In majority of the low income, rural communities, clothes are mainly washed by hand by women. This is a a major problem not towards people’s health, as handwashing can lead to aching arms and backs, but also because it induces a significant amount of time poverty. 

  • Time Poverty: Time poverty prevents social and economic growth in the community, as it takes away time that could be spent on jobs and education. Majority of the women also have to extract their own water. 
  • Health: This is a laborious task and usually takes the women of each family 2-3 hours per day. Some people with physical disabilities suffer more. 
  • Cost – affordability is a key factor in the decision of household purchases of rural communities. Due to most sources of income being agricultural, there is usually very little disposable income. Large purchases of any kind are difficult. 
  • Water and Power consumption – There are often never any infrastructure facilities in these communities – water is fetched by hand. This affects what appliance can be supported in the community. 

E.Quinox conducted a thorough assessment in 2016-2018. The result of this assessment led to the following problem statement being identified: 

There is a clear need for a low power & Low Water consumption washing machine – to support an improved quality of life of inhabitants in rural communities. 

Ideation and Technical Development

After the problem statement is clearly identified, e.quinox began the fun and exciting journey of creating potential technical solutions to the problem. This involved: brainstorming, prototyping, user surveys, interviews and endless creation!

The ideation stage led to the following novel aspects of the design. 

  • Solar Powered & Battery Powered Design Commercial washing machines are primarily powered by mains electricity which is not easily available in rural communities. For an electronic washing machine, battery powered capabilities are required
  • Top Loaded Design: WMs can either be top loaded or front loaded. Front loaded machines require waterproof sealing and counterweights while top loaded machines do not require either. This would mean lower cost and complexity in construction. 
  • Motor-On-Top: Most machines have the pump and motor at the base of the machine and use a belt transmission system. A high quality waterproofing system would be required – complicating the basic structure of the design.  
  • Agitation: Washing clothes relies on sufficient agitation to allow for the surfactants in the washing powder to interact with the dirt in the clothes and release the dirt into the water. This process is normally easier with warmer water, faster oscillating speeds and is further achieved by use of baffles, agitators or gravity. 
  • Low cost frame: A simple frame structure made of wood and drums made of plastic buckets were used for the design. This meant that a machine like this could be constructed anywhere as these are easily available.

The overall design can be summarised as a top-mounted motor driving an angled washing machine drum which is adapted from off-the-shelf plastic buckets. The motor is controlled by an Arduino and both components are powered by rechargeable 12V batteries. The washing machine is slightly tilted so that it can be aided by gravitation. It has baffles to aid agitation processes. 

Testing Stages

During the summer of 2019, MVP1 was brought over to Minazi, Rwanda for preliminary testing and interviews, focus groups and demonstrations were conducted to obtain feedback. 

Current and Future Progress: 

Based on the problems encountered during testing and the data we collected, the team started development on the second prototype MVP2 in 2019-2020

  •  Critical components such as the motor and washing machine drums were reselected and certain parts have been redesigned.
  • A full CAD model and the relevant engineering drawings have been produced.
  • New innovative concepts are being developed to increase the efficiency and performance of the design.

Support our Project!

In 2019-2020, we are happy to announce that team successfully secured a grant of 5000 GBP from Imperial College’s Old Centralians Trust. 

We are constantly looking for funding opportunities, sponsorship and collaboration on our projects. E.Quinox is a small, student design consultancy for international development and we could not run without the external aid and support from our sponsors and partners. 

We require funding to conduct further research and development on this design so that we can improve our prototypes and create more technical solutions to address the key issues of time poverty in rural communities. If you would like to support our project please contact us on our website or email!