All-In-One Automated Plant Care

Caring for a few plants, or even an entire farm, can be quite a rewarding experience. Watching something grow under and then (optionally) produce food is a great hobby or career, but it can end up being complicated. Thanks to modern technology we can get a considerable amount of help growing plants, even if it’s just one plant in a single pot.

Plant Bot from [YJ] takes what would normally be a wide array of sensors and controllers and combines them all into a single device. To start, there is a moisture sensor integrated into the housing so that when the entire device is placed in soil it’s instantly ready to gather moisture data. Plant Bot also has the capability to control LED lighting if the plant is indoors.  It can control the water supply to the plant, and it can also communicate information over WiFi or Bluetooth.

The entire build is based around an ESP32 which is integrated into the PCB along with all of the other sensors and components needed to monitor a single plant. Plant Bot is an excellent all-in-one solution for caring for a plant automatically. If you need to take care of more than one at a time take a look at this fully automated hydroponic mini-farm.

Custom Controller Ups Heat Pump Efficiency

Heat Pumps are an extremely efficient way to maintain climate control in a building. Unlike traditional air conditioners, heat pumps can also effectively work in reverse to warm a home in winter as well as cool it in summer; with up to five times the efficiency of energy use as a traditional electric heater. Even with those tremendous gains in performance, there are still some ways to improve on them as [Martin] shows us with some modifications he made to his heat pump system.

This specific heat pump is being employed not for climate control but for water heating, which sees similar improvements in efficiency over a standard water heater. The problem with [Martin]’s was that even then it was simply running much too often. After sleuthing the energy losses and trying a number of things including a one-way valve on the heating water plumbing to prevent siphoning, he eventually found that the heat pump was ramping up to maximum temperature once per day even if the water tank was already hot. By building a custom master controller for the heat pump which includes some timing relays, the heat pump only runs up to its maximum temperature once per week.

While there are some concerns with Legionnaire’s bacteria if the system is not maintained properly, this modification still meets all of Australia’s stringent building code requirements. His build is more of an investigative journey into a more complex piece of machinery, and his efforts net him a max energy usage of around 1 kWh per day which is 50% more efficient than it was when it was first installed. If you’re looking to investigate more into heat pumps, take a look at this DIY Arduino-controlled mini heat pump.

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A soil moisture sensor with silkscreen chipped and copper corroded

Soil Moisture Sensor Coating Lessons Learned The Hard Way

Ever wanted to measure soil moisture? Common “soil moisture meter module arduino raspberry compatible free shipping” PCBs might deceive you with their ascetic looks. Today, [Raphael (@rbaron_)] is here to teach us (Twitter, unrolled) what it takes to build a soil-embedded sensor that can actually survive contact with a plant.

As the picture might hint, waterproofing is of paramount importance, and soldermask doesn’t quite cut it. Raphael describes his journey of figuring out approaches and coatings that would last, starting from simply using nail polish, and ending with the current option – a rotisserie-like device that rotates sensors as the coating applied to them dries, mitigating a certain kind of structural failure observed long-term. With plenty of illustrative pictures and even a video of the rotisserie device in action, you’ll quickly learn things that took time and effort for Raphael to figure out.

This isn’t the first time Raphael shares some design battlefield stories and lessons with us – he has taught us about overall capacitive moisture sensor principles, too! If that interests you, we’ve covered quite a few moisture sensor designs, from cheap but hardy two-nails designs to flip-dot-equipped ones, and some of us take the commercial designs and upgrade them!

We thank [Chaos] for sharing this with us!

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Drilling A Well With A Well Drill

Drill Does Well In Double Duty As Well Drilling Drill

There are a large number of methods commercially used to bore a hole into the ground for the sake of extracting drinking water, and the all require big loud equipment. But what if you just want a small well? Do you really have to call in the big guns? [The Working Group on Development Techniques] is a student association at the University of Twente in the Netherlands who shows in the video below the break that some simple homemade fixtures and a powerful hand drill are quite enough to do the job!

There's more to drilling a drill than drilling with a drill
There’s more to drilling a well than just drilling well

Chief among these fixtures is a swiveling mechanism that serves to hold the drill and its weight, give control over the drill, and inject water into the pipe that the drill bit is attached to. Plans for the swivel are made available on [WOT]’s website. What looks to be a DIY drill bit uses commercially available diamond tips for hardness.

What makes the video remarkable is that it discusses every stage of drilling the bore hole, lining it with casing, and then making it suitable for pumping water from. The video also discusses the chemicals and methods involved in successfully drilling the hole, and gives an overview of the process that also applies to commercially drilled wells.

Naturally you’ll want to make sure your drill is corded so that you can drill for long periods, but also so that it doesn’t grow wings and fly away!

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Gluggle Jug Is Neat Application Of Hydrodynamics

The Gluggle Jug is an aptly-named thing – it’s a jug that makes loud, satisfying glugging noises when poured. But how does it work? [Steve Mould] set out to investigate. 

[Steve]’s first plan was to cut apart an existing Gluggle Jug to see how it worked, but cutting ceramics can be difficult and time-consuming, and the asymmetric design only made things harder. Instead, he simply smashed a jug to see what it looked like inside, and replicated the basic design in a transparent laser-cut version.

The design is simple – the glug sounds are from bubbles passing into a closed cavity within the jug as the water is poured out. Stop pouring, and air from that cavity then escapes back through the open mouth of the jug via more bubbles, making an even louder glugging sound. The frequency of the sound is determined by the height of the jug, which is essentially acting as a closed-pipe resonator.

With an understanding of the mechanisms at play, producing your own Gluggle jug is as simple as whipping up a design in your CAD software of choice and printing it in a food-safe way. Video after the break.

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Keep The Sparks Away With A Plasma Cutting Table

For one-off projects or prototypes it’s not uncommon for us to make do with whatever workspace we have on hand. Using a deck railing as an impromptu sawhorse, for example, is one that might be familiar to anyone who owns a circular saw, but [Daniel] has a slightly different situation. He had been setting up metal workpieces on random chunks of brick in order to use his plasma cutter, but just like the home handyman who gets tired of nicking their deck with a saw, he decided to come up with a more permanent solution and built a custom plasma cutting table.

Plasma cutting has a tendency to throw up a lot of sparks, so most commercial offerings for plasma cutting tables include a water bath to catch all of the debris from the cutting process. [Daniel] builds his table over a metal tub to hold some water for this purpose. The table itself is built out of aluminum and designed to be built without welding even though most people with plasma cutters probably have welders as well. The frame is designed to be exceptionally strong and includes curved slats which add to the strength of the table. The table is also designed to be portable, so the curved slats stay in place when the table is moved.

While this might seem like an average metal table at first glance, the table is actually being designed with a homemade CNC machine in mind which [Daniel] is working on. The CNC plasma cutter needs a sturdy, flat surface and can’t be set up on bricks in the driveway, so this table suits both [Daniel]’s immediate needs to not shower himself in sparks every time he cuts something and also his future CNC machine’s need for a sturdy, flat workspace. We look forward to seeing that build being completed but in the meantime take a look at this motorized plasma cutter which has the beginnings of a CNC machine if in one direction only.

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Do You Really Need To Dry Filament?

There’s a lot of opinions and theories around the storing and drying of 3D printing materials. Some people are absolutely convinced you must bake filament if it been stored outside an airtight bag, even for a few days. Some others have ‘never had a problem.’ So it’s about time someone in the know has done some testing to try to pin down the answer to the question we’re all asking; How bad is wet filament really?

[Thomas Sanladerer] setup a simple experiment, using samples of three common types of filament, specifically PLA, PET-G and ASA. He stored the samples in three environments, on his desk, outside in the garden, and finally submerged in water for a full week. What followed was a whole lot of printing, but they all did print.

Different filaments will absorb water at different rates, depending upon their chemical composition and the environment, nylon being apparently particularly fond of a good soaking. It would seem that the most obvious print defect that occurs with increased water absorption is that of stringing, and other than being annoying and reducing surface quality somewhat, it’s not all that serious in the grand scheme of things. It was interesting to note that water absorption doesn’t seem to affect the strength of the final part.
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