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Neo - Our Improvised Divya Washing Machine

neolithic logo



Introducing Neo

Neo, which symbolises the new and improved, is our new rendition of the Divya washing machine. It seeks to increase user friendliness and cultural acceptability with a jagged netting, step pedal and gear mechanism.

Ease of Implementation

Our washing machine contains an inner netting that just spins the clothes, not the water. Users enjoy using less force to rotate the inner netting. Our washing machine is also easy to use. To spin dry the clothes, users can drain the water before continuing to spin the netting, as shown below.

Additionally, the netting has a jagged inner surface that increases both the friction between the clothes and the netting as well as the frequency of rubbing between the two. This provides a more thorough wash. 

The original broom sweeping movement requires users to stand up and stretch their arms, sometimes in awkward positions. To improve their posture, we decided that our washing machine would be foot powered instead of hand powered. Our team initially considered bicycle pedalling. However, our research shows that some regions believe that women may lose their virginity when they cycle and discourage women from cycling as a sport. Similarly, bicycle pedalling movement to perform household chores would less likely be accepted. Hence, we proposed a foot step-pedal instead. With reference to the images below, the pedal uses a similar concept as an air pump foot pedal, with the mechanical motion adapted from bicycle gears. As bicycles and air pumps, are fairly common in most regions in the world, the operation of the foot pedal would be a familiar idea to our target users.

This is Neo with its outer lid removed and some parts of the external drum cut out for easy viewing. The foot pedal will also be secured to the drum base (not shown in diagram) found in the original Divya design. This prevents it from moving as the user steps the foot pedal.

multiple views of Neo




Cost (USD)



60L UN approved drum



Lid seal



SP Inner netting - 50 'lines' of approximately 60cm (length of inner netting) = 30m



RS Clear Passivated, Zinc Steel Hex Bolt, M8 x 50mm



RS PRO Stainless Steel, Hex Nut, M8



Pedal Base


TA 350 mm length x 180 mm breadth x 20mm height wooden plank



TA 4 mm diameter x 180 mm length wooden rod



TA 100 mm length x 40 mm breadth x 10 mm height wooden plank



TA 40 mm length x 20 mm breadth x 40 mm height wooden block



Foot Pedal



DS 300 mm length x 180 mm breadth x 10 mm height wooden plank



DS 6mm diamter x 150 mm length wooden rod



RS PRO Steel Alloy Compression Spring, 135mm x 22mm, 1.63N/mm



RS PRO Bright Steel Oval Nails; 25mm x 2mm; 500g Bag



RS PRO Steel Hex Nut, Bright Zinc Plated, M4



Gear Set


Recycled cogset, bracket and bracket holder



RS Stainless Steel Rod 8mm Diameter, 300mm L



DS Wooden Cube



Other Parts Associated with the Existing Divya Design


450 mm x 100 straight pieces of wood (18mm thick)



410 mm diameter rim assembly



Large castor wheels



4mm diameter x 50 mm length wood screws



4mm diameter x 30 mm length wood screws



M8 x 25 mm length bolt



M8 Thin nut



M8 Washer



Drain Assembly






Estimated costs sourced from:

TA - Timble Assembly (

DS - Daiso (

RS - RS Components (

SP - Shopee (

Manufacture and Assembly

Our washing machine can be manufactured with bolts, nuts and gears commonly seen in hardware stores. There is no fine holes or complex curvature that require precise machinery for manufacturing. The final product also does not require electricity to operate.

The external drum has similar manufacturing process as the original Divya washing machine. In addition, a hole will be drilled at the centre points of both sides of the drum, such that a set of bolts and nuts can fit into both holes to secure the netting inside the drum. 

The metal netting will be weaved using metal threads. To create the jagged surface, a force will be applied from the external surface of the weave cylindrical net towards the centre. This can be done by shoving a metal rod along the length of the outer surface of the netting every 60° interval, to create 6 jagged steps along the netting’s circumference. Each jagged step will be approximately 10% of the radius, ie. 220 mm*0.1 = 22 mm, with a tolerance of 5 mm. The metal used has to be rigid but malleable as moulding is required.

The foot pedal manufacturing process follows that of an air pump foot pedal.

The gears’ manufacturing process follows that of bicycle gears.

Assembly Steps

1. Attach the inner netting to the UN approved 60L drum. 

2. Insert the bolt through the inner netting and tighten it with a nut as shown in Figure 1.

Fig 1 assembly

3. Insert the bracket and bracket holder and secure it with another nut. 

4. Repeat step 2 for the left side of the drum to get Figure 2. Note that the left side of the drum does not have the bracket and bracket holder.

Fig 2 Assembly

5. Place the drum on top of the wooden base found in the original Diyva design as shown in Figure 3.

6. Assemble the foot pedal as shown in Figure 4. Secure the multi-speed sprocket with a nut. Note that the cogset contains the freewheel, which prevents the drum from rotating in the opposite direction to conserve momentum.

Fig 4 Assembly

7. Connect the drum and the foot pedal with the bicycle gear as shown in Figure 5. 

Fig 5 Assembly


8. Guide the bicycle chain through the adjustable rod as shown in Figure 6.


9. Place the foot pedal such that bicycle chain is taut as shown in Figure 7.

Fig 7 Assembly


Materials to be bought for manufacturing include:

1. Stainless steel netting 

To be rigid but malleable during manufacturing. This is so that we can mould it to create the jagged washing-board like ridges of the netting.

2. External drum

Material used to build the external drum is to be lightweight to ensure that less energy is expended to turn the drum.

3. Chengal wood step paddle

This is to ensure that the water used in washing clothes will not cause the step paddle to rust. 

4. Bicycle cogset, bracket and chain

For future development, more work could be done to determine the optimal gear size and ratio to improve the energy efficiency of our Neo washing machine.

5. Steel compression spring

Strong enough to support up to 20N of compressive force.

When repair and/or replacement of parts are needed due to wear and tear, these parts are to be sourced from local recycled machinery (where Neo washing machine is to be introduced). 

1. Steel netting (such as chicken wire fence)

2. Recycled bicycle cogset, bracket and chain

3. Spring coil

4. External drum

Supply Chain

For subsequent repairs and replacement of parts, all other components, such as the bolts, nuts and foot pedal, will be sourced locally by Neo users. This is feasible as they already have an idea of how our Neo washing machine works when they were first brought in and these parts are readily available everywhere. Only the wooden base to hold the drum (which has a more complicated design) will be bought from external manufacturers for subsequent repairs.


We adopted our step pedal and inner netting from this youtube video. 

After discussing with our mentors, we simplified its gear mechanism and replaced the steel pedal with Chengal wood to reduce cost.

Products made from wood are also easier to manufacture than steel in rural areas since steel manufacturing requires electricity and specific machinery. Chengal is also more eco-friendly for disposal.

According to the Washing Machine Project Iraq Report 2019, users were reportedly rotating the drum too fast, past the most effective revolutions per minute (RPM), leading to a waste of energy and unproductive washing processes. As speed and strength are crucial factors in handwashing clothes, the target users might have an ingrained misunderstanding that the faster the drum rotates the more efficient it is. This leads to clothes not being washed thoroughly and users expending energy unnecessarily. Hence, we will implement an education phase and adopt the gear changing mechanism from mountain bikes to regulate the RPM so the Divya washing machine can reach its full potential. This education phase will teach users the most effective speed to rotate the drum and how to achieve it by changing the gears to high/medium/low gear based on (1) the load of the washing machine and (2) the strength of the user (i.e. whether it is a woman or a young child using it). 

We included the drying functionality of conventional clothes dryers, and we looked to the inner netting feature to implement this functionality. Meanwhile, the jagged inner surface idea was inspired by traditional washboards where jagged steps are used to increase the friction between the clothes and the board for a cleaner wash.


We intend to communicate our idea/concept to the target audience in four ways:

1. Highlighting the practicality and convenience the washing machine brings them

Our washing machine will save users multiple trips to and from the rivers due to less water being needed to wash the clothing. It will also improve their posture as they are able to be seated comfortably while operating the foot pedal. Hygiene standards are also upheld as the inner netting is easily removed to be washed, allowing the machine to be cleaned properly.

2. Highlighting the accessibility of the washing machine

Our washing machine is compact and lightweight. Future works can also include wheels for the wooden base of the washing machine to increase ease of transportation for draining of the water and loading/unloading of the machine.

3. Highlighting the potential economic benefits 

By weaving the inner netting and replacing old gears in the washing machine, local technicians or servicemen with the relevant skills and experience are able to earn an additional source of income, promoting greater reception. 

4. Acknowledging their current cultural practices

Most importantly, we will explain how our washing machine can align with the locals’ current practices and norms. We acknowledge the livelihoods of many in the community who earn a living via repairing or servicing goods. We also empower the local women in engaging in traditional activities while washing, including knitting and weaving. We also use a step pedal, which is differentiated from a bicycle pedal, as we understand that it is taboo and offensive for women to cycle in some countries.

Cultural Relevance

Apart from the improved washing efficiency, the jagged cylindrical netting resembles the ridges on traditional washboards used by many in rural regions, including our target users. It helps to create an impression that the new Divya washing machine does, in some way, align with their current clothes washing habits, ultimately encouraging higher acceptance and usage of the new Divya washing machine.

This netting is also made with simple weaving, allowing the work to be outsourced to locals who have the relevant skills and experience. The freewheel within the bicycle cog set serves as a one-way bearing to ensure the washing machine rotates in one direction. The netting is made from recycled machinery and is simple enough to be fixed by local mechanics. Not only does this make the distribution and maintenance of the Divya washing machine much simpler, but it also provides local communities additional sources of income and acknowledges their relevant expertise, promoting greater reception.


To extend the lifespan of the washing machines, we employ the use of recyclable materials (see section 4) and the skills of the local people to fix parts that will inevitably encounter wear and tear. 

We’ve also incorporated an inner netting to reduce the amount of water needed in washing the clothes. This is because water only needs to be filled up to less than half of the drum to wash all the clothing. This is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 11 and 12 of creating sustainable communities and practising responsible consumption. 

Additionally, we do not intend on supplying materials for the repair of the washing machine. Considering that most of our target audience would have access to recycled metal or gears, it is more environmentally friendly for those recycled items to be repurposed as the netting or gears.

Instruction Guide (Wash and Spin Dry)

  1. Remove the top lid for the external drum and the inner netting.
  2. Add clothes, water and soap.
  3. Put both the top lids back.
  4. Rotate the drum continuously by stepping on the foot pedal.
  5. Drain the soaping water and add clean water to rinse.
  6. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for a second rinse.
  7. Drain the water and repeat step 4 to spin dry the clothes.
  8. Repeat step 1 to take out the washed clothes.

Instruction Guide (Change Gear)

1. Turn the adjustable rod as shown in Figure 8 to adjust from low to high gear. 

Fig 8 Assembly2. The bicycle gear should now be on the sprocket with the smallest diameter as shown in Figure 9.

Fig 9 Assembly

3. Adjust the position of the foot pedal such that the bicycle chain is taut.

4. Step the foot pedal to rotate the drum in the high gear.


With features and operating instructions similar to what our target users normally use, implementing the Neo washing machine would be relatively simple and straightforward. Additionally, it can be produced at a cost lower than USD 153.83 since there are many parts available for manufacturing using locally-sourced materials. This also provides an income for the community. All these encourage an uptake of the Neo washing machine. Part repairs are also made from recycled materials, making our washing machine sustainable and durable.


Done By

Ng Qi Xuan, Choo Ming-Hui Megan, Lim Xin Yi

Nanyang Techological Univerisity, Singapore


Qi_Xuan has not written a bio yet…