Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ben Gate developments

For an overview of the Ben Gate, click here.

I'm talking (writing) here about BreakAway, Buying other parts to put Ben Gates together, and Getting started on the advanced version  (Ben Gate 2.0) for people with no Arduino or hardcore electronics experience.

A common question about the Ben Gate is whether it will break under pressure - eg cow or person pushing through the wire. I initially used second hand tape, so that would break instead. However, there exists a good solution, originally described by Robert Cavarsan in the original FarmSmarts book, and as presented on the New Inventors. As I understand it, the design has been changed to have the breakaway part in the anchor. He has been selling them through his website here (currently down).

I envisage it would look something like this (inspired by the break away clips on our cup removers).
This demo used a standard wood post insulator, an r clip (sometimes called humpback pin) and a washer to encourage the hook to be put in the right place. Video of example here.

Buying parts to put together
One of the parts I use is a reel (or spool) to windup the wire. I make this out of old plastic 200l drums, with circle cutters. What if you were in a hurry? Maybe you've heard about the 3D printing revolution - you just print one! I made a mockup that you can see here, and print at (for example, I.materialise) and get delivered to your door. It even has FarmSmarts.cc printed smartly on the edge if you rotate in the 3D view. Ideally it will have holes to put bolts straight through to the aluminium hub (on the parts list), but really you could just put screws through the hub into the spool. Pololu have a mount for the motor which would make it easier to put together and stronger, and I think it fits the motor specified in the parts list - mount listed here.

The next useful part for the Ben Gate 2.0 would be a custom PCB, or printed circuit board. I haven't done that before, but imagine if you will, to reduce and simplify wiring, you just plug the components on the part list into the custom board, screw into the enclosure and away you go. If you are keen for this, let me know and I'll have a crack - queued behind some other work.

Another useful thing is the Arduino code to run Ben Gate 2.0. Again, I'll be making this available free, but I'm currently tidying up the code so it will be clearer to understand. My code is based originally on this example available here.

Look out for some new options coming, as requested at the conference.

Getting started on Ben Gate 2.0
Read Getting started with Arduino, described here, and have an Arduino and some parts to play with. It's easy to read, and examples are easy to follow. From there you will be well on your way. Download my code, upload to your Arduino, and assemble the hardware.

Once you've done that, you'll be thinking up your own improvements. Try incorporating Status LED's or go the extra mile - mobile phone control! Eg this or this, or do it old school with this and this.

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