How fast can an Experience Prototype be implemented? A team from the focus groups Industrial Design and Rapid Embedded Prototyping asked themselves this question. We set ourselves the task of building a networked greenhouse in just one week.
The aim was to develop a workable concept and then build it in a short time. The end result was to be an Experience Prototype whose aesthetics came very close to the finished product and demonstrated the desired functionalities.
The greenhouse is controlled by a Raspberry Pi, which collects the environmental information with Tinkerforge sensors. Sensors are installed for soil moisture and temperature, air humidity and temperature, and brightness level. There is also a webcam. Growth regulators include ventilation, soil heating, irrigation consisting of tank, pump and nozzles, and lighting.
During the one-week project phase, the participants set up the interconnection of control system, sensors and regulators and developed an algorithm that monitors and controls plant growth. Specific parameters can be created and stored for each plant species. For control purposes, the project team designed an Android app that, in addition to monitoring and controlling all components can retrieve archived data. It also shows a live feed from the webcam and offers a time-lapse film of plant growth.
The industrial design and equipment architecture of the greenhouse were sketched on the white board and then modelled in Solidworks. Since several of the parts could not be manufactured in-house, external service providers were engaged to provide them. The final assembly, however, was again carried out by Zühlke.
The result of the effort is quite impressive: a networked greenhouse that offers a chilli plant the best conditions for growth. It won't be long until the first chilli pepper!
Reto Frei is Lead Project Manager and has been with Zühlke since April 2010. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2005, Reto began his professional career as a development engineer in product development with a focus on lightweight construction. In 2012, he completed a postgraduate degree in industrial design and since then has consistently put the user at the center of development. His experience focuses on the development of medical devices, solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, industrial applications and home appliances where he takes over the responsibility for architecture and leads projects.