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Inventor's gift holds engineering promise
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi State University agricultural engineers will improve and develop new applications for a recently patented rotary excavator.
Norman Haigh of Natchez said he invented the rotary excavator -- called a Rotifer in the patent application -- to address the need for a fast, efficient and economical method for draining land in flood plains like the Mississippi Delta before development. He assigned 50 percent of the patent rights to his invention to MSU.
The Rotifer is a self-propelled rotary excavator that can make a 3-by-3-foot trench at a rate of about 3 feet per minute, depending on soil conditions. It uses lasers to guide the position and depth of a rotary cutting device during drainage ditch formation and maintenance. Included in the Rotifer design is an adjustable shield that directs the spray of excavated soil (the spoils).
"The original intent for the excavator was to help make drainage ditches or to make them perform better," said MSU agricultural engineer Filip To. "But there are opportunities for many other uses. For example, the excavator could be used to construct building foundations or to build and maintain water, sewage and other pipelines.
"The technology can also be fitted with other mechanisms to allow the excavating and transporting of spoils to be performed in one operation -- a cost-saving capability for many applications."
To, a researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, leads a team effort to extend the range of applications for the excavator. During the first phase of development, the group will automate navigation and control of the rotary cutting device, which now has to be steered by the excavator operator. They will also adapt the technology for other nonfarm operating environments.
"This rotary excavator is a good 'platform' on which other applications can be developed," To said. "We're very excited about the opportunity to further develop this technology. We would like to invite and work with equipment manufacturers to explore the possibilities."
MSU owns a full-scale working prototype of the excavator, which was built by Bobby Ewing of Jonesville, La., and donated by Haigh. University researchers will use the Rotifer in field tests and during development studies.
Writer: Charmain Tan Courcelle
For more information, contact: Dr. Filip To, (662) 325-3282