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Capstone Design Experiences in the Development of a Two-Row Plot Scale Potato Planter

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(1): 173-182. (doi: 10.13031/2013.29461) @2010
Authors:   D. D. Steele, T. A. Bon, J. A. Moos
Keywords:   Education, Computer aided design, Machine design, Machinery, Potatoes, Planters, Inter-row water harvesting

Practical experience in the design process is an important part of undergraduate engineering education. The objective of this article is to illustrate how an ongoing research project provided design opportunities for undergraduate engineering students. Student teams in a capstone design course were engaged in the redesign and rebuilding of a mechanical plot-scale, two-row potato planter capable of planting in both the conventional hill (ridge) mode and in a furrow (trench) mode as part of a research project comparing planting configurations. Students used engineering design tools such as decision matrices, engineering standards, failure mode and effects analysis, three-dimensional parametric modeling of design alternatives, finite element analyses of stress and strain, and laser cutting of parts by a local manufacturing company. The first team of students redesigned and rebuilt the potato planter in one semester. Their accomplishments included redesigning the disk opening system and moving the ground drive/depth control wheels ahead of the disk opening system. The modified planter was used for two years of field plot research and additional design needs were identified. Feedback from the first design was used as input for a second student team to work through a similar redesign and rebuild cycle. The second team of students redesigned and rebuilt the disk closing system and shortened the overall length of the planter during a two-semester capstone course. Both versions of the planter were used successfully in the field for small plot experiments. Concepts and designs from this project can be used as the basis for additional research, student instruction, and commercial applications. Suggestions for improvement of instruction and improvement of the planter are given and safety issues are noted.

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