Determining Kibble Level Via Time-of-Flight

[WTH] is building an IoT kitty food dispenser. There are a few of these projects floating around that measure out portions very sensibly — some use screws to dispense a set amount of food at a time, some measure the weight of the remaining stockpile. This build is definitely not that. This kitty food monitor uses a time of flight sensor to determine the remaining level of food in a hopper. [WTH]’s feeder lets the cat eat all the grub it wants, then alerts the hooman when kibble levels drop below a certain level.

The project starts with one of those pet food dispensers that consist of a hopper that gravity feeds into the food bowl. As the animal eats that food, more dispenses into the bowl. Attached to the lid is an ESP8266 connected to an Adafruit time of flight sensor. This reports the kibble level in centimeters, which is good enough for [WTH]’s purposes. Sensor data is logged to a Google Drive spreadsheet, published as a graph through M2X (AT&T’s IOT service), and texted to [WTH]’s smart watch via IFTTT.

Look for a plethora of Tweeting, Instagramming, and otherwise automated feeding of the cat overlords right here on Hackaday. Check out automatic cat feeder dispenses noms, wants cheezburger, and a cat feeder made with laminator parts.

Cheap Cat Feeder Enhances Sleep

We’ll admit it: we sometimes overcomplicate things. Look at [Peter Weissbrod’s] automated cat feeder, for example. It isn’t anything more than a bottle, a servo, some odds and ends, and an Arduino. However, it lets him sleep in without his cat waking him for service.

We looked at the code and thought, “This thing will just dispense food all the time! That’s not what you want!” Then we looked closer. [Peter] uses a common household timer to just turn the device on in the morning, let it run for a bit, and then turns it off. You can see a video of the mechanism, below.

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Cat-Operated Cat Food Dispenser

Tired of being harassed by your cat? [MomWillBeProud] made a cheap, effective — and more importantly cat-operated — cat food dispenser.

The feeder is of an efficient construction — a double cat food dish, one container to store the electronics, and a Pringles can to act as the hopper. A simple servo rotates the hopper thirty degrees and back on each button press; using gravity to drop food through an opening that appears due to this motion. The button itself is an old IKEA timer and a piece of plastic large enough for a hungry cat to swat.

An Arduino controls the servo, and while [MomWillBeProud] skips over going into detail on his code, you can check it out here.

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Feeding The Cat, Reinventing the Wheel

There are few projects that we see as many iterations of as the pet feeder or the plant waterer. (What is it with you people? Are you all as forgetful as we are?) Still, the fun is in the details of the implementation. Or at least that’s the case with [Emmaanuel]’s cat feeder.

The writeup is split into three parts: the worm-drive, the electronics, and the housing (here in English: worm, electronics, housing). And of course, there’s a video inlined below.

The auger and motor housing make great use of PVC pipe and 3D printing, and the dispenser unit looks quite professional. There’s not all that much to say about the electronics — an Arduino clone, an LCD, and a cheap gear motor do just about what you’d expect.

The CNC’ed case with spring-fit tabs steals the show, however. It’s made out of MDF, which doesn’t take well to screwing or glueing. With carefully routed pins and tabs that have a little spring in them, [Emmaanuel] was able to take the pieces off the mill table and just snap them together. Awesome.

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Automatic Cat Feeder Dispenses Noms, Wants Cheezburger

[Domiflichi] likes his cats, but not the drudgery of feeding them. So, like any good engineer, this simple problem became his next project: building an automatic cat feeder. Based on an Arduino, his creation beeps to let the cats know that it is dinnertime, then dispenses food into a number of bowls. There are also buttons for manual control. This lets him give individual cats a separate feeding. Rounding out the feature set, a DS1307 RTC tracks the feeding times.

One of the most interesting parts of his build is the transfer from breadboard to protoboard. This usually involves taking apart a working version, then putting it back together and trying to figure out why it doesn’t work anymore. [Domiflichi]’s problem (detailed in a follow-up post) was figuring out how to program the real-time clock module to set the time, because it looses the time when you disconnect the power. Rather than use the Arduino to program the RTC,  he used the battery backup feature of the RTC chip, programming it on his computer and then soldering it onto the board. He went on to remove the backup battery after the chip was in place. That’s a solution that will no doubt have many readers waving their fingers disapprovingly, but it worked.

It may seem overly complicated, but his project is worth checking out to see how he approached some of the engineering challenges. The food hoppers themselves are off-the-shelf cereal dispensers. We’ve seen other designs bootstrap this mechanism with 3D printed augers.

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Super Simple Cat Feeder

Sometimes, along comes a hack that is just that. A kludged collection of parts thrown together quickly to solve some problem. [mightysinetheta]’s Upcycled Cat Feeder is just that – no pretensions.

It’s a cat feeder built out of a drill, wall switch and mechanical clock timer for under $10. Pretty much the simplest electric cat feeder you can make. Survives power outages just fine, is single serving, but due to the noise and motion it makes, it is a perfect Pavlovian trainer for the cat. The best way to describe it is as a Rube Goldberg machine.

Set the timer for the planned feed time (up to 12 hours in advance). At the appointed time, the timer triggers, the drill rotates, the old, broken screwdriver chucked in the drill turns. The cord tied to the screwdriver winds up like a winch. This pulls up the lid covering the cat’s dinner plate. The noisy drill announces it’s dinner time. When fully raised, the lid pushes up a short piece of PCV pipe. This flips a switch, that shuts off the drill. If you need build instructions, fear not. [mightysinetheta] has detailed build instructions although the pictures are probably all you’ll need.

Check the video after the break.

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Automated cat feeder and large plastic screws

We’ve seen automated food dispensers for pets, but none that go so far as to build large plastic screws for dispensing kibble.

This isn’t [Mathieu]’s first automatic cat feeder; an earlier version used a wheel to dispense cat food in excessively large version. To improve upon his first build, [Mathiu] decided to use an Archimedean screw to dispense food in 5 gram increments. There was a problem, though: a proper industrial screw cost about $1500 and the ‘consumer’ versions of what he wanted were trash. He though about casting one in epoxy but didn’t want to poison his cat with strange chemicals. He ended up using PolyMorph for his screw, a plastic that melts at 60º C and is also used in medical devices.

The electronics of the build are an Arduino, a  DS1307 real-time clock, LCD display, and a relay board powering an electric screwdriver motor. From the video demo below, we’re going to say [Mathieu] put together a pretty nice automated cat feeder.

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