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Mopping up: test and measurement improves ergonomics.

Ergonomics is an important part of design. When supplying cleaning products to the consumer, standard concerns include: hand grips for kitchen utensils, comfortable positions for appliance switches, and proper posture-protecting backs for chairs. Ergonomics design makes the product easier, safer and healthier.

In an attempt to reduce backaches and pressure on the arm when cleaning a floor, one company's research program combined their expertise with that of medical experts to investigate manual floor cleaning products--specifically, a mop. The idea of the study was to be able to make recommendations concerning floor-cleaning products that could positively affect the health of the cleaning teams. The research was to be applied to the Swep, a premium-type floor cleaning system for professional floor cleaning.

Operating a simple mop involves balancing the operator's stance and grip against the resistance of the floor to the mop. The best way to measure such real-world force is during real-world activities. Although one can determine volumes of saved water, or the reduced weight of individual components such as mop handles, holders and end pieces with relative ease, measuring the actual force placed on the mop handles during operation is more difficult. The primary limitation in designing a test mop lies in how to measure the affects of manual cleaning without disrupting or changing the actual use of the tool. The least amount of change to the construction and the mechanical properties of the mops can be handled by the use of strain gages, such as those manufactured by HBM, Marlboro, MA.

For the Swep project, special strain gages were installed on the telescopic handle of a mop and connected by cables to an HBM Spider 8 DAQ system. The Spider 8 can handle up to eight inputs from a variety of sensors with an accuracy of [+ or 0] 0.1%. Sensors can include full, half and quarter strain-gage bridges, as well as inductive transducers, voltage and current inputs, thermocouples, potentiometers, or speed and torque sensors. The data acquisition system also includes printer and RS-232 interfaces for report generation and interfacing with a PC or other control electronics. Data collected by the Spider 8 is transferred to a PC for evaluation, analysis, and reporting. The installation allowed researchers to measure the smallest bends of the handle during the cleaning process.

At all times during the testing, it was possible to know the extent and direction of the forces exerted by both hands to keep the mop on course. The researchers discovered considerable side forces are induced on the mop handle during wiping. Additionally, forces often occur in two directions at once, thereby subjecting the tool to load throughout the entire cleaning process. Further forces are placed on the mop when it is directed in a left-hand or right-hand curve, and when a new loop starts. An objective comparison between different methods of cleaning could also be analyzed for possible improvements.

After testing, one recommendation was to use less water during mopping to reduce the load. Another was to employ lighter cleaning implements, as well as those that offer less friction. Ultimately, a new Swep system was developed from the test measurement data, which promises to help reduce the strain on cleaning teams.


Circle 231--HBM Inc., or connect directly at
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Title Annotation:TECH UPGRADE
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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