Cambridge University engineering students display their latest innovations
A high street litter bin that sorts waste and a device to help deaf musicians feel the beat are just two of the latest ideas by Cambridge University students hoping to bring new products to market.
The ideas went on display, along with eight more prototypes, at the Design Show run by the University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) this week. The annual showcase is billed as a chance for the best undergraduate manufacturing engineers to show off their ideas to local inventors, industrialists and designers, looking to spot the next big thing.
This year’s products range from a mosquito trap designed for use in rural India and a new design for a laboratory pipette, to a professional cocktail making machine to help bartenders meet rush hour demand. One group of students has developed Rhythmijig, an aid for deaf musicians and young children that transmits a live beat as a tactile stimulus to the performer. The beat is input using a foot pedal by one of the musicians and transmitted via a series of wearable receivers to each member of the group. The four students involved in the project came up with the idea after a visit to the Mary Hare School, the national grammar school for deaf children. Meeting some of the pupils they discovered that some struggled to keep time while performing in groups. While they could use an able hearing conductor, this limited the band’s ability to practice on their own. Another bright idea on display was a mosquito trap designed for use in the developing world, using locally available materials to minimise cost. Made of discarded plastic bottles filled with pebbles and a mixture of yeast and sugar, the trap attracts human biting mosquitoes. The geometry of the trap is such that once inside the mosquitoes cannot escape. The students have also designed an injection moulded model for the Western market, sales from which could subsidise the trap for the developing world. A third group took on the challenge of redesigning the precision pipette, one of the most commonly used laboratory instruments. While current models satisfy the need for precision and reliability, their design falls a long way short in terms of ease of use. They are entirely thumb-operated and are known to cause cases of repetitive strain injury. The students have designed a comfortable, easy-to-use pipette, the Ergopip, which distributes workload to the user’s fingers and is just as precise and reliable as existing versions. Keen to improve recycling levels, a team of students devised the Intelli-bin, an intelligent high street litter bin that automatically separates aluminium and steel cans and discards wrongly inserted items into the general waste compartment. This allows cans to be transported directly to metal recycling plants, avoiding the need to send them to a special recovery plant and thus reducing transport costs and environmental impact. Other products on display at the Design Show included: Deli’tail - a fast and robust cocktail machine for the professional bar tender to meet rush hour demand Automated iron - technology that offers an automatic means to remove creases from clothing, including shirts and trousers PR-Radio – a novel, ear-mounted promotional FM radio for use at major events HeatSave – a shower tray for saving energy and money that uses an integrated heat exchanger to recover energy from waste water French plaiting - a device to simplify the difficult task of French plaiting Portable Clean Air – a transportable device producing a column of clean air for use in field surgery. Each project for the show is produced over the course of a year by teams of three or four manufacturing engineering students. The participants have to research the market and devise a full business plan, the only limit on their ambition being that whatever they produce has to be an original idea that meets a genuine customer need. Lecturer Dr James Moultrie said: “The projects require both engineering and industrial design skills. The students not only have to come up with novel ideas, they also have to consider the commercial and marketing aspects of their designs. They also learn a great deal from having to produce models and prototypes of their products.” This year’s Design Show was supported by Shearline Engineering which will be awarding the Shearline Manufacturability Award to the group which is thought to have given the best consideration to design-for-production issues. Details of all the projects can be found at: http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/met/design/2008/