Automated Dog Feeder - Need Help

Hi all,

I’m brand new here and have never attempted to build anything like this before, so I’m probably in over my head, and any advice/info would be greatly appreciated!
First, let me explain my idea. I want to build an automated dog feeder for my 2 dogs. I want the feeder to only be active after 6:00 am and again after 6:00 pm. I want each dog to be able to initiate the dispensing of food using a RFID tag, and once they activate their food, the machine will not allow them to activate it again until the next time is reached (either 6:00 am or 6:00 pm). My idea is to build a hopper to hold the dog food with 2 sliding doors in the bottom of the hopper. Each door will drop food into a ramp leading to a different food bowl and the sliding door will be opened/closed by a linear actuator. The opening of the actuator will be triggered by the RFID tag (as long as the above specified time has been reached) and the closing of the actuator will be triggered by a weight sensor under the bowl so I can control how much food is dispensed. I know this will take some trial and error to account for the amount of time it takes to close the door and the amount of food that is still sliding down the ramp.

I’m not really sure how to accomplish all of this and don’t know if there is a mechanical solution or if I will need to be able to write code for an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or maybe both. Also, if anyone has a simpler way to accomplish what I want to do, I’m open to that too.

Thanks in advance,

Reasonably ambitious project :wink:

What is your goal:

  • Just get a feeder?
  • Learn how to build and code such a thing?

Have you done research to find out if something similar has been done or is for sale?
I would investigate if any of these would be suitable for the feeding mechanism

    If so I would hack one and add the controls and timer that they may not already have using Rpi, Arduino. You could also add remote access using a wifi controller and one of the many IOT services.

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I would say that I have a couple of goals for this project:

  1. I could definitely use a feeder that accomplishes everything I described so we don’t have to be home at a certain time to feed the dogs every day and so I can ensure that the right dog eats the right portion of food.

  2. I really enjoy building things and do quite a bit of woodworking, so I don’t think the construction aspect won’t pose much of a problem for me, it’s the automation where I am going to struggle.

  3. I love learning new things and stretching myself. I recently started learning VBA so I can write Excel macros, and while I enjoy it, I have also come to the conclusion that I am not a natural coder.

I actually hadn’t looked to see if something has already been created that does what I am looking for (probably a pretty stupid oversight on my part). A couple of the feeders that you sent a link to (thanks by the way for researching for me :smile:) do something pretty similar. I’m hesitant to go that route because there are some key differences that I will have to solve for, so not only will I have to spend quite a bit of money on a feeder (most likely 2), but now I will also have to spend more money to modify those to work for my application and build something bigger/sturdier since my dogs are large. Now we’re looking at $500 plus for a dog feeder and that just seems courageous to me.

I ordered an Arduino Uno starter kit yesterday and will play with that when it arrives, so hopefully that will be a step in right direction to figure out how to build what I want, but my guess is that I am going to need some help from someone with a lot more experience than me.