Saturday, April 4, 2009

Even more detail for aquarium DIY top-off system

In this post, I'll describe the machines and methods that I used to make the optical sensor head for the aquarium top-off system.

Step 1: Cut off 2" of 1/2" diameter black Delrin rod. Delrin is a brand name for a specific type of acetal copolymer plastic. You can get it at

Step 2: Square-off the end of the rod on the lathe.

Step 3: Drill two holes at 30* to the rod's major axis so that they intersect a few mm in front of the rod's face. You may need to use a punch or dremel to prevent the drill bit from wandering on the sloped face of rod. I like to use the vise-within-a-vise method for drilling angled holes on the drill press.

Step 4: Taper the end of the rod with a coarse file.

Step 5: Use a smooth file to tidy everything up.

I found that the optic fibers should be cut square, and then recessed into the sensor head so that nothing sticks out. This allows air bubbles to form harmlessly in each of the spaces created by recessed fiber ends. If the fibers stick out too much, an air bubble might become trapped between them, and the system will have a "false positive".

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