Vol. 1, Issue 2 -- August, 1995

Auto-Vac Design Team

By Jane Fee

Several battery operated prototypes of the automatic vacuum cleaner have been designed since the last issue of this newsletter. The Consumer Innovation Laboratory has hired an industrial designer and he has made numerous contributions to this project.

Our Design Team has agreed that the major design criteria for the prototype Vacuum should be the following:

  1. The Body width should be no greater than the vacuuming head.
  2. There will be no interchangeable attachments. The Design Team agreed that such interchanges would be too difficult for the user.
  3. Make the dust collection bag easily accessible.
  4. The vacuum must be low enough to reach under a dinning room chair.
  5. Provide a docking station to recharge the batteries.
  6. Make the switch interface as versatile as possible (it will accommodate buttons and/or a joy stick).

At present our battery system will run the vacuum for about half an hour. We are looking into using batteries which will have a longer life, but these will weigh more and taker up greater space. In the end a compromise will have to be made.

The form of the prototype consists of a radio controlled motorized vacuum cleaner. The radio controls are the same type that are found in model cars, boats, or airplanes. The controller has two joysticks. The right joystick controls the direction of the vacuum. Pushing up on the joystick makes the vacuum move forward, down moves it in reverse. While moving forward and backward are easily understood, right and left caused some confusion. Right and left are relative to the head of the vacuum, and not always the person operating it. In other words, if you are facing the same way as the vacuum, the directions are normal, but if the unit is facing you the controls will seem to be reversed. For this reason, the design team has decided to color code the top of the vacuum, in four different colors, one for each direction. The joystick control will have corresponding colors on its surface. This should eliminate any confusion in handling the joystick and the movement of the vacuum cleaner. An operating instruction sheet is being written for the joystick controls.

The left joystick acts as a simple switch, moving it up or down turns the vacuum motor on and off. Moving the joystick left or right turns the power head brush on or off.

The final design of the docking station will be a flat, upright surface that is wider than the vacuum cleaner, with several electrical contacts across it. By backing the vacuum cleaner into the station, electrical contact will be made and the vacuum will be automatically recharged.

The next step in the design process is a home evaluation by the design team members. A log sheet will be sent home with the vacuum in order that each member may record his/her usage of the vacuum.

For more information, check out the Auto-Vac Design Team Home Page.