THE DESIGN, PROTOTYPE DEVELOPMENT AND CONCEPT VALIDATION OF A CHILE SORTING MACHINE

BY RYAN HERBON, B.S.

A thesis submitted to the Graduate School in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Science Industrial Engineering

New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM May 2003 © 2003 by Ryan Herbon

“The Design, Prototype Development and Concept Validation of a Chile Sorting Machine,” a thesis prepared by Ryan Herbon in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Science, has been approved and accepted by the following:

Dr. Linda Lacey Dean of the Graduate School

Dr. Edward Pines Chair of the Examining Committee

Date

Committee in charge: Dr. Edward Pines, Chair Mr. Anthony Hyde, M.S. Dr. Jim Libbin Dr. Linda Riley

ii

VITA

June 17, 1979 1997

Born at Long Beach, California Graduated from Aliso Niguel High School, Aliso Viejo, California Student Shop Assistant, Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC), Student Project Center, New Mexico State University Received Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology From New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico Project and Design Engineer, Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC), New Mexico State University

2000-2001

2001

2001-2003

iii

PROTOTYPE DEVELOPMENT AND CONCEPT VALIDATION OF A CHILE SORTING MACHINE BY RYAN HERBON. Prototype Development and Concept Validation of a Chile Sorting Machine” details the process that went into the design. B.S. This project went through four distinct stages consisting of research. prototype development and testing to arrive at an effective design. Edward Pines. The New Mexico Chile Pepper Task Force funded this project in an effort to assist the processors and producers of red chile in the State of New Mexico. New Mexico. Chair “The Design. iv . Chile is grown on 20. Master of Science Industrial Engineering New Mexico State University Las Cruces.000 acres in New Mexico and contributes $418 million to the State’s economy. development and fabrication of a prototype machine capable of sorting sticks and other foreign material from mechanically harvested red chile peppers. design. 2003 Dr.ABSTRACT THE DESIGN.

concept validation and result tabulation where completed in December 2002. testing. Prototype development was centered on two major features. It was found that through the implementation of the chile-sorting machine. v . the gap-belt and the color sorter. Upon completion of the prototype. the design began using the Funnel Approach to Design methodology along with extensive solid modeling and computer simulation.After research completion. significant reductions could be made in the amount of sticks present in mechanically harvested chile.

...................................................................................34 vi ................................................................Table of Contents LIST OF FIGURES ..27 Research Summary....................................................................... xiv INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................25 Centrifugal Blower .7 Cleaning Methods from other Industries.................................................................................10 Chile Trash ..................................................................16 Current Cleaning Methods....22 Finger Rake ......................................................34 Initial Design Considerations.................................................................................................................32 METHOD .............................................................24 Rock Tank.............................20 Air Blower ....................25 Counter-Rotating Rollers ...................3 Research..................................................................................... ix LIST OF TABLES ..........................18 Rienk Table.............................................................................................................................19 Modified Rienk Table ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................1 Problem Statement .................................................................7 Mechanical Harvesters ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................1 Background.............26 Patented cleaning methods ...........................

..........................................................................................48 Step 6: Project Constraints..45 Step 5: Combined or Mixed Ideas .......................................74 vii ......................................................................................................................52 Color Sorting.................................................................................................................................................................................39 Step 2: Existing Elements from Research ......................................69 Operation ...........66 Coffee Bean Color Sorters................................................58 Machine Vision ..............................................58 Color Sensing Concepts....................52 Gap-Belt Design .........................................................................39 Step 3: New Elements from Brainstorming.........................................................................................................................................60 Sensing Methodology .....................61 Color Sorter Removal Concepts..............................................................................................................................................................63 Existing Color Sorters......................39 Step 1: Design Requirement .............................................58 Sensors ....................67 WECO Color Sorter .................Funnel Approach to Design..............................49 Non-Tangible FAD Results .........37 Chile Sorting Design Using FAD ............................................................................................................................................................................................71 Integration of the Design Elements............................................................................51 Step 7: Prototype Development...................................................................69 Variables .............40 Step 4: Product Constraints..................................................................................

....107 Economic Impact ............................................................124 APPENDIX B – CAD DRAWINGS OF THE CHILE SORTING STATION ...107 Technical......129 APPENDIX C – THE CENTRIFUGAL BLOWER ...............105 CONCLUSIONS ..............................................................................................136 APPENDIX D – THE ADJUSTMENT OF PROTOTYPE VARIABLES........................................................90 Test Procedure ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................Step 8: Prototype Construction.......................................159 viii ............................................80 Design Process Summary using FAD.88 TESTING ............................................................................156 REFERENCES ........................................103 Color Sorter Results...............110 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE WORK ...................93 Chile Sorting Machine Results .........................................................................................................................................117 APPENDIX A – PROJECT SCHEDULE ...............................90 Data Collection.................................................103 Gap Belt Results and Observations .................................................................................................................................................................................

...................................................... 26 ix ............... 5 Figure 4: The USDA tumbler cleaner.............................................625 in.................................................................. 17 Figure 13: The popular Rienk table or leaf rail cleaning system with ....................................................... 14 Figure 10: The Pik Rite pepper harvester...................................................... 12 Figure 8: The McClendon chile harvester............................ 3 Figure 2: Relatively clean mechanically harvested red chile ........ 23 Figure 17: The finger rake cleaning system on the Boese harvester................ 15 Figure 11: The Pik Rite harvesting head ................... 1984) ............. 22 Figure 16: The air blower on the Boese harvester.......................................................................................... 4 Figure 3: Hand laborers removing sticks from mechanically harvested red chile. 13 Figure 9: The open-helix picking head on the McClendon harvester....LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Mechanically harvested red chile with high trash content............. 21 Figure 15: A bottom view of the Boese machine's modified Rienk table .........................................625 inches to allow pods to fall through and walk sticks off the end ................................................ 11 Figure 7: The open double helix picking head of a Boese harvesting machine.................... 24 Figure 18: Counter-rotating rollers cleaning method (Wolf & Alper............... 25 Figure 19: The centrifugal blower concept design ........................ 6 Figure 5: A color sorter designed for use on tomatoes ............................................................................. 10 Figure 6: The Boese harvesting machine ................................................... 20 Figure 14: The modified Rienk table with a spacing of 1.................. 15 Figure 12: Sonora chile plant................................................ spacing ................

...........................................419 ........ 42 Figure 32: Vacuum plate concept ........................... 60 x ................. 28 Figure 22: A top view of the Rienk table patented in 1985 by Patent # 4........................................................................................... 43 Figure 33: The vacuum plate concept simulated ..............................................687 .................................................................507........ 45 Figure 35: A force diagram illustrating the forces acting on material located on the incline belt .............Figure 20: The fabricated centrifugal blower bench model .................................................................................. 55 Figure 37: The incline belt.................................................................. 42 Figure 31: The concept of winnowing the chile material as is done in wheat........................... 54 Figure 36: Gap belt adjustment mechanism detail........... 31 Figure 26: A depiction of the blower cleaning system patented by Oren and Daryl Urich....................................911 ..507......911)... cleaning device described by patent # 5............................................................... 30 Figure 25: The gapped rod.............................................. 35 Figure 28: The Funnel Approach to Design ..........................................................................287................................568.......................................................................................... 32 Figure 27: An example of the stick trash in mechanically harvested red chile ...................... 41 Figure 30: Air separation gap-belt concept ....... 59 Figure 39: Lego machine vision concept model............................................... variable speed V-belt aligning system .................................................. 38 Figure 29: Chile diverting concept .................... 44 Figure 34: The gap-belt concept.............................. 29 Figure 24: The cleaning apparatus patented by Rutt and Zook in 1995 ... 27 Figure 21: The helix picking head covered under 1971 Patent # 3............................................... 57 Figure 38: The R55 color sensor from Banner Engineering ................. 29 Figure 23: The star-shape Rienk table disc (Patent # 4.........................

............................................. 81 Figure 56: A side view of the completed chile-sorting machine .............. 76 Figure 49: The designed gap-belt cleaning station interface ............................... 76 Figure 50: The design of the spreader shield used to spread out the material that has fallen through the gap over the entire 40 inches of the color sorter belt ............ 67 Figure 43: The Xeltron color sorting machine ..................................... 70 Figure 45: The sensor array and reject fingers on the WECO color sorter .............................................Figure 40: The vacuum concept illustrating the action of the vacuum arm moving down to pick up a pod from the material belt.......... 77 Figure 51: The design of the spreader bar used to flatten the flow of material into the color sorter ............................................................. 79 Figure 53: The fabrication of the trash belt ... 72 Figure 47: The box dumper and draper that feed the chile cleaning station......................... 80 Figure 54: The fabrication of the spreader bar.............................................. 75 Figure 48: The design of the incline belt feeding the gap-belt cleaning station................................ 65 Figure 41: The vacuum concept illustrating the up stroke of the air cylinder while the four-bar mechanism sweeper knocks the pod from the vacuum tip onto the pod belt ............................................................................................................................ 65 Figure 42: The Sortex Niagara color sorting machine ........................................ 81 Figure 55: Fabrication of the incline belt........................................ 78 Figure 52: The control box of the chile-sorting machine that housed the speed controllers for all five motors ................ 82 Figure 57: The final design of the chile-sorting machine to allow for a comparison with the constructed prototype ............................ 68 Figure 44: The operating principles of the WECO color sorter ........................................................................................................... 82 xi ............... 71 Figure 46: The WECO color sorter adjustment panel .....................................................

... 119 Figure 65: Proposed placement of Reject Box to eliminate the stick length constraint of the WECO Color Sorter.............................................. 101 Figure 62: The average results of the color sorting testing................................ 83 Figure 59: Sticks removed vs..................................................................... 140 Figure 71: The intended arrangement of material on the helix shelf of the Centrifugal Blower ............ 113 Figure 64: Proposed chute method for the alignment of material on the incline belt ................................. 139 Figure 70: The helix shelf of the Centrifugal Blower ......... 96 Figure 60: The average results of the gap-belt testing .. random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower ............ pods lost through 20 batches of the gap belt testing .......... 147 xii ................................................................ 142 Figure 74: Percentage of chile pods exiting through the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate...................... 141 Figure 73: The second air nozzle used on the Centrifugal Blower............................ 97 Figure 61: The Percentage of rejected material through 20 batches during the testing of the color sorter........................................................................ random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower ..................... 140 Figure 72: The air first nozzle used on the Centrifugal Blower .................................... 137 Figure 68: The drive mechanism of the Centrifugal Blower ...................................... 138 Figure 69: Detail of the friction drive wheel.................................. 146 Figure 75: Percentage of sticks exiting through the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate...............................................................................................Figure 58: A front view of the completed chile-sorting machine... 102 Figure 63: The retail cost of a chile-sorting machine as affected by level of production.......................................... 123 Figure 66: The design of the centrifugal blower........................ 136 Figure 67: The manufactured centrifugal blower prototype .................... ......................................

.... 148 Figure 77: Percentage of sticks stuck on the helix of the rotating drum during trials of three separate................... random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower ......................... random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower ... 151 Figure 80: Material arranged on the helix shelf of the Centrifugal Blower ..................................... 150 Figure 79: Percentage of sticks stuck at the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate....... random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower ...............................Figure 76: Percentage of chile pods stuck on the helix of the rotating drum during trials of three separate......................... 149 Figure 78: Percentage of chile pods stuck at the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate... random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower ...... 154 xiii ...........................

............ 111 xiv ............................... 106 Table 17: Estimated labor cost to manufacture a chile cleaning station similar to the project prototype assuming 80 hours of labor ....... 104 Table 16: Color sorter variables used at testing .......... 50 Table 5: The parts and materials ordered from McMaster-Carr for the prototype construction of a chile-sorting machine .................................................................................... 49 Table 4: The results of the project constraint filter ........... 86 Table 7: Parts loaned to the Chile Task Force for the purpose of testing the chile-sorting prototype ..... 86 Table 9: Total Costs incurred in the fabrication of the chile sorting machine prototype .............................................................................................................. 86 Table 8: The labor costs that were used in the construction of the prototype ....... 85 Table 6: The material ordered from Pipe and Metal Supply (PMS) for the manufacture a chile-sorting system prototype .....LIST OF TABLES Table 1: A classification of the trash present in mechanically harvested red chile........................................ 99 Table 14: Test results of color sorter pod loss ......................................................................................... 47 Table 3: The remaining design concepts before project constraints........... 87 Table 10: Gap-belt results for removal of sticks longer than 8 inches ..................................... 98 Table 13: Test results of color sorter removal of discolored pods.......................... 94 Table 11: Gap-belt results of chile pods (small sticks removed)................ 100 Table 15: The variables used in the testing of the gap belt ............................... 36 Table 2: The product constraint filter of the FAD process.................. 95 Table 12: Test results of color-sorter stick removal ..............................................................................................................

................................................... 144 Table 26: Batch 3 Test results of the Centrifugal Blower....................................................................................................................................................Table 18: An estimated total cost for a manufacturing company to manufacture a chile cleaning station similar to the project prototype .. 114 Table 21: The variables used in the overall economic impact calculations........... 112 Table 19: Variables used in the calculation of yearly machine cost for a processor or producer .................... 144 xv ................ 115 Table 22: The economic impact of a chile-cleaning machine to an individual user and the industry as a whole ............. 114 Table 20: The total yearly cost of a chile-cleaning machine to a processor or producer ........................ 115 Table 23: Recommended screening process ......................... 117 Table 24: The first batch test results of the centrifugal blower testing ................................................... 144 Table 25: Batch 2 Test Results of the Centrifugal Blower .

state and federal organizations. increasing labor costs and a 35% loss of chile acreage to Mexico and other foreign competitors since 1994 are threatening the domestic industry’s survival (Hall and Skaggs. researchers. but that success has been offset somewhat by the amount of trash and debris 1 . processors. the New Mexico Chile Task Force (NMCTF) was formed to explore ways that new ideas and technologies could help increase the industry’s profitability. The Task Force has more than 100 active members from private. corporate. 2001). b). However. b). New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) College of Agriculture and Home Economics coordinates NMCTF efforts. Phillips & Hillon. In 1998. The NMCTF has identified widespread adoption of machine harvest technologies as the most important change that the industry must make. scarcity of available labor.INTRODUCTION Problem Statement The chile industry annually contributes $418 million in economic activity in New Mexico (Hall and Skaggs. Machine harvest efforts to date have realized considerable success. Extension personnel and members of agricultural support industries (Diemer. They represent growers.

2003). The focus of this project is to design and build a prototype machine to effectively remove trash from mechanically harvested red chile without harming the product. In October 2001. the NMCTF asked the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center of NMSU’s College of Engineering to assist in developing a mechanical cleaner. NMCTF members have given a high priority to efforts to developing effective methods of mechanical trash removal (Salton and Wilson. This debris must be removed by hand. The purpose of the prototype machine is to validate the design concepts to determine which cleaning processes should be incorporated into a production-level machine. Therefore. 2 . M-TEC saw the project as way to aid its mission of supporting economic development within the state through technical assistance. M-TEC agreed to support a graduate student who would lead the project and report the results in a master’s degree thesis. This thesis provides documentation for the Chile Task Force. The information it contains will be disseminated to New Mexico chile producers and processors.introduced into the harvested product.

leaves and other debris with the product (Martin. Depending on the time of year that harvest occurs. Chile trash becomes a liability when it goes to a processing plant because it causes degradation of chile quality and poses the possibility of damage to expensive processing equipment (Dave Layton. While the machines effectively remove the chile pods from the plants. they also remove an abundance of sticks. trash can be a major liability (Figure 1) or a relatively minor problem (Figure 2). 10/4/2001). personal communication. 2002).Background Several equipment manufacturers design and manufacture harvesting equipment for the red chile industry. Figure 1: Mechanically harvested red chile with high trash content 3 .

1984). In 2001. Hand-labor accounts for 40-60% of chile production cost (Martin. researchers and scientists have experimented with mechanical sorting methods. The second problem is the removal of discarded material from the processing plant. Debris left in the field may be plowed under to amend the 4 . versus $6 a day in Mexico (Martin. with limited success (Marshall.S.Figure 2: Relatively clean mechanically harvested red chile Since 1965. That cost differential makes competing with Mexican imports extremely difficult (Diemer. 11/12/2001). This method poses two significant problems for processors. The first is that the cost of employing approximately 15 laborers to remove debris from chile pods (Figure 3) as the pods are off-loaded from the truck via a conveyor belt. 11/14/2001). Phillips & Hillon. Currently. sticks are hand-removed from chile pods in the processing plant. 2001). it was estimated that hand labor costs $65 a day in the U.

A thorough description of the machine can be found in the “Research” section of this document. The machine currently does not work as effectively the chile industry requires. Agricultural Research Service (USDA. it must be treated as industrial waste. The first cleaning system developed through the task force was a device. developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. ARS) Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory.soil for the following year’s crop. incurring significant disposal costs. Once it reaches the processing plant. Figure 3: Hand laborers removing sticks from mechanically harvested red chile The NMCTF began the chile debris removal initiative in 1998 to complement the mechanical harvesting process. 5 . called a tumbler sorter (Figure 4).

the Chile Task Force was open to new ideas for solving the problem. innovative solutions.Figure 4: The USDA tumbler cleaner Because of the sorting machine’s limited success. This led to the initiation of the research phase of this project to develop an understanding of the problem that would help generate new. 6 .

(2) mechanical harvesters.S. the trash removal process in the chile industry is about 40 to 50 years behind that of the cotton industry (Ford. 2002). 1999).000 acres in the United States. It took many years for the ginning process to be effective enough to use widespread mechanical harvesting. the majority of mechanically harvested crops have had to overcome this same problem. 2002). Perhaps the most popular example is that of cotton. ARS Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory. Cleaning Methods from other Industries The problem of having trash mixed in with mechanically harvested crops is a problem that is not unique to the chile industry. Chile. In fact.000 of those acres being in New Mexico (All About Chiles. is grown on only 28. with 20. Cotton is one of America’s largest market crops. research was conducted in five areas: (1) cleaning methods from other industries. (3) the type of trash found in mechanically harvested chile. (4) cleaning equipment currently being used and (5) cleaning equipment that had been tried and patented.Research To obtain information needed to design an effective machine. According to Ed Hughs. grown on more than 16 million acres in the U. the Director of the USDA. (Cotton Background. on the other hand. The following section contains the results of the research in these areas. Farm 7 .

the material is fed across three layers of screens. 8 . is removed by conveying the material across an airline after breaking it up with a series of spiked cylinders. 2002).100 pounds per 500pound bale of cotton fiber (Ed Hughs. n.). This foreign matter makes up between 1. rocks and dirt. 1997). The chile industry. such as plant stems. similar to those used to screen gravel (Blankenship and Woodall. personal communication. such as leaves. The mesh drums filter debris attached to the peanut pods.implement companies saw a valuable market for cotton harvesting equipment. The burs and sticks then are removed by stripping them from the cotton by using a saw cylinder to seize and pull the cotton across a series of mechanical scrubbing devices or cleaning bars (Research on Machinery Management and Process Control for Cotton Gins. Small debris. is not deemed large enough to generate a return on R&D dollars spent in the area of chile machine harvest (Lenker. 2001). Unwanted debris accounts for about 5% of the total lot weight of mechanically harvested peanuts (Suszkiw. To sort peanuts from the debris. Different types of cleaners are used to remove different types of debris (Holt.d.000 and 2. Baker & Brashears. When cotton is harvested. Rotating drums made out of mesh material are used to remove small debris from the peanuts. sticks and seeds are present in the product. 3/17/2003). however. 1984).

Cranberries are sorted by bouncing them along a bouncing board. 1999).). rice and different types of seeds.d. they follow different trajectories. 2002). Color based sorting has been used in many crops. This process is then repeated over three stages. n. color is used to sort different colors of a single product. such as changing their rotation crops (Wood. Color sorting machines are used to sort coffee beans. The material falls from the end of a belt onto a spinning steel roller.The separation of dirt clods from mechanically harvested onions can be accomplished in a unique way. although it has not been used for debris removal. Blueberries are sorted using a combination of vibration and an air blower (Donahue. Typically. red from green jalapenos or red from white wheat (Pasikatan & Dowell. onion flakes. A color sorter designed for use on tomatoes is shown in Figure 5. Bushway. There are many other examples of cleaning and sorting of crops. nuts. 9 . The material that bounces is kept and the material that doesn’t bounce is not kept (Cranberry Bog Tour. Moore and LaGasse. The trash problem was taken care of in baby greens by changing management practices. 1984). such as green from red tomatoes. 1998). This allows for separation because the onions travel farther than the clods. 2002). Each stage removes more dirt clods as well as more onions (Coble. When the onions and clods rebound from the roller. Color sorters also have been used to sort fungi-infected peanuts and defective pistachios (Pearson & Doster.

Figure 5: A color sorter designed for use on tomatoes

Mechanical Harvesters
Even though the harvesting process is out of the scope of this project, research was conducted into the harvesters as a way to fully understand the origin of the trash problem. Currently, there are three major manufacturers of chile harvesting equipment: Boese, McClendon and Pik Rite Harvesters. There are numerous differences among these three machine types in how they harvest and clean the chile.

10

Figure 6: The Boese harvesting machine

The Boese Harvesting Company of Saginaw, Michigan, builds a selfpropelled machine (Figure 6) tailored specifically for the harvesting of chile peppers. The Boese machine uses a counter-rotating, double-helix picking head (Figure 7). As the helixes rotate in opposite directions and the machine moves along the row of chile plants, the plants pass directly between the set of helixes. As this occurs, the helixes pull the material outward, removing the pods from the plant. The pods are removed by the combination of the pulling motion and the vibration that the helixes cause. The pods then land on a set of conveyor belts on each side of the double helix where they are conveyed into the machine’s cleaning apparatus. The Boese machine sends the harvested material through numerous cleaning processes, including a 11

conveyor-belt cleaning table, to allow hand labor to remove trash from the pods. Many regard the Boese machine as the most effective harvester available because of the multiple cleaning methods incorporated. However, the cleaning processes also are the source of most complaints about the machine because the many hydraulically actuated motors make troubleshooting problems difficult and time consuming. A Boese Harvester costs approximately $360,000 (Greg Boese, personal communication, 2/5/02).

Figure 7: The open double helix picking head of a Boese harvesting machine

12

After harvest. The McClendon machine (Figure 8). It uses the same counter-rotating. Texas. It. the material is transported from the helixes across minimal cleaning equipment that cleans out small debris before it is loaded into a holding basket on the machine. 13 . The helixes also can be exchanged for fingers to pick different types of chile. as opposed to the Boese’s two helixes. personal communication. 2/5/02).000 (Jim McClendon. double helix concept. made in Tulia. has four helixes per row (Figure 9). is a John Deere cotton picker to which is attached a chile harvesting picking head manufactured by McClendon. however.Figure 8: The McClendon chile harvester McClendon harvesters. McClendon machines cost about $240. employ a picking head similar to the Boese machine.

The machine incorporates 14 . It uses two belts with finger rakes that comb opposite sides of the chile plant. It leaves few pods in the field because it can grab everything that has fallen onto the ground as well as the material stripped from the plant. stripping the pods from the plant. It also incurs highest amount of trash content because of its harvesting method. The finger rakes (Figure 11) lift the plant material. This harvest method is considered most thorough.Figure 9: The open-helix picking head on the McClendon harvester The Pik Rite machine (Figure 10) uses a picking mechanism that is significantly different from that used by McClendon and Boese.

The machine costs $130. The Pik Rite machine is not self-propelled and requires a tractor to pull it.000 (Jim McDonnel. Figure 10: The Pik Rite pepper harvester Figure 11: The Pik Rite harvesting head 15 .numerous cleaning methods and a hand cleaning station. 2/5/2002). personal communication.

This is to say that there is a better ratio of pods to sticks. 2000).Each harvester brand is effective at getting chile pods off of the plant and each introduces large amounts of trash into the product. At that point. ‘Sonora’ plants (Figure 12) are difficult to separate from the plants (Wall. with less trash (Ford. a). besides the brand of machine used to do the harvesting. This problem is compounded late in the season. a). it is not uncommon for the machines to remove entire plants from the ground. 16 . are the variety type and the time of season harvested. Machine harvested ‘Sonora’ contains substantially more plant debris (Hall & Skaggs. The two major factors. ‘B-18’ has higher success with machine harvesting because its pods are removed easily from the plant. Chile Trash There are several factors that affect the amount of trash in mechanically harvested chile. 1984). Plant varieties with an upright habit and an even fruit distribution with fruit sets eight or more inches above the ground harvest most effectively. Harvesting is also improved by having a reduced number of lateral shoots below the main branching (Palevitch & Levy. 2002). after the first frost kills the plants (Hall & Skaggs.

density and shape of the pods match more closely that of the sticks. Chile harvested after the frost is also more difficult to clean because the weight. The plants become very brittle after the frost. According to chile processor Lou Biad.Figure 12: Sonora chile plant While chile harvesting typically takes place from September to the end of December. the moisture content of the pods decreases from 7:1 at the beginning of the season to 2:1 at the end (Rich Phillips. many producers park their mechanical harvesting 17 . the plant characteristics change distinctly after the first frost. Throughout the season. 1998). The first hard frost in southern New Mexico generally occurs in October (DeWees. increasing exponentially the amount of sticks that break off and are pulled into the system by the harvester. personal communication. 2/4/2002).

the Boese and Pik Rite harvesting machines incorporate handcleaning stations. used in almost every situation. As the material comes into a processing plant. it moves down conveyor belts where hand laborers remove the sticks from the pods. 18 . Current Cleaning Methods The predominant cleaning method. personal communication. The season cannot be extended earlier into the year because soil temperatures are too low for the germination of the seeds before the middle of March (Bob Bevacqua. Currently processing plants in the region do not have the volume capability to process the entire New Mexico chile crop between September and the first frost. is hand labor. better cleaning equipment needs to be introduced.machines after the frost because it costs more to separate the trash from the harvested pods than it does to pay a hand harvest crew to harvest the crop (personal communication. To effectively do so. but also dangerous for the workers who may encounter poisonous snakes and other dangerous elements among the product being sorted. 9/11/2002). They must lengthen the season into December and sometimes January in order to level production. 10/9/2002). In addition. Using hand labor for cleaning is not only expensive.

Typically. the spacing interval is small enough so that the pods are conveyed along the top and the trash that is smaller than the pods falls through and is discarded (Abernathy & Hughs. Alternatively.Rienk Table Currently. Pik Rite and Boese mechanical harvesters. The Rienk table. Using the square shape. also known as a square tumbler or a leaf rail. The machine has multiple rotating shafts with plastic squares mounted on them. moving the material from the input to the output side. 2001b). It has been used since the 1940s (Richey. 1965). Perhaps the most prevalent is the Rienk table (Figure 13). As the squares rotate. several types of cleaning equipment are used widely. The desired spacing can then be attained by adjusting both the distance between the shafts and the distance between the squares on each shaft. The cleaning is 19 . spinning stars have been used for the cleaning of sugar beets (Smith. It has been proven to be a very effective method for removing small trash from the mechanically harvested chile. The plastic squares are offset so that the squares from one shaft fit between the squares on the next shaft. 1997). is used to sort small trash from the harvested chile. This type of cleaning equipment is used in most processing plants and on each of the McClendon. 1961) for cleaning dirt from sugar beets (Danisco. allowing the trash to fall through. the rotating motion acts as a conveyor. the gaps between squares and the adjacent shafts increase and decrease with the motion of the squares.

Figure 13: The popular Rienk table or leaf rail cleaning system with . USDA researchers used the same squares as those on the standard Rienk table. On their prototype machine. compared to 0.aided by the bouncing effect attained by the material moving up and down with the spinning of the squares. but added more spacing between them.625 inches on the standard Rienk table (Abernathy & Hughs. The spacing is set at 1.625 in. The purpose of the modified table is to convey the sticks that are longer than the pods off of the table and allow pods and trash smaller than 20 . ARS Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory.625 inches. This method is employed on Boese and Pik Rite harvesters and on the research cleaner designed and built by the USDA. 2002b). spacing Modified Rienk Table A variation of the Rienk table has been used to separate out trash that is longer than the pods (Figure 14).

Instead of squares. It does not always remove all of the trash that is longer than chile pods. The table is however very effective at removing whole plants or sticks with multiple pods attached. Sticks that are long and straight often turn vertically and fall through the spacing. 21 . the Boese machine uses a finger-shaped spinning media (Figure 15). rather than being carried along to the discharge section as intended.pods to fall through the gaps. The Pik Rite harvester uses a similar system. Figure 14: The modified Rienk table with a spacing of 1.625 inches to allow pods to fall through and walk sticks off the end The testing of the modified Rienk table has had mixed results. The modified Rienk table on the Boese harvester basically uses the same method but with different-shaped spinning disks and much more spacing between the shafts.

but it has not been effective for sorting heavier types of trash (Joel Tellez. 2002). personal communication. 22 . diverting lighter material. such as leaves.Figure 15: A bottom view of the Boese machine's modified Rienk table Air Blower Boese and Pik Rite Harvesters and several farms’ truck-loading conveyors use an air blower type of cleaning method. into a different container. June 11. It blows a stream of air across harvested material as it falls from a conveyor. The air blower method has acceptable results for separating out leaf material and pods gutted by insect infestation. The Boese machine’s blower is depicted in Figure 16.

Because the plants are more pliable. 23 . moisture is as high as 7:1. The results were inconclusive. making the pods approximately the same weight as the sticks. Because plants are brittle. Toward the end of the season. Early in the season. personal communication. water to chile. with varying rates of separation effectiveness. (Abernathy and Hughs.Figure 16: The air blower on the Boese harvester Researchers at the USDA. the harvesters are much more effective and the cleaning is not as critical. more sticks are harvested and the weight similarity of sticks and pods makes air separation difficult. 2/4/02). making pods much heavier than the sticks. the moisture drops to about a 2:1 ratio (Rich Phillips. 2001a) Moisture content was a major factor in the varying results. ARS Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory conducted experiments to determine if an air blower could be used to sort the sticks from pods based on their relative cross section to the airflow and relative masses.

pulling off the pods. This allows it to grab anything that is over a certain height. which strips pods that are attached to sticks. the other strips across it.Finger Rake A cleaning method that has been implemented on the Boese harvesting machines is the finger rake (Figure 17). The fingers are bolts protruding outward from three counter-rotating drums. Figure 17: The finger rake cleaning system on the Boese harvester 24 . The material is brought into this system by offsetting the first drum from the cleated conveyor belt that is transporting the harvested material into the machine. The bolts are offset so that as the material is carried by one drum.

Rock Tank Chile processing plants generally include a rock tank in their cleaning processes. The rock tank’s purpose is to float the chile across a water bath, washing the product and allowing heavy trash, such as rocks, to fall to the bottom. The rock tank also accumulates much of the dirt from the product and generally needs to be drained several times daily (Vince Hernandez, personal communication, 9/26/2002).

Counter-Rotating Rollers Another method of removing attached pods from sticks is to convey the material through spring-loaded, counter-rotating, rubber-studded rollers operating at 100 rpm. This conveys the attached pods and sticks into two pairs of picking elements operating at 1000 rpm (Figure 18). The detached material, as well as sticks, then falls back onto a conveyor with the material that was not drawn into the cleaner (Wolf & Alper, 1984).

Figure 18: Counter-rotating rollers cleaning method (Wolf & Alper, 1984)

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Centrifugal Blower Another cleaner design that was proposed by M-TEC engineers in Spring 2002 used a combination of centrifugal force and an air stream to separate the material within a cylindrical container. The premise was that the centrifugal force would cause all of the material to arrange itself around the outside of the container where a ledge was welded to the container. Due to the different arrangement of the sticks and pods on the ledge, the sticks were to be blown out the top while the pods were to move to the bottom. A bench model of this concept, named “The Centrifugal Blower,” was designed (Figure 19), built (Figure 20), tested and proved not to work. A report of this project is included in Appendix C.

Figure 19: The centrifugal blower concept design

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Figure 20: The fabricated centrifugal blower bench model

Patented cleaning methods
An extensive United States patent search was conducted to identify any patented cleaning methods not in use currently. The majority of the cleaning patents where part of overall harvester patents. Seven patents were found that where related to chile harvesting and cleaning of chile peppers. Descriptions of each follow. The concept of using a helix head to harvest chile plants was originally patented in 1971 by W.G Creager “Chili Harvester” (U.S. Patent # 3,568,419), detailed the use of “flexible coils” that were of the same type and function as current helix heads.

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” (U. 28 . however.507.419 In 1985. instead of spinning squares.911).568. Isaac Wolf and Yekutiel Alper obtained a patent for “Apparatus for Harvesting and Separation of Produce. It also included a description of a separation method for detaching attached pods by contacting them with a pair of rollers. Patent # 4. essentially running the stem through a ringer. Wolf and Alper summarized the implementation of a vegetable harvester that included variations of the open double-helix picking head and Rienk table (Figure 22). The Rienk table described is essentially the same one currently used.S. it used spinning stars (Figure 23).Figure 21: The helix picking head covered under 1971 Patent # 3.

911) Both Larry Rutt with Robert Zook and Robert Cosimati patented cleaning machines that use cylinders made of rotating rods. 29 .507.Figure 22: A top view of the Rienk table patented in 1985 by Patent # 4. Rutt’s patent.507.911 Figure 23: The star-shape Rienk table disc (Patent # 4.

999. The machine also has a rotating auger brush in the center that conveys the peppers from one end of the cylinder to the other. Patent # 5. The intention is to allow the trash to fall through the gaps while the pods are conveyed to the end of the drum. It also uses compressed air to aid in the sorting. a 30 .427. inventors Oren. The remaining rods are idlers that are allowed to spin freely as the drum rotates. Gary and Randy Urich described a similar cleaning method.287. Cosimati’s device.210. lacks the internal brush and puts the cylinder on an incline. Some of the cylinder’s rods are gear-driven by the cylinder ends so that they rotate in relation to the rotational speed of the cylinder.“Cleaning Apparatus. Figure 24: The cleaning apparatus patented by Rutt and Zook in 1995 Contained within the patent of a harvester (Patent # 5.” (Patent # 5.687).573) describes a cleaning system intended to remove sticks and leaves that consists of a rotating cylinder made of spaced-out rods (Figure 24).

Within his patent.093). Figure 25: The gapped rod.419. The rods are spaced to allow sticks but not pods to be pulled through (Figure 25). to blow off small trash that is lighter than pods (Figure 26). A similar system was included in Greg Boese’s 2002 patent of a harvest machine (Patent # 6. conveying the pods along the top. acting perpendicularly to the material flow. the rollers are described as being adjacent in an attempt to pull leaves and sticks through. 31 .687 In Patent # 5.287. Oren and Daryl Urich describe a method of trash removal similar to that which is employed on the Boese harvester. cleaning device described by patent # 5.930.table of counter rotating rods. They describe using an air stream.987. It is on a table as opposed to the drum shape of the previously described patents.

Existing equipment only works well on certain aspects of cleaning and could be incorporated as part of a screening process. The debris problem is a moving target and varies dramatically depending on when during the season chile is harvested and which machine type is used. In addition. there is no current system that accurately defines the classification of the trash material to note the effectiveness of various machines. they have not yet developed a clear-cut method for removing all unwanted debris. 32 .Figure 26: A depiction of the blower cleaning system patented by Oren and Daryl Urich Research Summary Although the chile industry has tried many mechanical solutions. The following information is a summary of key points of the research: • • All currently used mechanical harvesters introduce trash.

• Most industries use multiple stages to remove trash. • Color Sorting Technology may be adaptable to the red chile sorting.• Existing or commercial machines fail to remove sticks that are longer than pods and sticks that are the same size as pods. • Other industries have successfully used modern technology to overcome similar problems. 33 .

dirt. They also are the most difficult to remove. these trash categories are beyond the scope of this project. This trash fits into five categories: leaves. dirt and rocks. After first frost. constitute the majority of the trash problem.METHOD Initial Design Considerations This project focused only on finding a solution for removing trash and debris from machine harvested red chile. effective solutions exist for separating out the first three categories: leaves. Sticks have the highest potential to damage equipment and to degrade the quality of the red chile product. Currently. rocks. 34 . the chile-sorting machine must be designed to work effectively after the frost. Red chile pods were considered “good” product. Of the last two categories (sticks and discolored pods). Any material brought into the system other than red chile pods. the increase in the number of sticks harvested becomes so problematic that mechanical harvesting is almost infeasible. was defined as trash. the variety of chile and the time of year harvested. Therefore. For this reason. such as those seen in Figure 27. Processors often reject chile harvested after frost due to the high trash content. sticks and discolored pods. The amount of each depends on the type of harvester used. the sticks.

and sticks with pods attached to them. sticks that are longer than pods. 35 . Table 1 lists trash classifications and methods currently available for separating them from pods. branched sticks (sticks with multiple nodes). and sticks that are the same length as pods. there are multiple subcategories: straight sticks. The latter category also encompasses whole plants that are sometimes brought into the system by the harvester.Figure 27: An example of the stick trash in mechanically harvested red chile Sticks that are harvested with pods can be classified as follows: sticks that are shorter than pods. Within these classifications.

Table 1: A classification of the trash present in mechanically harvested red chile Category Leaves Dirt Rocks Discolored Pods Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sub-Category Effective Cleaning Method Rienk Table Rienk Table and Rock Tank Rock Tank No Solution Exists Shorter than pods and straight Rienk Table Shorter than pods and forked No Solution Exists Shorter than pods with attached pods Modified Rienk Table Removes Some Same Size as pods and straight No Solution Exists Same Size as pods and forked No Solution Exists Same Size as pods with attached pods Modified Rienk Table Longer than pods and straight No Solution Exists Longer than pods and forked Modified Rienk Table removes some Longer than pods with attached pods Modified Rienk Table 36 .

combined and filtered through the project constraints to arrive at two or three concepts that are developed into prototypes. Both the new and existing ideas are then filtered through the product constraints. researched. eliminating any that are infeasible or don’t fall within the constraints.Funnel Approach to Design The Funnel Approach to Design (FAD) is based on the premise that the more ideas available for exploration at the beginning of the design process. A job opening is more likely to be filled with a qualified candidate if a large pool of applicants is available. 37 . The remaining ideas are analyzed further. The timeline of the entire design. the more likely it is that a feasible solution will be found. development and concept validation was planned out before FAD began (Appendix A). New ideas are generated through brainstorming while existing ideas come from research. An analogy is that of a job search. FAD starts with new and existing ideas or inputs based on the design requirements given by the customer. Figure 28 shows how a large number of ideas can be reduced to a few workable solutions through FAD.

Figure 28: The Funnel Approach to Design

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Chile Sorting Design Using FAD Step 1: Design Requirement
The Chile Task Force, considered the customer for this project, gave the design requirement to M-TEC. The specific design requirement was to design a machine that could sort red chile pods from sticks. The categories of sticks that required immediate attention were straight long sticks and sticks that were the same size as pods.

Step 2: Existing Elements from Research
The following existing elements came from research and the interviews conducted with processors and producers: o Rienk Table Uses spinning squares to remove small trash o Modified Rienk Table Uses spinning disks to remove branched material o Rotating rods with small gap between them Pulls sticks through the gap o Saw cylinder Pulls cotton across a stripper bar o Color-based defect sorters Remove a defective material based on color o Bouncing Board Accepts material that bounces a certain way o Best-Management practices Changing the way that the crop is grown to reduce the number of sticks o Finger rake Strips pods from attached sticks

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Step 3: New Elements from Brainstorming
At the beginning of the project, a brainstorming session was held to produce as many new ideas as possible. As the project matured, new ideas were generated constantly. One original idea was to bounce all of the material across a screen and have a scraper under the screen to pull through any stick ends that stuck through the screen. The hope was that an end of each stick would protrude to the underside while the pods would stay completely on the top. The scraper arm would then pull the stick completely through or cut off a portion of it. If it cut a portion, then the next portion would need to stick through to be cut or pulled. In this manner, even a non-straight stick could eventually be removed one inch at a time. Another idea was to attempt to arrange pods and sticks in a singular layer and then devise an electronic method to sense pods and sticks and divert them one way or another (Figure 29). A plus side to the concept is that de-stemming could be integrated easily. De-stemming is a process that is out of the scope of this project but is another that the chile industry would like to mechanize.

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41 . Again. A similar concept explored was that of winnowing. the pods would eventually filter to the top while the sticks would be suspended lower in the container. with a larger cross section would be blown onto the second belt while other material would fall through the gap (Figure 30). This idea was to put all of the material in a large container and puff large amounts of air from the bottom to keep the material suspended (Figure 31).Figure 29: Chile diverting concept Another possible sorting method was to drop the harvested material off a belt while quickly pulsing an air stream up and toward another belt. The idea behind it was that material like chile. the idea was that by having a larger crosssection. such as wheat is separated from chaff.

Figure 30: Air separation gap-belt concept Figure 31: The concept of winnowing the chile material as is done in wheat 42 .

The plate could then be moved elsewhere and the air pressure released. Figure 32: Vacuum plate concept 43 . dropping off the pods. Numerous small holes would be drilled in a metal plate and enough vacuum pressure applied to the holes to hold a pod to the plate if the pod covered more than four or five of the holes (Figure 33). It was thought that the flat shaped pods would cover more holes than the narrower sticks. An alternate method for using a vacuum plate would be to have sensors tell exactly where pods were and then selectively control which vacuum holes were to have vacuum applied via electronic valves.Another idea explored was a vacuum plate (Figure 32).

Pods would fall through a gap between the inclined belt and the trash belt. while vibrating the whole assembly. The premise was that the vibration would force the sticks into the gaps. Material would be oriented parallel to the direction of travel on the belt. while sticks that were longer than the gap between the belts would travel onto the trash belt (Figure 34). The pods were to travel along the belts and the sticks were to fall through the gaps. 44 . where they could pass through due to their narrower shape. This concept included an inclined belt that would move harvested material “uphill” toward a second “trash” belt. A similar idea created during the initial brainstorming was the use of a gap belt.Figure 33: The vacuum plate concept simulated An alternate brainstormed idea was to run parallel V-belts with small spacing between them.

and that 45 . These constraints were that the sorter could not damage the pods in any way.000 lbs hr –1. it must be able to maintain a flow rate of 48. • • • • • • • Pull sticks through a screen Divert pods and sticks based on sensor input Pulse an air stream toward material falling from a belt Winnow the material with an air stream within a container Vacuum plate Drop small trash between V-belts Gap-Belt Step 4: Product Constraints Three primary product constraints were involved in the design of the machine.Figure 34: The gap-belt concept The following is a summary of the new ideas gathered through brainstorming.

These product constraints were used to initially filter all of the brainstormed and existing ideas. It was very important not to break the pods with the cleaning machine. This 80% is a moving target that changes drastically depending on many factors. This would prevent the cleaner from becoming a bottleneck in the production line. Perhaps the most important product constraint is the requirement that the machine remove 80% of the sticks. The results of passing the new and existing ideas through the product constraints are summarized in Table 2. by 4ft. there would be a high likelihood that seeds would be lost from the product. The typical volume that goes through a processing plant is approximately 40 boxes per hour. and the seeds make up a large portion of that weight.it must be capable of removing at least 80% of the sticks from the harvested material. 46 . Each individual customer has a different interpretation of what percentages of sticks need to be removed. Each also has been known to change the required percentage depending on the current year’s production. by 4 ft. If the cleaning machine damaged the pods.000 lbs hr -1. This is a total flow rate of 48.200 pounds of harvested material (Phillips 2/4/2002). Each box is 4 ft. and contains roughly 1. The producers get paid based on product weight. The second imposed product constraint was that the system had to be adaptable to work with the current volume of chile being harvested and processed.

Table 2: The product constraint filter of the FAD process Product Constraints Can possibly eliminate 80% of Can maintain the Sticks Does not 48.000 lb that are -1 longer harm the h flow rate than pods pods Can possibly eliminate 80% of sticks that are the Does concept same size Passes Product as pods constraint filter Concepts Bounce on screen and pull sticks through Winnow with air Narrow flow and divert sticks based on sensor input Long narrow screens for sticks to fall through Blow pods across a gapped belt Vacuum plate based on shape Sensor guided vacuum plate Centrifugal force separation Vibrating v-belts with gaps between them Gap-Belt Rienk Table Modified Rienk Table Rotating Rods with gap between them Saw cylinder Color based defect sorter Bouncing board Best management practices Finger rake No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No No No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No No 47 .

it is possible to achieve this orientation by having a conveyor made of multiple V-belts. This method of alignment has been shown to work in bell pepper processing plants because the faster belt causes one end of the material to be grabbed and pulled while the other end is held in place by the slower belt. then the likelihood of it being successful increases. For this project. with alternating Vbelts traveling at different speeds. 48 .Step 5: Combined or Mixed Ideas In order to find an effective design solution. The gap belt requires all of the material to be oriented in the same way. This occurs until the material rests solely on either a fast or slow belt and is aligned parallel to the direction of travel. This method of alignment allows the integration of the “V-belts with gaps between them” cleaning concept with the gap-belt cleaning concept. FAD uses the premise that if several ideas can be combined into one. it was possible to combine the gap-belt with aspects of the V-Belts with gaps between them. The only aspects that differ from the original V-belt concept are that the V-belts are no longer going to move at the same speed and the entire arrangement will be on an angle rather than flat. The concepts that remained after the combining and mixing of ideas in the funnel are summarized in Table 3. According to Vince Hernandez of Biad Chili.

It would be infeasible for processors and producers to justify the purchase of a machine that costs much more than that. Chile Task Force representatives identified this time frame to 49 .Table 3: The remaining design concepts before project constraints Sensor guided vacuum plate Gap-Belt combined with V-Belts with gaps Rienk Table Modified Rienk Table Color based defect sorter New Idea Mixed Idea Existing Idea Existing Idea Existing Idea Step 6: Project Constraints The next filter the concepts went through was the project constraints filter. The cost constraint was based on the fact that the machine had to be affordable for an end user to purchase. The prototype had to be manufactured so that the concept could be validated by the 2002 chile season. 2) the machine must be complete for the 2002 harvesting season. The target was to have a production model that could be purchased by a consumer for less than $50.000. The three project constraints were: 1) the production model machine had to cost less than $50. There was also a time constraint involved.000. and 3) the machine must incorporate ideas never before tried in the chile industry.

000 season industry Constraint Filter Concepts Sensor guided vacuum plate Gap-Belt combined with V-Belts with gaps Rienk Table Modified Rienk Table Color based defect sorter No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes No No Yes 50 . it would have been discovered in the last 40 years. The final project constraint filter was that the prototype had to use innovative or new ideas. Task Force members felt very strongly that the solution would be something that had not been tried. Figure 3 summarizes the results of the conceptual ideas passing through the project constraints. most likely because of its high-tech nature. Their feeling was that if there was a mechanical way to remove the sticks.demonstrate progress to members and to allow for the thesis to be completed by April 2003. Table 4: The results of the project constraint filter Project Constraints Is an Innovative Could be (not completed previously Would by the tried) idea cost less 2002 Does the concept for the than harvesting chile pass the Project $50. The Chile Task Force did not want the same ideas that had been tried for the last 40 years to be tried again.

In addition. two ideas were decided upon. The reasoning behind the gap-belt was that any material that was longer than the gap would travel to the other side while material that was the size of a pod or shorter would fall through the gap. assuming that the material could be oriented in a direction parallel to the direction of travel of the belt. based on color. The first idea chosen was to attempt to sort the sticks that were longer than pods by using a gap-belt concept. This was chosen because there was an obvious difference between the two at all times during the season. the sticks turn brown while the pods change to a darker red. The second concept was electronic differentiation of the pods from the sticks. After arriving at several existing and new ideas based on the design requirement and filtering those ideas through the lists of product and project constraints. Toward the end of the season. the pods are bright red while the sticks are green. Color sorting machines have been used by many 51 . so many mechanical methods had been tried over the years that it was felt that perhaps a more high-tech solution could be the answer to the problem. The two ideas chosen were a gap belt and a color sorter.Non-Tangible FAD Results The Funnel Approach to Design yielded several important non-tangible results. At the beginning of the harvest season. It was also possible to combine the gap-belt with the spaced apart V-belts cleaning method because the V-belts also could provide a method for aligning the material.

As stated earlier. Step 7: Prototype Development After the funnel process. This was accomplished through use of SolidWorks. The concepts were initiated. the machine development involved design of physical apparatuses that would be used for the gap-belt and color sorter.industries in sorting out product that is not the proper color. The next step is to develop these concepts into prototypes. The level of detail involved in the design included clearance fits. bolt sizing and production / assembly details. but have never been used in the sorting of product from vegetation trash. The funnel approach does not end once the concepts have passed through the constraints. solid modeling software. simulated and optimized using this software. The development of prototypes for the gap-belt and color sorter is described in the following section. The reasoning behind the extensive computer modeling of the machine was to minimize the fabrication and assembly problems. the concept of 52 . therefore eliminating unnecessary labor and material costs. Gap-Belt Design The first concept that was decided upon was a gap-belt concept to attempt to remove sticks longer than pods.

This is a variant because of the differences in shape from one pod to the next. between the belt material and the chile pods and sticks was calculated based on experimental data. while the pods would fall through the gap (Figure 34). it was decided that the incline belt feeding the gap should be at the maximum possible angle. This would allow the force of gravity to be overcome by the normal force exerted by the belt. The force diagram (Figure 35) illustrates the three forces acting on a chile pod situated on the incline belt. The sticks and pods would be held on the incline belt longer. the calculation of the coefficient of friction becomes very difficult. increasing the possibility of the sticks ending up on the trash belt. This value was then used to determine the theoretical maximum angle for the incline belt. varies depending on the moisture content of the material and how much of the material is actually contacting the belt. μs. 53 . The coefficient of static friction. μs. In order for the gap belt to work. The same forces would act on a stick. When using something that is as varied as chile pods and sticks. depending on the material.the gap belt is that sticks longer than pods would cross the gap and travel on to the trash belt. The coefficient. This calculated angle was between 28° and 39°.

also was designed to be completely adjustable from 0° to 50°. This allowed for all different sizes of pods to be accommodated. The concept of the gap belt was dependant 54 . It also allowed the drop off point from the incline belt to be five inches above or below the pickup for the trash belt. It was designed to allow for adjustment in the horizontal gap distance from a value of no gap up to a 10-inch gap.Figure 35: A force diagram illustrating the forces acting on material located on the incline belt The gap belt was designed to allow for ease of testing and for ease of manufacture. ARS Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory. the belt feeding the gap. an engineer at the USDA. The angle of the incline belt. the maximum angle at which chile pods would stick to a belt without sliding downhill was 30°. According to George Abernathy.

The gap belt adjustment mechanism is shown in Figure 36. Using a small roller also increased the number of possible alignments between the incline belt and the trash belt. it was necessary to ensure that all of the sticks that came in contact with the belt would be pulled to the trash side.on achieving the maximum possible angle of the incline belt. Besides being designed to allow for all of the adjustments to be made. Figure 36: Gap belt adjustment mechanism detail The end of the trash belt that was at the gap interface received special design considerations. The limiting factor as to how small the roller could be was the tightest radius that the food grade conveyor belting and the clips that held that belting together could handle. This was accomplished by using the smallest size roller available. The manufacturer of the belting recommended a two-inch diameter minimum roller. 55 .

In order to get the alternating belts to travel at different speeds. The idler pulleys had bearings pressed into them to allow each to spin independently. 56 . this method of alignment has been shown to work in bell pepper processing plants. the shaft at the upper end of the incline had 27 idler pulleys on it. Two shafts at the bottom of the incline drove the belts.5 standard for V-belt drives for agriculture machines (American Society of Agricultural Engineers.The gap belt requires all of the material to be oriented in the same way in order for the concept to work. A ½ horsepower. variable speed. This orientation was achieved by having the incline belt made up of multiple V-belts (Figure 37). According to Vince Hernandez. The drive system of the gap belt was designed in accordance with ASAE 211. with alternating V-belts traveling at different speeds. The shafts were set several inches apart and had pulleys set-screwed for every other belt. while having a uniform interface at the gap. This caused half of the belts to be slightly longer in order to reach the rear drive shaft and the other half to be slightly shorter in order to reach the front drive shaft. 180 VDC motor powered each drive shaft. 2001).

Grooves for each belt were milled in the UHMW plastic to keep the alignment of the V-Belts consistent over the entire width. variable speed V-belt aligning system Strips of Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) plastic were used on the underside of the belts to maintain tension.75 inches higher than the belts at the outside of the system.Figure 37: The incline belt. These strips were crowned so that the belts in the center of the conveyor system were 0. 57 .

was purchased for $290 and tested. It was 58 . a R55 from Banner Engineering. similar to that shown in Figure 38.Color Sorting Color sorter operations were significantly more involved than the gap belt concept. Several companies were found that made sensors that could distinguish color. Sensors One photoelectric color sensor. In order to devise the proper color sorting technique. Multiple Internet searches were conducted and several sensor manufacturers where contacted. The primary dilemma occurred in attempting to find a sensing method that could differentiate between the sticks and pods. This investigation went through three stages of development as listed below: o Color sensing operations o Color material removal concepts o Off the shelf Color Sorters The WECO Color Sorter Color Sensing Concepts Designing a system to use the difference in color between the pods and sticks was a difficult problem. The majority of the sensors were photoelectric. more experimentation and investigation were required.

found that the sensor could distinguish between the pods and sticks. putting a production machine far out of the $50. however. it could only do so within a very limited range of about 5/8”. It is believed that this sensor could accomplish the job but that it was too cost prohibitive. this could be a 36-inch wide belt with a color sensor and removal device at every inch. That would come to a price of $48. at a price of $1350.000 acceptable price range. Figure 38: The R55 color sensor from Banner Engineering 59 .600 for the sensors alone. it was found that laser color sensors were available that had ranges up to 13 inches. Through further research. One such sensor was the SA1M from Idec. All of the concepts for removing the pods or sticks once the color was determined relied on having an array of the color sensors aimed at the belt and then having one removal device for each color sensor. Conceptually.

It was only used as a demonstration of the possibilities and as a building block from which machine vision was researched. The model shown in Figure 39 was built to show the Chile Task Force the capabilities of the vision system and to demonstrate a possible method for pod removal. allowing only three targets and only having the ability to switch one output on at a time. it was found that LEGO Company manufactured and sold a simple machine vision system for use on their RCX robots. The system could operate a switch when a target color was sensed and the system could distinguish between the color of a pod and a stick.Machine Vision At this point. The LEGO system was very primitive. Camera for Input Pod Removal Arm Figure 39: Lego machine vision concept model 60 .

logical decisions can be executed or measurements can be taken. They then determine shapes and sizes based on the light and dark pixels. The CV-700 allows for four programs. This was 61 . The CV-700 costs approximately $7. The only system that seemed to come close to providing what was needed was the CV-700 from Keyence. Very few color-sensing systems were found. giving the possibility of 32 target areas. With such a limitation. at least eight of those systems would be required to obtain a minimum resolution of one-inch over the entire width of a 40-inch wide belt. the majority could handle fewer than five targets for each setup.” From that information. Through research. each having eight target windows operating simultaneously. not the green or brown color of the sticks.000 for a 2-camera setup.000 for a 1-camera setup or $9. it was found that the majority of machine vision systems focus on black and white camera inputs. A second camera may be necessary to get adequate resolution over the whole width of a belt and would feed its data into the same processor used by the first camera.Machine vision was found to be a very complicated and involved method of sensing. which analyzes the array of pixels to make some sort of decision about what the camera “sees. Sensing Methodology It was decided that the color sensing method should sense the red color of the pods. The basic premise behind it is that a camera is attached to a processor. Of these.

Of course. stems are attached to pods. it was only desired to sense a red color and then extract that red color because the red is unquestionably a pod. If. yet is out of the scope of this project. it also would have to check the shape of that green color to determine if it was a stick or a stem. 62 . causing the pods to get extracted to the same area as the sticks. For this project. This shape recognition is an algorithm that is common in the area of digital machine vision.decided upon because the presumably larger cross section should provide an easier target to sense and extract. it becomes necessary to sense the green color of sticks. Unfortunately. in a future setup. kicking out the stems also. it would have to become a two-step processing system. this means that absolutely no separation is taking place. That is to say that after the processor checked the color of the pixels. A setup to remove sticks would require a much higher resolution extraction method and also would sense the stems that were the same color as the sticks.

The controller could determine which of the valves to open and close to pick up only the pods. Ideally. the Funnel Approach to Design (FAD) was used to brainstorm multiple ideas before deciding on one to pursue. either sticks or pods was required. Once again. The large number of valves would place the cost higher than the project constraint of having a production model under $50. Initial brainstormed ideas included an indexing head with controlled vacuum holes or a vacuum arm that could move down. This concept was not pursued because of the high cost of manufacturing such a setup. controlled by individual electronic valves.Color Sorter Removal Concepts Once a system for identifying the color of material on a belt was established. The principle behind the indexing head pick up was as follows: A sensor could identify all of the sticks and pods on a section of belt. a method for removing the material. could descend on the belt. That plate would have vacuum holes every inch or half inch. pick up material and kick it onto another belt. The head could then rotate out to the side of the belt where the pods could then be deposited by releasing the vacuum. A large plate. based on the input from the color sensing method. High reliability valves would cost 63 . perhaps 36 inches by 36 inches.000. another identical plate would be removing material from the next section of belt. while that was occurring.

The color sensors would see whatever was on the top layer and the arm would remove whatever was on the top layer. therefore. Each plate would cost $64. This could be repeated as many times as necessary until all of the layers had been sorted. A one-inch resolution over a 36-inch by 36-inch vacuum plate would require 1. down toward the belt to vacuum up individual pods.800 or $129. It was anticipated that the belt would need to stop to accomplish the task. kicking the pod onto a belt moving perpendicularly to the main belt. The sweeper would cross the vacuum tip as the arm moved back up. 64 . A very positive aspect of this proposed method was that it would not require the material to be in a single layer.296 valves. making it difficult to maintain the high flow rate. A four-bar mechanism attached to each arm would operate a sweeper as the arm went down to pick up a pod.approximately $50 each. The setup also would not pass the product constraint of maintaining a 48.600 for the above-mentioned two-plate setup. This method was not pursued due to the arms’ inability to keep up with the current production rate in processing plants.000 lbs h-1 flow rate. The controller would actuate each arm when the specified color was viewed. The other concept explored for removing the material of a certain color was an array of arms that would move vertically. Also Chile Task Force members deemed it to have too many moving parts that could break.

Figure 40: The vacuum concept illustrating the action of the vacuum arm moving down to pick up a pod from the material belt Figure 41: The vacuum concept illustrating the up stroke of the air cylinder while the four-bar mechanism sweeper knocks the pod from the vacuum tip onto the pod belt 65 .

Another major difference between the high-cost and low-cost machines is that the lower cost machines use sensor technology where as the higher cost machines use machine vision to sense the color. Alternatively. They are used to sort everything from green and red tomatoes to discolored mustard seeds. Machine vision locates the target color. The products available ranged significantly in price and resolution. such as seeds.080 inches. It was found that color sorters were prevalent in the agriculture industry. There is a very large price difference between the extremes. but had ever been used for the removal of vegetative trash. This is the method used by several existing color sorters. 66 . Research was done to determine which color sorters exist for the agriculture industry and which had the possibility of being adapted to chile peppers. such as tomatoes. Existing Color Sorters There are a variety of color sorters available to the agriculture industry. due to the difference in resolution. the sorters target material as it drops from an overhead chute. to the high end of the spectrum that can sort as small as 0. then a controlled air stream alters targeted material’s path as all of the material comes off the edge of a belt. They range from the low end of the spectrum for sorting large objects.The concept for pod removal that finally was chosen was to sort the stream of material as it fell off a belt.

Figure 42: The Sortex Niagara color sorting machine The machine from Xeltron costs $250. Xeltron refers to this cleaning method as a falling cascade. There is a reject air stream for each channel.Coffee Bean Color Sorters The two major coffee bean color sorter manufacturers are Sortex and Xeltron (Color Sorter. was recommended for our purposes by the company’s salesman. It is pictured in Figure 43. called the Niagara.S. The Sortex machine.000. A picture from the Sortex brochure can be seen in Figure 42. sales representative. According to the company’s U.000 and is capable of sorting defects that are 2-3 mm in diameter. their system lines up the material by running it through channels. It costs $225. The machine has 67 . 2001).

He still felt that there would need to be 90 rejection points across a 60-inch wide belt to accomplish the required volume of 48.000 lbs per hour. Figure 43: The Xeltron color sorting machine 68 .been used only to sort round products from round products. The sales representative felt that this method would not be suitable for cleaning products that were not all the same size although their Research and Development team would look into modifying the machine for the chile industry’s requirements by implementing a belt feed system.

allowing the rest of the material to fall on the other side of the divider (Figure 44). The item that is the target color is then kicked by the finger to one side of a divider. 0. This machine uses an array of 40 infrared color sensors arranged in a straight line aimed at the exit of a 40-inch wide belt. When the sensor senses the target color. it waits for a specified delay period before sending an electronic signal to open a pneumatic control valve. The color sorter from Woodside Electronics Corporation (WECO) is available for $17.875 inches wide and 3 inches long. In tomatoes.000 and was acquired for testing during the 2002 chile season. The sensors are each electronically connected to a plastic finger that is in the path of the material falling off the belt. each sensor viewing a one-inch width. It is hinged at one side is attached to a pneumatic cylinder. the target color is green so that the machine allows the red tomatoes to continue normally while the green tomatoes are kicked to alter their trajectory. The sensor array and reject fingers can be seen in Figure 45.WECO Color Sorter Operation Of the color sorters available. The sensors view the entire width of the belt. actuating the kicking finger. it was found that machines originally designed for use on tomatoes were the least expensive. the target color is reversed to allow the machine to kick red 69 . When using the same machine to sort jalapeños. The kicking finger is a plastic molded protrusion.

jalapeños and allow the green pods to continue untouched. In this manner, the red jalapeños are removed from the green.

Figure 44: The operating principles of the WECO color sorter

One important aspect of the WECO color sorter is its white plastic link belt for conveying the material to the sensor unit. This light-colored background aids the infrared color sensors in their operation. When the belt got dirty, false positives occurred, causing the fingers to actuate even when there was no material present on the belt.

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Figure 45: The sensor array and reject fingers on the WECO color sorter

Variables The WECO color sorter has many different operating variables. They may be divided into two categories: those that are electronic and those that are mechanical. The electronic variables are the color, sensitivity, dirt and delay. Color value is measured on a scale of 1 to 99, 1 being green and 99 being red. Sensitivity is measured on a scale of 1 to 99, with 1 being a very small target and 99 being a very large target. The dirt is a Boolean variable that is used in tomatoes to eliminate false positives when there is a lot of dirt in the product stream. The delay is a scale of 1 to 99, determining the length of time between the color sensor’s sensing the color and the fingers kicking

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the item out of the material stream. This value is heavily dependant on the speed of the belt that is feeding the color sorter.

Figure 46: The WECO color sorter adjustment panel

There are also multiple mechanical variables that can be changed to affect the operation of the color sorter: feed belt speed, sensor box angle, reject box angle, distance of the reject box from the end of the belt and air pressure. According to the manufacturer, the belt speed on the color sorter is a very important variable. It needs to be fast enough so that the trajectory of the material passes the reject fingers without moving too fast for the sorter to keep up. The optimal range is 125 – 200 feet per minute. The distance of the reject box from the end of the belt is directly dependant on the speed of the belt. It must be set so that the material passes it directly without touching it while the target color is not being sensed. That allows for the reject fingers to have the optimum effect when the target color is sensed. The angle of the

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the delay had to be shorter to allow the fingers to kick earlier. This variable was closely linked to the electronic delay variable.reject box is not a variable that was incorporated by the manufacturer. The manufacturer recommended 4060 psi air pressure. the delay had to be longer before the fingers kicked. A plate was made at M-TEC to provide this functionality once it was observed that the fingers had a tendency to kick the pods without altering their trajectory enough to cause a clear separation line. When the sensors were sensing the target on the belt. The air pressure must be set to allow the fingers to act quickly enough to kick and reset without allowing too much material to pass by. When it sensed the material already in a trajectory path. The sensor box has five adjustment points so that the angle may be adjusted to allow the sensor to view an area ranging from before the edge of the belt to beyond where the material exits from the belt and is in trajectory. 73 .

Lastly. The machine was solid-modeled completely (see Appendix B for detailed drawings). This gap is large enough to allow the pods and small trash to fall through the spaces while the larger trash and attached pods are conveyed off the end to a trash collection point. The cleaning station built by the USDA. The material travels down a chute to a modified Rienk table with spacing between the rotating squares of 1. 1200-pound box of chile to dump it out. while the pods are conveyed off the end of the table. ARS researchers. an 8 ft.625 inches.Integration of the Design Elements For the purposes of testing. ARS features a box dumper that feeds material into the cleaning system (Figure 47). This spacing allows small debris and leaves to fall through to a trash collector. The pods that fall through the spaces then land on a standard Rienk table (Figure 13) with a spacing of 0. The box dumper turns over a 4 ft. x 4 ft. pods land on an inclined.-wide metal conveyor that has layering tongs spaced off from the surface to maintain a constant flow of material into the system (Figure 47). 74 . an integrated machine was designed that coupled the gap-belt cleaner with the color sorter. The material flow then is regulated into the cleaning system by using a draper.625 inches (Figure 14). cleated belt where they can be conveyed into another box. It was designed to allow it to be used with the existing experimental cleaning station built by USDA. x 4ft.

the varying speed belts align it and convey it toward the gap. The material that falls through the gap lands on a spreader shield. ARS system. Once the material is deposited on the incline belt. The USDA. 75 . At the gap. while the pods and remaining small trash fall through the gap. the long sticks travel onto the trash belt that is set apart from the incline belt.Figure 47: The box dumper and draper that feed the chile cleaning station The cleaning system developed for the current project took the place of the final collection box on the USDA. designed to spread the material out across the entire 40-inch span of the color sorter belt. ARS incline belt dumped the material onto the 24-inch incline belt that is the start of the system built by M-TEC.

Figure 48: The design of the incline belt feeding the gap-belt cleaning station Figure 49: The designed gap-belt cleaning station interface 76 .

therefore eliminating 77 . or “spreader bar. A combination of the spreader shield spreading the material from the 24-inch incline belt to the 40-inch color sorter belt and the fact that the fastest belt on the incline belt was running at 335 feet per minute (fpm) compared to the 200 fpm speed of the color sorter belt ensured that material was spread out in a thin layer before it arrived at the color sorter.” was designed. This spreader bar allowed only a single layer of material to pass through. As a final insurance that the material would be spread out thinly before going to the color sorter.Figure 50: The design of the spreader shield used to spread out the material that has fallen through the gap over the entire 40 inches of the color sorter belt A major consideration in the use of the color sorter is that the material cannot be stacked on top of one another. built and placed on the color sorter frame. The machine operates most effectively when the material is spread out and not even touching one another. another layering tong.

trash belt and the spreader bar all received ½ hp DC motors. the sticks and discolored pods travel to one side of the divider. 3-phase motor. The two incline belt shafts. The total 78 . they were geared down by using a pulley system. They were controlled with Leeson variable DC speed controllers. while the pods are kicked to the other side. In order to get the required torque from the motors. When material reaches the color sorter. That motor’s speed was controlled with a Leeson variable frequency AC speed controller that outputted variable frequency 3-phase power from a single-phase input. Figure 51: The design of the spreader bar used to flatten the flow of material into the color sorter Five electric motors were incorporated into the chile cleaning machine design. The 40-inch color sorter belt was driven with a 1 hp.the possibility of multiple layers of material reaching the color sorter. The color sorter required single-phase 120V AC power and an adequate air supply.

single-phase.2 amps.power requirement for the entire machine was 240V. Figure 52: The control box of the chile-sorting machine that housed the speed controllers for all five motors 79 . drawing 17.

Figure 53: The fabrication of the trash belt 80 .Step 8: Prototype Construction The prototype machine that was designed to evaluate the concepts of using a gap-belt and color sorter to sort sticks from red chile was manufactured in the M-TEC Department’s Student Project Center (SPC). The various stages of the construction can be seen in Figure 53 through Figure 55. The completed machine can be seen in Figure 58 and Figure 56. the production drawings were created to allow student employees to assist the author in construction of the components. Those pictures can be compared to the completed solid model in Figure 57. Once the design was finalized.

Figure 54: The fabrication of the spreader bar Figure 55: Fabrication of the incline belt 81 .

Figure 56: A side view of the completed chile-sorting machine Figure 57: The final design of the chile-sorting machine to allow for a comparison with the constructed prototype 82 .

although they could have been made manually if so required. The tool paths for the machining center were written directly within 83 . lathe. CNC plasma torch. To integrate with the CNC machines. drill press and welding machine. none of the parts had to be recreated in different CAD packages. milling machine. The design of the machine had a heavy emphasis on design for manufacturability with the resources available in the Student Project Center. The tools used included a horizontal band saw. the sheet metal and plate parts were imported to the PlasmaCAM software in order to cut them out on the CNC Plasma Torch.Figure 58: A front view of the completed chile-sorting machine The fabrication of the chile-sorting machine required extensive shop resources. Several of the parts were made on a CNC machining center. After the creation of all of the geometry in SolidWorks.

Two vendors provided the majority of material used in the chile-sorting machine fabrication. 84 .340 (Table 9).000 (Table 7). The total cost incurred in the fabrication of the chile sorting machine was $89. The WECO color sorter has a value of $17.05 (Table 6). four M-TEC student employees devoted 1. The majority of the total was labor cost involved in building a prototype.SolidWorks using the CAMWorks add-in Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software. the cost of a production model would be significantly reduced. Staff members were shop manager Kim Parkey and lead engineers. Throughout that time.000.500 hours (Table 8). The raw materials came from Pipe and Metal Supply (PMS) in Las Cruces for a total of $506.000 hours to the project and three staff members devoted 1. A production model using the same concepts easily could be made available for less than $50. Robert Sungerth of La Union.91 (Table 5). The majority of off-the-shelf components came from the McMaster-Carr mail order catalog for a total of $4. Ryan Herbon and Wes Eaton.333. NM loaned a Woodside Electronics Company (WECO) color sorter for testing. therefore. The manufacture of the chile sorting machine took approximately three months.

1IN BORE 5L SHEAVES 1 IN BORE 4L BELTS 61 IN 4L BELTS 50 IN 4L SHEAVES 8 IN.65 $0.00 $5.40 $14.25x.00 $5.14 $8. 1 IN BORE 4L SHEAVES 5 IN.25 KEY MATERIAL 3/16 x 3/16 KEY MATERIAL 1IN SHAFT COLLAR PN 6215K44 7793K51 6192K95 6192K83 5905k48 6245K91 6191K88 6191K44 6245K75 6245K72 6361k19 6435K14 6274k21 6029K25 6029K44 6245K73 8752K815 5999K58 6191K49 5968K45 6123K25 6225K53 8369T14 92695A211 6135k34 5887k522 7786k42 6191K101 98510A136 98510A117 6435k18 PRICE $229.86 $10.95 $603. .95 $107.42 $24.61 $212.52 $735.67 Total McMaster-Carr Orders $4.92 $5.45 $69.72 $4.97 $7.39 $105.60 $25.51 $52.72 $4.05 $37.39 $26.33 $9.65 $1.625 BORE 1 IN PILLOW BLOCK BEARINGS . 3IN OD TAKE-UP BEARING (1 IN) TAKE -UP BEARING FRAMES 6 IN 4L SHEAVE (5/8 BORE) UHMW SHEET 48X48 24 IN WIDE.35 $75. FOOD GRADE BELTING 57 IN 4L BELT 1IN FLANGE BEARING BELT LACING LACING CONNECTING PIN RUBBER WHEEL SET SCREWS 1 HP 3 PHASE AC MOTOR.12 $158. 1750 RPM 7.99 $9.73 $2.14 $223.68 $144.34 QTY 4 4 14 13 27 27 1 1 2 4 6 2 27 2 2 2 1 25 1 4 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 DESC 1/2 hp DC MOTOR (180 V) 180 V DC SPEED CONTROL LONG 5L V BELT 95 in SHORT 5L V BELT 84 IN NEEDLE BEARING.66 $3.95 $107.47 $6.03 $0.91 85 .18 $1.45 $69.333.18 $1.78 $11.04 $19.5:1 GEAR BOX 56C ELECTRONIC AC SPEED CONTROL 4L470 V-BELT .73 $5.13 $183.11 $1.30 $6.86 $11. 56 C.26 $19.5 IN SHAFT COLLARS UHMW PULLEY.72 $8.20 $7.00 $5.41 $6.86 $11.66 $4.02 $104.03 $0.62 $129.Table 5: The parts and materials ordered from McMaster-Carr for the prototype construction of a chile-sorting machine Extended Price $916.09 $132.44 $217.66 $4.18 $132.99 $18.95 $603.22 $270.

PRICE $17.40 $39.67 $1. PRICE $0.80 $77.188 ANGLE 20 5 9/16 SCH 40 PIPE 40 2x2x.000 $12.27 $3.25 x 10 IN STRAP 1 14 GA SHEET 40 4X 5.00 $506.33 $0.60 $10.584 FLANGE) 40 2X2X.000 $17.000 $40.000 1 ELECTRONIC COLOR SORTER TOTAL LOANED ITEMS Table 8: The labor costs that were used in the construction of the prototype Students Lead Engineers Shop Manager Hours Spent Hourly Rate 1000 $15 1000 $40 500 $25 Total labor Cost Cost $15.083 SQ TUBING 20 .5" X .500 $67.78 $2.Table 6: The material ordered from Pipe and Metal Supply (PMS) for the manufacture a chile-sorting system prototype QTY DESCRIPTION PRICE/FOOT EXT.375 X 10 IN STRAP 40 2x2x.4 CHANNEL (1.05 20 1" SCH 40 PIPE 20 1" SOLID STOCK 40 1.125 IN STRAP 20 .80 $105.37 $0.188 SQ TUBING TOTAL PMS ORDERS Table 7: Parts loaned to the Chile Task Force for the purpose of testing the chilesorting prototype QTY DESCRIPTION PRICE $17.60 $31.00 $64.25 $1.60 $13.80 $24.45 $1.500 86 .92 $39.88 $0.45 $54.40 $26.62 $5.20 $58.000 EXT.

339.333.05 $17.500.00 $67.000.00 $89.Table 9: Total Costs incurred in the fabrication of the chile sorting machine prototype McMaster-Carr Materials PMS Materials Loaned Color Sorter Labor cost Total $4.91 $506.96 87 .

000 lb hr-1) feed rate • Must eliminate 80% of the sticks Remaining ideas after product constraint filter • Sensor guided vacuum plate • Vibrating V-belts with gaps between them • Gap-belt • Rienk table • Modified Rienk table • Color-based defect sorting 88 . allowing sticks to stick in screen o Winnow with air o Narrow flow and divert sticks based on sensor input o Long narrow screens for pods to fall through o Blow pods across a gap belt o Vacuum plate o Centrifugal force separation o Vibrating V-belts with gap between them o Gap belt Product constraints • Cannot harm the pods • Product must maintain a 40 box hour-1 (48.Design Process Summary using FAD Design requirements for chile sorter • Sort long sticks from red chile • Sort sticks the same size as pods from chile Inputs • Existing ideas gathered from research o Rienk table o Modified Rienk table o Rotating rods with small gap between them o Saw cylinder o Color-based defect sorters o Bouncing board o Best-management practices o Finger rake • Brainstormed new ideas o Bounce on screen.

Mixed ideas • Combine the gap belt with the vibrating V-belts Remaining ideas after the ideas are mixed • Sensor-guided vacuum plate • Gap-belt combined with vibrating V-belts with gaps • Rienk table • Modified Rienk table • Color based defect sorting Project Constraints • Cost less than $50.000 • Be completed for testing by the 2002 chile harvesting season • Must be an innovative solution to the chile industry Non-Tangible Results • Two prototype ideas selected o Gap belt o Color sorter Prototype development • Gap belt • Color sorter o Lego o Modified tomato sorter Manufacturing constraints • Facilities and equipment housed within M-TEC Prototype construction • Fabricated in M-TEC’s Student Project Center 89 .

Although the machine was designed as an entire system. In the worst-case scenario. the color sorter and the gap belt were tested individually in order to obtain more detailed results. The testing was not designed to include all of the many chile varieties. The test’s focus was concept validation of ‘B-18’ chile harvested after the frost. while the color sorter was tested on pods and sticks shorter than eight inches. the prototype would not remove an adequate number of sticks and would not be developed further. the prototype machine would meet the 80% benchmark so that the project could move to the development of a production machine designed for use in fields or processing facilities. The NMCTF defined “success” as removal of 80% of the sticks from mechanically harvested chile. and concept validation or testing. The gap belt was tested on chile pods longer than six inches and sticks longer than eight inches. Test Procedure A standard testing procedure was set up for the chile-sorting machine. In the bestcase scenario. This procedure was designed so the gap-belt 90 . discussed previous chapters.TESTING This project was undertaken in three phases: design and development. discussed in this chapter. types of harvesters and seasonal harvest times. The testing phase was essential for determining whether the designs and concepts used in the manufactured prototype worked well enough to merit further development.

randomly taken from the collected material and placed into a bucket. 2002. All sticks with attached pods were removed from the sample before testing so as not to skew results. 2002. using a Boese mechanical harvester. December 12-19. Each concept was tested through 20 cycles or batches of machine harvested chile material.concept would work at removing sticks longer than pods while the color sorter was to remove sticks the same size or shorter than pods. The chile-sorting machine testing began with batches. to ensure that test material would have consistent physical properties.” The color sorter used a divider to separate “accepted” and “rejected material”. each weighting 10 lbs. For example. Tests were conducted over a one-week period. The material was harvested from the NMSU Leyendecker Research Farm on December 10. Both the gap-belt and the color sorter had separate “accept” and “reject” locations. Material that was kicked by the 91 . any material that moved onto the trash belt was considered “rejected. long sticks were removed for the color sorter tests and short sticks were removed for the gap belt tests. For the gap-belt. The batches were then modified slightly to remove material from them that was not relevant to the corresponding test. The variety of chile tested was ‘B-18’ and the harvesting occurred after the first freeze. should the pods become unattached during the test.” while material that fell through the gap was “accepted. A conveyor belt was used to feed batches of material into the chile sorting system at a constant flow rate.

The variables that were adjusted are listed below. the machine variables were optimized. then fixed. Prior to running the batches.plastic fingers landed on the “accept” side of the divider. • Gap Belt o Slow speed incline belt o Fast speed incline belt o Vertical gap distance o Horizontal gap distance o Trash belt speed o Incline angle • Color Sorter o Color o Dirt o Delay o Sensitivity o Belt speed o Sensor box aim o Reject box distance 92 . The details of how all of the variables were set are found in Appendix D. that not kicked by the fingers fell on the “reject” side. The material from the “accept” and “reject” locations of both cleaning devices were counted and the amounts of each type of material recorded.

Raw data from the gap belt test is reported in Table 10 and Table 11 and is interpreted graphically in Figure 59 and Figure 60. The raw data from the color sorter testing is reported in Table 12.o Reject box angle Data Collection This section presents the data collected during testing of the gap belt and color sorter. and Table 14 and graphically represented in the line graph of Figure 61 and the bar graph of Figure 62. Table 13. 93 . A detailed description and interpretation of the data sets is presented in the Results section that immediately follows this section.

89% 85.89% 75.38% 90.48% 75.00% 86.00% 88.31% 95.00% 78.31% 78.86% 81.00% 90.00% 75.67% 79.45% 6.71% 85.Table 10: Gap-belt results for removal of sticks longer than 8 inches Batch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Percent Sticks Sticks Sticks Accepted Rejected Removed 6 8 4 4 6 5 8 3 2 7 6 4 6 8 4 6 1 3 2 4 23 29 24 24 23 20 29 27 19 22 26 32 18 24 26 23 22 27 16 23 79.19% 83.31% 80.65% 90.01% Average Standard Deviation 94 .71% 79.38% 85.25% 88.

67% 0.Table 11: Gap-belt results of chile pods (small sticks removed) Batch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Pods Pods Percent Accepted Rejected Pod Loss 11 15 11 16 11 16 9 11 10 8 13 15 11 19 10 14 19 17 14 16 1 2 1 2 1 3 1 0 2 0 1 0 2 2 1 3 0 3 1 0 8.33% 11.76% 8.67% 0.00% 0.52% 9.00% 15.09% 17.00% 15.00% 16.00% 8.54% 5.14% 0.00% 6.99% Average Standard Deviation 95 .33% 15.65% 0.33% 11.79% 10.38% 9.00% 7.11% 8.

pods lost through 20 batches of the gap belt testing 96 .Sticks removed vs. Pods lost in the Gap-Belt Cleaner Testing 100% 90% Percentage Removed (%) 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 Batch Number Percent Pod Loss Percent Sticks Removed Figure 59: Sticks removed vs.

The Average of the GapBelt Testing 100.00% 20.00% 0.00% 80.00% Percentage (%) 60.00% Accepted Material Rejected Material 40.00% Pods Material Tested Sticks Figure 60: The average results of the gap-belt testing 97 .

0% 93.Table 12: Test results of color-sorter stick removal Batch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Percent Sticks Sticks Sticks Accepted Rejected Removed 2 3 2 3 1 3 2 3 4 5 1 6 3 5 2 3 2 3 4 1 33 34 22 36 24 42 22 41 21 45 38 29 25 37 24 34 48 32 37 24 94.9% 96.4% 90.2% 96.9% 89.3% 91.3% 91.2% 84.1% 92.3% 88.0% 97.3% 91.7% 92.7% 93.7% 3.0% 90.0% 91.0% 91.9% 91.3% 96.71% Average Standard Deviation 98 .4% 82.

7% 75.0% 90.0% 90.7% 90.Table 13: Test results of color sorter removal of discolored pods Batch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Percent Discolored Discolored Discolored Pods Pods Pods Accepted Rejected Removed 1 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 1 2 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 4 9 2 7 4 12 7 4 6 6 7 3 11 10 2 7 3 8 2 10 80.9% 8.0% 87.0% 87.9% 100.0% 91.0% 80.0% 85.9% 100.5% 100.5% 75.19% Average Standard Deviation 99 .0% 87.9% 88.0% 100.0% 87.5% 80.0% 88.5% 100.

7% 12.0% 13.5% 7.1% 14.5% 9.6% 6.9% 14.5% 19.7% 13.0% 6.5% 14.4% 8.Table 14: Test results of color sorter pod loss Batch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Accept Reject Percent Side Pods side Pods Pod loss 36 35 32 43 42 28 37 45 30 41 49 45 38 29 34 41 35 24 41 29 5 7 5 7 3 4 3 4 3 5 8 7 4 7 3 3 3 3 7 2 12.1% 10.1% 3.2% 16.5% 8.1% 6.2% 9.5% 11.64% Average Standard Deviation 100 .8% 7.9% 11.

Percentage of Material Rejected (%) Percent Pod Loss Percent Trash Removed Percent Discolore d Pods Removed 101 .The Testing of the Color Sorter 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 Batch Number Figure 61: The Percentage of rejected material through 20 batches during the testing of the color sorter.

0% 80.0% Pods Sticks Material Type Discolored Pods Accepted Material Rejected Material Figure 62: The average results of the color sorting testing 102 .0% 40.0% 0.0% 20.The Average Results of the Color Sorter Testing 100.0% Percentage (%) 60.

The concepts of using a gap-belt and color sorter for cleaning sticks from mechanically harvested red chile were validated. This was done with a pod loss of 9% with a standard deviation of 6%.Chile Sorting Machine Results The data collected through testing the gap-belt and color sorters were used primarily to determine whether the concepts worked well enough to merit further development effort. The variable adjustments used throughout these tests are summarized in Table 15. Gap Belt Results and Observations Through the gap-belt tests. 103 . The target goal was to remove 80% of both long and short sticks in the tested samples. The detailed methods of how those variable were set are included in Appendix D. the data were tabulated so that farmers and processors could provide feedback on the overall effectiveness of the sorting concepts. In addition. the goal initially set was achieved. Through testing. the device rejected 83% of the sticks fed through it with a standard deviation of 6% (Figure 60).

The variable speed V-Belts did not provide the straightening effect required for the gap to work as intended. However. The belts worked well for heavy objects. Also. it was found that the strips of Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Plastic positioned under the belts to act as a belt tensioning device and as a guide caused the stemmed material to hang up and clog the incline 104 . testing continued. as the gap-belt results were what were deemed important to the test. not the alignment method. Two additional problems were identified during testing.Table 15: The variables used in the testing of the gap belt Slow incline belt speed Fast incline Belt Speed Vertical gap distance Horizontal Gap distance Trash Belt Speed Incline Angle 171 FPM 335 FPM 7 inches 6 inches 437 FPM 20 Degrees Several observations were made during the testing of the gap-belt concept. but did not straighten all of the chile material. despite this problem. such as screwdrivers. It was noted that the sticks that curved down toward the belt seemed to feed through the gap with the “accepted” material whereas those that curved upwards went onto the trash belt. Foremost was that the sticks orientation had a large impact on whether the long sticks were fed onto the trash belt. or fell through the gap with non-trash material. as intended.

7% standard deviation. Three of the solenoids that controlled the reject fingers malfunctioned. This was accomplished while losing 11. Additionally. Color Sorter Results In the color sorter tests. These clogs had to be removed manually to accomplish the gap-belt testing.9% of the discolored pods with a standard deviation of 8. several observations were made.6%. one-inch sections of the belt not to have the reject fingers operating.1% of the pods. 105 .7% of the sticks with a 3. The actual results attained (Figure 62) were that the machine was able to remove (reject) 91. The machine also removed 88.belt.2%. causing three. It was noted that some of the pods that got kicked toward the “accept” side wound up on the side of the divider with the rejected material. The results are shown in Figure 62 and the variables used are recorded in Table 16. In conducting the testing of the color sorter. The standard deviation of the pod loss was 3. There was also a machinery problem during the testing. the ideal results would have been to have 100% of the pods on the accept side and 100% of both the sticks and the discolored pods on the reject side. the majority of pods that wound up on the “rejected” side seemed to be smaller than average. This was due to varied trajectories.

Table 16: Color sorter variables used at testing Color Dirt Delay Sensitivity Belt Speed Sensor Box aim Reject Box Distance Reject Box angle 50 Off 15 11 205 ft min-1 2nd hole from top 16 inches 0 Degrees 106 .

adding the pod loss from a total of four or five such screening processes could cause the machine to be infeasible. Each process’s pod loss was by itself. The pod loss that each incurred needs to be looked at to see if there is any way of reducing it. Additionally. the success of the setup may 107 . This adjustment needs to be based on individual operator’s preferences. especially those that were straight or curved upward. The fact that stick removal during prototype exceeded the targeted amount is considered a step toward identifying screening methods that will be the most useful in a production level machine. The gap belt could have improved performance with several modifications. The gap-belt could prove to be a very cost effective screening process for the larger trash. the gap belt concept proved to be an effective means of removing long sticks. not unacceptable. but more sticks “accepted” with the pods.CONCLUSIONS Technical It was found that there was merit in both the idea of a gap-belt to sort out long sticks and of the color sorter to sort out sticks the same size or smaller than pods. however. Increasing gap distance would result in fewer lost pods. Despite the problem of not effectively aligning the material.

then tightening it down (Figure 36).7% of the sticks were removed. Using the relatively inexpensive setup of a tomato sorter. This is very important due to the fact that the color sorters had never before been used to remove vegetative trash. knobby roller or a finger device. 91.have been improved by using a rougher material on the pickup side of the trash belt. They had been used only to remove product with defective colors from similarly sized product. The most important conclusion drawn from testing the color sorter is that it is possible to determine whether something on a belt is a pod or stick based on its color. 108 . such as sticks. On the prototype. similar to that used on hay baler pick-ups. from agricultural product. The details of a threaded adjustment will be described in the Recommendations for Future Work section. Perhaps a rough belt. This knowledge could be used in the further development of a machine designed exclusively for use in chile. adjustments were made by sliding a bolt into position in a cut-out slot. Implementing this type of technology in the chile industry has generated a great deal of excitement. could be used instead of the smooth foodgrade belting. The color sorter also provided useful data on stick removal. Ease of operator adjustment also could be improved by replacing the slot and bolt method of adjustment with threaded adjustments. This would eliminate the problem of sticks making it across the gap but not being grabbed and pulled onto the trash belt.

Many of those attending the demonstration commented on the sorter’s effectiveness. 2002. the gap belt and color sorter worked well at their respective jobs. New Mexico state legislators and 85 chile growers and processors watched a demonstration of the gap-belt and color sorter during the Chile Task Force meeting.200 pounds of post-frost harvested chile. as all of the pods exiting the belt at those three positions were rejected with the trash. Chile industry representatives. positive industry response indicates that the screening processes eventually will be employed in an overall chile cleaning system. 109 . However. Better lighting in the testing area most likely would have resulted in a more consistent test. On December 11. The demonstration test successfully processed 1. Further research should be conducted to alleviate minor operational problems. WECO instructions did not recommend any auxiliary lighting. were very happy with the results. The sorter testing was done in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation of having a shade to protect the machine from direct sunlight.Several items could have been changed in order for the color sorter to work more effectively. the de facto customer for which the prototype was designed and built. Replacing the malfunctioning electric solenoids probably would have resulted in less pod loss. Several asked how long it would take to get the setup installed into their processing plants. Overall.

machining and other cost estimates were based on experience. The fabrication. two laborers and one manager overseeing production (Table 17).000 (Table 9). The cost estimate to manufacture a chile cleaning station on an initial production run of 25 units per year is described below. Each sorting machine is based on an estimated labor time of 80 hours with two welders. overhead and tooling. The cost incurred to build the prototype chile-sorting machine was approximately $89. significant cost savings could be realized by the industry. labor. The rates of pay shown in the table account for required employee benefits. 110 . potential labor cost savings to the chile industry and the required yearly operational costs associated with such a machine. The manufacturing cost structure for an initial production run was separated into material. Once this machine goes into production.Economic Impact The economic impact of the chile-sorting machine was determined by calculating the manufacturing cost. This cost analysis required assumptions that the machine would be attractive and affordable to processors and growers and that they would be willing to implement machine use.

but prototype costs were used as a baseline. It would be expected that OEM pricing could be found. 111 . therefore decreasing those costs. drill bits and end mills used in the manufacturing process. Those consumable costs would include plasma torch tips.Table 17: Estimated labor cost to manufacture a chile cleaning station similar to the project prototype assuming 80 hours of labor Number of Positions Required 2 2 1 Position Laborers Welders Manager Rate per hour $10 $15 $20 Hours to build 80 80 80 Total Cost incurred per machine $1.400 $1. saw blades. The tooling costs are the consumables (expendables) used in the process and were assigned a cost of $200 based on typical expendables costs incurred by M-TEC’s Student Project Center during 80 hours of manufacturing.600 Materials costs were drawn directly from the costs incurred during the prototype construction (Table 9).600 $5.600 $2.

000 $5. including overhead.840 $200 $17. 112 .113 $48. The minimum profit was estimated at 30% of total costs. The total price for the station was thus calculated to be $48. It is an estimate of the added price that a company would need to charge to cover costs of facilities. A retail cost comparison for the prototype machine.357 Overhead includes indirect costs involved and was calculated based on 35% of the costs accrued to that point.000. Previous experience indicates that the sorter’s cost will decrease as production increases. office staff. This would put the unit cost at approximately $36. a machine with a production of 25 units per year and one with production of 100 units per year is shown in Figure 63.600 $9. it would be possible to drop the price by 25%. This price falls within the project goal of designing a machine with a consumer price under $50. insurance.357. Assuming annual sales of 100 machines. equipment costs and utilities.604 $11.Table 18: An estimated total cost for a manufacturing company to manufacture a chile cleaning station similar to the project prototype Cost of Materials Consumables Color Sorter Labor Overhead Profit 35% 30% Total $4.000.

000 $70. Production Quantity $100. sticks and other trash from mechanically harvested red chile.357 machine to clean stems.000 $30.000 $50.000 $40. 113 .000 $0 Prototype 25 units per year 100 units per year Production Level Figure 63: The retail cost of a chile-sorting machine as affected by level of production To fully understand the ramifications of a $48. leaves. a cost benefit analysis was done.000 $10.000 $60.The Retail Cost of a Chile Sorting Machine vs. Those variables were used to calculate straight-line depreciation. The first step in determining the economic impact was to make assumptions to estimate the yearly costs incurred to a grower or processor to purchase and operate the machine (Table 19).000 $90.000 Retail Cost per Machine ($) $80.000 $20. cost of capital.

The cost of the current system per processing 114 . The increased utilities is an estimate of how much more electricity would cost per year to operate this system as opposed to the current system of conveyor belts with hand labor. 1961). The increased maintenance cost was based on an estimate that the maintenance would be 50% of the total cost of the machine.357 8% 8 50% $500 Table 20: The total yearly cost of a chile-cleaning machine to a processor or producer Depreciation (Straight line) per year Cost of capital per year Increased Maintenance Annual increased Utilities Total Yearly Cost of Machine $6.022 $500 $11.increased maintenance expense and increased utilities on a yearly basis (Table 20). Those assumptions were made based on personal communications with several chile processors and growers.934 $3.501 The yearly cost of operating the machine was then compared to the “as-is” system. The sum of these values yields the total estimated cost per year of $11. the cost of the current hand labor system was approximated using the assumed variable listed in Table 21.045 $1. distributed over the life of the machine (Richey. First. Table 19: Variables used in the calculation of yearly machine cost for a processor or producer Cost of Machine Cost of Capital Useful Life of Machine Increased Maintenance Percentage Annual increased Utilities $48.501.

the total annual dollar amount saved by individual users of the machine is $92. underscores the importance the industry has placed on developing a machine capable of removing trash from mechanically harvested red chile.599.800 $287. Implementing mechanical cleaning methods to complement the mechanical harvesting 115 . Subtracting the yearly cost of the chile-sorting machine. as a whole is $2.312. Table 21: The variables used in the overall economic impact calculations Number of Processing Plants Workers Eliminated per Processing Plant Worker cost/hour (including benefits) Hours per week Duration of harvest season (Months) 25 15 $10 40 4 Table 22: The economic impact of a chile-cleaning machine to an individual user and the industry as a whole Impact Per Total Impact to Plant the industry Yearly cost for Old system Yearly Cost for New Machine Yearly Amount Saved $103.491 $2.000 (Table 22).992 $11.6 million.491 while the total saved by the industry. An automated chile cleaning system employing a gap-belt and color sorter should provide an effective overall solution to the industry’s trash problem.plant was calculated to be approximately $104. when applied to 25 chile processing plants equals $2.269.501 $92. This cost.531 $2.269 The large potential savings to the chile industry.312.

improving its competitive position in foreign markets. 116 .systems will dramatically reduce the industry’s reliance on hand labor.

passing the material by an air blower. The current recommendations for a complete screening process include the cleaning stations summarized in Table 23. Modified Rienk Table 1 or more Gap Belts Standard Rienk Table Color Sorter Process Separate Attached pods from sticks Remove leaves Remove Remaining attached pods and long sticks that branch Remove long sticks Remove small sticks and remaining leaves Remove sticks that are the same size and discolored pods It is felt by M-TEC researchers that the system described by Table 23 would be the most effective use of current cleaning methods. By first implementing a finger rake. In order for a complete solution to be found for the chile trash problem. The next step. would 117 . such as those that are seen on the Boese harvester. the majority of the pods that are attached to sticks can be removed from the sticks. Table 23: Recommended screening process Process Description Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 Finger Rake Blower Shortened. additional research needs to be conducted to narrow the screening process to only those stations required.RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE WORK Several recommendations for future work have stemmed from this thesis.

The material could then pass over a gap-belt cleaner or series of gap-belt cleaners to remove the remaining long sticks. Sending the material onto a modified Rienk table. 118 . a better method of aligning the material on the belt needs to be conceived.625 inches to at least 2 inches to allow all of the pods to fall through in a shorter amount of time. such as the one on the USDA’s cleaning station would remove some long sticks and all of the remaining sticks with attached pods. The recommendation for the table is to increase the spacing from its current value of 1. One suggestion is to use a standard belting material and stationary chutes (Figure 64).remove the light. small trash such as leaves and very small sticks. This alignment method must therefore be placed after the finger rake and modified Rienk table. although clogging may occur at the entrance to the chute. This would ensure material alignment. The increased spacing would allow pods with attached sticks to be sorted out without the added expense of numerous layers of shafts with spinning squares. The probability of clogging occurring would be greatly amplified by having any remaining sticks with attached pods in the material. To improve the gap-belt cleaning process.

Easier adjustment of the gap interface could be accomplished by implementing all-thread adjustments.Figure 64: Proposed chute method for the alignment of material on the incline belt Another way to increase the effectiveness of the gap-belt cleaning process would be to implement multiple passes through the system. By using all-thread adjustments. The next step in the cleaning process should be a standard Rienk table. Adding an air or water stream to force the small trash through the gaps may increase 119 . The table would be used to remove the remaining small trash. This would give the cleaning system a higher probability of the material being oriented properly prior to reaching the gap. an operator would be able to adjust any of the degrees of freedom of the gap by turning the corresponding large threaded bolt in a fixed nut.

A machine vision system would be more expensive to develop. The first would operate in much the same way as the WECO Color sorter. partially washing the product before it goes to the processing plant rock tank and reducing the frequency with which rock tank water must be changed. with machine vision. This could serve as a product pre-wash.Rienk table effectiveness. but would be cheaper in the long run. two options should be considered. The final cleaning process in the proposed screening process is color sorting. A digital machine vision system. The resolution would not be limited by anything except the numbers of reject points desired. By using machine vision. A color-sorting machine built specifically for chile should address issues involving machine vision and rejection methods. There is also a possibility that a color sorter. as opposed to the sensor array used by the WECO color sorter. Also. This would allow for low pod loss with some remaining sticks because the 120 . The color sorter will be able to remove any remaining small trash and trash that is the same size as the pods. could be used in conjunction with the color selection. should be considered. as the production components of the system would be many times cheaper than an array of sensors. It could sense and kick the red color. the system would be capable of any resolution desired. In setting up a machine vision system for the removal of sticks from chile. could remove long sticks. such as pattern recognition. if properly configured. more complicated algorithms.

the WECO color sorter had to be continuously adjusted to ensure that it could tell the difference between the sticks and pods. 121 .sticks touching a pod would get kicked with that pod. The process for adjusting it is very subjective in that one must vary the numbers up and down until the proper combination of sensitivity and color could be found for the particular time of the season. pattern recognition also likely would be used to ensure that the stick color sensed identified a stick and not a stem. As the pod and stick colors change throughout the year. is to have a stream of air aimed at the material full-time as it falls off the belt. The air stream could turn off when a stick is sensed. Turning off the air to reject a stick is a less expensive option than turning on an air stream to reject one because of the increased manufacturing cost of a high-resolution rejection system. placing a pod or a stick under the camera and pressing a button could more easily select the target color. A final plus of a machine vision system is ease of adjustment. This would allow for all of the sticks to be removed. if the sticks could be sensed. With a machine vision system. The other option could be to sense the green color and extract the sticks. The recommendation for stick removal. processors would more likely accept pod loss if it meant that there were absolutely no sticks in the product. It is important for the end user to have a choice of the options. During high-yield years. but would result in a higher pod loss than the other method. If this were to occur.

This was the primary cause of the stick size limitation.In addition to machine vision. The WECO method of kicking fingers limits the speed at which the machine can run because of the time required for the fingers to fully retract before they can kick another pod. Longer sticks had the tendency to clog up the color sorter because all of the material had to pass between the edge of the belt and the reject box. The air stream could be more precisely controlled and would not encounter the delay problems that are encountered with the fingers. In the WECO color sorter the reject box was spaced several inches from the edge of the belt with the fingers rejecting the material back towards the belt. future research should address the rejection method. This problem could be eliminated by placing the reject box under the belt with the reject air stream aimed away from the belt as shown in Figure 65. The placement of the reject box should be moved as well. depicted by Figure 44. A potential solution would be to use air nozzles to reject the material. 122 .

Figure 65: Proposed placement of Reject Box to eliminate the stick length constraint of the WECO Color Sorter 123 .

APPENDIX A – PROJECT SCHEDULE 124 .

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APPENDIX B – CAD DRAWINGS OF THE CHILE SORTING STATION 129 .

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was searching for ways to improve mechanical chile harvesting to help the industry better compete with imports from countries with considerably lower harvest labor costs. This project was a joint venture of M-TEC and the New Mexico Chile Task Force. representing chile growers and processors in southern New Mexico. The Task Force. engineers at the New Mexico State University Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC) began developing a centrifugal blower to separate debris from mechanically harvested red chile pods. M-TEC’s mission is to foster economic development in New Mexico by providing technical assistance to the state’s industries Figure 66: The design of the centrifugal blower 136 .APPENDIX C – THE CENTRIFUGAL BLOWER INTRODUCTION In September 2001.

In three trials of three random batches of machine harvested red chile. 137 . and an air stream to separate chile pods from sticks. the prototype failed to adequately sort the material. incorporated the use of centrifugal force. as conceived by M-TEC staff. A bench model of the machine was designed (Figure 66). leaves and other debris collected during mechanical harvest. a downward spiraling helix shelf.Figure 67: The manufactured centrifugal blower prototype The centrifugal blower’s design. None of the concepts incorporated into the design operated according to the hypothesis. fabricated (Figure 67) and tested in the M-TEC laboratories to determine the viability of the theoretical concepts.

gravitational force. The researchers theorized that this outward force would pull all of the material to the inner surface of the rotating drum. centrifugal force was achieved by spinning the main body (drum) of the machine. The prototype was designed so that each of these forces could be varied to determine a workable combination. The force could be adjusted by varying the speed of the rotating drum.MACHINE OVERVIEW M-TEC researchers hypothesized that centrifugal force. The speed of rotation is a variable that could be adjusted easily by changing the size of the sheave that drives the drum (Figure 68 and Figure 69). First. and air flow could be combined to separate debris from chile pods. Figure 68: The drive mechanism of the Centrifugal Blower 138 .

the material inserted into the machine would arrange itself on the helix shelf in a matter similar to that depicted in Figure 71.Figure 69: Detail of the friction drive wheel Second. Researchers hypothesized that by varying the angular velocity of the rotating drum. because changing the shelf angle required grinding off and re-welding approximately 20 spot-welds. however. 139 . Changing the angle of the helix shelf would alter the strength of gravitational force. the use of gravitational force was incorporated into the machine design with the inclusion of a downward spiraling helix shelf (Figure 70). gravity would pull the plant material down the helix shelf to the bottom of the drum. This was not an easily adjusted variable. In theory.

If required. Sticks would be blown out the top of the drum while pods would fall out the bottom. 140 .Figure 70: The helix shelf of the Centrifugal Blower Figure 71: The intended arrangement of material on the helix shelf of the Centrifugal Blower The third concept incorporated into the design was air stream. an air stream brought in from the bottom of the drum would separate sticks from the loose chile pods because the sticks have a cross-section in the air stream whereas the pods do not. Researchers theorized that as the gravitational force pulled the material to the bottom of the drum.

swirling manner up the inside of the drum. combined with the spinning of the drum was intended to get the air traveling in a turbulent. This nozzle was used in order to get more of the air into the drum while still being able to attain the swirling. It was for this reason that the second. Figure 72: The air first nozzle used on the Centrifugal Blower 141 . vortex air stream that was desired. two different nozzles were built for forcing air into the machine. It was believed that if the nozzle could produce a vortex effect. The first nozzle consisted of PVC pipe fittings arranged such that the air would exit them at a 45° angle to horizontal (Figure 72). In addition. it was noted that the design was far too restrictive and limited the amount of air that was getting into the drum. This arrangement. After initial testing of the PVC pipe nozzle. the air would interact more favorably with the material near the shelf. less restrictive nozzle was designed (Figure 73).a variable speed fan could be attached to the machine to attain different air velocities.

142 . the feeder could be adjusted up or down to vary the material insertion point. The feeder position would be changed if researchers observed that more of the work was accomplished by the helix either above or below the insertion point. With this design.Figure 73: The second air nozzle used on the Centrifugal Blower A final variable incorporated into the machine design was one that allowed adjustment of the feeder position. M-TEC researchers hoped that by finding the right combinations of variables for batches of chile with different characteristics. The centrifugal blower incorporated many different variables in an effort to find a method for removing debris from red chile. they might determine ways to adjust the machine to effectively clean chile at all times during the chile harvest. The drum of the prototype machine was constructed using sheet metal with holes cut out and covered by lexan so that researchers could readily observe the activity inside the drum.

The angular velocity of the drum was set at 45 RPM and the air nozzle was the PVC pipe type (Figure 72). three random batches of mechanically harvested red chile pods and debris were run through the machine. seven sticks. Batch 1 (Table 24) and batch 2 (Table 25) underwent three trials.TESTING To test the centrifugal blower. Batch 2 contained 50 pods. Batch 3 contained 50 pods. Batch 3 (Table 26) underwent two trials. 20 sticks. exiting through the bottom of the drum. Before and after each trial. Batch 1 contained 10 pods. the number of pods. Researchers noted the percentages of sticks and pods blown out the top of the drum. Each random sample of mechanically harvested red chile underwent multiple trials. and one stick with pods attached. The setup of the variables remained the same for all eight trials. remaining stuck on the helix without exiting the machine. 25 sticks and three sticks with pods attached. 143 . number of sticks and the number of sticks with attached pods were counted and recorded. and two sticks with pods attached. and stuck at the bottom of the machine. An example of the test material is shown in figure 9.

Table 24: The first batch test results of the centrifugal blower testing Out Bottom of Machine Out Top of Machine Seated on Helix Stuck at Bottom of Drum Trial # Chile Sticks Attached Pods ChileSticksAttached Pods ChileSticksAttached Pods ChileSticks Attached Pods 1 2 3 1 2 4 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 8 6 4 4 4 1 1 1 1 0 0 3 2 0 0 0 0 Table 25: Batch 2 Test Results of the Centrifugal Blower Out Bottom of Machine Out Top of Machine Seated on Helix Stuck at Bottom of Drum Trial # Chile Sticks Attached Pods ChileSticksAttached Pods ChileSticksAttached Pods ChileSticks Attached Pods 1 2 3 11 19 12 11 14 10 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 38 29 36 12 12 14 0 2 1 1 1 3 2 0 1 0 0 1 Table 26: Batch 3 Test results of the Centrifugal Blower Out Bottom of Machine Out Top of Machine Seated on Helix Stuck at Bottom of Drum Trial # Chile Sticks Attached Pods ChileSticksAttached Pods ChileSticksAttached Pods ChileSticks Attached Pods 1 2 16 14 12 14 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 32 34 8 5 1 1 2 2 0 1 0 0 144 .

the greatest exit rate (40%) occurred. In eight trials. Ideally this percentage should be 100 percent. In trial 3 of batch 1. In the trials. researchers anticipated the sticks from each batch would exit from the top of the machine. 70 percent of sticks exited through the drum’s bottom.Based on the concepts used in the centrifugal blower design. no sticks exited the machine’s top. The lowest exit rate (10%) was achieved during trial 3 of batch 1. Neither did any pods or sticks with pods attached Researchers hypothesized that gravitational force would pull the chile pods to the bottom of the drum where they would exit the machine. 145 . the sticks either exited the bottom of the drum or lodged on the helix or at the bottom of the drum. Figure 75 shows the percentage of sticks exiting the bottom of the drum. In Trial 2 of Batch 3. Figure 74 shows the percentage of chile pods exiting the bottom of the drum during the trials. Researchers anticipated that the sticks harvested with the chile pods would be blown from the top of the machine due to their cross-section in the air stream.

random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower 146 .Percentage of Chile Pods Exiting the Bottom of Drum 45 40 35 Percentage (%) 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 Trial 3 Batch 1 Batch 2 Batch 3 Figure 74: Percentage of chile pods exiting through the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate.

Fewer sticks than pods lodged on the helix. random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower In trials of all three batches. however. 80 percent of pods remained on the helix. in trials 1 and 2 of batch 1. however. a major portion of chile pods remained seated on the helix of the rotating drum (Figure 76). Few pods became stuck at the bottom of the drum (Figure 78). as many as 60 percent of sticks remained on the helix during Batch 1 trials (Figure 77). In trials 1 and 2 of batch 1. 43 147 .Percentage of Sticks Exiting the Bottom of Drum 80 70 60 Percentage (%) 50 40 30 20 10 0 1 2 Trial 3 Batch 1 Batch 2 Batch 3 Figure 75: Percentage of sticks exiting through the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate.

of sticks became lodged at the bottom of the drum (Figure 79). random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower 148 . Percentage of Chile Stuck on Helix 90 80 70 Percentage (%) 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1 2 Trial 3 Batch 1 Batch 2 Batch 3 Figure 76: Percentage of chile pods stuck on the helix of the rotating drum during trials of three separate. respectively.percent and 29 percent.

random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower 149 .Percentage of Sticks Stuck on Helix 60 50 Percentage (%) 40 30 20 Batch 1 Batch 2 Batch 3 10 0 1 2 Trial 3 Figure 77: Percentage of sticks stuck on the helix of the rotating drum during trials of three separate.

Percentage of Pods Stuck at bottom of Drum 12 10 8 Percentage (%) 6 4 Batch 1 2 0 1 2 Trial 3 Batch 2 Batch 3 Figure 78: Percentage of chile pods stuck at the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate. random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower 150 .

random batches of material through the Centrifugal Blower Conclusions The results of the testing did not prove that the concept of the centrifugal blower worked. There was 151 . This was not the case. If the machine had worked 100 percent as conceived. and stuck at the bottom of the drum. all pods would have exited the bottom and all sticks would have exited the top of the drum.Percentage of Sticks Stuck at bottom of Drum 45 40 35 Percentage (%) 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 Trial 3 Batch 1 Batch 2 Batch 3 Figure 79: Percentage of sticks stuck at the bottom of the rotating drum during trials of three separate. No material exited the top of the drum and a mixture of material ended up stuck on the helix. dropping out the bottom of the drum.

The initial velocity tested was 110 RPM. Some of the material got stuck at the bottom of the drum. where the pods were supposed to exit. None of the inserted material exited through the top of the machine where the sticks were supposed to exit. Much of the material that exited the machine’s bottom fell straight through without any interaction with the helix. They conducted a smoke test to study the airflow pattern inside the drum. Material that was supposed to slide down the helix stayed wherever it landed on the helix. This created too great a centrifugal force and stuck 100 percent of the material to the inner surface of the drum. 152 . Only two significant changes were made to the machine and these were made prior to formal testing. The other significant change was to change the nozzle to the less restrictive type (Figure 73). As expected. Changes to the different variables yielded no significant changes and formal testing of those setups was not conducted. Smoke was inserted into the system from the air intake on the blower. In an attempt to explain what caused the failure of the centrifugal blower bench model. It was visually obvious that this change did not make any difference and formal testing of it was not conducted. The material that did have contact with the helix included an assortment of both sticks and pods. The first was a reduction of drum velocity.no proof that any separation occurred. researchers performed several other tests. The majority of this material also did not interact with the helix.

A small amount exited through the seal between the rotating drum and the framework. Even with the numerous helix revolutions in the bench model. the majority of the air did not travel through the machine as intended. This test showed that for chile pods to overcome the static friction holding them to the helix. This would prove infeasible. the coefficient of static friction between a chile and piece of coated hot-roll steel was tested. For the helix to do its intended work. the helix would have to be at such a steep angle that it could only make 1. 153 . but exited through the holes cut in the drum’s bottom to allow chile pods to exit. with no uniformity (Figure 80). The material that situated itself on the helix was a mixture of sticks and pods. There was no indication that more of the pods were closer to the inner surface or that more of the sticks were closer to the edge of the shelf in the air stream.5 revolutions over the entire length of the machine. A second test was conducted to determine why the material stuck on the helix shelf. however. it must make many revolutions. In this test. vortex manner.the smoke inside the machine rose through the drum in a spinning. the helix did not seem to work as intended.

fabrication and testing of the centrifugal blower was a valuable learning experience. Many more sticks than chile pods fell straight to the bottom of the machine without being affected by the airflow. This characteristic may be implemented into future separator designs. Since the separation anticipated did not occur. This was the opposite of what was expected. The development and 154 .Figure 80: Material arranged on the helix shelf of the Centrifugal Blower One useful result attained from the testing involved the behavior of the material in the airflow. The machine was designed to blow the sticks out through the top because the sticks were supposed to arrange themselves as depicted in Figure 71. The design. the sticks falling straight through could be explained by the pods’ greater cross section since the pods have more surface area for the wind to hit. it allowed M-TEC researchers to experiment with many variables and evaluate the viability of several concepts. Even though the machine did not separate sticks from chile pods.

155 .testing of the centrifugal blower bench model has been a stepping-stone to new ideas that M-TEC researchers hope to test in the near future.

the longer that the sample material. It was hypothesized that the greater the angle of the belt. The first variable to be set was the angle of the incline belt. 156 . This is caused by the fact that as the speed of the incline belt increases. This straightening effect was determined by dropping random sticks and chile pods onto the incline belt and checking when the majority of them oriented in the direction of travel of the belts. The faster of the two motors was set first. will be in contact with the belt due to the decreased vertical component to the normal force. the sample has increased velocity and therefore increased trajectory. the angle was set to the maximum possible in which the coefficient of static friction between the pods and sticks with the V-belts was great enough to overcome the force of gravity attempting to slide the material downhill.APPENDIX D – THE ADJUSTMENT OF PROTOTYPE VARIABLES The variables for the gap belt testing were set as follows. The gap. then the slower motor was adjusted until it provided the optimum amount of straightening effect. The belt speeds for the alternating speed v-belts on the incline belt were then set. The next step in the adjustment of the incline belt was to set the gap. both pods and sticks. while being the critical variable for the gap-belt to work as intended. being dependant on one another were set together. is completely dependant on the speed of the incline belt. The vertical and horizontal components of the gap. In this light.

It was for this reason that the next variable to be set was the belt speed. The 157 .It was set so that the vertical drop-off point on the incline belt was slightly above the catch point on the trash belt. This was intended to give the longer material a better chance of being caught by the trash belt. flip over and either land back on the incline belt or fall through the gap. The first set of dependant variables to be set on the color sorter was the color and sensitivity settings. The horizontal gap was then set by trial and error by placing different length pods and sticks on the operating incline belt and adjusting the gap until the majority of the sticks longer than the pods were reaching the trash belt and the majority of the pods were falling through the gap. It was found that when the belt was moving too slow. Then. material that contacted it would briefly touch it and then fall through the gap. all of the dependant variables were set. the material that contacted it would be thrown into the air. The speed was adjusted until the majority of the material that touched it was caught and conveyed by it. The final variable to be set on the gap-belt was the speed of the trash belt. When the trash belt was at too high of a velocity. A major concern in the implementation of the color sorter was that it had the possibility of being a bottleneck in the system. The belt speed was set to the maximum recommended by the manufacturer. They were adjusted back and forth until a pod placed on the belt under the sensor was sensed but a stick placed there was not sensed. The setting of the color sorter variables was done in much the same trial and error way as the gap-belt.

158 .distance between the reject box and the belt was set so that the trajectory of the material coming off of the end of the belt would cause it to pass directly past the reject fingers without actually touching them. It was also adjusted plus or minus to vary the trajectory of the rejected material to ensure that as much as possible wound up on the side of the barrier that was supposed to be on. Individual pods were placed on the moving belt and watched as they came off the end. The electronic delay was adjusted until every pod that fell off the end of the belt was kicked.

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