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Harvesting Sugar Cane

This is my master thesis project done at UmeƄ Institute of Design in 2011 in collaboration with Husqvarna AB. This project was completed in 20 weeks.

The project began with research on the sugarcane industry and its operation methods in order to find ways to identify opportunities to improve it.

Sugarcane is relevant because it is one of the best plants in the world to extract ethanol from.

Current circumstances in the sugarcane industry.

The bigger the plantation is the more machines they tend to have. One very important constrain for this machines to operate is to have a flat terrain. This machines are very tall and narrow to be able to harvest the standard sugarcane crop, due to this reason when machines go to slight on even terrain they have a high risk to tip over. If a machines tips over, it will suffer damage extensive enough to require maintenance and the operator could result seriously injure or even death.

In smaller plantations it is usual that the harvesting process is done manually due to the high investments required to afford the conventional harvesters. Smaller plantations are usually located in hillside terrains make it imposible the use of typical combine harvesters.

Working conditions for manual harvesters tend to be physically highly demanding, with a considerable incidence of accidents and a short productive live for the workers.

This is a selection of some of the images use to explain the working conditions and life conditions of manual harvesters to the people involve during the project.

These are pictures from the brainstorming session, the materials use to feed the participants and the organization of the resulting ideas.

The first direction explores hand held tools. This direction is the most affordable of the three directions, but on the other hand it still relies heavily on the physical capabilities of the harvesters.

The second direction explores walk behind options where the labour is easy for their operators, but the conditions of the terrain can be an ergonomic issue for their operators.

The third direction is a small combine harvester that can be use on hillside plantations and it explores the ways to a safe and comfortable workspace to the operators.

In order to evaluate the three different directions I show them to people that works in the sugar cane industry in different locations of the world and also I realized some in house ergonomic research of the impact of people working in hillside terrain.

Based on the results of the research and quantitative research I decided to go for “Direction C” which is the one can really improve the working conditions of their operators. About the required investment implications that this direction has, the people involve in the industry show a very positive view, assuring that with the increment of production that this direction would have, it is possible to bring it into the business level.

This are the sketches and CAD models of the first part of the form development.

On the left side there is the key sketch of the form development process, and towards the right there are screen shots of the CAD model in different stages and sketches of the detailing of the design

Sketches and screen shots of the final detailing exploration for the harvesting elements.

Sketches and screen shots of the final detailing exploration the operator’s platform and steerign column.

Emotional render of the final product.

Detail of the harvesting mechanism

Shot of the harvester while cutting cane.

Detail of platform’s and steering column’s movement and articulations.

Integration of the final design with Husqvarna’s portfolio.

On the left side image, an operator taking out the harvester from the storage place. On the right bottom, a machine harvesting on a hillside plantation. On the right top, an operator driving the machine up hill.

Studio pictures of the final model.

Studio pictures of the final model.

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