The Terminator Mega, Turbo and Mini: The UVC Machines That Can Disinfect Anything

When Covid-19 struck and UVC-sanitization devices became available for small objects, I saw the urgent need for a high-capacity device that could sanitize large objects effectively and efficiently.

I designed and built a high-capacity, 1000-litre, UVC sanitizing chamber, “The Terminator Mega”, to sanitize large items. My prototype got me my first order for 2 units, and then orders for 12 more including an order from the Prime Minister’s Office and orders for smaller units for homes - 200-litre capacity - “The Terminator Mini”.

2 companies reached out to partner with me to commercially manufacture the units. With the design replicable commercially, I decided to share the design with them and move on to my next challenge – addressing the need that was fed back to me by users of the Terminator Mega and Mini – “Is it possible to build a device that can sanitize much larger, more complex objects, maybe even entire rooms, using UVC?”

I studied the tower-design and other designs being used across the world for this purpose and was inspired by Dimer’s UV hammer.

With the objective of building a device that would be more affordable and more accessible, I took on the challenge to build a device with similar functionality in under $300 and within 7 weeks (the time I had before I left for college!) and the Terminator Turbo was born.

The Terminator Turbo is a 6-foot tall, 122-pound robot that can, using UVC light, sanitize any object or space, at any height and any angle, in a fraction of the time and cost that it would take to effectively sanitize the same object or space using chemicals, hence eliminating any exposure to the virus or the harmful chemicals used to destroy it. 

Why 3 devices?

UVC is a powerful disinfectant of bacteriaand viruses and will be extremely useful even after the COVID-19 risk passes.

Covid-19 has demonstrated the need for anefficient, non-chemical sanitization process with minimal human interface. TheTerminator series addresses that need.

Each of the 3 devices addresses a specificneed.

The Terminator Mega is a heavy duty,high-capacity, UVC sanitization chamber targeted for mail rooms, conciergedesks and similar locations.

The Terminator Mini is a similar but smallerunit for homes, offices, schools and so on.

The Terminator Turbo provides a highlyefficient, effective and relatively inexpensive sanitization solution forlarge, high-traffic, high-infection-risk areas like hospitals, airports,clinics, schools, gymnasiums, hotels, restaurants and so on. 

The need for a robot

With thehigh rate of spread, there is a huge need for effective, efficient andrepetitive disinfection in large, high-traffic, high-risk spaces. The Turbooffers fast, cost-effective and highly reliable disinfection while protectinghumans from potential exposure to the virus and from long term exposure toharsh disinfection chemicals.

Howis the Turbo different to products already in the market?

A specific focus for me was to make therobot as inexpensive as possible, without compromising on effectiveness orefficiency.

An affordable solution like this that cansanitize large, high-risk areas (both, suspended particles and surfaces)efficiently and effectively will significantly reduce the risk of the spread ofbacterial and viral infections.

While there are devices available withsimilar functionality, these are right now out of reach for many potentialusers, especially in the developing world.

Produced at scale, devices like theTerminator Turbo will play a very significant role in controlling the spread ofinfectious diseases.

Building the Turbo

I started by talking to my dentist and thereal estate team at my condominium complex to understand what features would beuseful in a robot of this size.

The ask was clear:

·      Disinfection of surfaces andair space

·      Reach – at various heights andangles

·      Protection for the operator andothers against radiation exposure

·      Efficient operation tofacilitate quick and frequent sanitization

·      A device as compact as possibleso it could be transported easily

·      Cost was, of course, a factortoo

Based on their inputs, my initial designwas to build a fully remote-controlled robot with four moving and extendablearms and self-sanitizing UVC lights for the wheels.

I soon realized that making the robot fullyremote-controlled robot would unnecessarily increase cost and complexity and I decidedto make it human-operated but without any trailing wires to avoid cross contamination.

The robot would be designed to well protectthe operator during operation.

I had to also modify the idea of the fourfully extendable arms as they increased cost, size and weight.

And so, compromising on time to disinfect,I replaced the four arms with the drawbridge that could be slid up or down toany height and angled to any position. This definitely slowed down the robotbut still made it possible to disinfect rooms at a fraction of the cost andtime taken by the standard chemical disinfection procedure.

With a working design in place, I knew Ineeded help with the woodwork and metal work. This was my going to be mylargest build ever and I enlisted thehelp of the technicians in my condominium who had helped me build theTerminator Mega and Mini just the previous month. With very limited “off-duty”hours to spare, Jitender, Dilshad, Arshad, Vipin, Sushant, Avdesh and SugarSingh were very excited to be a part of this project and I really enjoyedworking with them. I also learned so much about woodwork, metal work andpainting from them.

Designing the Drawbridge

The drawbridge is a solid 3 ft X 1.25 ftarm that can slide up and down and be angled to any surface to expose it to UVClight at the smallest possible distance, thus ensuring the quickest possiblesanitization with the same number of UVC lamps.

The drawbridge carries nine 11W UVC lamps and has a maximumheight-reach of 8 feet and breadth-reach of 3 feet.

The Front Flip-Out Floor Cleaner

2 ft X 6”, the front flip out floor cleaner has two11W UVC lamps that can be lowered to floor-facing-position or raised into alocked position if they are not required.

Self-Sanitizing wheels

The Turbo has four11W UVC lamps located under the chassis, one alongside each wheel, facingdownwards, to prevent cross-contamination by sanitizing the wheels as they moveover possibly contaminated surfaces.

Re-chargeable and self powered

To prevent the robot from carrying thevirus from one location to another, it needed to have no trailing wires.

Thiswas accomplished by using a 500W inverter with a 12V 42Ah UPS battery, allowingthe machine to operate for 1.5 hours at a stretch, with no wires hanging off it.I then built a neat cover box to give a clean finish.

Ensuring sufficient irradiance

A big challenge that I needed to addresswas that the operator should never get a false sense of security thatsanitization was occurring if it wasn’t.

Howcould one ensure that every surface and area was getting sufficient irradiance?How fast could the machine be operated while successfully killing the Corona virus?

Well, we know the quantum of UVC irradiance needed to break apartthe nucleic acids in the virus and so, using simple physics, one can calculatethe amount of light irradiated at different distances from the robot.

I built in an encoder wheelthat trails behind the robot, to track how fast the machine was moving, whilealso displaying the target speed the machine should go at depending on thedistance of the target from the lamps.  

Protecting the operator

Dueto the dangers of UVC light to humans, safety of the operator was the number 1priority for this build.

A 2.5mmpolycarbonate shield folds out of the robot to completely cover the operatorand keep him or her safe from UVC light. Additionally, the lights facing thefloor, the wheels and the arm are operated individually along with an emergencystop switch that dead stops the entire robot.

Build Challenges

Two big challenges with this build were: Ensuringthat it did not require any complex tools or parts that were not available duringthe lockdown and

Keeping the build cost to the minimum toensure that the robot remained affordable.

SinceI did not have access to a machine shop or workshop, I am really proud to saythat this super-large robot was built in my living room and building it taughtme trades I might never have learnt otherwise – grinding, sanding, painting,welding, carpentry and a great deal of patience with the many iterations someparts had to go through.

To keep the cost contained, I used recycledwindshield wipers to power the drawbridge, recycled treated plywood to buildthe main structure, 1” square steel tubing from the construction site behind mycondominium, the door stopper from my bedroom to maintain tension on thedrawbridge and other recycled components.

My goal was to build a machine that demonstrated the best engineering I was personally capable of before I left for college.

With its ridiculously robust sliding and anglingmechanisms, its intensely intricate actuator mechanisms, guaranteed sanitizationwith the encoder-based speed tracker and its cost of under $300, I believe thatthe Terminator Turbo met my goal.

Ensuring 100% sanitization

TheTurbo includes features to ensure that the machine is actually working and notjust providing a false sense of security.

The mostimportant feature is an encoded wheel that tells the operator how fast he/ sheis moving the machine. The target speed is computed and set based on thedistance of the UV lamps from the surface to be sanitized. It is displayedalongside the actual speed to ensure that every surface gets adequate UVexposure.

So, what next?

Now that I have a working prototype (youcan view it in action here), I would like to take it to market.To make this commercially viable, I would need to promote the product and scaleup production at a fully-equipped workshop or, better still, a factory.

Since this product is not common, I wouldneed to first educate my target audience of its significant benefits in orderto bring this to market.

My plan, when I return home for my winterbreak, is to offer free demos and possibly free days of operation for users tounderstand the value-proposition and share feedback, based on which I can editmy design.

After I freeze the design, I will tie upwith a machine shop to produce the robot commercially. This way I can ensureproduction even after I return to college for the Spring 2021 term.

Once I have a commercially produced robot,I will market it through a network of doctors and real estate management firmsas these are the largest potential users. I believe that word of mouth willbring in orders, just as it did with my first innovations, The Terminator Megaand Mini.

I would love also to build a demo unit at theUniversity of Illinois. Our University has been at the cutting edge ofCovid-management with our own saliva tests and contact tracing apps. I believethat this could be a very valuable addition to our portfolio or Covid-19related innovations at the U of I and I am committed to do whatever it takes totake this further.

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