GrowCab – plant growth cabinets

The GrowCab is designed as a low-cost plant growth cabinet made with ready available materials. The cabinet is created to be used to shorten plant generation times and accelarate the breeding of crops. The cabinet can be flat packed as well. MakerBeamXL was used for the framework of the GrowCab prototype.

The group behind the GrowCab participated in the Thought for Food (TFF) Challenge. In 2020 They won the TFF X Beta.Space Space Colonization Challenge. Their motivation is to not only help plant growth in space. What can be applied in space certainly can be applied in places on Earth.

Their focus on a low-cost growth cabinet is based on their mutual experience of frustration over how difficult it can be to gain access to research facilities. The team is from Mexico, India and Venezuela. Frustration led to action with a smaller, cheaper version of a speed breeding growth room as result. Scientists and breeders from low-income countries often do not have open access to these facilities. Read more about the team behind GrowCab here: Heading to Space? Scale down to Size Up with GrowCab

If you are interested in seeing all the steps in building a GrowCab please check wikifactory.com and learn more.

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RIG

Vincent Mensink of Studio Mensink is a regular customer. He works on product design and special props and effects. He has to come up with ingenious constructions to make these designs work. He loves MakerBeam (10x10mm), MakerBeamXL (15x15mm) and OpenBeam, especially the profiles anodised in black. Here is an example of how he uses MakerBeam.

Vincent shows a rig that he made and is used in a film. Also the workstation is made using MakerBeamXL, see pictures below.

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New products

We have three new products available for MakerBeamXL: two brackets and a long version of the T-slot nut XL.

Let’s start with the new longer T-slot nut, article number 104555.

This T-slot nut was created to give both more strength to your connection and to make it easier to fasten the brackets. Sometimes only one nut is needed to slide the bracket into the beam, see below.

MakerBeamXL (15x15mm) is sometimes used for projects that require a bit of extra stifness. The triangular corner bracket provides this bit of sturdiness. The triangular corner brackets for MakerBeamXL are packed 12 in a bag, article number 104599.

The triangular corner brackets do have a downside. The brackets take up more of the slot so it is less easy to use the slots for sheets to create a case. It is easier then to use the right angle brackets (article number 101732).

Last but not least we created the straight bracket for MakerBeamXL, article number 104623. The possibilities for the straight brackets are endless so that is why we added this bracket to the MakerBeamXL product range.

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Gurk

Vincent Mensink of Studio Mensink is a regular customer. He works on product design and special props and effects. He has to come up with ingenious constructions to make these designs work. He loves MakerBeam (10x10mm), MakerBeamXL (15x15mm) and OpenBeam, especially the profiles anodised in black. Here is an example of how he uses MakerBeam.

Gurk is a friendly demon that is featured in the series Joardy sitcom, NPO3. Gurk was designed by RFX Propmaking and Studio Mensink provided the mechanics.

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Adam Savage uses one of our 15x15mm profiles

Adam Savage, from Mythbuster fame, is a well known maker. For a video sponsored by Starbucks he made an aeolipile – or Hero’s engine. The engine is powered by liquid nitrogen. According to the comments accompanying the video the idea was that the engine would drive a pulley system that would pour sweet cream into Adam’s glass of Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew.

When we saw the video we suddenly realised Adam used one of our 15x15mm profiles: OpenBeam!

Adam is known to build a lot of things using a wide variety of materials. It was a surprise to see him use OpenBeam. In the video he does not mention the use of OpenBeam, but it is clear to see.

Using our profiles in the way Adam did, has two advantages. First it is possible to divide the making of the machine into separate projects without having to worry about the whole. All the created elements can always be fastened to the framework anyway.
The second advantage is coming from this first advantage. You can fully concentrate on making the machine, rather than having to start with building the outside. Our beams are great for prototyping or a proof of concept.

OpenBeam has the same size as MakerBeamXL, but has a lot more nooks and edges. Some have good use for these, others prefer the smooth look of MakerBeamXL. Since the profiles are both 15x15mm in diameter they can be used interchangeable.

You can find out more about Adam Savage and his work on his YouTube channel Tested: https://www.youtube.com/user/testedcom/featured

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Pancake machine (7/7) – test phase

Hendrik-Jan is a student who just started his bachelor studies in electronics September 2019. He made us a pancake machine.

Heating the pan was a bit difficult. Hendrik-Jan considered using a the heating module of a blowdryer. But this proved to be to challenging and time was running out. Before the start of his bachelor studies the pancake machine needed to be finished. He chose to use a heat gun.

The tilting of the pan worked well, but the sliding off never really happened. The pancakes never got baked really well. The pancake would almost burn into the pan. So that it would not fall out of the pan when you turned round. No matter how much oil was in the pan. This probably happened because the temperature of the pan became too high. The oil burned away a bit and with it the batter that touched the pan. Adding a temperature sensor to the pan that could act as a thermostat could fix this problem. Hendrik-Jan considered such a system, but chose not use one. It would have been both challenging to mount a temperature sensor to the pan and would have made the code a lot more complex. What he instead hoped for was that he could regulate the temperature of the pan a bit by aiming the gun on the right spot on the right distance from the machine.

The pumps worked well. They only have have one problem. There is still a tube of approximately 20 centimetres until the tube ends above the pan after the fluid is pumped from the reservoir through the pump. Oil and batter slowly drip into the pan instead of falling all at once. There should be a vacuum in the tube to prevent this. The tube that was used is pretty wide, so this vacuum to hold the fluid in place was not there. This meant that after pumping, the fluids would still leak out of the tube for a pretty long time. In retrospect Hendrik-Jan thinks that the best way to solve this is to let the pump retract, just like 3d-printers do with their filament. This means that after pumping the fluids to the pan, it would pump back a little bit so that the tube after pumping is empty.

As a reservoir for both the butter and the oil, Hendrik-Jan used a PET-bottle neck. He could easily hot-glue the tube into a bottle cap. The reservoir on the right (figure 5) leaked a bit though, eventually leaving a mess everywhere. In hindsight a funnel maybe would have worked better.

Even though the machine did not really work as a fully automatic pancake machine Hendrik-Jan is still pleased with how the machine turned out. He learned a lot in the process of making and testing the machine. The use of MakerBeam profiles made it possible to divide the making of the machine into separate projects without having to worry about the whole. All the created elements could always be fastened to the MakerBeam framework anyway. This meant he could focus on one project at a time without having to worry how the created element in that project would fit the whole.

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Pancake machine (6/7) – homing the pan

Hendrik-Jan is a student who just started his bachelor studies in electronics September 2019. Hendrik-Jan made us a pancake machine.

Hendrik-Jan made a special PCB for the control panel. The control panel is used to home the pan, see video below.

For the homing of the pan a sensor was used. Hendrik-Jan used an optical switch with a RC propeller to block the light. Although this worked reasonably well, the optical switch appeared vulnerable. Throughout the process of making the machine 4 sensors were broken. It was not clear why this happened. There are a number of other options. Like using a hall-effect sensor with a magnet for example, or he could have gone with a simple micro-switch.

This is the penultimate blog post highlighting the pancake machine.

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Pancake machine (5/7) – electronics

Hendrik-Jan is a student who just started his bachelor studies in electronics September 2019. Hendrik-Jan made us a pancake machine.

An Arduino mega was used as a microcontroller for the machine.

During the process the wiring of the machine really became a mess, see above. Hendrik-Jan decided to make an expansion board for the Arduino mega, see below. This reduced the number of wires and made it all a lot simpler.

Hendrik-Jan also created a PCB with a control display.

Although there were two custom PCBs designed for the machine there still were quite a lot of wires hanging around the machine.

The reason for this was that Hendrik-Jan wanted all the cables to be pluggable. This meant that he had to use 8 separate jumper cables, only to connect the mainboard and interface board together. He recently found out about IDC-connectors which you can easily press onto a flat cable at home without the need of special pliers. He would recommend using these instead of what he did.

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Pancake machine (4/7) – pan

Hendrik-Jan is a student who just started his bachelor studies in electronics September 2019. He made us a pancake machine.

The aim was to have batter and oil come together in a pan that would be heated to bake the pancake. Then the pan was to automatically tilt so the baked pancake would slide off.
Hendrik-Jan chose to use a small pan and attached an axis to the pan. He created brackets so the axis could be attached to the pan.

He used MakerBeam bearings so the pan could turn. He created a 3D printed housing for the bearing. The design for this bearing housing can be downloaded here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3885358 (Thingiverse: DieZijner).

The next step was to add a motor for the rotation of the pan. Hendrik-Jan used a 28byj-48 stepper motor for which he created a motor mount also 3D printed. You can download the design for the motor mount here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3885552 (Thingiverse: DieZijner).

At the time this was the only suitable motor he had laying around. Unfortunately the stepper motor was too weak. The pan could not turn around very fast or the motor would start skipping steps. Although the motor is made to be used on 5volts he even gave it 12 volts at one point. In a hope to give it some more power. This indeed worked, but obviously the motor quickly became hot. Next time he would definitely go with a NEMA17 instead, to avoid the challenges the 28byj-48 motor gave him.

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Pancake machine (3/7) – framework

Hendrik-Jan is a student who just started his bachelor studies in electronics September 2019. Hendrik-Jan made us a pancake machine.

For his frame Hendrik-Jan used MakerBeamXL beams with MakerBeam brackets. Click here to go to our shop.
The MakerBeamXL beams are 15x15mm in diameter and available in different lengths (max. 2000mm). MakerBeam aluminium profiles measure 10x10mm in diameter. These beams also are available in different lenghts (max. 1500mm).
In the pictures you can see that the smaller MakerBeam brackets are not covering the MakerBeamXL beams entirely.

Hendrik-Jan also created brackets of his own. The design of these 3D printed tube holders can be found here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3885119. The created brackets were used to guide the tubes.

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