During the Spring 2010 semester students from the EPICS course worked with our project to address an area of need. The Colonias Water Project – EPICS group was comprised of three Texas A&M undergraduate students: Max Van Laer – Chemical Engineer; Linh Lam – Chemical Engineer; and Irene Soto – Computer Engineer.

Here is the executive summary of their project:

The Colonias Water Project’s mission is to supply clean, inexpensive potable water to those who have none. The group is made up of a wide array of people ranging from engineers to artists or to high school $olunteers. They all come together to contribute to this cause by producing ceramic water filters. The water filters are created by a mechanical press that cranks a dye, molding the clay to the ideal thickness.

There were many other areas in the Colonias Water Project that we could address, but we were asked to focus on the mechanical press. The volunteers were mostly concerned with the lack of safety on the current water filter press. Even though the press is used locally, it serves as a model for other presses internationally, such as in Nicaragua and Honduras. Therefore our main audience would be a non-technical person. After taking several measurements, we began to tackle down the safety issue of the press.

We decided that the main priority was to remove the steel beam. Since the beam is not pinned to the press, the beam could slip if not aligned properly under the enormous amount of pressure. In addition, the beam has started to bend under the pressure, resulting in an uneven force distribution over the clay pots. The uneven force distribution builds cracks in certain parts of the mold, which directly affects the quality of the clay water filters. After several weeks of modifications, we finally resolved the problem and re-created two cylinders that could withstand all the force and not slip under pressure. The main feature of the new cylinders is the threading. Since the cylinders twist into each other, they will not slip and hurt somebody.

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