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Oggy Oggy

Okay just a quick note about another animated children’s series my son watches: Oggy Oggy. It’s absolutely adorable, and I love watching this together with him.

The thing that stands out most to me is that the series seems to be perfectly designed for merchandise, though as far as I know there is no merchandise available (yet). The separate play sets are already defined: the pirate’s world with its island, the farmer’s world with the wind turbine and tractor, the volcano, the city, etc. Plus there are some other products immediately ready: the sun and stars could double as nightlights, the fish already have hooks on their back fit for a fun fishing game, and the intro features sticker designs, to just name a few.

What makes it even easier: everything in the world of Oggy Oggy is already designed as an injection molded plastic product, complete with parting lines and modular assemblies. The only things missing are the ejector pin and gate marks, but besides that the CAD models seem pretty much ready for production.

I really love the clean design style, the sweet characters and the way they communicate exclusively via expressions, and of course the stories. Really well thought out!

Stained glass windows

Custom designed came glasswork

Over the last year I’ve been steadily replacing all glass panes in the house in an effort to improve insulation. Currently I’m replacing the glass in the front house.

Traditionally the top glass pane of the front windows is decorative, and would, amongst others, be used to reflect the farmhouse owner’s wealth. So ornate farmhouses would have stained glass windows, while the more austere farmhouses would opt for basic glasswork or add simple etched lines. Our house is quite a basic design and has the simple etched lines: not something I feel worthy of preserving. So instead I’ve been designing our own stained glass windows, to be sandwiched in a double glazed glass panel. One advantage is that we can match the colours of the glass with the rest of the house.

The design process took some iterations, as expected, and required quite a bit of design for manufacturing input from experienced parties as I’ve never designed this type of product before. We’ve prototyped the final design as a foil on the actual windows before having it be produced, as it is quite the investment. I love how design skills are so easily transferable and so widely applicable.

The supplier has recently started working on the designs, and has shared the first results. It’s a traditional craft: cutting the pieces of glass by hand, cutting the lead came, it’s really impressive. For the proper effect we selected traditional hand blown glass, and looking at the results I’m glad we did. I do feel a bit sorry for him though, as the design turns out more labor intensive than anticipated with its organic lines and different widths of lead came.

There’s two designs for the four windows, as there are two differently sized windows. The image at the top of this post shows the larger of the two. After the other designs are complete, patina will be applied to the lead came for the final touch. Otherwise, trapped between two sheets of glass, the lead came would permanently remain glossy.

In a few months time I expect I’ll have placed the windows and I will share pictures of the final result.

4024 hours

Gardena Sileno Life 1250 damaged motor kit

My Gardena Sileno Life 1250 has been acting very weird lately: it kept moving back and forth as if it was bumping into objects.

Closer inspection showed a lot of play in the wheels, and considering the two year warranty had expired I took it apart to have a closer look. The motor kit assemblies on both sides of the robot mower showed a fair bit of wear and tear, and the bearings inside were completely gone.

Unfortunately there’s no fail-safe way to replace the bearings, as a lot of screws have seized up over time and the parts are press-fit together. Plus there is a fair bit of wear and tear to the plastic part as well, which is part of the seal. Though I could remake that part in CAD, make an SLS part and reuse the O-ring.

4024 hours of mowing caused this much damage, bit on the low side in my opinion. Consider a mowing period from April to October for a lawn sized 1250m2, which is ~8 hours of mowing per day for 7 months: 1680 hours per year (and that is a low estimate). Based on that, half a year after the warranty period expires you can expect the mower to fail.

Replacement costs? A whopping 189 euros per complete motor kit assembly. So replacing a perfectly fine electric motor and gear box, all that for 4 failed bearings. Talk about an incredibly weak spot in the design. And to consider, the exact same motor kit assembly (with same quality bearings) is used in various Gardena robot mowers, ranging from 250m2 to 2000m2.

It’s not been a good year for Gardena products.

The importance of DFMEAs

It’s been a week since my Gardena Smart Pump 5000/5E blew up in my face in a high pressure cloud of steam and hot boiling water, and the mix of first and second degree burns I got as a result are already starting to heal nicely. I got lucky.

Wednesday last week when I got home from work just after 18:00, I heard the pump running. And judging by the high pitched sound it was running dry – not good. I opened the Gardena app on my phone to see what was going on, as I did not turn on the pump, nor was there a scheduled start. Oddly enough the Gardena app indicated the pump was not running even though the wireless connection was working perfectly, so I could not turn it off. I decided to pull the power plug instead.

Being so near the pump I felt the heat coming from the pump, and gave it some time to cool down. In the mean time I prepared a watering can to fill up the pump to be able to run it again, and to remove any residual heat in the process.

However, I badly underestimated the severity of the failure (or series of failures, as it turns out). When I tried to turn the filling cap, it immediately blew off due to the high pressure. The cap hit my forehead (missing my left eye narrowly) and flew about 10 to 15 meters into the sky. A cloud of steam and boiling water covered the left side of my face, and my lower left arm. The pain was instant, as was the regret, and the watering can I prepared was used to cool down the burns rather than to get the pump going again.

Running to the shower to further cool the burns, it felt bad. I felt how the skin on my cheek and my arm came peeling off, and boy at that moment did I wish I stayed well clear of the pump. What followed was a trip to hospital, which I left with a bunch of painkillers, various stuff to put on the burns, and compliments on cooling down the burns which prevented worse.

So what happened? I never expected the system to fail so catastrophically, nor this build up of pressure. Of course in retrospect because it was obviously not a planned action, no valves were open for the water to travel. Those valves can hold the pressure quite well as it turns out!

The Gardena Smart Pump 5000/5E in question supposedly has the following safety features:

  • If medium is present, but there is a blockage in the pipes, the pump should go in standby mode.
  • If no medium is present, the pump should turn off (dry-run protection).
  • If the pump overheats, the pump should turn off (thermal safety).

Not to mention the pump should only be able to turn on via the app: either by schedule or by ordering it to start. Instead the pump started on its own, with the app having no record of that action. From the data of our electricity meter I could gather that the pump had been running dry for at least 2 hours prior to the incident. And all three safety measures failed miserably.

The pump I sent back for a root cause analysis. Gardena has been so kind as to offer me a replacement pump, however the series of failures has me quite concerned. I don’t know the design of course, but one would expect some fail-safe hardware based protection. For example a resettable thermal fuse would’ve done the trick to prevent this whole issue. Safety features should never be software based.

I am curious to read Gardena’s design documentation to be honest: the DFMEA in particular. With such a catastrophic potential outcome as a result of design failure I suspect that DFMEA could use some work.

Formlabs Fuse 1 and Form 3L

Formlabs 3D printers: Fuse 1 and Form 3L

It’s been two years since the building renovation started here at the Benchmark Almelo facility, and recently the entire product development department moved into the new building. Not only the office space has been completely overhauled, our test and prototyping facilities have also received significant upgrades.

3D printers

Our mechanical prototyping space for example now has multiple rapid prototyping options available, with the first two brand-new:

  • Formlabs Fuse 1 is a selective laser sintering (SLS) printer with a build volume of 165 x 165 x 300 mm. The printer comes with the necessary post-processing equipment to clean the printed products. Additionally we have a sand blast cabinet for easier and more thorough cleaning.
  • Formlabs Form 3L is a stereolithography (SLA) printer with a build volume of 335 x 200 x 300 mm. Like the Fuse 1, the Form 3L also comes with the necessary post-processing equipment. In this case to clean and post-cure the printed products.
  • Tiertime Up Box+, and Up Box mini 2, is a fused deposit modelling (FDM) printer, also known as filament printer. The Up Box+ has a build volume of 255 x 205 x 205 mm.
  • Tiertime Up Box mini 2 has a build volume of 120 x 120 x 120 mm. It is a travel sized version of the Up Box+.

EMC chamber

Our environmental lab is now accompanied by a cutting-edge semi-anechoic 3 metre pre-compliance chamber. The chamber is housed within an RF shielded enclosure and the walls are lined with absorbing ferrite tiles. Testing inside the chamber means not having to adjust for background noise and makes it perfect for pre-compliant emissions and immunity testing of various products and devices.

We had to wait a few years, but the fancy new toys are more than worth it.


Tangential to my automation hobby I’ve found that reducing energy usage is another great outlet for creativity – optimisation being the overarching interest, plus there is overlap in automation and energy saving I found. The secondary challenge is for the solutions to not come at the cost of (too much) comfort.

I was under the impression that I had already done quite a decent job on reducing energy consumption in our house, until I got my hands on an EnergyFlip. The EnergyFlip device, along with its app, allowed me to read out our analogue gas meter and power meter real time. And let me tell you, the energy saving lamps we still used in the barn were not doing what their name implies (40+ Watt per lamp!). So those were the first to be replaced by low power LED lighting.

The LED cluster lighting we use at night in the corridor upstairs was also not as energy efficient as I thought, so that got replaced straight away as well plus connected to a Philips Hue smart plug and motion sensor (went from 50W continously at night to 6W intermittently). The rest of the house already used Philips Hue lighting.

Here is a list of all other items that got optimised, divided into their relative utility. Note that water saving features are mainly intended to save on gas by reducing the flow of warm water.


  1. Optima W TC500 WiFi plugin thermostat floor heating pump switch
    • The pump of a floor heating system will run continuously, come summer or winter. And while these pumps have become quite energy efficient, it does not make sense to have them run without purpose.
    • The Grundfos Alpha2 L 15-60 pump (5 to 45W) we have is already quite energy efficient, but the pump switch will ensure the pump will only run when the central heating is on. And just to make sure the pump doesn’t get stuck, it will run for a few minutes every day.
  2. Smeg water kettle with variable temperature
    • Next to adjusting the amount of water you boil to the amount you actually require (you’d be amazed how many people fill up their electric kettle all the way every time they just want to make one cup of tea), it’s also possible to dose the energy by adjusting temperature.
    • Added benefit is that you always have the perfect temperature for each specific type of tea.
  3. Stand-by killer TV
    • While it is possible to use a standard power strip with on/off switch for the TV, laziness and ease-of-use are determining for effectiveness of using such power saving methods.
    • Instead, we’re using a stand-by killer that can be triggered by the remote control of the television. All you need to do is hit the “on” button twice on your remote instead of just once to fire up your television, and when you turn off the tv the stand-by killer will do the rest.
  4. Standard power strip with on/off switch
    • Non-explanatory really, we use this wherever other solutions would not suffice, for example for our microwave and our amplifier. I was surprised how much energy the latter one used in standby mode, and unfortunately stand-by killers did not work for the amplifier.
  5. Ansmann AES1 energy saving mains socket
    • This is a time controlled countdown mains timer, which disconnects attached loads automatically and safe from mains power after the user set operating time.
    • We’re using this socket to cut power to products that you do not frequently need to charge but are always plugged in, think of the electric tooth brush or electric razor. When you do want to charge them, just press the button so the device is powered for 4 or 8 hours and you’re done.
  6. Ecosavers Battery Charger AA+AAA
    • Very minor, but all our battery operated devices use rechargeable batteries. Whenever you charge those batteries, the charger will keep using power after the batteries are charged if left plugged in. The Ecosavers battery charger will kill power after the batteries are fully charged.
  7. Cat water fountain plugged in to a Philips Hue smart plug and triggered by a motion sensor
    • Okay I admit this one has gone a bit too far, as these small pumps only use between 1 to 3 Watts, but at some point it just becomes a challenge to reduce baseload as much as possible. And let’s be honest, the investment of the smart plug and motion sensor is one that will never be returned in this application.


  1. EasyDrain multi WRG energy-saving siphon
    • We installed this during renovation, as there is no way to do this retrofit. Our bathroom is on the ground floor, hence we opted for a horizontal heat recovery unit. EasyDrain claims this unit can recover up to 30% of waste water heat.
    • Our experience with this siphon has been an absolute nightmare: it clogs so easily. Unclogging it requires a special tool, and during unclogging you ironically waste a fair bit of water and heat. No way to undo this one unfortunately.
  2. Boiler optimisation
    • There are several basic ways to optimise settings of your boiler, and of course plenty more detailed ones. I will only describe the basic ones here.
    • Reducing supply temperature of the central heating system. This depends a bit on the type of radiators you have in your house, but we reduced it to about 45-50 degrees Celsius without problem.
    • Reducing warm water temperature to 60 degrees Celsius. Lower than that is not recommended due to risk of legionella.
    • Changing from comfort mode to eco mode setting on the boiler means you’ll have to wait a bit longer before you receive warm water, as the system does not continuously waste gas to keep your water warm ready at all times.
  3. Hydronic balancing
    • This is the process of optimizing the distribution of water by equalizing the system pressure, with the aim to optimally transfer heat produced by the boiler. There are plenty of guides available online.
    • In combination with reducing the supply temperature this measure optimises gas use by a fair bit.
  4. Speedcomfort radiator fans
    • Radiator fans, in combination with hydronic balancing, ensure an optimum heat transfer from radiator to air. Especially with lower central heating temperature, convection no longer is a reliable means of heat transfer.
    • One big drawback to radiator fans is the sound. You’ll experience this low white noise, comparable to a fridge running in the background, which can be annoying. The fans are triggered by a thermostat attached to the radiator, so when the room is at the right temperature and the central heating turns off, the fans also stop.
    • The big advantage of the radiator fans is how quickly and evenly you heat up a room. It really surprised me how well it works and is very pleasant.


  1. Neoperl Push aerator
    • Aerators come in many different versions, but all work according to a similar method: they mix air into the stream of water to reduce the amount of water required to still give you the experience of a full stream of water. This works for taps, but also for shower heads.
    • For the taps, I’ve experimented with the really low flow aerators (~1.3 litres per minute), however these have several issues. One: washing your hands takes impossibly long and becomes annoying to do. Two: try filling up the water kettle with such a low flow!
    • In comes the perfect solution: the Neoperl Push aerator. It has two settings: 5 litres per minute in water saving mode or 11 litres per minute at full flow. Just press the button on the aerator to switch between the two modes.
  2. Neoperl flow controller
    • For our style of shower heads, I could not find energy saving variants. Instead, I opted to use retrofit flow controllers by Neoperl.
    • These flow controllers provide a constant liter capacity almost independent of the flow pressure. So our very inefficient rain shower head can still be made slightly less wasteful by adding a 10 litres per minute flow controller. The other shower heads are limited to 6 litres per minute.

After all that the resulting baseload is now about 60 Watts; I’ve not discovered any ways (yet) to reduce it any further. One of the downsides of automation is that every system has its own gateway and is always standby, but that is trade-off I’m definitely willing to make.


Home automation is next in line to try and save precious time. The list below, divided into two categories (home automation and products that have not made the cut), describes the current state of affairs in our house.

Home automation

  1. Smart Lighting applied retroactively in a home is made easy with Philips Hue. Having to turn on lights manually is no longer necessary, as one can create a schedule that follows the natural light-dark cycle. And amongst the added benefits are:
    • Geolocation for recognising when you leave home and arrive home, to turn on and off certain lights as you please.
    • Schedules to provide the impression of being at home while you are on holiday.
    • Using the bedroom nightlights as wake up lights, using Hue Labs features to emulate a sunrise.
    • Slowly fading the lighting in the evening, to prepare for sleep.
    • Movement sensors to trigger events, such as smart plugs or lights. Perfect for when you have to get up at night to go pee.
    • Linking Spotify to our lighting system to create a personal disco. This one is absolutely my son’s favourite.
  2. Google Nest Smart Thermostat V3 observes your heating habits, learns how quickly your house heats up on various temperature days, and adjusts accordingly. The thermostat will make sure your house is up to temp when you want it, and turns off the heating early to prevent wasting energy. And amongst the added benefits are:
    • Geolocation for recognising when you leave home and arrive home, to turn on and off heating and avoid heating the house when nobody is present.
  3. Google Nest Protect V2 smart smoke detectors with incorporated CO detection. The smoke detectors are linked, so in case of fire or CO all smoke detectors in the house will go off at once. We have four in total around the house. Additional features:
    • The CO detection is linked to the Nest thermostat. In case of CO detection, the heating will be turned off instantly.
    • You will be informed by app if there is an event at your house while you are away.
    • The smoke detectors have motion detectors and lighting, to guide your way in case of emergency. The motion detection is also used by the thermostat to check if anyone is present at the house, so it can reduce energy usage in case nobody is present.
    • The app will inform you of battery status, plus the device self-checks its status regularly.
  4. Tado Smart Thermostats for the radiators came a bit after the fact. Ideally you’d combine them with a central thermostat by Tado, however I already had the Google Nest. Our house mainly has floor heating, the front house and upstairs however have radiators and the Tados help regulate these. Additional features:
    • Measuring relative humidity.
    • Geolocation for recognising when you leave home and arrive home, to turn on and off heating and avoid heating the house when nobody is present.
    • Turning off heating while a window is open to save energy.

Products that have not made the cut (yet):

  1. Robot vacuums are unfortunately not an option in our old farmhouse where the thresholds are relatively big, and the rooms not all on the same level. As far as I know, none exist yet able to clear those obstacles. But I’m still on the lookout!
  2. KlikAanKlikUit and LED dimmers I have tried before moving on to Philips Hue. The systems were not easy to use at all, and required a fair bit of installation and tweaking. Only reason I opted for it at first is because Hue seemed so expensive.
  3. Self-cleaning litter box, just no.. It’s like an overengineered cement mixer.
  4. Automatic cat feeders do not (yet) provide the combination of features I’m looking for: food storage multiple days worth, and dosed feeding per individual cat based on their chip.
  5. Intelligent Plant Sensors for use indoors are simply too expensive still, especially for what relatively little they offer.
  6. Gate automation is something I’d want, though it is a bit decadent really. Plus the type of gate we have, a traditional old “Twents wringhek” would require quite a bit of customisation from my side. That is not what is holding me back though; it is the price and priorities. But if I win the lottery, there will be signs.
  7. Shutter automation again is something I’d want, but not easy to do retrofit. There are systems available, but require placement in the walls and access to mains power. As in: forget it.
  8. Velux Active Climate Control is perfect for our skylights. The system is retrofit and can be powered by its own solar panel. Especially during summer, it can aid in regulating air quality in our house. But again, too expensive still and offers too little relatively.

Ultimate goal is of course to automate as much as possible, to create freedom in time and choice by creating a self-sustaining environment to live in.

Dystopian sci-fi for kids

The Teletubbies

One of the joys of parenting: watching kids’ shows with your little one. Occasionally you may find yourself still watching, while your bundle of joy has already lost interest and has moved on to playing with their toys.

It is intriguing to see what captivates the little ones’ interest, compared to what we think/assume to be valuable from our adult perspective. As adults we may find storyline important, or a wholesome message, while a child may not even yet be aware of that at all.

The difference in perception (eye sight) and processing capability (ability to recognise, have reference, place into context, and focus) is of course also a factor. Characters on shows for the very young ones often feature brightly coloured characters with very large heads – with various peripheral parts – against a non distracting, often bland, background: all to draw attention to where the action is. Great examples thereof are of course the Teletubbies, In The Night Garden, or Bing (with its large ears).

All very interesting to learn of course, but when the learning is done the mind doth wander. Because the worlds the brightly coloured characters live in tend to raise a fair few questions and eyebrow. Let’s take a closer look shall we?

The Teletubbies

The show “The Teletubbies” basically portrays a post-modern world where the population has regressed into a permanent infantile state, supervised and taken care of by an advanced AI (the sun). Their cyborg state, as immediately apparent by the integrated screens and probably not limited by, ties in with the highly technological environment. The Teletubbies are hedonism embodied.


Bing.. where are all the parents? Some apocalyptic event? Everything in the environment seems to be designed towards adults, yet you never see one. Instead, artificial patchwork puppet nannies seem to have taken over, and none of the children show any concern about that whatsoever. Seriously, it’s eerie. My bet is on the AI.

Fireman Sam

Pontypandy, the hometown of fireman Sam, suffers from a disproportionate amount of pyro related incidents. Especially considering how small the population really is. And fireman Sam is the hero of the hour, every single time. 

One would suspect sabotage, or one or more pyromaniacs. However, that does not provide sufficient explanation. The truth may be a lot more grim: Pontypandy is the coma dream of fireman Sam. After responding to his last call, Sam disregarded all protocol to try and save his beloved ones, yet failed. His coma dream emphasizes respecting the rules and protocol, and allows him to be the hero.

Alright, with that depressing last take on things that’s it for now. I’m off to watch Peppa Pig with my son. Surely nothing wrong with that one, right?

Villa Villekulla

DIY chicken coop

The chicken coop is finished! The chickens have already made it their home, and it’s great fun to see them strut around the garden.

The chicken coop is built in the same style as the barn will be – same black Swedish rebate boards with the same roofing tiles as the house. Using four beech trees as supports was inspired by Baba Yaga with its living walking house (though the curvy trunks did make fitting the boards quite time consuming).

On the inside, the chicken coop uses fully smooth board to minimise the chance of red mite. Plus all walls are insulated with 50mm EPS to make the winters a bit easier on the chickens. And light ingress is reduced to a minimum, to ensure the rooster won’t wake us up first thing every morning.

For easy cleaning, the entire front of the chicken coop can fold down and there is a low zinc container that can fully slide out on the bottom of the coop. And for easy egg collecting, the chicken coop has two laying nest boxes at the back that are placed at a slight angle so the eggs can easily be collected.

There are also quite a few techy features hidden in the chicken coop:

  1. NightWatch ChickenCare is an automatic chicken door opener.
    • Combined with a light sensor and a temperature sensor, or based on timer alone, the system opens and closes the door.
    • The chickens go back to the coop at night, are protected from predators, and are free to roam around again in the morning.
    • The system is connected to mains; I have tried the solar panel with battery pack, but that is not able to sustain the system in a reliable manner as it turns out.
  2. Smart Lighting
    • The chicken coop features a Philips Hue light that aids in luring the chickens back into the coop at night.
    • The Philips Hue light also provides additional light during winter, stimulating the chickens to still lay eggs.
  3. Feeding silo and water reservoir
    • The feeding silo can hold 10 kgs of chicken feed, prevents spillage, and prevents rodents from reaching the food.
    • The custom water reservoir made from drainage piping can hold ~8 litres of water, has a filter and feeds into various drinking nipples. The water reservoir also has a heating element for use during winter, which is turned on by a plug-in-thermostat triggered by temperature.

I think that about sums it up. I truly hope the chickens will have a great life here roaming free around our farmhouse.

Fail again. Fail better.

MV Agusta F3 675 white

After seven years I’ve traded in my MV Agusta F4 1000R monoposto for a lighter version: lighter in weight (~20 kgs), power (~50 hp), and colour.

While Italian design is without parallel, its alluring exterior hides all the flaws that surround its solid engine. The last two years the F4 has performed admirably, however prior to that it has displayed a fair share of various issues, some of which recurring.

Solving those issues were not always that easy, as MV Agusta does not exactly provide a reliable source of spare parts. Not entirely uncommon for a company with cash flow problems, skirting bankruptcy. There is a reason why you’ll come across part compatibility lists when googling for original MV Agusta parts.

Amongst the issues I’ve experienced were:
01. The original handlebar vibration dampeners came loose repeatedly due to vibration (the irony was not lost on me). This also caused the gas handle to jam a few times, quite unpleasant.
02. The CDI unit is mounted directly above the exhaust. High temperatures have done a number on this piece of circuitry, leading to some odd engine behaviour.
03. The decorative exhausts are riveted to the exhaust system. Vibration caused those rivets to loosen their respective holes. Then at 260 km/h on the German autobahn the 5mm thick steel bracket holding up the exhaust gave way due to what I suspect was a bad case of resonance.
04. The starter relay is mounted upside down and it is not a potted variant. So you can guess what happens when rainwater finds its way in. Riding (or starting for that matter) in the rain was challenging until I replaced this part.
05. The engine also often ran on 3 cylinders when riding in the rain. This was once combined with issues 02 and 04, which required some creative riding to get home.
06. The electrical connection of the turn signals is affected by vibration, so periodically the connectors disconnect and the turn signals do not work.
07. The battery is mounted partly under the tank, making replacing the battery quite an ordeal.
08. Water in the cabling: MV Agusta leads its wires around the frame and uses tape to affix the wires to the frame. It looks quite makeshift, and sometimes it behaves as such.
09. The bike stand sensor failed once due to grease build up, but I guess that one was on me.
10. The fan and thermostat failed, causing the engine to overheat. The F4 does not like low speeds anyway, as it cannot dissipate heat fast enough with its closed body.
11. Back brake seal failing, causing brake fluid to leak onto the back wheel. Quite slippery I can tell you.
12. The dynamo failed, and it’s mounted right at the bottom of well.. everything. So you have to remove -everything- to reach it.

Trust me the list is far from complete. Let’s hope its seven year younger sibling performs better and doesn’t make me look like a fool for once more succumbing to the charm of MV Agusta’s design. If I don’t fail better this time around, perhaps it’s time to start appreciating Japanese design.


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