Latae Lotus Automatic Shower
The Nanoline Contest is a PLC automation competition hosted by Phoenix Contact. At the beginning of every season, teams get the Nanoline Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) kit and a $300 gift card. The competition is very open ended, requiring teams to build anything as long as it uses the Nanoline controller. Our team of 4 people decided to build an automatic shower for the physically impaired. We spent over 900 hours on the project, starting from September all the way till February. The shower features 6 shower heads, an automatic soap dispensing system, a bidet, a hand-held sprayer, and a touchscreen control panel. Here’s how the building process went:
We started off buying a cheap shower stall that we retrofitted with a frame made out of 2x4s. We strategically positioned the beams to take up as little space as possible but still provide support to the pumps, pipes, etc.
Water Tank, Pumps, and Heater
Since we were going to bring this project to competition in Pennsylvania, we got our hands on a 25 gallon RV water tank to use as our source of water. The shower would pump water through all 6 shower heads, and eventually pump the water out through the drain and back into the tank. In a normal installation, the water would (obviously) not be recirculated and would come from normal water pipes. We also managed to get a local company to rent us 2 diaphragm pumps (3 GPM ea). Both were installed on the side of the shower; along with our point-of-use water heater.
Shower Heads and Piping
After our pumps and heater were installed, we started drilling holes in the shower to install the 6 shower heads. We also added piping all around the shower so the supply pump could pump water to all the shower heads. To be able to control each shower head individually, we installed 6 solenoid valves. The shower heads were positioned so as much of the user’s body was hit. Finally, we attached our bidet and installed our shower chair.
One of the main goals of the project was to eliminate the need to deal with small bottle caps and manually lather oneself. To solve this, we designed an elaborate soap dispensing system that would inject a soap mixture into the supply line. The soap would come out of all 6 shower heads (and bidet), effectively lathering the user. We attached a small tank on the side of the shower, and used a small pump, a few check valves, and a wye joint to build the mechanism. We used blue pool dye to simulate soap so it would be more visible when it came out of the shower heads.
Bidet and Handheld Sprayer
To clean the user’s underside, we installed a bidet on the shower chair and drilled a hole in the shower to accomodate the hose from the bidet. We also added a handheld sprayer that the user could easily pick up and spray any part of their body with.
The main controller of the shower was the Nanoline PLC. We built a modular control cabinet with all our electronics and controllers that housed the power supplies, relays, Nanoline, and Raspberry Pi. Since the cabinet needed to be transported across the country to Pennsylvania, we made the shower and control cabinet modular. This meant we had two 12 pin Molex connectors coming from the cabinet, controlling the many sensors, pumps, valves, LED’s and other things on the shower.
To operate the shower, you could select one of 3 different cycles: manual, full, and body only. The manual cycle allowed you to control any shower head individually just by toggling the buttons. The full and body only cycles ran preprogramed steps to wash the user, the difference being that the body only cycle did not wash the user’s hair. The interface ran as a WinForm on a spare windows tablet we had.
- Red pull cord in the corner of the shower that, when pulled, instantly turned off the shower.
- Voice alerts to tell the user what part of their body is about to be showered
- Calming music to establish a soothing environment
- LEDs located around the shower frame and around each shower head