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Dordt Engineers: The Bronze Award Project

(from left) Greg Mac Loed, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Dave Kielstra, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Jon Vander Vliet, Sheldon, Iowa, and Andrew Kroeze, Orange City, Iowa; in the 2006 international competition sponsored by the James F. Lincoln Foundation.

(from left) Greg Mac Loed, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Dave Kielstra, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Jon Vander Vliet, Sheldon, Iowa, and Andrew Kroeze, Orange City, Iowa; in the 2006 international competition sponsored by the James F. Lincoln Foundation.

The “flat stacker” uses a pneumatically powered vertical stacker, in which flats (the trays that carried small containers of berries to the distribution point) are fed into the bottom of the stacker, where a stainless steel lift plate raises them by means of a pneumatic cylinder. A set of one-way hinges then holds up the flats while the stainless steel plate drops to pick up another flat. When the appropriate stack height has been reached, an electronic eye sensor signals another air cylinder to push the stack out the front of the stacker.

The design team also developed plans for a comprehensive sorting/stacking system that runs seamlessly from the plant production line. A color recognition sensing eye triggers a pneumatic cylinder attached to a diverter arm to sort flats by color.

The team estimated that fully automating the fruit company’s system would save the company approximately $10,000 annually, replacing a five-person stacking crew.