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Manufacturing and Packaging Process Optimisation - Final Year Project

I am Michalis Hadjitheodosiou, a final year student on an MEng Mechanical Engineering course at the University of Sheffield. For my final year project, I decided in collaboration with a client, to develop an autonomous system which would optimize the manufacturing and packaging process of a pasta production line. For the successful completion of this project, a 3D Digital Model was produced along with the associated Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and Human-Machine Interface (HMI), which illustrated the layout of the factory, and the operation of the designed machinery. The system is responsible to collect pasta from the production line and drop them at the selected positions depending on the availability of the packaging machinery.

While the developers of CAD systems have created impressive design aids, these aids are no substitute for the tactile and visual feedback provided by touching and studying a physical model. Therefore, the proof-of-concept model of the attached picture has been produced to replicate the operation of the 3D digital one. I was fortunate enough to receive the RS Grass Roots Education project fund, which allowed me to purchase components for the manufacturing of this prototype, such as a microcontroller kit, a multi-meter, and various tools for the assembly.

Model of system

Hence, an Arduino UNO has been programmed to operate the system as an alternative to the PLC controller. With the use of additive manufacturing, the mounting and rotating components were reproduced, along with the distribution modules and the Geneva mechanism used for rotation. In addition, a representation of the packaging intake and the overload positions were manufactured with the same method. Using laser cutting, the holding arms, along with the control station and model base were produced with acrylic and plywood materials. To provide motion to the system, a small DC motor has been installed and positioned on the assembly. In order to energize the motor, a motor driver was required to be connected to the Arduino board, along with a potentiometer which would control the rotational speed. In addition, a photoelectric Infra-Red (IR) sensor has been used, to replicate the packaging intake conditions and determine whether the process should release products or hold for the overload position. Based on the feedback from the sensor, the respective message appears on the LCD screen.

While the production of the model was successful, I had to overcome many difficulties and the road was not always straight forward. Since in my academic years I never had the opportunity to work with electronics on a real-world problem, I struggled a lot with the necessary connections. I had to make a lot of research on how the motor should be connected to the system, why it is necessary to use a motor driver, how the IR sensor would send feedback to the Arduino and how to show that feedback on the LCD screen afterwards. But, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t enjoy the project if I didn’t have to make the research and educate myself on a subject that I was not familiar with.

With the research made on this project and the findings of my model, the client’s factory will now be able to install this machinery system, allowing them to overcome the labour shortage they have been straggling with over the last 5 years. Additionally, it will give them the opportunity to increase the productivity of the line and better utilise their workforce for maintenance and hygiene tasks.

I hope that you have found my project interesting, and I am happy to discuss it in more detail if you contact me personally!

A dedicated and bilingual Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Sheffield with a drive to meet by objectives and succeed. Capable of working efficiently and effectively under pressure and in meeting strict deadlines, either alone or as part of a team. With previous work experience on both automotive and food industry.
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