than a PWM pin, so interfacing with an Arduino is slightly harder, though.

Another option is to just use a geared brushed DC motor with some kind of sensor to know when it should stop running. That's what you can drive with the motor shield you linked to.

It looks as if most of those pieces are compatible with each other. I don't know if there will be some interference between the actual pins needed by the motor shield, the keypad, and the I2C for the clock chip -- there are only so many pins available on the Arduino, and some pins are "special."

Finally, yes, Arduino is very much "a thing" these days :-)

 


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