The owner of Mayer Engineering, Werner Mayer describes this project. "The venture was requested by a factory in Cape Town that prepares sheepskin for the manufacture of various products like handbags and gloves. The sheepskin trade is a very lucrative business and has been around for decades," says Werner.
"The procedure that is currently used for the removal of sheep wool, is to treat the sheepskins with a chemical solution. The solution is quite dangerous and workers have to protect their own skin by wearing rubber gloves, aprons and goggles during the manual process of rubbing off the wool".
Werner explains the groundwork phase. "Before I could begin with the design, I conducted three one-hour consultation sessions with the client in order to obtain further information to produce the drawings. I needed to understand what the machine was meant to do and what the full functionality of the mechanism would entail".
"According to the client, the machine would output the same amount of production as that of labourers, but would automate the process of separating wool from sheepskin.
Once the machine use was determined, Werner proceeded with an investigation of production levels. "I looked at the current output of labourers per hour and per shift and then compared this to the client's expectations. It is difficult to calculate how much time it will take to remove wool from sheep skin because you are dealing with a natural product with a great deal of variation".
"This leads to a lot of guesswork because of the varying sizes of the sheepskin," says Werner as he explains some of the complexities experienced.
The design process
Armed with the necessary information, Werner proceeds to tackle the design. "I found that my greatest challenge was to develop the mechanical process, but fortunately the client had some ideas and this helped to shape the project".
"The machine is powered by electricity and comprises of a series of wheels connected by two chains that run across them. A board is then mounted onto the chain, offering a surface where the skin can be transported to the various channels".
"The automated process removes the wool from the skin before the contents are deposited onto conveyers and thereafter into separate bins. The only manual labour that is required is the placement of the skin onto the board and the emptying of bins. The rest of the activity is completely automated," says Werner with pride.
Over a three-month period, Werner had three to four one-hour discussions with the client, produced the drawings within a week and required a further week to build the sample machine. The project is currently still in its testing phase and should be finalized shortly.
Overcoming the obstacles
Werner says that it would have been extremely time consuming to work out the machine boards with the use of a drawing board. "With AllyCAD, I was able to work out the boards at various positions at exact angles and could measure the distance between points. I found that even fixed points with changing distances were measured with ease and the software is user friendly and produces accurate work".
"I have not used my drawing board since I have purchased the software. It certainly has been one of my best investments in a very long time," says Werner as he smiles contentedly.