My lawn is a solar collector. Energy is stored in the plant material, and it can be harvested after the lawn is mowed by firing the clippings in a combustor to generate heat or power. A more efficient use of this energy, however, is to recycle the clippings back into the lawn or into a garden as compost to offset petroleum-based fertilizer.
Perhaps the most environmentally benign option would have been a manual reel mower. However, I wanted to be able to mulch the clippings or collect them for composting as I desired. Plus, my reading suggested that manual reel mowers don’t handle weeds well, and my lawn has a pretty serious weed problem.
When I was a kid, one of my household chores was mowing the lawn with our gas mower. I remember jerking on the starter cord a dozen times to get the engine to turn over, inhaling exhaust fumes, being deafened by the engine roar, and having my hands vibrated so severely that I couldn’t feel my fingers. I also remember running out of gas and having to fill up the mower from the fuel can we kept in the garage. I hated mowing the lawn.
The cordless mower is a totally different experience. It is quiet and smooth. The engine easily turns on and off with a spring-actuated lever – no starter chord. At 76 pounds, the CMM1200 is a bit heavier than push gas mowers in its class (which usually run under 70 pounds) due to its 24-volt battery. However, it cuts grass just as well as its fossil-fuel-fired cousins, and frankly I need the exercise.
Of course, so long as the mower is recharging from a wall outlet, it is not truly using renewable energy. However, what sets cordless electric mowers apart from their plug-in counterparts is that the recharging station can be modified to use any electricity source, including solar power. Thus, as a long-term project, I plan to build a solar-powered charging station to make my cordless electric mower truly renewable. However, I will probably wait until the manufacturer’s warranty expires before attempting such a retrofit.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.