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Student-designed hand-spun washing machine to help 150,000 people

Students with washing machine

Some of the University of Bristol students who have helped improve the washing machine design

Kacper Waniek sits outside Queen's Building

Engineering Design student Kacper Waniek said working with The Washing Machine Project had been a "great privilege"

Press release issued: 12 June 2024

A hand-spun washing machine designed with the help of University of Bristol students will soon be delivered to 10,000 families across the developing world.

The charity The Washing Machine Project (TWMP) was set-up to relieve the burden on the estimated 5 billion people who wash their clothes by hand.

Now their hand-spun washing machine is being mass produced thanks to the Whirlpool Foundation (part of the kitchen appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation). Whirlpool says the 10,000 machines they produce will impact 150,000 people – most of them women and girls, who spend up to 20 hours a week washing clothes by hand.

The machines have been designed with the help of University of Bristol Engineering Design students.

Over the past three years the students have led projects to refine almost every part of the machine, while also looking at wider improvements, like making it pedal powered and more portable.

Kacper Waniek, a University of Bristol Engineering Design student, said:  "Partnering with The Washing Machine Project has been a great privilege. Our collaborative efforts not only address a global challenge, but also pave the way for the burden of handwashing clothes to be alleviated through innovative research and dedication to a greater cause."

The relationship between the University of Bristol and TWMP began when a former Bristol Engineering Design student, Matthew Mew, started producing TWMP’s early prototypes through his manufacturing startup Huxlo.

Dr Paul Harper, member of the Cabot Institute for the Environment and Engineering Design Lecturer at the University of Bristol, said: “It has been a privilege to work with such an inspirational team and to give our students the chance to help address a problem that affects millions of people across the globe.

“We can't thank The Washing Machine Project enough for the support they've given to our students and we look forward to seeing where things go next with their exciting new partnership with Whirlpool.”

Navjot Sawhney set-up TWMP while working with a social enterprise in Pondicherry, South East India, during a sabbatical from his job as a Dyson engineer.

The hand-spun machine is called Divya after a local woman he befriended in Pondicherry, and who spent hours each week laboriously washing clothes by hand.

He promised to find her a solution. Nearly eight years on, this collaboration with Whirlpool is a huge step forward in realising that pledge.

Mr Sawhney: “This collaboration is a testament to what can be achieved when compassion meets technology. Together we are set to revolutionise laundry practices globally, paving the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Pam Klyn, Whirlpool Corporation Executive Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability, said: “We greatly admire the mission and work of The Washing Machine Project and see an opportunity to help impact more lives collectively than either of us could individually,"

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