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Due to a Nigerian factory’s pressing need to increase the speed of paperclip packaging and decrease operating costs, our team was assigned to design a machine that would fold boxes and load them with paperclips. With very few preexisting designs for automated packaging/loading devices, we essentially had to come up with a design from scratch. To make our machine as simple as possible, we decided to make it primarily linkage based. Using both the graphical and analytical methods for linkage synthesis and with the aid of computer aided design software such as Pro/Engineer, we were able to determine the details of our linkages. Our results were encouraging, although the speed of machine must increase in order to compete with the current method of packaging/loading. We found this process should be automated because it is a series of repeated actions and motions. If our work is continued and our machine is made more efficient, this could be a breakthrough for packaging/loading because it doesn’t require the aid of a human at any point during the packaging phase and because of its relatively small size.


Chapter 1




A Nigerian factory currently packages a variety of paper-clips into small boxes. Their means of operation is a group of about twelve women who do the job manually. The women stand around a table and take unfolded paper-clip boxes from a common pile. They proceed to fold the boxes, load one hundred clips into each, and pass them on for shipping. They package an estimated 70,000 boxes of paper-clips everyday.

There are several types of boxes for several types of paper-clips. The dimensions of each type vary slightly, but they are all of similar shape. The most common dimensions of a folded box are 55 x 38 x 20 millimeters in length, width, and height respectively. The pictures below show one type of box in its partially folded and completely folded states.

The factory would like to increase the speed of packaging and decrease its costs as much as possible. Its current operating cost primarily consists of the salaries of the twelve workers. The factory has requested that we automate their process as much as possible in order to reduce the number of paid workers to the smallest number while maintaining or improving upon the speed of the current operation. Our team will conduct a design of an automated paper-clip packaging machine. The machine will fold the boxes as well as load one hundred paper-clips into each box.

From the beginning of our project, we constrained our design with seven task specifications. They are listed below.

  1. Machine is to be composed of conventionalmechanisms


  1. Machine is to open box from initial flat position to openposition.


  1. Machine is to fold and interlock bottom boxtabs.


  1. Machine is to neatly load one hundred (+/- 1) paper-clips into eachbox.


  1. Machine is to fold and close top box tabs.


  1. Machine is to package boxes of paper-clips as quickly aspossible.


  1. Machine is to cost less than its performance equal in humanworkers


The first order of business for our team is to conduct research on box folding in general, existing processes, mechanisms, and folding methods. A clear understanding of the problem and any existing automated folding technology is the first step in developing our conceptual design.



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