2017 Team 5, Pellet Mill for Bio-Sourced Energy

Pellet Overview:

Our sponsor has a gasifier for burning bio-sourced fuels in. A commercially available biomass pellet being burned in the gasifier forms ash, that ash does not have time to exit the gasifier before being melted and dropping out of the exhaust gas into the burn chamber. Eventually, this melted and solidified ash (Lava Rock) plugs things up and makes the unit unusable.

Our goal, design a pellet mill to make a bigger pellet. Make it from leaves and/or hay.

Photos and Videos:

For photos and videos, please click the link below.

Photos and Videos



PELLETS!!! We are making Pellets now. It is harder than expected, there are many variables that go into making pellets, material prep is key. We have made a few. It is time for disassembly and painting.


We picked up all the electrical components. Mounted them on the machine and fired the mill up. Ran the mill with some leaf material. There was note mad about needing to heat the dies. Temporarily we are using a torch to heat the dies. We are trying a new idea to put heat to the side of the dies.


After last week, we test fired things with some leaf material, the ground material is being expelled around the dies. We fabricated deflectors top limit the material making down and divert the bulk of the material into the path of the rollers. We planned out the electrical and went to Horizon. They are giving us a decent discount on our electrical components.


A few final odds and ends were picked up, key stock and the shear coupling retaining ring. We found a couple overlooked items on our pellet dies that had to be modified. Filled the gearbox with oil. Fabricated a dust separation screen and shute for the exiting pellets and finished up some fabricating on the top end. Finally, we test fired the mill!


The team is in full build mode. The rollers are being machined, the electrical is being figured out, and the housing components are being assembled. We did notice a space issue at the bottom of the lower housing for a shute. We will be raising the housing, dies, etc. (essentially the entire top end) up 4 inches.


Our recent immigrants made it to the states without incident. The pellet dies are here and heavy. The teams’ timeline is behind by a week, but this update will put things pretty-well on track. Thanks again to everyone that helped, special thanks to Todd’s Machining of Jacksonville, NB, Canada.


The frame has progressed significantly. we have a rolling chassis at this point. The team mounted the gear box and the electric motor. We received some parts from Troy Industrial and they are shaping up to be heavy and big, something we expected, but eyeopening at the same time. Mounting tabs have been fabricated for the housing and a few attached. A delay has set the delivery date back for the dies.


The team finished the Interim Report #3. Fabrication has continued this week on the frame of the pellet mill. We are waiting on most of the parts for bearings, shafts, etc. to come in from Troy Industrial. The pellet dies should be ready in a week. Spring Break will have the team scattered for the next couple weeks.


Gearbox Draining

The team has been in contact with Todd’s Machining in Jacksonville, NB. We are having them machine the dies and their lead time is very short, they should have the die done the second week of Spring Break. Some materials are being bought for us from outside sources, so a huge THANK YOU to anyone who has donated to our project. Materials have been ordered through Troy Industrial as well. On Sunday, the build started and moved along quickly. More to come…


With Snow-Mageddon happening on Monday and clean-up on Tuesday, we missed our meetings this week. That didn’t stop progress, the CAD drawings are almost finished and the drafts are fairly complete. We sent out the drafts for the dies to a machine shop. Still waiting on a quote. The team also picked up a 3-phase plug to hook up power to the motor.


We received the “new” gearbox and it’s a monster. It allows for a rather in-depth redesign of the system, eliminating the use of our belt and sheave setups. Variability, if needed, will come by way of a belt and sheave setup off the electric motor. For now, we are staying with a direct drive. A shear coupling will be used on the output to drive the main shaft. Almost everything has been drafted.


Steps forward with the project were made. It looks as though we are getting a different gearbox donated and can redesign, i.e. simplify, our design, preliminary thoughts anyway. We also met with our build site sponsor, Rick of Cormier’s Bus Garage in Corinth, ME and delivered some of the parts and pieces. We will have use of a welder, torch, plasma cutter, and a wide array of fasteners, to name a few things. Big hurdles are being cut down to size.


The Interim report #2 updates were finished and passed in, along with a new copy of our team contract. The team had a visit to Troy Industrial to start looking at the exact bearings that will be needed, as well as correspondence with their engineer to see about a gearbox. Our first attempt at the cost sheet was made, with a shiny spotlight focused on the gearbox price: $800-$1000 for that one item. Progress started on the fixture for the CNC milling of the pellet dies.


After a long winter break, the team has returned to class. Our minds refreshed and recharged, we are starting back into the semester thoroughly scouring the Interim report #2. There are a few grammatical corrections to make and a few calculations. The report is due next week.


The team went on a field trip last week. We toured the Maine Wood Pellets facility in Athens, ME. Even though our focus is on the manufacturing of pellets, we viewed almost all of the plant, including their state-of-the-art power generation and suspension burning dryer. We put the leaves in the dry kiln at the ASCC. Calculations for the key in the shaft and die were done. Calculations for the die to roller force were started and we furthered the CAD drawings.


We delivered the leaf boxes and leaves to the ASCC. Due to scheduling conflicts and likelihood of contaminating another drying process, we held off drying the material. The material had to be put in the freezer to keep it from decomposing, therefore, we now have leaf popsicles. We now have a rough draft of the motor, gearbox, and parts of the housing. A big item, the pellet dies, have been rough-drafted. We had another sponsor meeting with Stephen Abbedessa to let him know of our progress. Stephen has asked for the project to be limited to the space of a pallet, so we are shooting for a 4 ft x 4 ft space. Our cross-meeting with Brett Ellis brought up some interesting design considerations. We are looking at a different gearbox and reducing the design down to one pulley/belt setup.


img_1252Progress is continuing with the project. The team had a conversation with the Advanced Structures and Composite Center (ASCC), and Keith Berube about drying the leaf material we have shredded and bagged. We took pictures of all the parts we have to date and a few handouts we were given. The team made a decent amount of headway on the calculations for shaft loading. We have started building boxes for the drying kiln at the ASCC to reduce the materials’ moisture content. A few more free parts were gathered, the electric motor to drive the mill, a chunk of 1 inch shaft material, and 1 of 4 casters.

Although, we have not yet completed our rough drawings, we are making headway.


The team is feeling the upcoming break for Thanksgiving already. We have had another donation, a bit of 3 inch shaft stock by Troy Industrial. We plan to use the 3 inch material for the rollers of the pellet mill. The team is brainstorming the layout of the mill in more depth and planning for possible points of failure. We are exploring the possibility of needing a “skirt” on the die to direct the material towards the rollers. Also, brainstorming is underway for the exiting pellets and fines that may get through. CAD drawing the mill is also underway.


We have reached the point of calculating loads for the project. Research has continued into the sources of load and resistance. There is an interesting loading with our design as the parts doing the pelletizing do not interfere. The loading comes from the material being built up in front of the roller. We also looked at the 1st Interim report and made as many positive improvements that we could think about and implement.


Our group presented a short PowerPoint presentation to refine the necessities behind public speaking and presentations. We found a sponsor that donated his and his son’s time, Kent and Joseph Golden, running leaves through a chipper/shredder and bagging the processed material. They finished the process off by transporting the processed material to our transport truck.


We have been researching small-scale pellet mills, therefore, this has led us to large pellet production operations. The team worked to build the 1st Interim report. A short conversation with the sponsor cleared up our vision for the project. Stephen Abbedessa has provided us with a few items of interest for the build: an electric motor, gear box with drive shaft, steel pipe for the housing, and mother nature is providing all the leaves we can handle.


An adviser meeting happened again. We had an in-depth conversation with Stephen Abbedessa. He wants us to visit his website and understand the issue he is having with the gasifiers. It is time to work on the 1st Interim report and we split up the work load for the report. While researching, we have decided to tour a manufacturing facility for wood pellets.


We tried to set up the website. With the site still being down, we printed off a hard copy to turn in for grading. After ambushing our Sponsor this past week, we are finally focused on the ultimate goal and have some vision for the future. We have a lot of info and need to continue pushing forward.


The team had our individual responsibility meetings. Aaron Kress is our editor-in-chief and Mark Risinger, yours truly, is Webmaster. Mark is trying to set up the website and waiting on Umaine to get the site straightened out. Updates are on the way.


The team had its first team meeting this week. We are waiting to have our first Sponsor meeting. It seems that Stephen Abbedessa has a great idea that we are working on. We talked about the material we are researching and are finding some good information.


Research has begun on the project. Team 5 is looking for multiple articles that encompass our Pellet project. We are focusing on the materials being processed in other pellet mills and hole sizing for the pellets. The vision is still not quite clear.

Team Member Biographies:


Team 5, Pellet Mill for Bio-Sourced Energy


Aaron Kress



Aaron Kress is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the University of Maine in Orono and is working on a minor in Professional Writing. He is from Liberty, Maine and has been working as an intern for Bath Iron Works in Life Cycle Engineering. After graduation, Aaron hopes to work in some type of manufacturing. In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, off-roading, snowmobiling, and fabrication.


Jeremiah Henderson

Jeremiah Henderson

Jeremiah Henderson is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the University of Maine in Orono and is working on a minor in Engineering Entrepreneur. He is from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine and has been working for Sargent Corporation as an intern for two summers. After graduation, Jeremiah hopes to work in the construction industry designing and testing equipment. His hobbies include hunting, fishing, and tinkering.


Mark Risinger


Mark Risinger is a fourth year non-traditional Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the University of Maine in Orono and is from the Bangor, ME area. He has an Associate of Applied Science degree from Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and worked for a number of years in the heating and air conditioning field before joining a manufacturing plant producing low temperature heat pumps. After taking a sales position, Mark returned to school at the University of Maine and became a self-employed heat pump installer. After graduating, he is planning on working for an engineering firm and traveling, with a special interest in boat building.


Matthew Buotte


Matthew Buotte is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the University of Maine in Orono and is from Gorham, Maine. He was part of the First Robotics team that went to the world finals in 2013. Matthew was an intern for the Innovation Fellows, Class of 2016 through the Innovations Center on the University of Maine campus. After graduation, he would like to work in the auto industry.  Matthews hobbies include tinkering, fishing, and learning how to do different trades (ex. forging, carpentry, and restoration).


TJ Cormier

TJ Cormier

TJ Cormier is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the University of Maine. He is from Holden, Maine and currently works for Hammond Lumber Company while in school. TJ has consistently worked since the age of 16 and is funding his own college education with limited loans. After graduation, he hopes to have a full-time engineering career in the state of Maine, where he can continue his hobbies of hunting, fishing, and spending his downtime with friends and family.

Contact Us:

Aaron Kress                  aaron.kress@maine.edu

Jeremiah Henderson   jeremiah.henderson@maine.edu

Mark Risinger               mark.risinger@maine.edu

Matthew Buotte           matthew.buotte@maine.edu

TJ Cormier                     thomas.cormier@maine.edu

Sponsors and Donors:

Sponsor – Northern Self Reliance, LLC 674 Airline Rd. Amherst, ME 04605  https://northernselfreliance.com/

Contact – Stephen Abbedessa – Stephen.abbadessa@maine.edu

Sponsor – Kent Golden, Joseph Golden (6 yrs. old) – Chipper/Shredder use, time, and fuel donation

Sponsor – Advanced Structures and Composites Center (John Hill and Russell Edger) – material drying

Sponsor – Cormier’s Bus Service Corinth, ME (207) 285-0416

Contact – Rick Cormier – Bus@roadrunner.com

Sponsor – J&M Industrial 720 Jack Burlingame Dr. Milwood, WV 25262  http://www.jmindustrial.com/

Contact – Anthony Bond (Sales Professional) abond@jmindustrial.com

Sponsor – Todd’s Machining 729 Route 560 Jacksonville, NB, Canada E7M 3J9 http://www.toddsmachining.com/

Contact – Todd – toddsmachine@xplornet.com


Adviser – Keith Berube, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Technology Keith.Berube@umit.maine.edu

Adviser – Brett Ellis, P.E., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Technology Brett.D.Ellis@umit.maine.edu