The topic of tea time is near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. The first is that I quit coffee several months back, which leaves me to the wonderful and diverse world of tea when I want to get a caffeine fix. People have strong opinions about the whole coffee vs. tea issue. Coffee is usually associated with speedy service and fast-paced living, while tea is what we turn to during our more quiet and meditative times. You sit there, after boiling the water and pouring it, stirring your mug and dipping the tea bag in and out until it gets that just right potency. The steam from the mug comes up into your face, sometimes filled with aromatic fragrances, as your worries melt away, right? Well, not necessarily anymore thanks to good ol’ 3D printing and an innovative idea.
While traditional British tea time has always been about slowing down to appreciate the finer things in life, like Earl Grey and cookies, “istimat” got bothered one time when he tried to make a cup of tea and let it steep too long. The result? Bitter tea that motivated him to make something to ensure this would never happen again. He came up with a 3D Printed-Arduino-Powered Lazy Man’s Tea Steeper, and now it looks like tea time will never quite evoke the idea of a meditative break. Instead, people are allowed to power on as usual, without their cup of tea suffering.
And guess what? This tea steeper design was completed in under 2 hours–a deal that istimat made with himself when he started the project. (The entire project was completed in 8 hours.) Using 9g servos and an Arduino Pro Mini, he did hit a few bumps when designing, which he describes. Once he realized that the design has no torque (force) since it uses a tea bag, he then knew what to do with the red servo horn:
“I drilled out the holes and it’s just an interference fit with screws now. This way the initial position of the horn is also adjustable. Another thing is that I made a hole in the purple case for the servo cables to go through. Never thought about the connectors and they didn’t fit. I filed the hole bigger and eventually cut off the connectors because they wouldn’t fit in the case anyway. D’oh!”
Once that design aspect was done and the parts were printing, he turned to the software side to figure out the kinematics of the project. He settled on “predefined angles” for the home position, lifted position, and dunked position of the tea bag. He also included an intermediate position for “repeatedly lifting and lowering the bag,” which gets it to fill up and stay vertical, too.
When the printed parts were done, they were acetone welded together, and istimat says that the results are great. Here he describes how this simple device works:
“Basically, when powered on, it waits for you to hang the tea bag on it, then dunks it three times then waits for three minutes and lifts the bag up to let it drip. Perfect tea every time!”
Of course, there are always improvements to be made. istimat plans to add LED or RGB LED to help the tea-maker know how much longer they have to wait for the brewing to end. And istimat also mentions that he plans to work on “inverse kinematics” for the servo positioning of the steeper, too. But I am sure anyone seeking that perfect cup of tea is willing to overlook these additional improvements because it sounds like this steeper gets the job done as is. (Get the .Step file here.)
And there you have it, avid tea drinkers. This ends the story of how one man’s frustration and then ingenuity revolutionized tea time from a slow, patient and even meditative activity to one methodically calculated down to precise bag-dunking times. Who would have thought of it? Someone with a 3D printer, that’s who! Discuss this crazy design in the 3D Printed Tea Steeper forum thread on 3DPB.com.