When you glance at this diorama, you probably see a corner of a beautiful Elven village. The flying buttresses, the sweeping lines, the mossy overgrowth are all exquisitely executed to look like Rivendell out Of Lord of The Rings. When he made this, Samuel Gidoin had that very imagery in mind, but he also had a bigger plan. This quaint village is also an articulated machine that prepares the perfect cup of tea.
Underneath the laser cut exterior that shows no evidence of it’s mechanical undercarriage, you’ll find an Arduino Mega, most of the components that would typically reside inside a commercial coffee machine, as well as a handful of other actuators and lights.
There are multiple options available, for different blends of tea and temperatures for steeping. With a quick press of a button, this elven village hops to life measuring out tea leaves, depositing them into the tea ball, heating water and dispensing it into the cup, then dunking the tea ball for the prescribed amount of time, then depositing it on a tiny coaster for disposal.
At the end of the process, Samuel is left with a perfect cup of tea, and a view that is absolutely wonderful.
I contacted Samuel and asked a few questions about this build.
Where did the idea come from?
This is “Thérrarium”, a tea machine disguised as an Elvish town. It was designed to be as entertaining to watch as possible !
My girlfriend drinks a lot of tea and I thought that I could automate the preparation routine.
We are both Lord of the Rings enthousiasts and I enjoy terrariums. I decided to combine all that because I though they could go well together. I chose to build a wooden machine, covered with moss, the opposite of a commercial machine.
“Thé” means Tea in french, that’s why it’s called Thérrarium.
Tell me a bit about the construction, it really is beautiful.
I wanted the machine to look like it is entirely made of wood with no visible screws or wires.I used laser cutting for the visible parts. I like the contrasts the laser cutting creates at the edges and in the engraved areas. Some makers try to prevent this “burned” effect but in this particular case, I think it improves the overall aspect of the machine.
Inside the machine, for supports, mechanical interfaces and evolutive shapes, 3d printing was more suited. One stainless steel part is water jet cut and then bent with pliers and the help of gas cooker :D
I also used epoxy resine for the transparent, glowing power button
How are you controlling everything?
Everything is controlled by an Arduino Mega. The arduino drives most of the components you would find in a coffee machine plus many motors to animate the modules and leds for style.
Was there a roadblock or particularly difficult part to figure out?
First difficulties appeared when I imagined the concept. I had to find a way to dispense the tea without obturating the tea box exit, then to put the right amount of tea in a tea ball and finally into a cup. That was a very fun portion of the project because there was a lot of possible technical solutions, which don’t really exist in the commercial machines.
Another challenge was to make sure that only food grade material would be immersed in hot water. That means no 3D printing or plywood and creating 3D stainless steel parts without industrial means is complicated.
Finally, I spent a lot of time thinking about the look of the machine, how I could make each part respect the theme while still having their functional dimensions.