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Development of Innovative Snowthrower Steering System

Outdoor Power Equipment; Murray, United States of America

Development of Innovative Snowthrower Steering System


A part of households since 1920 Murray, Inc. is a global manufacturer of lawn, garden and outdoor power equipment that includes snowthrowers, lawn tractors, walk-behind mowers, gas-powered edgers, mini-cultivators, and high-wheel trimmers. Headquartered in Brentwood, TN, the company takes pride in offering products that provide consumers the latest technology, greatest durability and top designs for the money. Products are powered by engines from Briggs & Stratton, the world’s largest producer of air-cooled gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment. Briggs & Stratton expanded its product portfolio with the recent acquisition of Murray Inc. One of Murray’s newest products is the Power 2 Steer, a heavy-duty snowthrower with a unique steering system that enables consumers to easily make turns compared to competitive equipment that forces users to squeeze a trigger that releases drive power to one of the two wheels. This action requires considerable dexterity and effectively reduces traction by 50% because only one wheel is being driven. In contrast, consumers turn the Murray Power 2 Steer simply by adding pressure to the handle. This engages a proprietary clutch assembly that provides the proper variable-speed driving force to the wheels for easy turning and steering. In this way, the Power 2 Steer gives twice as much power than the competition because traction is maintained on both wheels, not just one.


“ANSYS software was essential in the simulation-driven design approach used in analyzing and developing components and assemblies for the Murray Power 2 Steer snowthrower. Parametric capabilities allowed us to quickly change models to study alternatives without remeshing from scratch. Also, the software worked extremely well with other packages in providing a convenient way to integrate structural analysis into a virtually seamless product development process from concept through release to manufacturing.” Brian Lewis, Product Development Manager, International TechneGroup Incorporated


Murray had only a few short months to get the Power 2 Steer into production before the company lost business from one of its strategic snowthrower retailers. Hitting this narrow window of opportunity just before the snow season would be difficult, because the effect of the new clutch assembly on stress and deflection levels needed to be evaluated for components and subsystems throughout the snowthrower such as the drive shafts, bearings, subframe and the sheetmetal main chassis. Designing these components for the necessary strength was critical to ensure adequate fatigue life of components without adding prohibitive cost and material. The tight product development schedule left no room for numerous physical prototype test cycles.


To meet the production deadline, Murray turned to ITI Manta for engineering analysis of the structure and design of critical components and subsystems. ITI Manta is the test, analysis, and design business within product development consulting firm International TechneGroup Incorporated (ITI) ( The firm used ANSYS Mechanical to determine von Mises stress and structural deflection in a simulation-driven design approach where flaws are spotted, alternatives explored and product performance is refined early in the conceptual stage of development before detailed design is created and the first prototype built. Using this approach, component designs were optimized based on minimizing stress and deflection levels and thus optimizing the target fatigue life. Hardware prototypes were then built to verify the design.


By paramaterizing simulation models, ITI Manta engineers were able to quickly modify the designs to meet the various operational requirements and iteratively arrive at an optimal product configuration. In this way, the design was completed on time to meet the seasonal product launch. Since its introduction, sales volume for the Power 2 Steer snowthrower has continued to grow thanks to the steerable feature, which the company describes as extremely successful in selling profitably over the competition. Product cost was minimized thanks to component designs which minimized the amount of material used. In the long-term, greater durability will continue to strength the company’s brand value in providing customers products designed and built to last for decades.



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