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Food & Beverage Reporter Jan-Feb 2016

34 | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 | FOOD & BEVERAGE REPORTER INNOVATION B roken bottles in a brewery production line stimulated the idea for a floor-cleaning robot that won four University of Witwatersrand students a prize for the most innovative gadget at the 2015 Pneudrive Challenge. Pneudrive Challenge is an annual mechatronics design competition for engineering students throughout South Africa that once again had Stellenbosch walking away with top honours, but it was the Wits students’ robot which won third prize that really got people talking. The group, consisting of team leader, Portia Sibambo, Vuledzani Madala, Tisetso Ramolobe and Nkosinathi Shongwe, says their robot creates a floor- cleaning design built for operation in the hazardous environments of beverage industries. Sibambo explains how a visit to a Pretoria brewery triggered the idea of creating the cleaning robot as part of their third-year mechanical engineering design project. “When bottles broke, the cleaning process in the brewery required the production process be stopped which resulted in a loss of time and potential profits. “Also, employees cleaning up the breakages used water hoses to spray bottle debris into the water drainage system of the plant and it’s unsafe for small bottle particles to be mixed with water sources.” The team saw the need for a time-saving robot that eliminated the hazard of broken glass bottles and also minimized human intervention in the clean-up process. “Thus, the autonomous robotic cleaner was created.” The project involved compiling a report using LaTex software, creating drawings and simulations with necessary applications. The team used SMC Pneumatics’ circuit design software to create the system layout and circuit and selected drive components from SEW Eurodrive’s product catalogues. The robot uses a mechanical broom and mop which extends to the floor and absorbs liquid, while pushing solid waste inside its storage bin. It’s able to separate liquid waste from solid waste without assistance. “When dirt is swept into the bin, the liquid seeps to the bottom. A cylinder designed underneath the bin offloads materials. The tank valve opens electronically to dispose of liquids first, followed by an actuated cylinder that tips out the solid waste.” The robot took six months to complete, and Sibambo attributes the completion of a successful project to team effort and hard work. About the competition The Pneudrive Challenge 2015 mechatronics design competition serves as a platform for mechanical, electrical and mechatronic engineering students to participate in a learning experience that brings together academic theory and real-world business problems. Judges consisted of industry and product experts who took two days to work through all entries. According to Johan van Graan, SEW Eurodrive’s technical trainer, a good design requires the understanding of important factors that include the customer's need to solve a specific problem, the environment within which the design will operate and need to be maintained, processes that users will need to go through to make effective use of the application, and industry standards. “There needs to be an uderstanding of materials and manufacturing processes, safety and tolerance issues as well as reducing the environmental impact.” Suppliers list SEW Eurodrive: Tel +27 11 248 7000; Above: 3-D view of the cleaning system. Left: The Wits team, from left, Vuledzani Madala, Portia Sibambo, Tisetso Ramolobe and Nkosinathi Shongwe. Wits’ winning team cleans up the brewery SEW Eurodrive: Tel +27112487000;

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