Let's Make Robots!

I know this isn't really a robot but it's similar. I have wanted to do this project for awhile now but just found the time recently. I thought that making an automated cat feeder would both increase my knowledge in electronics/programming and relieve me from the task of feeding my bottomless pit cat. I got this idea off of a video on YouTube. The feeder will consist of a Zevro dry food dispenser from Walmart, unipolar Sanyo stepper motor, msp430 Microcontroller, LCD display, custom PCB, stepper driver board from old office printer, 12V power supply and a few other components.

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Oh my, I'm planning on building a cat feeder and this is exactly what I have in mind. I will be using an arduino though. Did you ever build it? The only thing I'm unsure of is the type of motor. Never used stepper motors before. Would a dc motor work? What kind of torque I should be looking for?
mintvelt's picture

I cant wait to see this thing going.

Maybe you can add scales and AI later, so the robot will make smart decisions on how much food to dispense, depending on the weight of the cat ;)

lumi's picture

Well, just make it to a real intzeractive robot. 

My suggestion is. Let your cat touch something on the robot...a button, lever...

Then pour some of the food in a robot truck below that feeder. once the truck is loaded it will start driving away...avoiding obstacles, avoiding the cat...

Your cat will just love it (i guess) and not get fat whils waiting for the next feeding cycle.

A timer set to the time you want prevents the cat to repeat that procedure.

Oh...cats are smart when it comes to food...so, when your cat hits that trigger again BEFOR the timer is up then the machine will just shoot out balls to keep your kitty busy :-)

Maxhirez's picture

I see where this is going...

OllyR's picture

Our Cat has a fancy pants cat flap which only lets her in, by use of an RF scanner, that checks the chip between her shoulder blades before letting her in. Its very good actually!

you could use an RF scanner if you have "multi-cat" and want to keep thier diets under control!

 

If you use an Infra red sensor, it shouldnt be affected by ambient light....

kariloy's picture

Are your cats indoors and spayed/neutered? If so, you should not allow them to eat as much as they want to.

I myself considered getting a readymade or doing a device like this. In my case since I just have one cat on a strict diet, so a timed portion dispensing would be just fine.

However having multiple cats makes automatic enforcing of a strict diet a more complex subject :s

OllyR's picture

I think it's a robot. Just a static one. I think if i built a cat feeder, i would forget to fill it. Remebering to feed her twice a day is hard enough, but remembering to fill a hopper once a month or so would get totally forgotten!

How will it know when to dispense?

timer is all very well, but risks over flowing the bowl?

or dispensing onto the head of an eating moggy!

you could have a weight sensor?

OR, better still, an IR sensor. If you used a relatively reflective bowl (white) then a simple light/dark sensor could tell when the reflective incidence of the bowl got to high (ie: once the dark colour cat food was missing!)

or mount an IR lamp in the base of the bowl, then once it is exposed it can be "seen" by a sensor above, and that would trigger a dispense.

I like the reflective idea best though :p

SillyCrackers's picture

I like the idea of having a closed loop system with sensors to detect an empty bowl, but my cat eats so much that I think having it only dispense at certain times will work. If not I will add sensors but for now I will just start with timed release. A pressure sensor is a good choice as you will not rely on lighting conditions.

Thanks for the advice !

-Erik

Maxhirez's picture
They sell the "Litter Robot" to take care of the food after your cat's done with it. I don't see a problem with thinking of is as a robot. Does it use sensors of any kind? If you want to get technical about it that's probably the absence that would make this a "something else" (which we have a category for if you'd feel more comfortable putting it there.). But I'm sure your cat will appreciate it.