How to build a pet feeder that teaches your pet to play the piano? (In Progress)

Imagine turning your pet’s mealtime into a concert! That’s exactly what you’ll do with PetPiano, the coolest DIY project for cat and dog lovers.

This isn’t just a feeder; it’s a tiny piano that serenades you with mini concerts throughout the day, courtesy of your furry friends. Whether you’re a DIY newbie or a seasoned maker, this guide will walk you through building your very own PetPiano, step by step.

Best of all? Every file you need to get started is available for free download. So, grab your tools, and let’s make mealtime a showtime!

Video version

Source files

Just like I mentioned in the intro, you can download the files needed to make this little piano completely for free. You can snag the design, the PCB layout, the 3D model, the bill of materials, and firmware – and make it yourself.

If you want to receive all of them put the email below – I’ll send a link to you straight away.

Where can I buy it?

If you’re not inclined to build it yourself or just don’t have the time, take a look at Aaron’s store. Currently, the PetPiano is still undergoing final touches, and for now, you can only sign up for the waiting list. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll notify you immediately, allowing you to grab a fully assembled and tested unit right off the shelf.

ENCLOSURE

In crafting my unique pet piano/feeder project, choosing the right material for the casing was paramount. I opted for MDF due to its durability and ease of processing, though plywood could have also been a viable alternative.

A critical stage in the production was using CNC technology to cut out the individual parts of the casing. This precise method ensured that all components fit together perfectly, eliminating the risk of errors that could occur with manual cutting. If you’re considering undertaking a similar project, I highly recommend using CNC services. This ensures every detail is matched with surgical precision.

And if you don’t have access to the equipment yourself, you can easily outsource the cutting to a local workshop specializing in CNC processing. This not only saves time but guarantees a professional appearance for the final product.

You can use any wood glue for the job. Just make sure all the pieces are dust-free and degreased. Otherwise, the glue won’t stick.

Start by placing one of the “sides of the casing” on a flat surface.
Apply a bit of glue into the groove. You don’t need a lot. If some of it oozes out, don’t worry, you can easily wipe it off with a paper towel.

Next, fit the two matching pieces together, smear the edge with glue, and secure it with painter’s tape.

Do the same thing for the remaining components of the casing.

And finally, find something heavy that you can place on top and leave it for a few hours.

The next step is to paint it any color you like. In my opinion, glossy black looks best, but you can paint it whatever dream color you’ve got in mind. If you’re aiming for a better effect, you might need two coats.

DISPENSER

Being totally honest with you, printing the dispenser on an FDM printer isn’t easy. I designed the model with injection molding in mind, so I optimized it for that technology.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to print. As you can see, I just did it. However, you won’t be able to do it without supports. And sometimes, it might be more convenient to split the model into two or more parts and glue them together after printing.

I won’t give you specific instructions on how to orient this on the printer or what settings to use, as it highly depends on the equipment you have. I’m convinced you know best what settings to use.

ELECTRONICS

This project is sponsored by JLCPCB, who crafted the stunning circuit board you see in this project. For an affordable price and within just a few days, you can receive a professionally made PCB delivered right to your doorstep, ready for soldering.

Excitingly, JLCPCB now offers up to $54 in sign-up coupons for new users. Moreover, they have taken their services a step further by providing an assembly option. If you’re not up for soldering yourself, JLCPCB can take care of soldering all components for you. Among the downloadable files, you’ll find the necessary Bill of Materials (BOM) and a Pick & Place file, which you can directly submit to them for this hassle-free assembly service.

If you decide you want to solder the board yourself, I recommend using a stencil and solder paste instead of soldering each component individually. It’ll definitely make your life easier. However, I’ve soldered PCBs by hand before, so if you don’t have a hot plate or a HOT-AIR station, don’t let that stop you from tackling this project.

Just keep in mind that some components have really small packages, like the audio amplifier, which is in a TQFN (3x3mm) package.

KEYBOARD

Just like with the dispenser, the keyboard will require the use of supports to be printable. And besides, the white keys might not fit on your print bed. In that case, I recommend doing the maneuver of splitting the model and then gluing it together.

Just one note: the springiness of the keys relies on the flexibility of the material used for printing, so I strongly recommend using PETG or Nylon instead of PLA or ABS, as they are more elastic and less brittle.

Assembling the keyboard is pretty straightforward. You’ll need 5 M3/25mm screws (conical head), and a soldered PCB.

Place the PCB in the correct slot in the frame. It will only fit one way, so you can’t get it wrong.

Place the white keys on top.

And now the black ones..

Secure the whole stack with five M3x25mm screws with a conical head.
Set this assembled component aside; we’ll need it for the final assembly.

POWER SUPPLY

The PetPiano can be powered either through an AC-DC adapter plugged into an outlet or by six AA batteries. However, due to its wireless communication, loud speaker, and motor, this device isn’t super energy-efficient. That’s why I recommend using the power cable, and keeping the batteries as a backup for emergencies, like power outages.

ASSEMBLY

The assembly process isn’t overly complicated. If you’ve successfully prepared all the components and reached this stage, I’m confident you’ll handle it without any trouble.

In this step, we’ll assemble all the elements we’ve put together so far, such as the case, the keyboard with the soldered PCB, the dispenser, and all the other small parts.

Asse

FLASHING

To program the ESP32 chip, you’ll need a USB-UART adapter. Any cheap one will do. Hold down the ”Flash” button, then connect the programmer to the PCB and to your computer.

Next, fire up any software for flashing microcontrollers via UART. I personally recommend the official ESP32 tool called: “Flash Download Tool”.

When you see a message confirming the operation was successful, disconnect the adapter and connect the proper power supply.

The PetPiano is ready to roll! 

SUMMARY

The time it takes to train depends on the pet’s personality. I have two cats, and they are completely different. Strachu is more distrustful and cautious; He took about two weeks to play something for the first time. Plamka, on the other hand, is definitely braver and she took just under a week. They still have some learning to do before they reach a master level, but I’m confident they’ll make it.

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