Cat Feeder Has Steampunk Flair and a GMail Account

While it is often said that “necessity is the mother of invention”, we can’t say that’s always been our experience here at Hackaday. You won’t need to search too long before you find a project or hack on this site that definitely falls out of the realm of strict necessity. But that’s part of the fun, there’s a reason this site isn’t called AppropriateUseOfTime.com

But when [Sam Storino] couldn’t seem to stop his cats from howling for their supper at 3:00 AM, he had the perfect opportunity to fulfill that age-old wisdom. Not only did he manage to turn a trip to the plumbing isle of his local home improvement store into a very Steampunk-looking automatic cat feeder, but he also found the time to write up an exceptionally detailed series of blog posts on what he learned during the process.

The heart of the machine is everyone’s favorite Linux board, the Raspberry Pi. You might be thinking the Pi is overkill for a simple timer, and you’d be right. Rather than just dump the food out on a set schedule, [Sam] decided to get a little fancy and come up with some Python scripts that will monitor a GMail inbox and activate the feeder hardware when it receives an email with the title “feed cats”. He then uses IFTTT to send the appropriately named email to the GMail account of his cat feeder on a specific schedule. Hey, nobody said necessity was the mother of straightforward invention.

In the final post of the series, [Sam] goes over the hardware side of the device. Copper pipe makes up the frame, which holds a commercial off-the-shelf dry food dispenser. The feeder was designed for manual operation, but by attaching a continuous rotation servo [Sam] can spin it up and dump a pre-measured amount of food via the Pi’s GPIO pins. The addition of some PVC pipe and fittings takes the food and (at least in theory) divides it equally between the two cat bowls below.

If you think [Sam] may have put a bit more thought than was necessary into something as simple as feeding his pets, keep in mind that he’s in exceptionally good company. Paging through the archives, it seems the intersection of felines and hackers is littered with gloriously complex contraptions.

Steampunk-Inspired Art Clock!

Getting paid to do what you enjoy is a special treat. A machinist and fabricator by trade — hobbyist hacker by design — [spdltd] was commissioned to build a mechanical art installation with a steampunk twist. Having complete creative control, he convinced his client to let him make something useful: a giant electro-mechanical clock.

Pieced together from copper, brass, steel, aluminium, and stainless steel, this outlandish design uses an Arduino Yun — a combination Linux and Arduino microcontroller board — to control the stepper motor and query the internet for the local time. Upon boot, the clock auto-calibrates by rotating the clock face until a sensor detects an extra peg and uses that to zero on twelve o’clock; the Yun then grabs the local time over the WiFi and sends the stepper motor a-spinning ’till the correct time is displayed.

At first glance, you may find it hard to get an accurate read of what time it is, but an accent piece’s pegs denote the quarter hour once it lines up with the notch above each hour. At least this one doesn’t require you to match colours or do much math to check the time.

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Steam-Powered Raspberry Pi Zero Doesn’t Get Any More Steampunk

Steampunk usually involves sticking a few old valves on your laptop and riding a penny farthing, but [Alexzpro] understands the real thing: he just created a steam powered Raspberry Pi Zero (translated).

His setup is a little lashed together, but works it’s a throwback to electricity generation of old and deserves the steampunk moniker. A steam boiler drives a steam turbine, which turns a motor, generating electrical power. This feeds into a regulator and a bank of capacitors that smooths the voltage out to a nice even 5 Volts, which powers the Pi.

It’s not exactly efficient, but running the steam boiler using two propane blowtorches sure makes us grin. Usually we see people trying to go the opposite direction and power their projects with renewables. We can appreciate this for what it is too, and it’s certainly not the first time we’ve see a Raspberry Pi burning through electricity for little apparent gain.

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Steampunk USB Cryptex Keeps Your Data Secure

Worried about people snooping around your USB drive? Digital encryption not good enough for you? What you need is a USB Cryptex to secure the drive from even being accessed!

Made completely out of copper and brass, [Scots72] really put a lot of effort into this beautiful piece of metalworking. The USB drive itself is encased in epoxy inside of a copper tube — the rest is built around it. Built almost entirely using hand tools, and we can only imagine how long the process took to complete. But patience is often rewarded with results like these!

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Nixie Tubes Adorn Steampunk Solar Power Meter

The appeal of adding Nixie tube displays to a project seems to know no end. First it was Nixie clocks, now it’s Nixie power meters, with the latest addition being this Nixie-Steampunk hybrid solar power monitor.

We’re suckers for a project with a vintage look, and this one pushes all the buttons. Built on commission for a solar power company CEO’s office, [Paul Parry]’s build is based on a Depression-era Metropolitan-Vickers combined voltmeter and ammeter. The huge meters with mirrored scales and the rich wood of the case – our guess is that it’s mahogany – made a great starting point, and after some careful hole drilling, nine IN-18 Nixies were sprouting from the case. A strip of RGB LEDs below decks added the requisite backlighting of the envelopes, and a Raspberry Pi was enlisted to interpret data from the company’s solar farm and drive the tubes and the meters. The project was capped off with a new finish on the case and a couple of fancy brass plaques.

[Paul] sent us the tip for his build after seeing the last power meter we covered, and we have to say they’re both great looking and functional projects. Keep the Nixie projects coming!

Steampunk iMacs With Real Turning Gears

Macs have always been favorites of case modders, with projects ranging from turning a Mac Plus into an aquarium to retrofuturistic machines that look like they came from the set of [Terry Gilliam]’s Brazil. Some of these casemods are of the steampunk variety, an aesthetic that usually means gluing gears to wood. [Valeriy] and [Cyrill] are bucking that trend with a beautiful iMac crafted from wood, brass, and leather (Russian, Google Translate)

The machine in question is a late-model, impossibly thin iMac. Unlike the old all-in-one computers with clunky CRTs, there’s not much space to dig around inside this iMac, and doing so would probably ruin the machine, anyway. Instead of a complete disassembly a wooden frame was constructed around the display, the aluminum base was covered in veneer, and the back of the iMac was covered in leather.

This is a steampunk computer, though, and that means gears. In this case, the gears and steam elements actually do something. The front of the computer is adorned with a decent replica of the drivetrain of a locomotive that spins with the help of an electric motor. There’s a USB port attached to the front, ensconced in a cylindrical enclosure that opens when a switch is flipped.

If a complete reworking of a modern iMac isn’t enough, the build also included the steampunkification of the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. That in itself is an amazing build, but to see the entire thing in action, you’ll have to check out the video below.

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Chromatic Clocks With A Steampunk Twist

There’s nothing like a good clock project, and tacking the steampunk modifier on it only makes it better. [José] built a steampunk clock that does it much better than just gluing some gears on an enclosure and calling it a day. This build includes glowing jewels displaying the time in different colors while displaying the a steampunker’s prowess with a pipe cutter.

The body of the clock is a piece of finely lacquered wood, hiding a perfboard construction with a DS3231 real time clock, a DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor, and a light sensor for dimming the WS2812 LEDs according to the ambient light level.

The rest of the clock is a bunch of 12mm copper pipe, elbows, and t couplers. The end of these pipes are capped off with marbles, with the RGB LEDs behind each of the ‘digits’ of the clock. This is a chromatic clock, with the digits 0 through 9 assigned a different color, based on the resistor color code scheme with exceptions for black and brown. Once you’ve figured out how to tell time with this clock, you should have no problem finding that single 56k resistor in your junk box.

You can check out the video of the clock below.

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