Tag Archives: plant-sensor

Plant Watering Sensor Files

There was a long delay with no update about my projects. The reason for this is, I focused on other non electronic related projects. I promised to publish all files and information about the plant watering sensor project in August, and here are all the files.

First some Important Notes

Even with these files, it is a very advanced project to do. To produce the PCB, you need a board house which is used to precise and high quality PCBs, like Eurocircuits. Also all pads are prepared to reflow soldering, and not hand soldering. It may be possible to solder the resistors in place using a regular solder iron, but it will be hard to do.

Continue reading Plant Watering Sensor Files

How to Design a Cheap Plant Watering Sensor (Part 6)

This is the sixth part of the meta-tutorial, where I talk about designing a cheap plant watering sensor. If you did not already read the firstsecondthirdfourth and fifth part please do it now. These parts contain a lot information which lead to this point of the tutorial.

The fifth part ended with step 24, where I talked about calculating the total bill of materials. This part will focus on preproduction of a small batch of sensors to solve some final details.

Just note, I obviously do not follow these steps in a perfect sequential way. Often I start with some tasks earlier and things are running in parallel. There are various dependencies and it would make no sense to wait with some task just to follow a strict sequence. 🙂

If you follow my blog you may already read some details about ongoing tasks. I will just briefly talk about them in this article. You will find more details in the other blog posts.

Step 25: Build an Alpha Series

Everything looks very promising, so its time to build a small batch of the final devices to see if they work as expected. This is also a test to see how a larger number of these devices can be produced and what kind of tools are needed for this task.

Order the Components

First I order the components. This is very important, because the availability of electronic components changes all the time. It is nice to have all required components, so you can order the boards with the correct footprints. If you order the boards first and are unlucky, an important component is suddenly unavailable and you have lots of boards with wrong component footprints on it.

The components for the plant sensor are really cheap, so there is no huge risk. Even it turns out a huge issue requires a component change – it will be a small loss. SMD components also do not take a lot of space, I can easily store all of them in a very small box.  Continue reading How to Design a Cheap Plant Watering Sensor (Part 6)

Successful Measurements

Using the new method of measurement, described in this post, I could successfully collect some meaningful data. This time, the read values are the exact values of the final sensor without a different kind of oscillator.

I watered the plant at day zero with quite a great amount of water. From there you can see how the frequency slowly rises, while the soil in the flower pot starts to get dry. There is a small measurement error between day two and three. Here I had a short power loss and no data was recorded which resulted in some zero records. Continue reading Successful Measurements

Plant Watering Sensor – Long Term Tests Take #2

I started a second take on the long term tests for the plant watering sensor. This tests are required to be sure, the measurements follow the expected cycles. After watering the sensor, the frequency should go down and while the soil is drying up, the frequency should go up the the initial value.

Logging this measurements is very important to get a good overview of the measurements and be sure if every aspect of the device works as expected. At this point, I especially test the sealing of the foot part of the sensor. If it keeps completely sealed against water, I should get very consistent and repeatable readings.

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The curve on the right side shows the measurements of the last 48 hours. These small variations are normal and are most likely caused by the plant itself or because of temperature changes of the board.

If you have questions, miss some information or just have any feedback, feel free to add a comment below.

No Success with First Long Term Measurement

The first long term measurement I made, to test the behaviour of the sensor over a longer time range was a failure. After the five days with the device introduced in this post, the readings made absolute no sense.

plant-sensor-data

The sensor was not moved in the flower pot and the plant was once watered at the begin of the measurement. While it looked promising at the begin, the frequency suddenly went down again, which was very irritating. I am still investigating how this could happen.

To get closer to the real measurement of the final plant watering sensor, I started a new approach.

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I soldered a header to one of the LED pads on a fully assembled plant sensor. Next I changed the device for the measurements.

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Continue reading No Success with First Long Term Measurement

Eurocircuits Delivered Astonishing Perfect Panels

I ordered a single panel as a test for the production version of the plant watering sensor and I got astonishing perfect panels from Eurocircuits.

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Even I only ordered just one, I got three perfect panels in gold. Thank you very much Eurocircuits! As you can see from the photos, the quality of the panels is just amazing.

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This panels use the Eurocircuits registration system. This is a own set of rules for the registration holes around of the panel. Using these registration holes, I can easily align the stencil and the board on a special tool they produce. I will tell more about that in one of the next parts of the series “How to design a cheap plant watering sensor” (Read Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

If you have questions, miss some information or just have any feedback, feel free to add a comment below.

Plant Watering Sensor – Long Term Logging

To gather more long-term measurements for the capacitive method I use for my plant watering sensor, I created this small logging device. As you can see, it uses one of the plant watering sensor prototypes for the measurements. Instead of using the ATtiny13A on the board, it passes the oscillator signal directly to the microprocessor of the logging device.

In front there is a very small 128×32 OLED display, where I can see the current measured frequency in kHz. On top, the current time and date is visible, and on the right there is a graph where I can see the values from the last 48 hours graphically. There is not much visible in the graph, because I took the photo just after installing the sensor.

Every minute, the current average of measurements is stored in a CSV file on a SD card. After a few weeks I should be able to analyse this file and see the results. Here I am especially interested in the cycles from watering the plant until the soil got dry again. Continue reading Plant Watering Sensor – Long Term Logging

How to Design a Cheap Plant Watering Sensor (Part 5)

This is the fifth part of the meta-tutorial, where I talk about designing a cheap plant watering sensor. If you did not already read the firstsecondthird and fourth part, please do it now. These parts contain a lot information which lead to this point of the tutorial.

The fourth part ended with step 20, where I did usability tests and stability tests using the preliminary firmware. This article will focus on designing the final board for the project.

Step 21: Design the Final Board

Designing a good board is like one of these puzzles with quadratic tiles, where you try to lay down a 3✕3 set where all edges match. Often a small change result in many follow up changes, so you have to rip-up a lot of routes and design them in a new way.

My goals for the board were:

  • Everything, except the two LEDs, should go to the top side of the board.
  • Reduce the amount of vias to the absolute minimum.
  • Create a ground pour, especially around the oscillator part, to reduce noise.
  • Move the button as far as possible from the oscillator to minimise the influence if the user presses the button.
  • Make it as small as possible.

I worked with small iterations, checking the design after each iteration and checked the design against my goals. To keep track of the changes, I versioned each larger iteration. This way I could go back at a later stage for comparison or if a change did not turn out well.

The Tools

I worked with Autodesk Eagle to create the board. This tool is in the current state far from perfect, but it is cheap and has all required features for the task. For me personally, these are the features I need to design a board:

  • Smart routing editor which is linked to the schema.
  • Quick and easy way to create vias and see the required connections.
  • Good library support for symbols and packages.
  • Design rule checks.
  • Quick board preview to check label placement and design.

I described some issues of Eagle in this post:

12 Time Wasting Issues in Autodesk EAGLE

As you can see, these are not very advanced features and are supported by almost all good board editors. I never use the auto router, because I do not have time pressure or have to do repetitive tasks. Continue reading How to Design a Cheap Plant Watering Sensor (Part 5)

How to Design a Cheap Plant Watering Sensor (Part 3)

This is the third part of the meta-tutorial, where I talk about designing a cheap plant watering sensor. If you did not already read the first and second part, please do it now. These parts contain a lot information which lead to this point of the tutorial.

The second part ended with step 14, designing a first prototype PCB. So let us start with the next steps in this journey. This article will be the smooth transition from prototyping to the initial planing for a final design.

Step 15: Assemble and Check the Prototype

After receiving the prototype PCBs from OSH Park, I assemble one completely, including the cable and with one of the sensor plate prototypes as foot part.

Set the Fuses of the Microcontroller

The microcontroller ATtiny13A requires programming using SPI before it can be soldered to the board. There are special bits in the memory, called “fuses”, which control very basic settings of the chip. One of this fuse controls if the chip can be programmed and debugged via the debugWire protocol. This protocol just uses one single wire to program and debug the chip, bus has to be enabled first.

So I put the microcontroller into the programming adapter and connect everything via the Atmel ICE to the computer.

lucky-resistor-1 Continue reading How to Design a Cheap Plant Watering Sensor (Part 3)