Introduction: Smart Hydroponic Vertical Garden
Step 1: Step 1: Make the Voronoi Bottle Sleeve
You can make these by using Meshmixer with the downloaded bottle sleeve.
1) Upload the STL to Meshmixer and remove the 3DO logo. You can do this by selecting selecting a full letter, scrolling and select erase and fill, then select flat minimal in the replace fill type section. Repeat these steps for the rest of the letters until perfectly flat.
2) Once the bottle sleeve is completely clean, select entire model using keyboard Ctrl+a or use the [select] tool to click-drag certain parts you want to edit.
3) Click [Edit] > [Reduce] (Menu appears at top after selecting).
4) Increase the percentage slider or change drop down to lower triangle / polygon count. Less polygons result in larger openings in your final model. It may help to try a very low polygon count.
5) click [accept].
Step 2: Step 2: Apply & Modify Cage Pattern & Print
1) Click [Edit] menu icon > [Make Pattern]
2) Change the first drop down to [Dual Edges] (pattern using exterior only) or [Mesh + Delaunay] Dual Edges (generates pattern inside model). Changing [element dimensions] will make thicker or narrower tubes.
3) To save model: File > export .STL
4) Upload the drip nozzle and voronoi bottle sleeve to Cura and 3D print the models. Print 4 of each.
* When printing the voronoi bottle sleeve, do not select the option to generate supports and include a brim. Print in the same position and the STL file above is in.
**When printing the drip nozzles, do not select the option to generate supports and include a skirt.
Step 3: Step 3: : Making a Water Level Sensor
Gather Materials for Sensor:
● 6 screws (this may differ if you would like to measure water level at fewer or more points in your system)
● 6 nuts & 12 washers
● Caulk & Caulking gun
● 6 wires of varying lengths (1-2 feet in length each)
● 1 sharpie marker
● 1 hot glue gun
● Solder & soldering iron
- The first step in creating the sensors is determining where you want to place the water-level sensors.
- Mark with a sharpie on the bucket where you are going to drill holes.
- Drill holes
- After drilling the holes, put the screws into the bucket from the inside out so that the head of the screw is on the inside of the bucket.
- Add 2 washers and one nut onto the outside of the bucket to loosly secure the screws
- Use a Caulking gun to add caulk around each screw on the inside of the bucket. Let it dry for an hour or so then spread around screw to ensure entire screw is covered. This will keep the water from leaking out of the bucket
Strip both ends of each of the 6 wires and twist the inner wires together
Insert one end of each wire around each screws
Hot glue the wires to the bucket if they are too long in order to keep them in place while you attach pins to connect to the arduino. You can see below how my wires were laid out, I used masking tape to keep the wires in place temporarily but then hot glued them once everything was soldered together.
Cut 3 arduino pins in half and then strip one end in order to attach it to the bucket wires.
Solder one pin to each pair of wires on the bucket (there should be 3 sets of wire, one for each level in the bucket: Low, medium, high). I recommend choosing 3 different colored pins so that it is easier to differentiate when connecting to the arduino.
These pins will now connect to the arduino as can be seen in the next couple of steps!
Step 4: Programing Arduino to Interact With Water Level Sensor and LCD Screen
● Bucket with sensor created
● Arduino Uno and USB Connector cord
● Arduino Uno Software
● 4-Pin I2C 16x2 LCD Screen
I used a simple 16 digit screen with only 4 pins to make it easy to connect to the arduino. The 4 pins are: GND, VCC, SDA, SCL.
GND on LCD screen → Arduino GND (with black or brown wire)
VCC on LCD screen → 5V on Arduino
SDA on LCD screen → A4 on Arduino
SCL on LCD screen → A5 on Arduino
Input code into Arduino Software:
Connect High level pin to the A0 Arduino port, connect medium level pin to A1 port and connect low level pin to the A2 port.
Upload code from Arduino software on computer into the Arduino to start the sensor collecting data.
Step 5: Main Support
1 -- 5 gallon bucket & lid
1 -- 5 feet 2” pvc pipe
2 -- 1 foot 2” pvc pipes 2 -- cup hooks with screw ends
1 -- 4 way pvc pipe connector
1 -- single pvc pipe connector
1 -- silicone or hot glue
Several holes need to be drilled/cut before assembling the main support and hydroponic tubing. While the materials are free-standing, drill a 1” hole (just larger than the hydroponic tubing) through the 5’ pvc pipe. This hole should be approximately 4” above the base of the pipe. I found using a power drill and 1” hole saw drill bit was easiest. I researched public digital making resources and was able to borrow these tools on my college campus.
Next, using the same drill bit, cut two 1” holes through opposing edges of the lid. Ideally, these holes are as close to the edge of the bucket as possible. They are the return point for water pumped through the system.
Now you need to make the final hole through the bucket lid. Use the 1” drill bit from earlier and drill through the absolute center of the lid. Afterward, take a box cutter or knife and slowly carve around the outside of the hole you drilled. The main 5’ pvc pipe needs to fit through this hole, so it will be slightly larger than 2” in diameter considering the thickness of the 2” pvc pipe. Periodically try sliding the pvc pipe through the lid while you are carving. The tighter the fit, the sturdier the system will be. I found it helpful to trace the outside of the pvc pipe on the lid beforehand.
Moving on, you will attach the cup hooks to the underside of each 1’ pvc pipe. The cup hooks can be screwed in by hand, but most people don’t have the required strength. Most of you, myself included, will use the power drill to take care of the grunt work. Use the power drill to make a priming hole roughly 8” from the inner connection joint. The diameter of the priming hole directly correlates to the size of your screw’s shaft. Take care to note this measurement doesn’t include the helical threads (ridges) on the outside of the screw. Drilling a hole in this manner allows the screw’s threads to directly cut through the pvc pipe. Now you can manually finish attaching the cup screws with ease.
Now that the material alterations have been made, this section is fairly straightforward. Some of you may even be able to finish assembling the hydroponic system on your own.
Nevertheless, the next step involves gluing the two-way pvc connector to the bottom of the bucket. Place the connector squarely in the middle of the bucket, directly under where the hole in the center of the lid would be. Once again, it's helpful to trace around the outside of the connector for alignment.
Generously apply silicone to the connector and attach to the bucket inside the circle you traced. You may want to additionally apply silicone directly on the bucket for better adhesion. Similarly, apply strong pressure while the silicon dries for the strongest connection. This helps ensure the hydroponic system is stable and upright. After the silicone is dry, attach the 5’ pvc pipe into the connector and through the lid so that it stands upright. Next, attach the 4-way pvc connector to the top of the 5’ pvc pipe. Subsequently, attach the two 1’ pvc pipes horizontally into the remaining openings of the 4-way connector. The pictures below may be more of an aid than my ability to explain.
Step 6: Water Pump & Plastic Tubing
12 feet – ¾” plastic tubing
1 – Fish tank/sump pump
1 – ¾” union tee plastic connector
Installing the plastic tubing proved to be one of the more difficult tasks. You will have to take apart portions of the support in order to properly run the tubing through the pipes.
To start, use scissors to cut 5.5’ of tubing. Feed this tubing down the main pvc pipe and out the small hole you cut at the base. Attach the end of the tubing to the nozzle of your pump. Some pumps have different nozzle sizes, so you must be sure that your materials are compatible. Make sure the bucket lid has an opening for the power cord, or you will need to make one. The rest of the pump will stay inside the bucket.
Moving along, you will next cut equal lengths of tubing in order to carry water to either side of the system. Notice that the plastic tubing mirrors the pvc pipe design. This tubing should be roughly 1.5-2’ long but varies according to your specific system. It must be long enough to reach 6” below the cup hooks after running through the 1’ pvc pipes. Attach one side of each length to the union tee connector.
This next step requires you to detach the 4-way pvc connector from the main support pipe. With the tubing attached, feed the union tee connector horizontally through the 1’ pvc pipes. The union tee connector should lay directly above the tubing inside the main support pipe. The tubing inside the main pvc pipe is the final connection that needs to be made before reattaching the 4-way pvc connector. It is difficult to join the tubing with the union tee joint while it’s inside the pvc piping. I found it easiest to have a friend hold the union tee connector through the top of the 4-way pvc connector while you complete the union tee joint from the bottom. Be patient, this step may take a while. Reattach the 4-way connector to the main support pipe once you successfully complete the union tee joint.
At this point, the water loop is nearly complete. The remaining tubing will be used to recycle drip water back into the bucket. The ¾” tubing perfectly fits the drip nozzle below each plant pot. Attach the tubing to the lowest plant’s nozzle and measure the distance to the bucket lid. Use scissors to cut the excess tubing and repeat for the other side.
Your water pump is now ready to go! Fill the bucket with water and plug in the pump to make sure everything is working properly.
Step 7: Plant Pots
1 -- 3 feet plastic cord
4 -- 2-liter soda bottles
You are almost ready to start growing your hydroponic plants… but first, you need something to grow them in. Rinse out the soda bottles and use sharp scissors to cut them each in half. Place the top half of each bottle into the Voronoi bottle sleeve you 3d printed. The soda bottle will extend slightly higher than the bottle sleeve.
Next, screw the 3d printed drip nozzles onto each bottle. It will be difficult to screw onto the bottle because of the watertight seal. Do not place too much pressure on the drip nozzle because it can crack.
Now that the plant pots are ready, the next step is hanging them from the cup hooks. Thread plastic cord through a hole in the Voronoi diagram and then back up to the cup hook. Repeat this process 4 times such that each side of the plant pot is supported. Adjust the cord so that the plant pot is level, and then tie a knot at the top. (Note: One length of cord can be used for each plant pot. Multiple lengths of cord are fine, but you will have to tie multiple knots.
For subsequent plant pots, the process is the same apart from one small detail. Instead of hanging from cup hook, the plastic cord will run through the four holes on the outside of the drip nozzle. Repeat this process for each desired plant pot.
Congratulations, you built your own hydroponic garden!