I designed and built a computer automated dog feeder with infrared level guaging for my doggies since in my opinion the feeding of a dog is critical and demands timely administration for the proper health of a pet.
My feeder weighs 50lbs when full and originally I used my step ladder to haul the dog food bags up to the height of the feeder suspended from my garage. This is quite an exercise and I needed a better approach.
Step 1: Manual Winch
First I obtained a manual winch from a local hardware. I mounted it onto a concrete pillar using concrete anchor bolts as shown circled in red on the first pic. I used small gauge stranded steel cable from the winch drum to take the weight of the feeder.
Step 2: Install Pulleys
Pulleys rated for the load were installed under the I beam in the garage. One was placed above the winch and feeder respectively.
Step 3: Spreader Bar and Clamps for the Feeder.
From the same hardware I bought large u clamps to hold the feeder bucket handles. I used an old aluminum tube to drill into and secure each clamp. Next I drilled a hold along the midpoint of the length of the tube to feed the steel cable through. The end of this cable was secured using two tiny u clamps.
In the first pic you can see the topmost infrared sensor which is part of the level gauging suite.
Step 4: Winching Down
As a first test of my new winch arrangement, here are pics of that test. Notice one of my doggies lurking around for an opportunity to jump into her food supply.
Step 5: Computer Control and Interface.
My Home management system is based on a labjack U3HV and a schematic software made from FLOWSTONE.
The upper left hand corner shows the interface gui for the dog feeder. The extreme left shows the level Guage. Currently only one indicator is lit, meaning my feeder is near empty.
Step 6: Improvement! Unified Cable Approach.
In order to have an easier disconnect means for my feeder, I wanted one cable to provide power and channel level guaging information back to the pc controller.
I used an RJ45 socket with cat5e cable and male end. Please note that this is a non standard use of this cable and socket but the voltage ratings of each do support the voltages I am using. In the 6th pic I provided strain relief to the cat5e cable to keep the majority of its length near the garage roof.