Automating a Bowl Feeder with Arduino

Search for “bowl feeder” on Hackaday and you’ll get nothing but automated cat and dog feeders. That’s a shame, because as cool as keeping your pets fed is, vibratory bowl feeders are cooler. If you’ve seen even a few episodes of “How It’s Made” you’re likely to have seen these amazing yet simple devices, used to feed and align small parts for automated assembly. They’re mesmerizing to watch, and if you’ve ever wondered how parts like the tiny pins on a header strip are handled, it’s likely a bowl feeder.

[John] at NYC CNC is building a bowl-feeder with Arduino control, and the video below takes us on a tour of the build. Fair warning that the video is heavy on the CNC aspects of milling the collating outfeed ramp, which is to be expected from [John]’s channel. We find CNC fascinating, but if you’re not so inclined, skip ahead to the last three minutes where [John] discusses control. His outfeed ramp has a slot for an optical sensor to count parts. For safety, the Arduino controls the high-draw bowl feeder through an external relay and stops the parts when the required number have been dispensed.

We know, watching someone use a $20,000 CNC milling station might seem overkill for something that could have been 3D printed, but [John] runs a job shop after all and usually takes on big industrial jobs. Or small ones, like these neat color-infill machine badges.

5 thoughts on “Automating a Bowl Feeder with Arduino

  1. oke, as you asked for it… why did they use an arduino and kept it dangling next to the machine. The poor microcontroller has no protection, wires are dangling all around and very close to it is a machine vibrating like madness… how long would this last?

    But seriously, a lot of very muscle/high tech machinery to make a small ramp for screws, that took 80% of the video and the real interesting part… the arduino and the bowl feeder are hardly shown. Why? I have a feeling that this article is more about CNC then about the vibrating bowl, so I feel a little mislead by the headline “Automating a Bowl Feeder with Arduino”, i don’t know how many screws they are about to count, but manually would be easier.
    BECAUSE what happens when you have automatically counted 4 screws… then you need to put them in a bag, how does that happen?!?!? This project is far from finished yet is is already presented as a “wow… this is awesome build it yourself, these are the parts”, yeahh right. They could have a least put a case around the arduino, they have the experience and equipment to do it nicely, why didn’t they? So many questions, so little info from that video.
    I’m dissapointed and feel mislead, now I have to google to learn more about bowl feeder, which seem to be awesome and wonderfull and blablabla… really just find out for yourself because this article and hackaday item are not going to help.

    The arduino however, well it just worked, as we expected… no fuss…

  2. No hate, but when I “made ford wiring harness” back in the seventies the vibra-bowl brought to it’s top a line of fuse clips ready for hand termination without any help but a little constant jet of air. It’s fun to watch order fall out of chaos! Groovy, cause of the grooves that do the sorting or dumping back into the chaotic center. Kinda like a toilet with a reverse action, unflushing back to the rim.

    The bowl is mounted on four blade springs at right angles to each other so when the bowl is moved up and down it has to rotate cw and ccw as well. The up and down is from a big hum happy electromagnet acting on the iron bottom of the bowl. This makes loose stuff move in one direction and follow the grooves.

    At first read I am thinking little fishies all lined up head first for felines.

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