I though I’d share some things I learned while assembling the Farmbot and getting familiar with it.
Assembly wasn’t too daunting and the step by step assembly instructions were pretty clear although I got a little worried at the end where the instructions go into tool assembly. My initial thought was that this is the end of the assembly instructions and I still had items in the box like the air pump and water solenoid. These things are covered in the tool setup instructions but it wasn’t obvious to me until I had read through them as I assumed that this portion of the instructions would just be covering the tools themselves.
The provided tools didn’t hold out for very long and I ended up using my own tools for almost the entire build. I do not know if it is worth while to include these cheap tools as part of the kit when I would imagine that anyone taking on this task would be someone already in possession of the needed tools, but I could be wrong on that.
Getting the bot moving of course was exciting but had a problem almost immediately. The Y axis motor had operated normally and then seemed to seize. The motor of course was not seized, rather, was the rotor shaft pulley was mounted too close to the motor housing and the friction was too great for the motor to overcome. This also happened to one of the X axis motors several days of operation later. While assembling the motors, I remember thinking that friction may be a problem and tried to avoid mounting the pulleys too close to the motor but alas I didn’t get it quite right. Might be worth addressing this in the assembly instructions.
I am fairly certain that I followed the instructions carefully and didn’t miss any nuts and bolts but I still have a bunch left over. Perhaps this is intended as we humans tend strip bolts and drop things in dirt or grass never to be seen again, but it would be nice to know that there are extras before hand. Also left over in my box are some short black wires that I have no idea as to what their use is.
The tube on the intake side of the solenoid burst off as soon as the water was turned on and I had to add 3 zip ties to keep it attached. And this was with a quarter turn of the hose bib, not full blast.
The Z axis lead screw has been my biggest issue, and from looking around the forums, a problem for others as well. It is slow, noisy and the main movement that halts a sequence playing out. Adding some WD-40 (I plan on acquiring some grease soon to better maintain lubrication) seemed to mitigate some of the vibration causing the operation of the Z axis to be less noisy and more reliable, but it is still far from ideal.
A recent issue with the Z axis is that it now doesn’t find home properly. When hitting the extents itt is allowed to, it seems to backtrack a bit and wind up up again, jittering endlessly.
I am not sure that I like that the Z axis is all in negative coordinates and do not know if this can be changed somehow but it would be nice not to have to always enter a minus sign in the number fields especially when on a phone or tablet.
As far as I can tell, the physical E-Stop and Unlock buttons on the device are lit up but do nothing when pressed. I have tried re-seating the connections but do not know what else I can do. The software buttons do work however.
The WiFi seems to be a bit finicky and while I am able to have fairly long sessions without issue, there are other times where I find myself having to pull the power and reboot to reconnect. I plan to try an Ethernet connection to see if it holds up better.
I am still learning how to use the software so I may be ignorant of some things but so far it would appear that the Farmbot is a lot less automated than I had imagined. It would seem that one would have to make a sequence for every plant location for the seeding stage. This seems insane to me and hopefully I am missing something here. I did find a post, [[Farmware] Loop-Plants-With-Filters], that links to an implementation of automated seed planting and seems to work well, but I would argue that this functionality should be part of the core.
I also imagined that the bot would have watering and weeding functionality out of the box, as in, once a garden has been planted, it would automatically do a periodic moisture sensor test and response as well as hunt for weeds without setting up sequences. It appears that I have to set these things up manually and maybe my imagination was projecting too much onto the Farmbot.
It would be nice if the “Move Absolute” command had a “Current Position” in the “Import coordinates from” drop down list. I understand that the “Move Relative” block does this but I found myself wanting to move a single axis to 0 from its current position and I would have to determine the extent that axis is currently at and move relative in the opposite of that amount. Not terribly important but could be useful.
I still have to read about and understand Events and Regimens as well as learn how to hunt for weeds so I may have more observations and questions in the near future.
I would like to know if anyone has run into and/or remedied any of the problems I have described, so please reply if so.
All in all, I am impressed with this machine and its design. Cheers to all of you electronic, mechanical and software engineers over there at Farmbot, very cool indeed.