Open Source Scoops for Packing Seeds
Accurate scoops can make a huge difference - if you have less variation between scoopfuls, then your target packing weight does not need to be so high in order to always exceed your minimum packing weight. So your small quantity of precious seeds gives you many more packets to sell.
We started out making our own seed measuring scoops using copper and brass and they are beautiful, but quite labour-intensive to make.
We believe that there should be many, many small seed companies worldwide serving their own local communities. This will encourage diversification of the seeds supply and avoid monopoly control of agriculture.
Accurate scoops are a really vital thing when you're starting out a seed company because it is important to give people the correct number of seeds but not too many otherwise you cannot make up enough packets. And talking to other people I know who are running companies similar to Real Seeds, getting hold of suitable scoops is actually a real problem.
So I have designed a set of 3-D printable scoops which I am releasing here under a creative commons licence.
They have been made to be suitable to print on most moderately good quality printers, using normal filament. These days enough people have 3-D printers that I think most people will be able to find a friend of a friend who will print these for them.
The key thing about this design is that printed on the bottom of every scoop is its volume in millilitres (=cc), so it is very easy to choose the right one and to make a note of what you used for the next time you come to pack the same seed. The complete set is about 70 scoops, the smaller one have handles and the larger ones are plain cylinders for easier handling.
- The cost of the materials is quite low probably about £40 at most, but as with all 3-D printing it is a slow process and you should allow about 70 hours printing time, at a medium-high quality setting. Plus several hours set-up time, so if someone is doing this for you do take that into account when you decide how to pay them for the use of their printer.
- These files are supplied as .3MF format which can be read by most 3-D printing software. We use the very common and popular Prusa brand of printer and if you import the files into the Prusa Slicer software it will have all of the vital settings preset for you and be ready to print.
- Use PLA filament (not PETG).
- If you are using another program then you should use a 0.2 mm layer height, and there should be no support necessary.
- The handles are printed separately from the bodies of the scoops and sized to be a tight snap fit. Depending on your printer they may be a little loose, in which case a dot of superglue or epoxy glue will solve the problem.
- With the larger scoops, you may want to print half of each file at a time, doing two 11-hour prints rather than one 22 hour one.
How To Get These Printed
The thing with 3D printing in plastic is that while the materials are cheap, it is slow. These scoops can be printed on a domestic/hobby printer costing £300-£1000.
Your best bet is to find a friend of a friend who will print them for you as a favour. It uses almost a whole roll of filment to print the full set, so they may need to buy a roll of decent PLA filament (cost <40GBP inc postage) and then run their printer for six or seven nights to print the files.
You might find someone willing to donate their time and leftover roll-ends of filament. However I think it would be perfectly reasonable to charge at least £150 for printing a set even as a favour.
There are engineering companies online that will do 3D printing for you but they are often working in metals and their equipment is much more accurate, costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, and they have prices to match, so this is probably not the best way to go.
In some cities you can find cyber cafes and print shops with domestic/hobby 3D printers that will do plastic printing for you more affordably.
If you don't know what to ask for , you need to say " I have some 3mf files already configured to print on a Prusa Mk3S, although you can run them on any similar printer. I want them printed in PLA at 0.2mm layer height at 'quality' setting rather than 'speed' with 15% infill. They are not complex or difficult to print, no support or brim is needed, each multi-object file has a print time of about 10-12h, and overall they will use 3/4 of a roll of filament in total. Can you help me and at what cost?"
Anyone who does not immediately and fully understand that question is not the person to help you :-)
If you can't get them made locally, my father - a retired jeweler and engineer with the same make of printer - will make you a complete set, including the storage racks for the handled-scoops, at a cost of £180 (215 Euros or 250 US Dollars) including postage to USA or Europe, to arrange this get in touch by email to admin [at] realseeds.co.uk
I have split the scoops into multiple files each of which will print overnight. There is also a file giving you a handy bracket for storing the ones that have handles.
- Set A - 0.1 to 1.0cc New improved version for 2022 with integral handles. Print these at 0.1mm layer height if possible.
- Set B - 1.0 to 1.7cc Handles have a circle indented in them.
- Set C - 1.8 to 4.5cc The handles for these scoops have no marking on the underneath.
- Set D - 5.0 to 16cc The handles for this set have two solid circles indented in them, just in case you mix them up with the others.
- Set E - 18 to 45 cc
- Set F - 50 to 150cc You might want to print this set in two goes, doing half each time, as this is quite a big print job.
- Wall Brackets for 1.0 to 10cc Sized to fit 3.5mm x 25mm mounting screws, you will need to print 4 full-size brackets for the complete set. (The shorter bracket is to suit those with smaller printers, you would need 5 of those).
The handles are slightly different for the different diameter scoop families, because they form part of the internal bucket wall, and must therefore match its radius. Make sure you put the right ones on the right scoops - it is simplest to assemble each print run as you make it.
If you want to smooth off any rough surfaces, you must sand them underwater, as the heat from sanding or filing will melt the surface. It is best to use fine sandpaper for longer, and sand slowly. Any mis-printed edges or strings can be trimmed off with a sharp craft knife.
The handles should be a tight pop-in fit. You might have to press really hard to get them all the way home but surprisingly, the buckets do not break.
If you really can't get the handles in, first try filing very slightly on the flat upper surface of the triangle plug that sticks out of the handles. This is the place where filing will make it easier to put in without making it too wobbly.
If the handles are loose, you can add a dot of superglue or epoxy.
PLA filament is incredibly strong but melts at 50C / 122F. Do NOT let your scoops get hot! Clean them with cold water only.
This work is the result of many weeks effort of design and testing by me, and is licensed to you under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
So you have to acknowledge Real Seeds as the creator when you publicise this - and you can't sell them for profit.
And, we'd like it if you could let us know that you're using them - it's a lot of work to develop things like this and knowing they are useful to people provides impetus to develop more similar projects.
Expect very little! Unfortunately I am too busy to spend much time helping people make these. 3-D printing is still quite a skilled activity and I can't teach you how to do it. However I have designed the files to be quite easy to print and hopefully you or your friend with a printer will have little trouble with them.
I would love to hear from you if you use these. If you successfully print a set of scoops, and find them useful please email me a photo of you gleefully brandishing your scoops and I will put them up here. It has been really nice seeing copies of the seed cleaning machine that I released that have been made all over the world, and it would be lovely to have a similar photo archive for the scoops.
First up we have a full set printed in black in use by Fred & Ronja at Vital Seeds:
And a set this time in white, in use at The Seed Cooperative:
Another set for another company, with cat for scale:
Another set, made in Lipstick Red for the company TagTomat:
A tasteful grey set made by Permaseminka seeds in the Czech Republic: