Hydroponics No No No!!

The reason of why there is NOT an update for the Urban Hydroponic Project is quite simple, I fried the seedlings *head desk and sad face*. I should have read the instructions and tested the timer before I left, totally my fault and I own that completely. I could blame my impatience and bad instructions, but I won’t and the reason why is simple, I totally failed at testing and studying the results. Let’s just say that I was away for a job for three days total, was not expecting to be gone that long and I failed to test the equipment beforehand.

What happened? I fried the seedlings. I thought I’d had set the timer to give them 16 hours of grow light time and I had figured that I’d be back within a day. What happened is that I was gone for three days and hadn’t fully checked out the timer module and didn’t understand how it worked. Without delving into details, I got home with some very fried seedlings that had four days of grow light time and not enough water. I tried to revive them, and had very unsuccessful results comparatively. The young onion may make it and maybe a marigold plant or two. I tried to revive the rest, but I’d have better luck reviving King Tut with CPR. So starting over after putting the surviving marigold plants in some soil, as well as the lone onion. I have decided on trying the cherry tomatoes, red beans, kale and spinach, this time for their hardiness.

Try try again

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. I did go over the instructions a bit and played around with the timers, so now I’m an expert…well..just with these timers. I have them set for 12 hour intervals of grow light time. I put a lid on the plastic ware, it’s just laying on the bowl and not sealed down. I’ve noticed that the grow light really dries out the soil, so if I’m going to be gone for days again before I automate the system, I may have to just open the curtains and the tent and let the plants just be in sunlight. Just some thoughts.

A Rather Busy Week

Progress and Such

It’s been a rather hectic week, trying to get enough dry goods to last for awhile and get some work done on a few projects, has been quite challenging since it’s getting hot and going into any store requires a mask. Both even together are not bad, but combined with humidity, it does complicate things, quite a bit. Plus, doing the exchange of effort for monetary gain was a good thing, as well. Most can’t wait for things to go back to the good ol’ days, but I’m beginning to believe that they are gone for good and this is the new normal. By the way, feeling much better than last week, was out and about in the heat a bit too much, I guess.

Off to more fun topics, though. Mr. Robot has tracks and a chassis now, and the hydroponics mini lab is coming along fine.

Mr. Robot Has Bod!

Got another track set made and sealed the ends and the chassis modified and printed. I found the 6V-12V motors that will fit in the Tamiya Dual Gear Drive kit and the Line Follower kit came in, as well. So, just need to hook those to an Arduino and a Dual H-Bridge for the coding to begin.

Mr. Robot's grey tracks and orange chassis

Plenty of internal storage for things like battery banks, the line follower kit and the dual drive motor kit, and maybe a few small sensors. This coming week, I’d like to get the battery banks done, at the very least designed. I’ve gone with this particular layout, because it’s quite modular and when I change or add things, I don’t have to reprint an entire chassis and such. This is very much a rough draft.

Hydroponics Laboratory Update

Got the base done last weekend and let it dry completely outside for a few days, it came out rather well since I’m not a great carpenter, mediocre would be a better term for my carpentry skills(smile). I did mount the stand on it, hung the grow light and put the seedlings under it. I had tried a method of growing the seedling using a compact fluorescent light, but they really did not take to it, very well.

It may just be my lack of skill, or too much water or something else. It looks like the kale, cherry tomatoes and the marigolds made it, though. It was not a complete failure, I should water less and use a grow light for seedlings, especially for indoor hydroponics. I’d thought of putting it outside, but figured that the heat would have destroyed the seedlings’ chances altogether.

DIY grow tent out of mylar sheeting to reflect back the light from the grow light for the plants to absorb

The frame was mounted on the base, and the next experiment is in progress, which is the grow tent. I did tape the mylar sheeting to the outside of the frame, and it’s not entirely transparent, but let’s just say that my living room has a creepy purplish glow to it in the evening till the timer shuts off.

Some future goals are:

  • Wash the hydroton
  • Set up a way to measure the water/nutrient level of the reservoir
  • Print the venturi tube for the pump system
  • Upgrade the frame to thicker tubing

Major Steps for Hydro!

Got the hydroponic garden started, the brains and muscles of the PCB factory got delivered,

Baby Pictures

Later today, there will be pics of the seeds in their new nursery. I had planned on designing and printing something, but in the interest of saving filament for more useful projects, since my plan is to keep growing the plants for as long as they produce, so a nursery can be improvised at anytime for growing more seedlings.

For right now, the plan is:

  • going to use a deep plastic ware(A little irony)
  • grow pods to give them a strong healthy start
  • add some friendly fungi to the soil
  • plant and water as needed
  • transplant to hydroponic garden when mature enough.

Here’s the baby(seed) pics:

Quite a bit done this week, not as much as I had hoped, though. Over the weekend, I ate something that really didn’t agree with me for a few days and is still having a residual effect to an extent. Hopefully, the next few days will show a lot of the progress of the other projects I have going on, though.

More Good Progress

This has been a busy weekend, found the right items for things and took some small, but significant steps in most areas. I’ve been looking over some of my stuff, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say that I was colorblind. The good thing about all this being experimental is that it’s not for sale and I don’t have to really impress anybody, just keep the few followers that I have with ongoing progress reports. Yes, there will be a few picks of the completed steps, at least one I promise. Why the pics of just completed steps, well I don’t like pics of my unfinished stuff. Sometimes, I have bad ideas or took on way more than my skill set allows. It’s never a good idea to try to make elephant soup out of a living dragon, and yes I mixed those up intentionally. *wink*

Go Hydro!!

Now that all the Canadian Marvel fans are confused, lets talk about hydroponics while they uncunfuzzle themselves. Lots of good progress this weekend, got the table designed and initial cuts made for it. There was a bit of an evolutionary process even while making the cuts, had an epiphany while the saw was NOT running. The epiphany was on how to check the nutrient depth of the nutrient in the bucket under the frame without having to put another probe in the nutrient. Also, got the the plant tags printed out. I used orange and brown filament, since the brown is almost completely out so used it for the lettering on the tags, there is maybe just a meter left on the spool.

<insert pic here>

New 3D printed veggie tags, brown on orange

CNC Fun

Finally found the right parts(sorta) and they should be here by Thursday, supposedly. Been researching different controller boards, lots of knockoffs out there and they don’t say which one they poorly copied to generate their ‘version’. I did find the source of the GRBL controller sheild in New Zealand, but they are still in shutdown due to the COVID-19 there, so will have to contact their distributors. Protoneer.com if you desire to look them up, for yourselves. On a happier note, I was going through some stuff and found a piece of 1/4 inch acrylic, it’s kinda scratched up, but looks like it’ might either repel or slow down an shattered tool end, so it doesn’t cause bodily harm or just bounce off the sheet rock. Just my opinion, no responsibility taken here or ever, remember that if you do this, you are responsible for your actions and accept the consequences of such actions.

Do the Robot Dance!

Yes, Mr. Robot gets another post all his own, again! There are pics, too!!

Another update: Slow Progress

This week is proving to be a week of slow progress, a couple of key orders were cancelled by the sellers and a key component is taking a tour of the U.S. On a personal note, been dealing with a migraine, as well.

I had tried to initially go through Amazon, but due to the fact that what I require is considered non-essential parts there was a probable delay well into May which is like ordering from China. So I went on eBay and basically did that, still to no avail since both sellers have cancelled and refunded my order. Though, most people would be jealous of one order, because it’s travelling about the Lower 48 like a tourist, I’m expecting post cards from it, any day now.

Plus, I have been dealing with a migraine since Sunday and sudden storm Tuesday night, that wasn’t in the forecast, only encouraged it to continue to take up residence in my head. On the upside of things, I have had time to brainstorm, to figure out some designs and to think of other projects and devices to make. Even when down, I try to make positive progress.

Besides the some delays in procurement and an annoying health issue, the plans are moving along at a decent pace.

Hydroponics Update

Trying my hand at actually growing something the past few weeks, some mint and an onion, and have been working on the design of the connectors for the PVC frame, as well.

About a month ago, I found a few mint seedlings at a big box store and by the time I got it home it had gone into shock. I gave it some water and a bit of plant food with plenty of light after deciding to try to bring it back. That’s been somewhat successful, half of the seedlings survived and their roots are bunched up, so going to try make cuttings out of the surviving plants. So will be trimming them off at the base with sharp scissors and pinching the tops, before putting the cut ends in water to try to encourage new roots to grow. Pinching the tops discourages growth on that end so most of the plants’ energy will be used to grow out the root system. The plants that look like they have the best chance to live will be planted in pods and given beneficial fungi treatment. I feel for the plants, because they got a bad start and I’m very much a novice at this.

Speaking of moments of spontaneity, I was fixing some Frito pie and was chopping an onion and decided to try to regrow the onion for chives and eventually the onion back, in less than a week it’s root system is developing rather nicely. I’m giving it plenty of light and once the roots start really developing, I will cut the center part and plant them in soil pods and given the beneficial fungi treatment. Best of luck to it!

3D printers are amazing machines to have and use, that being said, you can find what your current limits on designing objects and just being patient while waiting for it make an object is not the only test of your patience that you will find. It takes patience and skill to design objects that are worth your time, money for electricity and consumables such as filament that are not just functional, worth using a lot and joyfully claiming that you made it. Which why I’m probably on my 5th maybe 7th version of the connectors before finally printing them. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

Cyclone PCB, a Mini Update

Going to have to find new suppliers for the smooth rods and threaded rod for the Cyclone PCB cloner, but the good news is that a complete refund for all that was not delivered. I do try to go with U.S. based sellers if possible, but quite a few have shut down or on staycation. I have been researching different modifications and upgrades, but really want to get it working first. From personal experience, it’s easier to start with a basic and functional project to build off of, than it is to troubleshoot something that should work in theory. I’m going to be printing the rest of the parts and assembling what I can by the end of this weekend

Robot Tracks and Power Management

I haven’t been printing at night, mainly due to the frequent storms that we have been having, therefore there have been power outages and brown outs. Since filament is neither easy nor cheap to procure, I’ve been playing it safe in order to not waste filament. There are still lots of tracks to print and assemble before the fun parts of this particular project can have a chance at having it’s own posts in the robotics category. I have purchased a smallish battery back up to put between the surge protector and the electrical outlet that they are on, so over night printing may continue.

I was planning out and procuring the basic parts for the power subsystem such as charging circuit boards, battery springs, etc. The springs might come in next week, or next month. I’m not entirely sure of how I am going to do power management, so I’m not going to solder bars of metal across the battery terminals just, yet. Power management is a big challenge, because a robot can only go as far as it’s batteries can take it and hopefully there is a plan for it to be able to recharge.

Some Goals for This Weekend

Goals for this weekend;

  • Print all connectors for the hydroponics and assemble
  • Separate the mint and start their rooting process
  • Solve and implement how to hang the Mylar sheets
  • Monitor the onion and decide when to take it to the next stage
  • Get as much as the PCB Cyclone built as I can
  • Print and assemble at least 40 treads

Updates

Got a few more things in the mail, today. The package contained mostly robot parts and the mycorrhizal fungi for the hydroponic system. Lots of research going on multiple subjects, I found that changing the subject that I’m researching helps me focus better and lets the information organize and take root in my brain better and faster. It also allows for time for more questions to form and answers to questions on other subjects to form.

Hydroponics or just more research

I’ve been researching indoor grow tents, and it seems that the main advantages for an indoor garden are:

  • Maximize Light Efficiency
  • Local Environment control such ambient temperature and humidity
  • Keeping pests out
  • Controlling smells
  • Containing allergens

The main factors that a grow tent needs to have is a reflective inner surface that is non-porous that is supported by a rigid frame. Yes, there are lots of commercially available choices to choose from, but this is not a commercial venture and is being done on a budget, rather severely limited at the moment at that.

My idea is to use PVC pipe for the frame and solar blankets for the covering. The PVC should be rigid enough to hold up the Mylar sheets and provide a stable enough frame to hold the LED lamp. The Mylar sheeting that the solar blankets are made out of is very light and highly reflective on one side as far as light and heat go, I have used them while camping in the Spring and Fall when night time temperatures can change dramatically and they don’t add much weight or bulk to a pack. Solar blankets are super cheap, so it fits within the budget constraints, as well. I did a bit of research on the price of the connectors for the PVC pipes and they would cost more than a roll of filament, even during this pandemic crisis. So oh deary me, what’s a geek to do?(This is blatant sarcasm) So, I will have to design and print out connectors for the grow tent, good thing I have a functional 3D printer.(Not so blatant sarcasm) It has been printing ‘bot parts and pieces for the Cyclone PCB factory of late, so a change in tasks would be a good thing.

Robotics for the win!

Speaking of ‘bots, I’ve been printing out and assembling treads, a lot of late. Yes, wheels are simpler and have the advantage of cost over treads, but treads are easier to control, compensate for and last way longer than wheels, plus are way cooler. I did find an early copy of my robot control library for the Arduino, so that is a boon in of itself. Treads also allow you to keep a lower center of gravity, thus making a very stable platform that increases the reach of a robot’s arm or other mechanical appendages. Platform stability is very important for most robots, it not only allows you to pack electronics, actuators and batteries into them, but you have less code dealing with how to get the robot back on it’s means of locomotion. Speaking of electronics, let’s move on to the PCB mini factory.

Cyclone PCB maker to the rescue!

Well, actually not yet and maybe not for awhile. It is coming along quite well, though. It’s at the point that I am going to start putting it together so that I can figure out what I am missing and also can get ideas of what I want to add to it or change. I really should go through the parts bins to see what I already have, because I know that I have lead screws, smooth rods, bearings and a RAMPS kit 1.4 in there that can be used for the PCB maker. It’s a good thing that I usually salvage dead projects and pick up useful items when I find them for a good price.

Some notes on creativity

I’d like to take some time and write a few things about being creative. It may seem a bit disjointed, but each part is a thought and therefore complete in of itself.

I really don’t like reinventing the wheel for every project, it becomes tedious and does suck the joy out of me to do that over and over, plus it’s truly a waste of time that could be used to create more advanced and quality code and better physical designs. This makes more time for other projects or time to do things such as improvements and decorative work.

Grander objects tend to impress others way easier and give a greater amount of accomplishment to the creator. By making something grander than it has to be, doesn’t have to be about scale, but can be a better design, higher quality materials or even just adding some flourishes to an object to make it more appealing to the eye.

Work on projects even if you don’t have all the parts. Parts can found or bought later, and you may find a better part than the one that you thought that project required. For the PCB factory, I was going to use a Dremel like a lot of people who have made such, but I found an actual spindle that was designed for use in a CNC machine for etching and carving a variety of materials. It will be way easier to control since it’s a DC brushed motor and is the correct tool necessary to do the job.

Choose your projects wisely, keep the number of what you are working small, but greater than one. Don’t hoard projects for some day, because the best day to work on things is today for tomorrow never comes.

There is a huge difference in buying parts and tools for future projects and buying such to just have them for the purpose of merely possessing them. The former is planning for the future, the latter is merely hoarding. If you know that you use certain things a lot and find them for a great price, if you have the means than purchase them at that time. Already having the parts makes shopping for what you need easier, makes projects come together faster and sometimes depending on your network of people you can trade for things that you need from your own stock of parts.

More progress on most projects

Just waiting on a few things to appear in my mailbox, it does seem that way since everything has been due for a week now. I think that everybody, very much including the USPS on that list, is doing awesome with everything going on. Going to the store wearing a mask and it actually being encouraged is a bit odd, though. Though, I do miss seeing the wall of boxes of filament and having to go through each shelf looking for a certain colour, type and size, because right now the selection is….nothing. Still printing the parts I need, just not in the colours that I desire. The printers keep on going and going.

The hydroponic garden is coming along, waiting for various things to come in the mail and printing the connectors for the PVC pipe as I type. I’m still researching a lot of things on hydroponics and thinking of what things are going to be needed to automate the process of having a hydroponic garden that is beneficial and grows nutritious food. Task to overcome to automate the growth process that have come to mind are;

  • Nutrient level in the reservoir
  • Electro conductivity of the nutrient in the reservoir
  • PH balance of the nutrient
  • When to turn on or off the light
  • When to turn on or off the pumps
  • Adding nutrients to the nutrient
  • Taking into account of human feedback to adjust nutrient levels

As you can see, there is a list of tasks to overcome, but nothing seems insurmountable as of yet. While I am waiting on things to arrive, I do have other projects to work on, such as the PCB factory and the robot. I’ll be assembling my notes of different plants and their different preferences. By the way, going to try to separate the mint and try to convince the cuttings to grow roots.

It seems that the process to get it to take root is to cut the stems, pinch the tops and place in water. I’m not to sure about the process, but will try it and see what happens. I probably didn’t let the water sit long enough for the chlorine to evaporate out of it, or some such. Onward to other projects!

Almost all the printed parts for the PCB are done, still have a few pieces to print and have some that are waiting arrival. I’ve decided to go ahead with the 52mm spindle, since it’s designed for use in CNC machines and would be way easier to control since it’s a DC motor. The next step will be assembling the machine and finding the missing parts for it.

As far as the robot goes, got the cogs, frames and some of the tracks printed. Even got some of the tracks linked together, which takes about an hour to do about 15, not too bad since each track looks to take about 60 tracks. Thinking of making it a puller, since I want the batteries in back to keep it’s center of gravity low and towards the back, under the eventual arm. Did get the 18650 LiPo charger boards in the mail, so that is an upcoming challenge to wade through.

Till next time,

Mech

Delays, research and 3D printing

Seems that certain things are not ‘critical’, but that just means that patience is required. By patience I mean, finding alternative sources for the things that I want and finding other things to do while waiting for deliveries. There is a difference between need and want, one is necessary and the other is desired; the former causes fury and the latter creates disappointment when unavailable. I’ve not been idle of mind or with hands since the last post. Amazon is having massive delays on ‘non-critical’ items, so tried researching the companies to contact directly to little avail, therefore using my go to solution of finding parts that I can’t get source locally, Ebay.

So what have I been doing since the last post, I shall inform thee. Been doing quite a bit of research, which it has been hard to not go down a bunch of rabbit holes that has created. It has certainly proven the fact of the more you know, the less you know. For instance, seeds started in soil seem to do better than seeds in a pure hydroponic situation and it might be due to the lack of certain type of root fungi. The fungi that I am typing about is Mycorrhizal fungi, it’s type of fungus that attaches to the roots and assists the plant with water and absorbing various nutrients from the soil that the plant needs to grow and therefore provide the fungi room to grow as well, it’s a symbiotic relationship between plant and fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi is not just one specific fungus, but is actually a group of similar fungus who do the same job, for more information on how they work and how this relates to hydroponic gardening, click here – https://mycorrhizae.com/do-Mycorrhizae-have-a-role-in-hydroponics/. Also been designing the 3D printed PVC connectors for the hydroponic garden.

Speaking of 3D printed things, the Cyclone PCB maker is coming along quite well, each set of prints is taking about 20 hours of print, so about down to the wire of whether or not getting a 52mm spindle or try using a dremel tool for the business end of the Cyclone. Leaning towards the 52mm spindle, because it’s used in CNC mills for wood working, PCB making, etc,. It’s also driven by a DC motor that would require a simple H Bridge to control it’s speed. There are a few ways to sense it’s speed and that’s a whole discussion in of itself. So going to make a jig for the wire to go into and a guide for the saw to keep it in a straight-ish line so it’s easier to make the connectors for the treads.

Overall, I’m quite happy about the progress on these projects, so far. Considering that I’m using a bit better than hobby grade 3D printers and hobby grade electronic components from China, everything is going along quite well.