An investment firm located in Peru has partnered with Western New England University to develop a novel, motorcycle mounted fast food delivery system for international markets. The project afforded students the opportunity to work on an international product development team, exposing them to the design requirements and constraints of international customers and companies. The often damp and cool climate in many countries makes food prone to becoming soggy during delivery as the moisture escaping from the hot food quickly fills the food containers and delivery box mounted to the back of the motorcycle, saturating the food. Delivery times, often in excess of 45 minutes, can also cause the food to become cold, resulting in decreased customer satisfaction, product returns and lost business.
The project was conducted over a three year period using nine mechanical engineering students. The project began in 2014 when a team of two students was tasked with developing a benchtop method of keeping food hot and preventing it from becoming soggy while being delivered. They determined that the use of ceramic heaters and small fans effectively kept the food warm and dry. In 2015, two teams of two students competed to develop a box design with integrated heaters and fans which could be powered using an alternator mounted to a delivery motorcycle. While effective fans and heating elements were found, it was decided that the mounting of an additional alternator was cumbersome and motorcycle dependent, rendering the concept poorly suited for field installations. In 2016 another team of two students integrated a hand-made lithium ion Battery pack and two 300W ceramic heaters and computer fans into a production delivery box. While the system maintained food quality for up to 50 minutes, the battery pack was unable to reliably provide the required power to the system. Finally, in the fall of 2016, a student improved this design by improving the heater and fan performance while adding urethane insulation into the box. Temperature was controlled using a commercially available thermistor, and all components were integrated into a retrofit kit which could be installed by a technician in the field. The power requirement was reduced by over 50% and the system operated for 110 minutes using two, commercially available 27 Ah lithium iron phosphate batteries.
Students gained global perspective of the product development process as they experienced the effects of various cultures on the requirements of customers and the international design and marketing team.