Mechanical Engineering Department

Degree Name

BS in Mechanical Engineering




Lee McFarland


This report documents the design, fabrication, and testing for a marine biomass analyzer. The goal of the project and constructed system was to determine the validity and efficacy of a process that could flatten benthic macrofauna to a consistent thickness such that a biomass for the collected sample could be accurately determined. The system that was built and tested consists of a drive train that turns a mill subassembly where the organisms are flattened, supply and collection spools that hold the white fabric and clear film used to capture the organisms, a collection zone where the sample is injected, and a superstructure that supports the device for rigidity and positioning of components. Through clever design, we were able to minimize the parts required to locate and tension the spools, allowing them to be removed and resupplied quickly. Additionally, the number of lost organisms that were not captured was minimized to under 5%. All components and fabrication were made using typical equipment found in a machine shop including a manual mill and lathe, laser cutter, 3D printer, and general shop tools. A software package called Matlab was used for image processing to determine sample size and calculate a biomass given the interpreted surface area of the caught sample. Ultimately, we were able to design, build, and test a system and analytical process that could determine the biomass of a sample to within ±10% of its actual value.We consider our proof-of-concept design to be a success and can be further developed upon with new iterations. Eventually, this system could be incorporated into an autonomous underwater rover that simultaneously collects, filters, and scans benthic samples to determine biomass and biodiversity in oceanic environments.