How cheaply could I build my own?


I am an avid gardener and a developer as well.
I would love to be a beta tester guy but don’t have a lot of money to invest.

How cheaply can I build one assuming access to 3D printer and a drill press?


The BOM shows the cost of the components at about $2,000 without shipping/taxes/waste. If you print your own parts you can shave off ~$600. If you make your own plates you could probably save another $150. So add in taxes and shipping and you could probably build one for as cheap as $1500? Don’t quote me on that though haha - projects always end up more expensive than you hope! If you have a set of electronics lying around and skip out on rotary encoders you could save even more.


I might do a bare bones build with perhaps limited functionality. For plant starts mainly…

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Does this include the cnc computer that controls the unit? I just learned of these a few days ago. I’d like to build one and have it functional before winter.

I’d just like to know more about the computer that runs it as I see that as my biggest challenge. I can follow directions though and have soldered together a complete megasquirt car ecu before. I’ve got a programmer/hacker friend to assist. Myself I’m a garage tinkerer/welder/fabricator. I’ll prob get about half the needed aluminum for 45cents a pound as scrAp from my employer.

so the 3d printer part. I intend to buy a 3d printer kit. Wondering what the smallest pri ter is that I can get away with for this project.

I also am interested in making one as cheap as possible, my target is 500 to 1000 for a bare minimum ( using a much cheaper liner rail system, limit switches instead and trusting step Amounts instead of optical encoders, and no 80 20 extrusion)

I am planning on using for all liniar rails, and I will probably build the gantry out welded square tubing

The control computer is a Raspberry Pi ($45) and an Arduino Mega with a RAMPS shield ($50)

There are some libraries that are making 3D printers available, also community makerspaces .
Has anyone utilized them?

Yes, I have used my local MakerSpace to prototype parts in the past with 3D printing, CNC routing, and laser cutting. You can also look into services like to get your parts printed by someone locally.

Save time and get mine. I have mine for sale 1,500 and you pay for shipping.

Some thoughts:

I am going to try to make one a lot cheaper. I want to try a wooden frame / box made out of wooden fence bars, like 5cm thickness. On top I want to just use 2 pvc pipes fixed together from the bottom with a bunch of 3d printed clips, this will form the rail. The wheels will fall in between. The y axis will be the same but turned 90 degrees. Only the z axis will be the original design. This would not only make the system 90% cheaper but also much stronger and you can just pick it up, place it somewhere else, re calibrate and go. The y axiss will contain all the hardware and it is just resting on the wooden frame. If would even be better if this has some weight so I think a small wooden roof above the hardware would be easy to make. So when it is winter you can take it off and store it indoors or in a shed. Or if you have another frame, just put it on that frame, re calibrate and go. Only then the x axiss would ideally be belt less for that to work.

I think it would also make more sense to plant your self. I like that job and it is probably less work then automating it anyway.

I usually sow in amall rockwool blocks which makes it much more easy to use computer vision to recognize what is weed and what is veggie. The veggies have a small square block at their root. Perhaps printing out plastic rings or something that you can lay around the the plants may be a good way to mark the plants that are not weed. Maybe that would make the vision system a bit more easy to configure. You don’t need a database to store locations that way, the reality is the database.

Those rock wool blocks are also nice because they may be a more convenient unit to work with for machines and you can germinate before you plant which makes your (expensive) land use much more effective. Perhaps some germination system would be nice as a separate part.

With the pvc box, you can scale it much more easy. Every hardware stores sells it for nothing in different sizes. I think I will put the the power, motors and all that stuff on top of the y axis, it will be very strong, so you only have a single power cord that moves along. I am only interested in the weeding part so no water, no changing heads. Big cost reduction.

For watering you can simply print out a couple of dippers, 5v waterpumps cost 1,5 usd at alieexpress and humidity sensors 45 cents. If you have 10 or 20 pumps you can create an extreme specific water regiment. At my garden I don’t have running water so I added a 1000 liter IBC tote, you can use it to add liquid plant food, I added some fish that poo in the water which turns into plant food.

For the power supply, an old ATX computer has a really good one and they by default have 5v and 12v output with a lot of watts and I assume very high quality/stable current. I think it is perfect. I found one at my local 2nd hand/recycling store for 5 euro’s, you can also look in the recycling center.

The case can be any case ofcourse, I would like something that looks a bit professional however. From an old fuse box perhaps, not sure yet. Maybe just kitted recycled wood.

All the parts that need to be lasercutted can be made with a jigsaw and a dril also. Just print out the design, use carbon paper, draw it over and do the job manually. My design will need way less parts however so I might not even need this.

I know nothing about robotics, I am a software developer with some electrical knowledge and I once made a 3d printer with a kit, which makes me a bit confident that I can do the hardware part. Not sure if I can get the original code to work with the system however, I do not want the standard size for instance, I want a different shape. Am curious if I am able to hack their system to change the sizes. Sounds easy but there must be a reason why the kits only come in 2 sizes?

Farmbot is amazing, really great idea. I just think that to make it mainstream it should be much cheaper, more easy and portable. It has the potential to change the world but not on a few square meters. If you have all the hardware on the y axiss you can ship it pre fabricated. Client just needs to arrange some sort of 1m high frame, the wooden frame is already a requirement. Also I do not believe in the watering and sowing, people buy crops or germinate them at home, for watering there are more easy and less error prone systems. Weed picking is a lot of work, there it can be really useful.

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Hey @Pythonholum, That youtube video is set to private. Can you link to something else that gives me an idea of how you are/were planning to build the rails? Thanks!