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Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

Posted April 27, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: clothes dryer laundry oak ridge

Earlier this month Business Insider reported that a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory had developed a prototype clothes dryer that doesn’t use heat. The team developed a mechanical drying technology based on piezoelectric ultrasonic transducers that translate electricity into vibration. The vibration converts moisture in fabrics into a cold mist which is then expelled from the dryer.

The Oak Ridge researchers teamed with the US Department of Energy in 2014, when the DOE put out a call for a new clothes dryer technology that could reduce a dryer’s energy factor without significantly increasing drying time. The prototype appears to successfully accomplish this goal by saving energy through the lack of heating and reduced dry cycles. The team tested their prototype against heat dryer cycles at various temperatures. As shown on the graph here, the new ultrasonic technology dried a fabric sample in only 14 seconds as opposed to almost 500 seconds at 80° C. The ultrasonic dryer is projected to be five times more energy efficient than current heat pump dryers, and will produce much less lint.

Heated dryers are more of a “thing” in America than almost anywhere else in the world. Europeans and Asians, most of whom are perfectly happy to line-dry their clothes in warm, sunny weather, often wonder why Americans waste energy heat-drying clothes on a daily basis. They’re further baffled by the fact that clotheslines are considered unsightly and are banned in many American jurisdictions and neighborhoods. There are a few practical reasons for heat drying in America, however. Residents on both coasts deal with wet and/or cold weather most of the year, making outdoor drying impossible. Paid labor and GDP are both higher in the US than comparable European countries, meaning Americans theoretically have less time to worry about line drying and potentially more to spend on a luxury like a heat dryer. And allergy sufferers will tell you that a heat-dried garment beats a pollen-covered line-dried one any day.

There’s something of a shift going on related to clothes drying in America, however. Following the Great Recession electric and gas heat dryers joined cable TV and dishwashers as perks many Americans now consider luxuries rather than necessities. Given the amount of energy they suck up, this could be a good thing. Depending on who you ask, clothes dryers consume between 1 and 4 percent of American energy —between $7.5 and $9 billion—on an annual basis. Commercializing the ultrasonic dryer would be a win-win for clothes drying: no heat, no wasted energy, faster cycles, and no shrunken shirts or bleeding colors. And, perhaps most importantly for Americans, no clotheslines.

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#1

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/27/2017 8:10 AM

I prefer clothes dried on a line. Especially bed linens

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#2
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/27/2017 12:42 PM

Can't beat those solar-powered clothes dryers. Nope!

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#3

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/27/2017 2:22 PM

And the dog hates wash day!

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#12
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 9:58 AM

That was my first thought. GA!

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#4

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/27/2017 9:32 PM

Seems like the dryer vent would be a perfect environment for mildew and mold and fungus....possibly draw insects as well....

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#5
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/27/2017 11:05 PM

Good point.

I wonder what is the max humidity at which it will work?

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#6
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/27/2017 11:15 PM

Mould, mildew, and fungus could be mitigated by incorporating shortwave-UV LEDs in the vent ductwork. Insects? They said the thing generates little lint and so some sort of screen may work at the vent outlet. They could be used inside the dryer as well, for their germicidal effect (and make clothes smell fresh).

To get that nice, outdoorsy smell, mum's old electric dryer incorporated an 'ozone lamp' that used a filament-style, mercury-vapour bulb like this. It required a ballast and worked much like one of the filament ends of a fluorescent lamp:

When it was lit it created copious amounts of ozone.

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#7
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 12:17 AM

I associate the smell of ozone with sparks in air, starting with the model electric trains of the '40s. If the lamp is a mercury vapor lamp, then it must be sealed, and the sparks will be maintained in the mercury vapor inside the glass, not in air. It will emit a lot of UV. does the UV create ozone?

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#8
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 12:29 AM

Yes, the UV makes ozone (as does the UV in sunlight in Earth's upper atmosphere). The UV is produced by a glow discharge (ionised mercury vapour) and not by 'sparks' as such although the physical mechanism is the same at the atomic level.

The bulb's envelope is made of fused quartz rather than regular glass. Fused quartz is transparent to shortwave UV whereas regular glass largely blocks it.

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#16
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 5:37 PM

I still have my UV lamp up in the attic that I used to erase EPROMS back in the day. It has a mercury "fluorescent type" tube made of quartz and puts out a strong ozone smell when turned on.

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#17
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 6:12 PM

Yes, I remember those. Never owned one myself but had something similar. It was a (15-watt, I think) fluorescent-tube-style shortwave UV lamp that I put in my home's HVAC plenum, facing the air filter to kill mould spores. They're a real problem here and my oldest daughter had severe allergies. It seemed to help. I used a vane switch to turn on the lamp whenever the blower came on.

One time I looked it too closely (yeah, a stupid thing to do, I know) and in short order it 'sunburnt' my eyes. You never want to do that. No sir! Extremely painful!

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#19
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 8:59 PM

I recall those.... my parents had one... it was for ailments for skin and scalp... or so the package said.... it had a number of attachments.

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#9
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 2:14 AM

It may be true that UV-C lamps would prevent biological growth, and in fact these are available now in LED, but the length and twisting nature of some dryer vents may prove to be problematic...There may be a way to incorporate the lamps in the dryer vent lengths and perhaps tubing kits, but these would require a unique design I'm thinking...It would seem a bacteriological study would have to be done as there are certainly some bacteria types that are killed by the heat that is currently used.....In the warmer climates algae would be certain to be a problem if not mitigated....I think the idea of UV-c light in the dryer compartment would be a good idea to eliminate odors...however a study of it's effect on certain fabrics would be necessary as well....This would be a great energy saver if these problems could be worked out....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germicidal_lamp

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#11
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 8:43 AM

"There may be a way to incorporate the lamps in the dryer vent lengths and perhaps tubing kits..."

Something like this, maybe?

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#10
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 6:45 AM

There would need to be a humidity sensor and fan like for the shteamy bathroom..

Maybe a heater in the vent too. ;,P

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#13
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 11:36 AM

That is where the Lyn-Door ® Industries Ozonamatic comes into play! Install one of these bad boys powered by the Binford 5000 just outside the utility room, and you can sanitize that line in hours, and fragrance the garage, utility room, and master bedroom with aromatic flavor of combusted rich diesel any time you choose.

Product is not legal in any State where at least 1% of the population is not gun-toting, Bible hugging maniac.

Disclaimer: This product may cause dryer hose to disintegrate, may cause elastic bands in leggings, and the leggings themselves to undergo sudden vaporization, especially on Friday nights, where the alcohol content in the air is above 0.0015%, and has been linked to cars being up on blocks in garages with no tires on the wheels.

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#14

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 4:53 PM

I'm surprized they didn't go for microwaves with a small fan to evacuate the moisture.

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#15
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 5:31 PM

It would be interesting to compare the energy needed to fully evaporate, say, 1 kg of water initially at 20° C using

  1. gas dryer
  2. conventional electric dryer
  3. ultrasound
  4. microwaves
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#18
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 8:58 PM

hey,... maybe if they do it under vacuum,

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#20
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 10:11 PM

I reckon about 2/3 of the water would boil off, leaving the rest to freeze. Now if they added a bit of heat that might work. I had a vacuum desiccator into which I'd place a plastic cup of tap water, then pump down the chamber. About 2/3 of the water would boil off and the rest would freeze. Tried it with liquid nitrogen in a Styrofoam cup and it froze, too, after much of it boiled away (again, about 2/3). When I vented the chamber the water-ice would remain but the frozen LN melted instantly.

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#23
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 8:02 AM

It'll be fine.... there were times where I no longer could wait for the pants to total dry before I took them out of the dryer and wore them.

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#32
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 9:00 AM

Don't you just hate putting on a nice, warm pair of pants, only to step outside, and have them freeze to your legs?

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#31
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 8:56 AM

The other issue than heat (which helps, of course) is the nebulization of moisture away from fabric into micro-droplets of mist which offer much higher evaporation surface area.

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#35
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 9:21 AM

Ultrasound isn't actually evaporating here (the "cool mist" statement). Which, it seems, is its energy advantage.

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#36
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 9:32 AM

having design with ultrasonic, in my case for cutting food stuff, when slicing a fat protein, one has to keep contact to a minimum, or it will draw the oils out of the foodstuffs.

In the paper industries, where they lead the use of ultrasonic, they use it for welding plastics, such as diapers...

there really isn't much information to go on with this article. It does develop an 'cool mist' creating more surface area for evaporation.

The ultrasonic itself is energy.

If this energy has no where to go. it will transform itself into another form of energy... heat? possible creating the evaporation required for drying. But this is just speculation.

I myself, as stated earlier, enjoy clothes dried on a line.

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#37
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 9:41 AM

Good point, actually, I did not consider the inelasticity of what the ultrasound is interacting with, of course it becomes heat to that extent.

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#38
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 10:01 AM

Unless I missed it,... the article doesn't really say how the Ultrasonic are delivered. Normally its by a horn of some type. And by horn,... that's a physical tool.

I did see the transducers, from the link... but not so much the delivery devices, unless they are incorporated with in.. (Just reread it, they use piezoelectric transducer.

As I understand it, each horn is specially designed for the job at hand.

And how this operated, he basically sheds the water from the clothes article where its suspended in air as a fine mist, and then the 'mist collection system' then removes it from the area. (Similar to a conventional dryer)

There seems to be a number of ways to apply it from the link.

Also it appears that the frequency is quite low at 700 Hz for its most drying efficiency.

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#41
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 12:17 PM

They don't say so, But I'm betting that the 700Hz you refer to is the burst frequency, not the ultrasonic frequency.

It is difficult to determine the location of the bottom of this 3D curve but I see it as closer to 500 Hz, and interestingly, at about 50% duty cycle, whereas they discuss a 5% duty cycle in the article.

They do not appear to have used any horn or other impedance matching device in the test unit:

This illustration shows that the (flat) fabric was placed directly on top of the transducer array.

And a couple of illustrations appear to imply that the fabric effectively bounces off the transducer elements, depending on the inertia of the water to separate the water from the fabric.

It is interesting to note that the above illustration shows irregular position of the fabric. This would undoubtedly be correct for a single particle bouncing off of a transducer, but I doubt if it is correct for a full sheet of fabric, much less a pair of pants.

I am disturbed by the errors in that illustration! The text and the graph at left indicate a 5% duty cycle, but the timing diagram at the right shows a 50% duty cycle (as does the 3D graph above). Also, the text says: "0.0005 millisecond pause". That clearly should say: "0.0005 second pause" or "0.5 millisecond pause", as there are clearly ≈4 pulses in each 2 milliseconds of the graph.

I have serious doubts regarding how well this technology will transfer from drying multiple layers of flat sheets of fabric in the test unit to a home device where the user tosses in a bundle of odd-shaped clothes, closes the door, and presses "Start".

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#43
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 12:27 PM

500 hertz,... I gave them the benefit at 700... 3d graphs in 2d are difficult to read. Just like trying to determine direction on a shaft with a arrow....

And a couple of illustrations appear to imply that the fabric effectively bounces off the transducer elements, depending on the inertia of the water to separate the water from the fabric.

that is the other issue that I see (among other things you mentioned) ... one reads that the ultrasonics are bouncing around... they lose energy of course, some doing it job, some not..., also they can cancel each other out.... (they can also amplify but that's unlikely)

reading technical break-through or applications, The more times I read through it, the more I pick up....

in conclusion.... imo, its poor reporting.

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#21

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/28/2017 11:50 PM

1. The DOE is now in the business of putting people and businesses out of business.

2. Was the goal that was accomplished the saving of energy or the creation of a limited production monopoly.

3. Although contrary to popular belief the cleaning of the lint filter has never been thought of a chore such as vacuuming the rug has been.

4. Commercializing the ultrasonic dryer would be a win win for those involved in it's manufacture but it would be a lose lose for those thousands involved in the manufacture of gas dryer.

5. The losses would be incalculable, far beyond the introduction of the microwave oven, where a new device added to the household convienence, here lies a device that eliminates an entire industry.

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#22
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 1:11 AM

"...here lies a device that eliminates an entire industry."

It eliminates one, but it creates another! And for a while at least, the new one should be larger than the old one, because of all the people that would buy a new one to replace their old gas or electric heat drier.

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#24
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 8:12 AM

What? Surely you jest.

Apart from the ultrasonic bits, how is this so very different from a gas dryer that the gas-dryer industry couldn't make these instead - or both, if people still wanted gas dryers? The market will decide in any case whether the DoE was involved or not.

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#25
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 8:53 AM

Do you feel like a Ludite?

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#28
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 11:10 AM

I'm sorry, I could not find a definition for the word, " ludite ".

I did find one for, " Luddite ".

No, I am not a member of an English colony that is opposed to industrialization.

While I applaud new technology, whatever that new type may be, there needs to be a structured phasing in of such.

This allows time for the retraining of workers in the old industry along with all of the associated industries involved time for a gradual change over.

One that creates an overnight change can lead to spontaneous antagonisms.

Look at it in another way, you as an engineer, have just been informed today, that what you did just yesterday, is now obsolete and your services will no longer be required.

Although you do have a skills set, that set is no longer needed, in essence, your unemployed and presently, unemployable.

Now you will need, in order to become reimployable, you will need to restart from the ground floor again, whilst easier at a young age, the path may present itself with difficulties at an older one.

In certain segments, this may require a complete teardown of your present structure and a transition to an entirely different living arrangement, location, salary, etc.

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#29
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 11:24 AM

lude (/lōōd/) n. A pill or tablet that contains the drug methaqualone (see quaalude)

ludite (/lōōd,ˌīt/) 1) n. A street vendor dealing in ludes or a habitual consumer of such. 2) n. a non-refractory bulk material of a highly suspicious nature, often found in brick form (see condominium).

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#34
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 9:05 AM

Are we talking "piggies" (victims) in a blanket (carpet)??

That reference is to an obsoleted means of disposing of a body from an apartment.

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#40
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 10:47 AM

I had to look to Wikipedia to review a reference on this topic. I see in the paragraph that the usage of this " device " peaked in the early 1970's and still being in primary grade school, I understand that those senior to me would have a better grasp of the usage and obtainment of such.

As stated in this image.

Please carry on.

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#42
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 12:23 PM

Disco Biscuits!

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#30
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 11:36 AM

Are you trying to be absurd? If I am told today that what I did yesterday is obsolete, I have very severe engineering deficiencies that need attention. Furthermore, I would challenge you to identify a person who makes a living engineering electric or gas dryers. That technology is many decades old.

Maybe you are concerned about the people working in the manufacturing facility? They will be able to manufacture a new design. It will require some new tooling, (engineering and machine jobs) and some new suppliers (engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing jobs) and new technical repair manuals )engineering and technical writing jobs)

Luddites unite!

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#44
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/03/2017 1:17 PM

" identify a person who makes a living engineering electric or gas dryers "

I contacted several of the larger electric and gas dryer manufacturer's, i.e.

Lg. Maytag, GE, etc.

And they told me that although their engineers would rather spend the entire day eating donuts and drinking coffee ( while getting paid ) , their supervisors have decided that although the engineering of gas and electric dryers is old hat, they unfortunately need to spend their day thinking up new ways to better engineer their current line of products.

That being said, the engineers Currently employed by these multinational companies still have something to do at work other than checking out the newest pretty skirt from the temp agency.

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#33
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 9:03 AM

DUDE! They are still going to be manufacturing the same brand name clothes dryer!

It will just have a smaller heating element, and the added ultrasonic transducer to help the water evaporate once separated into mist particles.

No big deal, just another part to screw in on the assembly line. Get over it!

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#39
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Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/01/2017 10:14 AM

Hmmm, Not necessarily Tony, It all depends on how rigid the manufactures of current dryers want to be. Many industries in the US are done in by cheaper material and labor, that is true, but just as many were done in by inflexibility and being too slow to adapt to new business trends. Only a few are actually rendered obsolete.

This new dryer would still need the same basic support mechanism as a regular heat dryer, a rotating drum, forced air, and a box to keep it and the related hardware and mechanisms in. If Maytag or Westinghouse or LG or GE decided to change over to only ultrasonic dryers it would be very difficult for a start up to muscle in. Besides the economic, R&D, experience and manufacturing advantage they also trade on the established good names of those existing brands with sales and service networks already in place.

So really it would be a fairly quick and easy thing for an existing manufacturer to change over from a physical plant standpoint, it's the ideological, philosophical and worse yet, shareholder resistance, that kills off most established brands when a new technology comes on the scene.

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#45
In reply to #39

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

05/03/2017 2:15 PM

I agree with most of the points of your post, with the exception of labor. Let me explain the labor exception.

These are some of my observations, I understand that there are a plethora of both good and bad observations that can be added or withdrawn.

If the labor was or is based on Union scale and union practices, then it would be much easier for a competitor to draw business away from and established business.

If the labor was non-union, where the wages are generally lower and management has a better control over operating costs, then it would be more difficult for a competitor to wrestle away business.

I have worked for union shops & non union companies. I have observed several things from both.

A. Very few union shops are interested in the well being of any employee, regardless of the bargaining agreement.

B. Because of structure, union shops are slow to adapt to market forces.

C. Union shops generally are still union because management treated the employees like dirt and in the absence of an agreement the practice would continue.

D. With the exception of nich markets, agreements are a necessity.

E. Non union shops can change much quicker in response to market forces.

F. Many non union shops actually have better working models than the former.

G. The main stumbling block is owners that are reluctant to change or adapt to market forces or changing technology.

I have seen this in the evaporative cooler industry. As an example:

Tradewind LLC.

This company produced several models, TC 471/ TC 451/ TS 471/ TS 451.

All of the coolers were (are) thermoplastic bodied coolers. They went through several engineering​ changes over the years with the exception and the most critical one, being the design of the panels.

Where their competition was using louvered panels that allowed feed water to flow back into ​the reservoir pan, these coolers, because of the design deficiency, allowed a percentage of feed water to flow onto the dwellings roof surface. And over time, the residential roof underlayment became damaged.

This in turn led to their downfall, home owners, forced to pay for roof repairs, sought out competitors units that did not employ this engineering folly.

Had the company changed the panel design to a louver type, this American manufactured cooler might still be in business today.

Ironically an Australian and several Chinese manufacturers have adapted to a louver design and maintain a strong foothold in the market today.

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#26

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 10:22 AM

Cool!

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#27

Re: Researchers Build a Ultrasonic Heat-free Clothes Dryer

04/29/2017 10:45 AM

All the talk focused on saving energy misses an important point where the technology enables drying processes other than clothes to use materials that do not have to be heat resistant.

Exciting times.

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