Clay Court Sweeper (Technical Feasibility Study)

Summary

In this report, the feasibility of using an automatic device to sweep a clay court was investigated, with the main aim of investigating whether it was possible to create something that was so easy to use people would not avoid performing end-of-match or end-of-set levelling operations, helping the long term durability of the court as well as providing better playing conditions. Issues such as cost, noise, levels of demand and legal considerations were analysed, and a best attempt was outlined in an attempt to create a product that would be feasible. Upon consideration and research of the ideas surrounding the design, which involved using a guided vehicle to drag brushes around the court, the belief was reached that there would not be sufficient market demand for the product. Therefore, the decision was reached that while the idea of creating a product to fulfil this demand would be technically feasible, there is unlikely to be a strong business case for a company getting into this market.

Grade: First

Note: Only partial sections of the report have been included in this webpage, and the handed in report may contain more useful details that help clarify some aspects of the investigation. If you’d like to discuss this project further, please use the contact details available.

Potential Design and Mode of Operation

The work presented in this section was a part of a presentation, which formed a percentage of the assessment for this project, and so the following slides were done with accompanying explanation. They should hopefully be to a degree self sufficient however.

In order to complete the court for this design, six sweeps must be made per side, with one unit being slim enough to pass to the other side of the court outside the nets. Each sweep is done in 10 seconds, hence the court is completed in 2 minutes. The ‘Method of Sweeping’ slide explains this visually.

(N.B. The University of Bath logos were used to denote student work – this was not done by University of Bath staff)

Evaluation

While it seems that it will likely be technically possible to create a product that accomplishes the goals, in reality there may be some barriers to it being successful in the marketplace.

The first issue is how the company making the product can stay alive long term. With the size of the market, and the rate of expansion of facilities, it can be questioned that once the initial batch of keen purchasers have their orders completed, it is questionable how the company can innovate further to sustain a cash flow. This is a scenario where ‘planned obsolescence’ may be considered, but if customers knew this there is a question as to why they would trade a rake which may operate indefinitely for a more expensive product that has a limited lifespan.

The scope of the marketspace may also be important to be considered. As a premium product, the most obvious purchasers of this type of machine are performance courts, which have the most money and have the most interest in providing an optimum. These however will likely already employ ball boys which can perform these manual operations, so it may be unlikely that they would be purchasers. This product will specifically appeal to a market of luxury buyers with an abundance of money whereas a regular tennis club is more focused on the upkeep of the grounds and covering overheads. This product will be purchased however if it won’t be very profitable due to the quantity of sales that it will achieve.

The finances of tennis clubs are also possible to question, and whether they have the money in reserves to spend approximately £1000 per court on this type of device. Many clubs seem to operate relatively close to budget, with little to spend on capital. Therefore, any kind of purchases these large may need to be reflected in an increase in membership fees, and it is questionable whether they would approve, given how large membership fees are often already.

It could be recommended to change the approach made of not supplying the rake attachment and using the rake that many tennis courts will currently possess to drive down costs. This can potentially make the product easier to market as just a robotic device that can attach to their existing rakes that automatically sweeps the court.

For all products of frequency, severity safety and repair above 30 is considered as being a point of determining the feasibility of the embodiment design. The design has 5 regions of high risk and 3 of the main risks fall into the robotic unit category.

 

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