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Conceptualize a DIY battery-powered, autonomous steep terrain brush mower

Image credit: Grator.com

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 01, 2022
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Develop detailed building instructions so that amateur engineers can build their own battery-powered autonomous steep terrain brush mowers.
  • Commercial remotely operated and/or autonomous mowers are extremely expensive, but their components are not. The ability to buy the machine is what separates the average end user from the service provider (machine owner). So let's try to provide people with the ability to build such machines themselves.
  • The future of land maintenance is in automation. Let's empower people to build their own high-impact farming/maintenance tools. Open hardware tech for the electric/battery-powered era.
  • There are plenty of Youtube videos showing DIY remotely controlled flat terrain rotary mowers, but to my knowledge, none show DIY machines that autonomously traverse steep terrain and mow brush as well as tall grass.
  • Many landowners in my area simply give up and let their land on steep terrain overgrow with brush. This makes the land unusable for agriculture and the area looks bad.
Some orientation guidelines
When designing the machine:
  1. Lowest complexity of the build. Aim for the fewest number of parts to reduce the number of things that can go wrong and thus the need for frequent servicing/repairs.
  2. Use parts that are readily available worldwide (recycled/repurposed when feasible). Make it easy for people to replace them with locally available alternatives.
  3. Use open-source software.
  4. Assume that people will be able to cut/weld steel themselves, but may not necessarily have access to more advanced tools such as plasma cutters or CNC machines.
  5. Assume that people aren't programmers but can follow instructions to configure the suitable open source software.
  6. Keep the safety of the operator in mind. The machine should be designed so that fatal errors cannot easily be made by the operator.
  7. List all of the necessary components and where people can get them.
A few examples to get you started
What the DIY mower we are designing should ideally be capable of:

Here are a few DIY mower builds that show various stages:

Creative contributions

Implementing the laser for cutting without blades

jnikola Oct 17, 2022
What if you somehow installed a powerful laser that can cut grass, smaller plants or bushes?
  • Lasers are cool
  • lasers can cut grass, especially the stronger ones
  • possibly spend less energy than rotation blades (definitely need to check this)
How would it work?
I imagine the design as shown in the picture below.
A strong laser would be connected to the energy source. It would be strong enough to cut the grass in matter of seconds. It could be in a classic mulcher design (scheme 1) for the front end use or the rotational cutter (scheme 2) for the rear end use. The main thing would be to make sure it is never used if unsafe (protection layer damaged, laser broken, etc). Maybe even the closed design could be a way to go (to not allow anyone to open the product and use it for other purposes).
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Marco Agudelo
Marco Agudelo2 years ago
The laser technology idea could work and the comparative study about energy efficiency with the mechanical solution should be performed. Those types of machines certainly would be a new sensation. But from the point of view of DIY projects as Darko Savic suggested, design should be considered to be as simple as possible and reproduced with local parts as possible.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 years ago
Like this one?

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jnikola2 years ago
Darko Savic I have the same link in the "lasers can cut grass" part. However, I see some hardcore safety issues. That's why I proposed a different design that could allow much stronger lasers to be used. I think we can both agree that the lawn mower from the video is way too slow.
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6x6 or even 8x8 steel wheels instead of rubber tracks

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 19, 2022
There are a few downsides to using rubber tracks for such a machine:
  • Usually, the tracks are made in China and have to be imported. This means having to pay import tax, a high shipping cost, and contributing to global warming by shipping the tracks across the world
  • Rubber tracks don't dig into the terrain much, so eventually, the machine would reach its maximum slope climbing ability before the tracks start slipping in place
I propose using spike wheels made of steel in 6x6 or even 8x8 configuration. This is my 4x4 example:

By using steel spike wheels you get to:
  • Build them anywhere in the world without importing. Thus reducing the cost of the machine by avoiding shipping, import tax, etc. Steel is available everywhere.
  • Very long durability. Wear and tear is negligable.
  • Simpler machine operation. Rubber tracks tend to slip off when the machine drives sideway on a steep slope. Steel wheels never slip.
  • Steeper slope climbing ability.
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General comments

Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
Here's a quick update on how the project is going:

It's not a DIY project anymore. I got carried away😂
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Marco Agudelo
Marco Agudelo2 years ago
I acknowledge great potential in the idea of DIY for machinery. The idea of open hardware could drive an enormous amount of small companies that can’t afford to design and develop, but are passionate about building things. The TED Talk 2011 - Marcin Jakubowski you share on your Idea is incredible. I will review it with detail to elaborate a creative contribution.
A brief about my further contribution, creating machines above 500w shouldn’t be seen as DIY projects for every person. The hydraulics implied on those projects could harm with ease, as well as the electric power, and the metal weight. I see it more for small business than those projects can be develop around a open hardware community and even those projects could be “cook” on the co-manufacturing environments suggested on this session.
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Alen Žibek
Alen Žibek 2 years ago
I agree, that all the autonomous mowers are expensive, and use a lot of unnecessary components. Some remote and robotic mowers are absurdly poorly designed in some cases like:
  • High center of gravity and lightweight,
  • small smooth wheels or opposite (spikes that grab material),
  • hard to find and replace electronic parts,
  • random mowing path logic,
  • small capacity batteries,
  • small blades or huge hammers,
  • poor waterproofing.
Batteries should be used as a weight and be distributed as low and as wide as possible. Wheels should be like those that NASA uses for the mars rover (soft and airless). Arduino in waterproof housing could be a good alternative as a controller for (copy-paste code). Most of the parts should be 3D printed. The wheels need to be maneuverable like on the Combilift forklift (sideways movement) to prevent awkward positioning and maneuvering.
For me, this would make the perfect robot mower/mulcher.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 years ago
Alen Žibek all good points👍
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