At a time when the huddle of constant electricity supply seemed unachievable in Nigeria, a young man, Aghanwa Sunny, conceived an idea to solve a basic problem faced by most Nigerians. Pressing irons have been use over the years to straighten fabrics and remove creases on them. These pressing irons have been reformed from the coal pressing iron to the electrical one which is the most used now in household. Regardless of this new and accepted model of the pressing iron, another problem is faced by users, especially in Nigeria and some other parts of Africa. This problem is interrupted power supply. The consistency of power cannot be predicted in most parts of Africa. This means the average person either has to wear wrinkled clothes when there is no power supply or find hectic alternative means to straightening their attire. Being a physics student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University pursuing his master’s degree, Mr. Sunny decided to solve this problem by inventing a gas pressing iron. As this project was a success, I decided to interview him to find out more about it.
Q: What was the purpose of the project?
A: It was my M.Sc. project.
Q: Why the gas pressing iron?
A: Due to the rising quest for electricity, there have only been more problems trying to resolve it than to build it. I just wanted to build something we can use in our everyday life that does not need electricity to operate.
Q: How did you get the idea to make it? Did you see someone do it before?
A: No. I was going to work during my internship training at NNPC [ed.: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation] in Ogun State, Nigeria and we had to dress in cooperate at my section. I couldn’t press my cloth on a certain day because there was no electricity but while boiling water with a gas cooker I touched the kettle and it hurt me. I pondered “If only I could collect this heat and use it to press my cloth that would be wonderful!”
Q: So you have never heard or seen it anywhere else?
A: No. I started thinking about this in 2010. Then I had not heard anything or seen a gas pressing iron before, let alone how it works. Even till now all I see online are trials and mechanics put together just to produce one. No write ups, no books, no online works.
Q: What was the reaction of your supervisor when you told her of your project idea?
A: When I told my supervisor she was amazed and wanted to know about it. At first I brought it up as a B.Sc. project topic but it was shut down for being too complicated and difficult. So I waited till [the] M.Sc. to try again and it got the approval I needed.
Q: When you conceived the idea, did you know how it could be made from prior knowledge in your field or you had to research it all?
A: Basically just knowledge in my field. My dad is an engineer and he used to say that once the principle of operation is reasonable and possible then the workability of the process is certainly attainable.
Q: So how difficult was it getting all the materials you needed for the project?
A: It was very difficult. First I wanted simple and basic materials to test the possibility of production. The iron would have various sectors, so each sector had to be treated with basic simple materials to test possibility and portability. I had to sit down for weeks to research on materials, call people and listen to ideas before using the available materials I had.
Q: So it wasn’t low cost?
A: It was but not totally.
Q: How expensive is it to put together?
A: I got assisted with machinery from Scientific and Engineering Institute, Enugu. My materials were purchased by me.
Q: In the model you did, you used butane gas. Is that the only gas that can be used or just the one easily available?
A: Yes butane gas is a cooking gas and generally available to the public. It is a perfect replacement for electricity in terms of availability.
Q: How is the temperature regulated? Does it have a switch or nob for that?
A: It uses a 3 level system; level 1, level 2, level 3. These three levels heat up at different rates and by so doing the lower level can be used to regulate to a certain degree the temperature attained by the upper level. Regulation is done manually. Using the principle of heat transfer and thermodynamics, if a constant rate of heat is supplied to a material for a while, it will increase in temperature to a point it will remain constant and except [if] the heat source is increased it will remain constant for a long time.
Q: How can it be properly maintained?
A: It was designed to be dismantled. Not all parts are stuck together, so it can be cleaned.
Q: How long can it last?
A: One bottle of gas can be used to iron 42 clothes and it costs 400 naira to buy a new one and 200 naira to refill.
Q: Is there a possibility of mass production?
A: Yes but first there is need to produce a better version of the prototype with a better design. Since the basics have been achieved, all that is needed is a modification of materials to make it more appealing.
For more details on the mechanics and creation of the gas pressing iron you can visit the Journal of Multidisciplinary Engineering Science and Technology (JMEST) at www.jmest.org .
Journal of Multidisciplinary Engineering Science and Technology (JMEST)
Vol. 1 Issue 5, December – 2014
Design and Fabrication of a Gas Pressing Iron
Aghanwa Sunny, Ezeonu Stella Department of Physics and Industrial Physics
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka PMB 5025, Anambra State, Nigeria