The Banana Smasher was borne out of my capstone design project during my senior year at Stevens Institute of Technology.
As part of my mechanical engineering degree at Stevens, all seniors must complete a senior design project that solves a real problem proposed by a business or professor. When examining the list of potential projects to work on, one caught my idea immediately. Amanda Bananas, a local food truck, serves soft serve “ice cream” made solely of pureed frozen bananas. To make their frozen banana dessert, an employee pushes a frozen whole banana down the chute of a commercial juicer. However, due to the awkward layout of the food truck combined with the difficulty of forcing the banana through the juicer’s blades, the owner of Amanda Bananas approached the Stevens Mechanical Engineering department for a more ergonomic solution.
Together, my project group and I approached this as a mini product development process. We first interviewed the employees and tried making the frozen dessert ourselves to better understand the explicit and implicit problems involved. We then developed the following functional requirements that were enforced throughout the design phase:
- Made of food safe materials
- Compatible with existing juicer
- Reduce the force needed to juice the frozen banana and provide an ergonomic experience
- Manufacturable at low volumes
The goal of the product was to easily attach to their existing juicing machine and provide an ergonomic interface for more easily forcing the frozen banana into the juicer. Ergonomics, comfort, and user experience were core to the design of this product, so we employed a rapid prototyping philosophy utilizing 3D printed components to “feel” how well the mechanism worked.
After generating and selecting concepts, the chosen concept involved a welded stainless steel four-bar slider mechanism that is secured to the juicer with a collar.
One particularly fun aspect of the project was using a linear solver to optimize the length of each link of the mechanism to reduce size while maximizing the mechanical advantage provided.
Once the geometry was settled, we went ahead in manufacturing multiple products to deliver to Amanda Bananas. Each part was machined out of stainless steel and then TIG welded together. (Still was working on learning TIG, don’t judge!). The links connected to an HDPE piston that forced the banana down into the juicer.
The employees at Amanda Bananas were thrilled with how much easier this simple mechanism made their job!