Designing a new option for clean cooking in Kenya with Fusion 360


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With software donated through Autodesk’s Technology Impact Program, Sunvine Africa’s goal is to bring sustainability closer to rural and off-grid communities by innovating, manufacturing, and providing access to renewable energy solutions. Graduate student and Engineering for Change Fellow Sydney Okoroafor joined the Sunvine Africa team to help design a new approach to clean cooking with an innovative tabletop cookstove.

Creating access to clean cooking

Rural, off-grid communities and developing countries face a range of challenges. One that is often underreported is the lack of access to clean cooking and the impact it has on both people and the planet.

According to the World Bank, more than 2.4 billion people cooked with polluting fuels worldwide in 2020. Lack of access to clean cooking and household air pollution leads to higher levels of respiratory deaths that total nearly 3.2 million annually, mainly affecting women and children. Women and young girls are often tasked with gathering firewood and fuel and endure long cooking times, contributing to additional gender inequality and opportunities.

A recent push by the Kenyan government and the World Bank is driving the adoption of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). LPG is considered a clean fuel as it burns cleanly in stoves with few emissions. However, rural areas of Kenya continue to lag with the use of LPG. More than 75% of rural Kenyans are still burning biomass for cooking. Clean energy startup Sunvine Africa has narrowed the reasons to the high cost of adoption and poor access to LPG refills.

Solving the LPG access problem

Sunvine Africa began offering mini-LPG cylinders (2.5 kg) to rural customers and built an effective “last-mile distribution network” to solve poor LPG fuel access in rural areas. But a lack of appropriate and affordable LPG tabletop cookstoves was also identified as a barrier to adoption. To fulfill this need, the organization decided to design and develop a low-cost, durable gas tabletop cookstove appropriate for the Kenya market.

Sydney Okoroafor, a graduate student currently pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Waterloo, is becoming part of the solution. Prior to the graduate program, he worked as a mechanical engineer in various capacities, including designing and manufacturing hardware products as well as managing assets and implementing digital transformation solutions in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.

Last year Sydney was selected as a 2022 Engineering for Change (E4C) Fellow. The E4C Fellowships, sponsored by Engineering for Change, empower early-career engineers and other technical professionals worldwide to work on local and global sustainable development challenges while building professional skills and relationships. The Autodesk Foundation supports E4C Fellows who commit to five months of work with nonprofits and startups such as Sunvine Africa.

With his background and the new E4C Fellowship, Sydney could broaden his knowledge of engineering for global development. He began working with Sunvine Africa on the development of a clean, LPG tabletop cookstove for rural Kenyans called the JuaJiko.

Sydney Okoroafor, 2022 Engineering for Change Fellow, works on the design of the JuaJiko in Fusion 360.

Discovering the requirements for a successful tabletop cookstove and adoption

After extensive product benchmarking, Sydney and the Sunvine Africa team found that low manufacturing cost, durability, sustainability, high-cooking efficiency, and thermal energy harvesting were critical to success.

“A thermal energy harvesting feature can convert waste heat into electricity for users,” Sydney says. “The development of an affordable thermal energy harvester add-on for the tabletop cookstove is essential to help add more value from cooking for rural users.”

To scale adoption and simplify conversion to clean cooking, Sunvine Africa is also conducting user research to produce financing mechanisms for the rural Kenyan people.

“The financing mechanisms revolve around drafting payment plans for rural users to encourage them to convert to clean cooking solutions,” Sydney says. “Further down the line as the product scales, pay-as-you-cook financing for the cookstove is also in the works to further improve adoption of clean cooking solutions.”

“Fusion 360 is the engineering backbone of this project. It allowed me to communicate design intent, moving from 2D concept sketches to defined 3D objects. With Fusion 360, we could collaborate with all stakeholders around the world to give feedback and ideas on design directions in real time. It has simplified workflows and serves as a central repository for all our ideas and designs.”

—Sydney Okoroafor, Engineering for Change Fellow (2022)

Rendering of JuaJiko.

Designing the JuaJiko with Fusion 360

The Autodesk Foundation supports Sunvine Africa’s access to the Autodesk Product Design and Manufacturing Collection through the Autodesk Technology Impact Program. Fusion 360 is being used for the entire industrial design of the JuaJiko—from the mechanical and electrical component design to the manufacturing analysis and simulations.

For the conceptual design, Fusion 360 created an effective way to communicate design concepts to stakeholders and rank them based on safety, manufacturability, durability, potential cost, and aesthetics.

The next design stage includes engineering and manufacturing analysis and simulations with Fusion 360 to provide engineering insights on the behavior of the design under different conditions. It will allow the team to correct any potential manufacturing flaws and cost raisers in the design. Now the team is preparing to move on to manufacturing prototypes and user testing.

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