The Heartnut, a Hard Nut to Crack
Mechanical Engineering Design and Improvement
Grimo Nut Nursery, a company and farm based out of Niagara-on-the-Lake, is best known for selling Canadian hardy nut trees to backyard growers and nut-tree farmers alike. It is also currently breeding a newer walnut variation known as the heartnut (named after the Valentine shape of the shell and interior kernel), which is cultivated in Southwestern Ontario within the great lakes fruit growing region. While it is new commercially to the North American market, it is a unique commodity targeted to a niche market. Catering to confectionery consumers and health conscious individuals, the heartnut is in high demand for its attractive shape, mild subtle flavour and heart-healthy properties. Currently the nuts are cracked by hand using a hammer and brick, but in order to keep up with consumer demand, a new semi-automated solution to crack these products is needed. This solution could be used by other commercial growers located around Southern Ontario, British Columbia, and several states. As a result, Grimo Nut Nursery is partnering with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre to design, develop and fabricate a working prototype that cracks heartnuts.
A team of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Research Assistants developed a proof-of-concept machine that utilizes pneumatics for quick feeding and positioning of the heartnut, a programmable logic control (PLC) system to control and fine tune all of the operations on this machine, and a proprietary nut-cracking chamber.