For the capstone project for the CCBC course, we were assigned to created a project of our choice using different methods of digital fabrication. Last summer I created a hydroponics project during Youth works and I wanted to do something along that route:
I first began researching different projects that other people had already created. I decided I was going to make a vertical tower hydroponic setup because you can fit more plants in a smaller amount of space.
My first design was pretty rudimentary. Essentially the pump sits in the bottom of the bucket and brings the water to the top of the tower and sprays it in the very top inside the lid. The water drips down over the roots of the plants which sit at an angle in order to reach the water. Next I made a prototype out of cardboard, in order to test the ratio between dimensions. In making this prototype I discovered some issues. In order for my project to work properly, the net pots would have to sit inside of the tower at an angle. To solve this issue, I tried to fabricate a net pot with a custom lid slanted at a 45 degree angle:
This unfortunately printed as basically a solid block of support. Every hole was filled with support. This wasted a considerable amount of time as well. I decided instead of making a new pot I could simply make something to hold the plants in place. I came up with a “slide” type design. 3D printing was the best way to fabricate this because CNC milling would have taken too long and this design isnt possible with the laser cutter:
The pots just slide down into the tower at a 45 degree angle so that it will be able to catch water from the top of the tower. These pieces printed with no support at all and they were much quicker than attempting to print the pots. The next step was building a better prototype. For this prototype I used the laser cutter to create the outside shape of the tower and to cut the holes where the plants will sit. I also printed another one of the slide pieces. Since the full tower will be close to 4 feet tall the weight might be too much for the bucket, so I prototyped a box/platform for the tower to rest on. Also I drew up a place for the grow lights to sit as well. This was tricky because all of the plants need an even amount of light to grow well:
The biggest issue with this project was figuring out how to properly seal the wood. We found multiple options for doing this such as mineral oil and beeswax or polyurethane, but these options were not easily obtainable or practical. The main reason I wanted to use wood was so that I could incorporate the CNC mill into my design. It cannot be sealed to level I need to be and be food safe.
The main issues I had with this project were planning and time management. I completed the other hydroponics project faster and more efficiently simply because I had a better plan and purchased the materials very early. I also spent a lot of time designing pieces that ended being ineffective and ultimately scrapped. When I resume this project I will first reasses everything and create a definite list of materials.