Web connectivity and other addons for an automatic schnauzer feeder

web-enabled-automatic-dog-feeder

[Ben Miller] and his dad combined forces to create this automatic dog feeder. It not only keeps their two schnauzers happy, but gives them peace of mind as they can double-check that he feeding happened by pulling up an image on the Internet. Make sure you make it through all three posts of the build to get the entire picture.

The project started with some research which turned up a project that used a commercially available automatic feeder. That one used Arduino, but because of the cost the board plus a WiFi shield is a bit high, [Ben] went with a Raspberry Pi and a USB WiFi dongle instead. The Pi is much more powerful and adds the functionality for capturing images via a webcam.

After a convoluted process of connecting the Pi to the existing button traces on the automatic feeder it was time to start coding. The system runs from a Perl script which monitors a Gmail account for remote commands (in addition to a regular feeding schedule). The final touch is a bit of mechanical engineering which splits the output into two bowls so the dogs each have their own serving.

We still use the Autodine we built several years back but its single-serving limitation has always kept a second version on our project list. Hopefully seeing a well-executed system like this will motivate us to get building!

A pair of automatic fish feeders

a-pair-of-automatic-fish-feeders

Sometime the hacking topics come in waves. For instance, we were tipped off about this pair of automatic fish feeders just an hour apart from each other. Maybe it’s that time of year when people are about to go on Holiday and want to make sure their marine pets don’t go hungry?

The feeder on the left is a true hack. It’s built from a pair of servos and a pill bottle. An ATtiny85 drives the motors. One is mounted to the other, allowing the cap which catches and distributes the food to move along two axes. When it rotates into place under the pill bottle it bumps against a stick to open a flapper releasing more food.

On the right is a feeder that precisely doses the food. That’s because it includes a separate chamber for each feed. A worm gear drives the hopper, with screw heads pressing against a leaf switch for position feedback. This one is well designed and built to last.

Feedback for automated water and food pet dispensers

pet-food-and-water-automation

[Enrico] figured out a way to fully automate his pet food and water. The system is in two parts, the water trough as seen on the left, and the food dispenser whose control hardware is shown on the right. The system is even hooked up to the network so that he can make sure it didn’t break down while he was away.

The water dispenser uses parts from a sprinkler system. Since it’s mounted outdoors it doesn’t matter if the water overflows a little bit. So [Enrico] set up the timer to run the water for three minutes every day. This acts as a backup system since the trough already has the ability to refill itself.

The food dispenser started as a commercial unit. To get feedback from the system he added a couple of magnets to the agitation motor and reads them with a hall effect sensor. In addition to an IP camera that monitors the area around the feeder (so [Enrico] can actually see his dog eating) there is a webcam which monitors the STM32 Discovery board which monitors the feeder. It tracks the number of times the dispenser has run.

RFID cat feeder helps with the diet

When faced with having 2 cats with different dietary needs, [Landmanr] had to decide between manually stopping the cat on a diet from eating normal food, or building a dietary robot overlord. [Landmanr] chose the robot route. Using an old cd rom for the opening/closing mechanism, and RFID to distinguish between felines, [Landmanr] no longer has to stand guard while each cat eats. We particularly like the design of the antenna, so that the cat has to stick its head through it to activate the food opening. You don’t see that version in the video, but it is in the instructable.

Automatic fish feeder

This automatic fish feeder didn’t take long to put together and it allows you to adjust how much food is dispensed. [Gagandeep Singh] built it around an Atmel AT89C2051 microcontroller. Like many of the automated feeding systems we see, this uses a character display and a few buttons for the user interface. We’re always curious at how they mechanically dispense the food. In this case, the motor seen at the left pulls open a sliding baffle which is pulled closed again by rubber bands at the right. It’s a bit more involved than the last fish feeder we saw, but your guess is as good as ours on which system works better.

Recycled cat feeder

I find that I do a lot of fun projects but I’m very bad about documenting them when I’m done. Holidays are for hacking (in my mind) so I usually plan ahead and do something cool during my time off. This project, which I loving call the Autodine-2009, was a spontaneous event over Thanksgiving that I’m just getting around to writing about.

Our cat’s want to be fed at 6am and are very insistent about it. Like most folks, I’d rather be sleeping at that time of day so I built an automatic cat feeder. Now we sleep while the cats eat. We don’t want to rely on a hack to feed our cats when we’re away so I didn’t go the route of an Internet-enabled multiple-dose feeder. Instead, I used parts on hand to create a single-serving dispenser on a timer. A servo rotates a false bottom to gravity-feed the cat food. The servo doesn’t have control circuitry so it is controlled through an h-bridge (I did have to buy 2 transistors for that) by an AVR ATmega8 microcontroller. There are two salvaged tactile switches to set the time and timer, and a serial LCD display that I’ve had sitting around for years. Power comes from an old cell phone charger a friend had just given me that spawned the feeder idea when I asked myself “hmmm, what can I use this for”?

I’ll demonstrate this recycled device for you in a video after the break. This wasn’t as hardcore as my AVR Tetris build but I’m much happier now that I can sleep in a bit.

[Read more...]