QFD and Measureable Design Targets (Report #2)

Category: , By Mike
In order to assess our progress and performance for our Capstone Design Project, we created a Quality Function Deployment (QFD) chart. This chart will be used throughout the project to guide us and help gauge our development. In this chart we have included the concerned parties and topics that are relevant to our design. We have also included three of our competitor’s designs, in order to compare out design’s results and capabilities to others in the market. The specifications are assigned units deemed appropriate to easily access performance. The QFD created for the gasifier is shown below as Figure 1.

Fig. 1 QFD chart for biomass gasifier.

The four parties that have an interest in our design are the user, the manufacturer, the marketing department, and the maintenance personnel. The user is ultimately our customer. The consumer’s opinion and satisfaction is very important to the design of the project because if the customer is not happy with the product, then it will not be purchased and the end product will be unsuccessful. The manufacturer’s assessment is important because the easier it is for a product to be manufactured, the cheaper the end cost of the product will be. It is also important that the product is manufactured with such material and in a manner to ensure a safe, high quality product. The marketing department will be the medium between the consumer and the engineer. Their expertise will help the development of our product to meet the consumer’s needs and desires. After the product is in use, the maintenance personnel will be the person responsible for upkeep and repairs the product. It is important that we design a product that will be able to be repaired on location safely and with minimal difficulty.

The parameters that govern our design have been chosen to gauge the functional performance of our product. The sales price must be kept to a minimum so that consumers will be encouraged to purchase the product. This is an important aspect of our design because most of the competitor’s products are of a much larger scale and therefore much more expensive. The collectable Syngas output is an important parameter because this is the Syngas is the desired end result of our product. The physical size, like the price, is also an important parameter in our design because of our desire to market the product as a compact, household item. Our competitor’s products are all of much larger scales and therefore not practical for average consumer usage. The insulation of the chamber directly correlates with the efficiency. Any energy loss through heat will reduce the efficiency of the unit. Being that this product will be marketed to the general public, it is important that the end result is as simple to assemble and operate as possible. It is important that the consumer be educated on the use of the product and its possible hazards. Safety is a top priority in the design of our product. We do not want our consumers to be at risk of injury while operating the product. The gasification efficiency is an important parameter because if the efficiency is too low, the product will be a failure. The resulting energy generated by the product will be too low to justify its use. Lastly, manufacturability is a crucial aspect of any product. Having a product that is easily manufactured is a key element to keeping costs low as well as maintenance of the product.

There are eight important measurable design targets in our QFD chart. These are used to measure tangible results or goals. The first target is cost, which is to be measured in dollars. The next target is size. The size of the entire system will be measured in cubic meters. The capturable gas measurement is the amount of useful Syngas energy per unit time that results from the pyrolisis of the biomass. We chose to use Kilowatts as our units because most of the competitor’s measure their output during a continuous biomass feed process. Because the biomass is continuously fed into the units, it is difficult to measure the instantaneous energy. The amount of energy lost through heat loss of the products is measured in a percentage. If all the energy is lost though heat loss the percentage will be 100%. The combined heat and power efficiency is also measured in percentage. This is the percentage of potential biomass energy that is converted into usable Syngas energy. The number of system components is measured because it shows the complexity of the total unit. The manufacturing difficulty will be measured on a scale from one to ten, ten being the most difficult to manufacture. This gives us a concrete idea of the range of difficulty between the competitor’s designs and ours. The working pressure is measured in Pascals. This relates to safety because if the pressure exceeds a certain limit there could be an explosion.

We researched our competitor’s websites to determine the products that are in the marketplace now that closely relate to our design. After narrowing the products down to three candidates, we researched them to acquire performance specifications. Being that biomass gasifiers are not used widely today, it was difficult to find much information about performance. Many of the performance values for the competitors had to be estimated. These estimates are denoted by parenthesis in the chart. Their performance was ranked from one to eight, eight being the most important parameter for that particular design.

  • Crorey Alternative Fuels (Link)
  • Tom’s Woodgas Stove (Link)
  • Biomax 15 (Link, PDF)
  • Dept of Energy, Small-Modular Gasification (Link)
  • Study on performance of biomass gasifier-engine systems (Link)

Design Topic Selection and Team Organization (Report #1)

Category: , By Mike

The topic our team has chosen for our capstone design project is a biomass gasification chamber. This chamber would be used to gasify biomass (wood, paper, etc) to a high temperature, which will in turn create synthesis gas as well as some byproducts. This synthesis gas, or syngas, mostly consists of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) which can be used to run a multitude of applications including engines and stovetops. There are several other gases that are produced as byproducts, but they are minimal. For our project, we will look to control the O2 content so we can produce the maximum amount of CO and H2. This will be accomplished through the use of a simple throttle. Using a CO2 sensor, we will be able to know just how much O2 we need.

This type of technology is in much demand now due to several factors. One of the most prominent reasons is rising gas prices as well as United States dependence on foreign oil. These topics are now at the forefront of many American’s minds. This biomass gasification chamber would give consumers an alternative option to expensive natural gas that now dominates the market. The effects of such a technology could have extensive implications on the economics of the oil markets.

Similarly, this chamber would be using renewable energy because it is based on the gasification of biomass. Biomass is a broad term that essentially means any sort of carbon based material that can be used as fuel. In our case, we would be using biomass logs that would be in turn gasified in the chamber. This process is much more environmental-friendly than simply burning the biomass because the gasification process has significantly less emissions. Also, the ash byproduct can be used as fertilizer for plants and crops. Similarly, reducing the use of fossil fuels is extremely important as issues of global warming seem to be everywhere. Since biomass is renewable it would eliminate the need to drill for fossil fuels, something that would significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted by humans.

Through researching existing biomass gasifiers, we have discovered an open market for smaller personal gasifiers. It is predicted that the future of biomass gasification is in small in-house biomass gasifiers due to the high cost of storing and transporting the producer gases.

For all of the above stated reasons, the biomass gasification chamber has many advantages and uses for people around the world.

Our team will be a solid work force for several reasons. First and most important, is that we all have worked together in the past on projects during our engineering educational careers. All of these projects have been resounding successes, so we believe that this project will be a success. Also, since we have worked together in the past and get along, we predict that there will not be any arguments or discrepancies. On the technical side, we all have strengths in different areas that have been brought forth by our job and internship experiences. This will help in increasing the flow of ideas as we work on this project.

Factor e Farm visit

Category: , , By Mike
On December 26th, I had the great opportunity to visit the Factor E Farm in the KC area. This farm is run by some amazing people with an amazing vision, a group of people unlike I have ever met. If you don't believe me, you should check it out for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Put simply, the goal of those at the Factor e Farm is to create a world class research center that works towards decentralizing technology so that it can be used by humans the world around. This would be accomplished through collaboration, mostly through the internet, with people from all over to design and implement engineering projects that are completely open-source and available to anyone to view, change and critique. This would in turn create an open-source society and economy where everyone enjoys a good quality of life while not having to pay expensive prices for products that have been copyrighted by individuals and corporations. Marcin, the lead of the farm, envisions a future where these technologies will allow for everyone to live a good life while still being considerate of the environment and our deep connection to it.

Now if this seems a little out there to you, you're absolutely right. The Factor e Farm is on the forefront of what could possibly be a revolution in society as well as in economics. The idea of decentralizing ALL technology and putting it in the hands of the average citizen is a complete 180 from how the United States economy currently works. This is exactly what draws me to this humble farm. As Buckminster Fuller once said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." That is exactly what is being done at the Factor e Farm, the building of a whole new model.

Currently, the Factor e Farm's first project, the Compressed Earth Block press, was a resounding success. This machine uses a 20 ton press and actuator-controlled hopper to create bricks that can be used in housing or other structures. This is one of the first engineering projects the Factor e Farm has accomplished. Similarly, I will be doing my senior engineering capstone project over this CEB press. This project will include a thorough finite element analysis as well constructing and testing our model. The goal is to create a CEB press that can be used by the Factor e Farm, as well as advance the research that is being done at the Factor e Farm. I will make frequent updates on my progress here, as well as at the Factor e Farm blog.

Please see the video below for a demonstration of the farm's CEB press.


First Post!

Category: , By Mike
Just wanted to welcome everyone to my blog. This is the first post, and won't have a whole lot in it. Tomorrow I'll post my first real info about my trip to the Factor E Farm in the KC area.