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Students invent leaf blower silencer for Black and Decker

Suburban dwellers hoping to sleep in the weekend might want to thank a group of Johns Hopkins University engineering students. Four undergraduate students designed a new leaf blower muffler that quiets this otherwise throaty machine.

The four designed the product as part of their graduate internship at the university’s Whiting School of Engineering, under the sponsorship of Stanley Black and Decker, the world’s largest tooling company with a turnover of annual business of $15.8 billion. Stanley was so impressed with their invention that he decided to sell it to the public, and the silencer should be available within the next two years at a price yet to be determined, according to the company.

The product itself is what the group calls a “helical cap” that swirls air around the leaf blower’s nozzle to reduce noise. The cap’s specific geometric design, the students explained, displaces sound waves that exit the blower’s long nozzle, similar to how a car muffler or gun silencer works. The trick was to reduce the fan’s noise while still allowing it to blow enough air to clear a leaf-strewn lawn, said Michael Chacon, one of the students on the project. (Chacon plans to work for a small aerospace company after graduation.)

Leaf blowers have long had a reputation as a disruptive part of suburban life, with their distinctive monotonous roar a staple of fall leaf picking in the United States. Besides being an irritating, albeit convenient, alternative to manually raking leaves, leaf blowers are also a $1.5 billion global industry in 2022, according to market research firm Research and Markets.

As they studied a quieter clearing, the group impressed both their teachers and Stanley Black and Decker.

“This was a particularly tight-knit, cohesive and focused group,” said Stephen Belkoff, the students’ academic advisor and professor of engineering at Johns Hopkins University. “They took over. It’s a fun group.

A principal at Stanley Black and Decker, Nate Greene, advised the students. Greene himself was both a graduate of Johns Hopkins and a former student of Belkoff. That made it “especially rewarding,” Belkoff said, adding that Greene was “a bit of a taskmaster” with the students.

The cap looks rather unassuming, a cylindrical plastic attachment screwed onto the end of the fan, but its results are remarkable, reducing the overall noise of the machine by 37%. “The invention significantly improves noise quality, specifically targeting the frequencies to which the human ear is most sensitive,” Greene said. The group went through about 40 versions of the helical cap before landing on the final version, according to Chacon.

Stanley Black and Decker was so eager to get the leaf blower muffler in stores that it sent patent attorneys to obtain a patent application on behalf of the four students. The patent is now pending. Madison Morrison, one of the group who says she will pursue her doctorate after graduating later this month, called the patent a “great achievement” that gave her a new perspective on the engineering.

“That process was really cool, because it was a little different aspect of the engineering field,” Morrison said. “How to prove your invention?” How to fully understand it from a legal point of view?

Under Stanley Black and Decker’s agreement with Johns Hopkins, the company retains all intellectual property and subsequent royalties related to their design, but the students’ names will appear on the patent.

For their part, students said they enjoyed the process of going from ideation to a product a company can sell. “It was a good example of how you can take something that’s super theoretical, which is maybe just a research idea, and then actually put it into practice,” Morrison said.

Towards the end of the project, Greene asked the group to redesign their product so that it could be manufactured using an injection mold, better suited to mass production, instead of 3D printing, which they had used for their prototypes, according to Andrew Palacio. , group member. It was then that they realized that Stanley Black and Decker saw real potential in their design.

“Our sponsor (Greene) spoke with us a few months ago and was given a very strict order to find a way to mass produce the cap,” says Palacio. “That’s when I at least realized, ‘oh, this is probably going to end up on a shelf one day.'”

But there’s one thing the group still isn’t sure about: their grades. When asked if they got an A, all four laughed: “We don’t know yet.” »

News Source : fortune.com
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