Chris Bailey, Sean Larson, Megan Peffer, Sarah Ann Skousen, Judith Westwood, and Dr. Randy Lewis, Chemical Engineering Department
Many countries still hand wash all their clothing. The community of the Uros Islands in Peru is no exception. Our goal was to develop a hand powered washing machine that will be useful to and improve the quality of life of the Uru people. The washing machine must be built out of materials that are inexpensive and readily available to the community. It must also be simple enough for the people to perform any necessary repairs. Furthermore, the final washing machine system could be implemented any developing area with similar needs.
We began our 6-month development period by prototyping several possible designs. We had reports from previous students’ experiences including design instructions, video footage of the community and contact information. The design we chose to focus on was a spinning barrel which worked well but was too expensive. Our goal was to cut costs, so we focused on decreasing the amount and type of materials. Having little success with our prototypes, we split into teams and started from scratch. Brainstorming sessions turned into research, which turned into prototypes. As we tried various orientations and agitation methods, we eventually narrowed it down to a completely new design.
We chose to pursue a top-loader style machine shown in Figure 1. This would require the least amount of alterations and use very simple materials. Figure 2 outlines the individual pieces of the machine. A full prototype could be fabricated in a few hours which gave us plenty of time to fine tune the design. This way we could focus our time on making an optimal machine rather than just completing one. On our trip to Peru, we built one machine in Granja Porcón and two on the Uros Islands. The family we had been in contact with for the past 6 months loved it. The day after we built our first one Dora, the mother, said she had already washed a load and the machine cleaned them very well. Her husband and children also enjoyed using the machine.
Though we had practiced and planned for months in advance, challenges still arose as we implemented our design. Many hardware stores were shops with random collections of pipes and fittings. Sizes were labeled differently, materials were not as quality, or manufactured differently. Differences such as these required us to do some on the spot engineering such as using a die to put threads in a pipe or filling thin pipes with caulking to strengthen them. Bartering was also necessary to meet our end cost goal. Even during the fabrication process drills and the Dremel broke and had to be replaced or adjusted to fill our needs. Luckily, we planned ahead and brought a suitcase full of tools and supplies we were unsure we could find.
Despite challenges during construction, we successfully implemented our machine in Peru. The intended family received the machine well and were very happy with how well it performed. We exceeded our cost goal reducing the price from $130 only $40 American dollars which was below our target of $45. We decreased their laundry time from 2 hours by hand to 45 min using the machine. We are hopeful the machine will last them a long time. At the end of August, we received a report that the machine is still being used after 3 months and more families are interested in making their very own machine.