Commissioned by a private company, Meee Services was requested for designing a wildlife feeder to be used for an animal park in South Africa. Due to its extended area, the park management requested a solar powered system that could be set at any point without any need for its electric supply. Also, it was to be designed for providing feed for such animals as deer, gazelle, etc.
Some of the basic requirements for the design included the followings
- Food Capacity: 150 Kg
- Throwing distance: 15-20 m
- Throwing pattern according to the following:
- Starting 1-5 meters away from the machine
- Gradually increasing to 15-20m
- Type of feeding: short bursts of 5 to 15 seconds on and 5-30 seconds off -between 6am-8pm
- A solar PV design for supplying the system
- Lifetime: 5 years of maintenance, and minimum 3 years in a harsh environment
Below are some of the main challenges that we faced during the design process:
- Choosing the material needed for the manufacturing of the system in compliance with the lifetime requirement and resistance against such environmental effects as corrosion (due to the wet nature of the existing foodstuff in the feeder container)
- Taking proper measures to protect the electronic parts for long time work.
- Designing a proper solar power system for supplying the feeder’s motors
- Choosing robust and reliable motors that could fulfill the given requirements
- The minimum 15m feed throwing distance
- The throwing pattern starting from 5m and gradually extending to 15m+
In order to make the design, two MEEE-services expert teams including a mechanical engineering design team and an electronic design team were assigned to work on the design. The two teams worked together to create an integrated design covering all requirements of the customer. Some of the main steps were the followings:
- Providing all detailed calculations regarding the proper function of the product and its feed throwing system
- Solidworks simulation of the product and the description of the results
- Using two motors for the feeding system as below
- Using an Asynchronous motor for the uniform rotation of the feeder
- Using a 12Vdc low power servo motor aimed at providing zenithal movement for the 3 arms of the feeder (this system was used to change the throwing angle for throwing the material from 5m to 15m+
- Determining the type of the motor and its power after making calculations regarding the weight of the throwing material. A slew drive system was chosen that can be later automatically configured through an MCU control board.
- Making an electronic control board aimed at providing the following functions:
- A rotational pattern for the servo motor and the slew drive
- stopping the system when the food gets below a minimum level
In addition to the above, the following systems were also included in the final design:
- Creating some housings on the feeder for the installation of digital cameras aimed at detecting gathering of animal around the system and getting statistical data for the scientific research
- Adding a Bluetooth system on the control board for its configuration by any Bluetooth device through a mobile app
The design part took about 3 months before it was ready for the prototyping. During the designing stage, all requirements were carefully reviewed and tested. The final design was delivered to the client company for the prototyping.