Discussion in 'Do It Yourself (DIY)' started by DBR_Reef, Jul 26, 2016.

Build a DIY auto filter (Rollermat) for $60!

  1. DBR_Reef

    DBR_Reef Active Member Article Contributor

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    Automatic mechanical filtration
    An automatic mechanical filter provides all the benefits of running filter socks, but removes particulates before they can break down in your tank and increase nitrates, and only needs to be changed once a month or less- depending on design. The basic design is a supply role of filter media, and a spool driven by a motor that takes up used filter media. Bulk Reef Supply sells the Rollermat for $400, which is similar in function. I don’t like the design of the Rollermat, but it’s an OK off the shelf option. This DIY tutorial will show you how to make an auto filter that is inexpensive and compact.

    Here is a video of the auto filter in action.



    And here is how to make it:

    Tools needed (ish):
    Table saw
    Drill press
    Router (not really, but if you got ‘em, smoke ‘em!)
    Sewing machine (depending on filter media)

    Materials:
    ¼’’ plexiglass- free, I’m a closet hoarder and someone was throwing out large sheets. Price is highly variable, but should be cheap if you find a good plastics supplier, i.e. don’t use home depot.
    Silicon- $5
    Acrylic cement- I used scigrip 16- $6 on amazon. Those who are better at acrylic fabrication may want to use a less viscous cement.
    PVC pipe of various diameters-$5
    Power supply- free (we’ll say $8 for the non-hoarder)
    Switch- $5
    Timer or float switch- $16
    Pulley or gear- $5
    Gear motor-$12-25 for the non-hoarder

    Drip Plate:
    This is not a real drip plate, since it will be submerged in your sump, but the idea is the same. I made mine out of ¼’’ plexi. Holes are space randomly approximately 1/2 inch apart. I used a ¼’’ drill bit and chamfered the holes on one the filter side, although this is not entirely necessary. I can’t find a good off the shelf option, but if someone knows of one please comment where to find it. This plate can also be positioned horizontally if space is not a problem

    [​IMG]

    Filter media guides:
    I splurged here and mostly used plexi rod ($7 on ebay). You can just as easily use pvc. ½ ‘’ diameter seems to work well. I siliconed mine in place ¼’’ away the drip plate. Depending on filter media this dimension might have to be more or less.

    [​IMG]

    Filter Housing:
    I used ¼’’ plexi. My housing is designed to fit on a 40 gallon breeder sump. My sump must be under my tank, and I have limited clearance (about a foot above the breeder), so my housing is side loading. The spool holder is held in place by the front panel, which is held in place by ¼’’ nylon bolts. For the various holes needed, drill slowly, and use a hole saw for holes over ¼’’. If you run a sump outside the stand, I highly recommend having the spools load from the top, as this simplifies construction and maintenance. The plate that holds the motor can be taken out the top of the housing for servicing.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Motor and electronics:
    I used a gearmotor that I had lying around from a medical dosing pump, but any low RPM motor should work just fine. Gearmotors can be bought for less than $15 on ebay if you want the more durable solution- they use a high rpm motor and step it down using gears.
    Here are 2 examples from ebay
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/DC-12V-5RPM...544790?hash=item33b779cc56:g:DwgAAOSwfC9XO9kS
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/DC-6V-12V-2...Motor-DC-Geared-Motor-Generator-/201364212342

    [​IMG]

    A pulley or gear with a set screw. Must fit over the motor spindle and inside the pvc pipe you are using as a spool ( I used 1.5’’) - I found a pulley at my local hardware store and removed one of the side guides, but McMaster-Carr and ebay carry all sorts if you can’t find one. 2 part epoxy or other cement the pulley into the pvc spool. (the picture shows me using silicon- which eventually failed)

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I wanted to be able to reverse my take up spool so that I could easily unload it, so I used a double throw, double pole switch from my local hardware store. Wired like this:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    AC adapter- most dosing pump motors are 12 volt

    You will need a way to control when the motor advances and the spool takes up filter media. The Rollermat uses a float switch, and advances the spool when the media begins to clog and water level rises. This is probably a better option if you use a very fine filter media. If you go this route you can just wire the float switch inline between the switch and motor. I didn’t want to leave detritus in the tank that long and am using a 200 micron filter media, so I chose to use a timer instead. The downside to this method is that less material is exchanged at the beginning of the spool than at the end- i.e. the circumference of the take up spool changes. You can mitigate this by using a larger spool. You need a timer that can be programmed for a certain number of seconds, or a tank controller. I found this timer off amazon: Digital Programmable Timer Socket Plug Wall Home Plug-in switch Energy-Saving Outlet - do an amazon search- apparently I can't link. I now have an apex, so I use that, but it is really just a glorified timer.

    Filter Media:
    There are multiple options for filter media. Anything that can be used to make a filter sock will work. The most economical options are batting (approx. 200 micron), milk filter paper (approx. 35-50 micron), or coolant filter paper. I bought 7 yards of soft and bright for $30 at the fabric store, and sewed two lengths together for 14 yards, with enough material left over to make two more spools. This material is not indestructible, so use a laundry bag when you throw it in the washer to clean it. For a disposable option, milk filter paper can be baught as case of 6 12’’ by 200’ rolls for $140 online or coolant paper is $30 for 400 ft. If you changed a foot a day of milk filter paper, that is enough to last more than 3 years. Lastly you need a way to attach the media to the take up spool. I sewed two straps to the batting, and threaded them through 2 holes in the pvc I drilled. If you are using paper then a single hole that you pull the paper through would work well.

    [​IMG]

    That’s it!
     

  2. jsker

    jsker Reefing is all about the adventure Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor Hospitality Award

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    Very nice DIY
     
  3. DBR_Reef

    DBR_Reef Active Member Article Contributor

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    BTY, I just left my entire system for 2 months for a work trip, and so far the tank has not been touched by a human. I'm not home yet so I don't know exactly how it has faired, but the GF says everything looks good. Would not have been able to do this without a auto filter, auto dosing, and an automatic water change system.
     
    clownfish chris and Ellery like this.
  4. DBR_Reef

    DBR_Reef Active Member Article Contributor

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    I'm waiting for Ellery Wong to get me to make him one :) a few corals as trade and you too could be sock free...
     
    Ellery likes this.
  5. R_C

    R_C Active Member

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    Very nice!
     
  6. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Cyber Monday Sponsor Article Contributor Sizzling Summer Sponsor Build Thread Contributor

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    This is very cool! Thank you for sharing!
     
  7. Ellery

    Ellery Active Member

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    Very kool, I'm actually in Montreal right now for 3 weeks, every trip has been a challenge but have slowly made improvements. This is definitely a neat simple design and worth building upon for sure. Thanks for the heads up.
     
  8. Balz3352

    Balz3352 Active Member

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    Do you have any pics or preferably videos in action?



    Wow apparently I skipped over half the post... Nice
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016
  9. lariat8099

    lariat8099 Active Member

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    What would you charge to make me one?
     
  10. DBR_Reef

    DBR_Reef Active Member Article Contributor

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    I don't really want to get into making a lot of these, as they are rather time consuming to build, but I would consider doing a few. It would depend on the design but I would think $200-250. You kindof have to build it to match an existing sump.
     
  11. Balz3352

    Balz3352 Active Member

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    So it sits on top of the sump?
     
  12. DBR_Reef

    DBR_Reef Active Member Article Contributor

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    that is how I designed mine, you could do it as a insert or stand alone if you wanted to
     
  13. SethOF

    SethOF Member R2R Supporter

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    Wrong thread

     
  14. peterj66

    peterj66 Member

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    Nice compact design.
     
  15. Bob E

    Bob E Active Member Partner Member 2019

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    Great job I like it
     
  16. tj w

    tj w Valuable Member

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    Thanks for your efforts. Always nice to see others sharing their DIY projects step by step.
     
  17. mdbannister

    mdbannister Ahh...the Reef Life Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    Very cool! Don't know how I missed this until now. Thanks for sharing!
     
  18. ajnoplay

    ajnoplay Member

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    how is working currently
     
  19. DBR_Reef

    DBR_Reef Active Member Article Contributor

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    It works great, but I am currently not using it, as I had undetectable nitrates and am trying to bring them up. It is working but the sump is filthy and water is not as clear, so I may give this up and start dosing nitrates. Basically if you run filtersocks and like them but not the maintenance then it is perfect.
     
  20. chicago

    chicago Well-Known Member

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    Would like one. Who is doing custom builds
     
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