Project illustration

Innovative BEng students

Friday 19 Dec 14
Frank Skovsgaard and Ari Lamhauge are taking a BEng in Mechanical Engineering. For their final project, they are working closely with the mechanical engineering company Kirkholm to produce a prototype machine for measuring out portions of IKEA’s popular meatballs.

“We wanted to do something involving automation and energy technology. An engineer at a company we maintained good links with following our internship spotted that IKEA could cut a link out of its meatball process—by introducing a machine to measure out portions of the meatballs onto the plates. You can buy portions of 5, 10, 15 or 20 meatballs, so we were asked to develop a machine that can measure out set numbers meatballs precisely.

Using the system we designed, an operator can pour a whole tray of hot meatballs into the machine—and the trick is then to put them in order so that they can be counted. It’s impossible to count anything that isn’t properly organized.

A little conveyor places them in a straight line, resting on thin bars. They then pass by an optical sensor one by one, and the sensor sends input to a PLC that uses a program to start and stop motors when sufficient meatballs have passed. These meatballs are then sent through a system of tubes, buffer tanks and a dosage mechanism to ensure that the right portions are placed on the plates.

The prototype has been designed in CREO, and we are currently using a laser cutter and a 3D printer to make some of the parts.
It will also be simple to convert the machine to distribute crowberries and gravy. This would actually be easier to work with than the meatballs, because it is a liquid and therefore not quite as ‘fragile’.”

From DTUavisen no. 10, December 2014.