Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

Snow Lion is a company that specializes in snow removal and ice-breaking devices to ensure maximal safety while commuting on roadways. With over thirty designs produced in numerous regions of China, Snow Lion is attempting to expand their outreach to the United States, specifically Nevada. However, the Nevada Department of Transportation’s (NDOT) service vehicles currently do not have a solution to attach the Snow Lion product to the motor grader model of 140H, the most common motor grader within the area. While in collaboration with the Snow Lion engineering design team, Team 14 will design and produce a coupling system durable enough to withstand the winter temperatures of -20°F, select materials with lifespans exceeding 10 years of cyclic loading, and methodically integrate a variable downforce into the design in order to accentuate the effectiveness of the Snow Lion product.

The Snow Lion coupling system is mainly associated with industrial snow removal in various parts of the globe where winter weather creates hazardous driving conditions. Snow Lion as a company has been well established in the Northern regions of China, but is expanding their presence in Russia, Central Asia, and the United States. Team 14 is working in collaboration with Snow Lion and NDOT with the specific purpose of designing a coupling system to attach their ice breaking machines to a 140H motor grader.


Proof of Concept

This concept of the Snow Lion attachment assembly is meant to hold, lift, and control downforces acting on the Snow Lion product. The parallel beams attaching to the Snow Lion ensures a perfectly vertical lift off of the surface and not at an angle. Lifting the Snow Lion at an angle defeats the fundamental purpose of having the Snow Lion completely flat on the ground. Also, having the hydraulic arm at an optimal position to lift the Snow Lion product is critical to achieving maximum mechanical advantage. The combination of these two factors ensures an effective lift and downforce to break ice and snow. To prove effectiveness, hand calculations and FEA analysis were conducted to confirm the coupling system would not fail when supporting the 2,200kg weight of the Snow Lion product. Furthermore, the plain carbon steel material used to build these connections prevents yielding to the weight and downforce acting on the Snow Lion product. This concept has the potential for the real world application of lifting the Snow Lion product because it has the control and stability to safely carry out its purpose.


Final design

The purpose of this project is to incorporate the revolutionary technology integrated in the Snow Lion’s MGF mechanical ice breaker into Nevada’s Department of Transportation’s (NDOT’s) winter roadway maintenance arsenal. Utilizing the Snow Lion MGF increases the safety of roadway conditions when there is ice, sleet, or snow, and simultaneously eliminates the need for environmentally-harmful road salt chemicals. High traffic areas such as Lake Tahoe, Mt. Rose Highway, and I-80 are in high demand for road maintenance during the winter since there is a great volume of ice and snow-pack that forms on the road. Implementation of the Snow Lion product will help remove winter roadway hazards and ensure the safest commute possible for hundreds of thousands of people in Nevada.

The Snow Lion Coupler System is a carbon-steel structural design that attaches the Snow Lion ice-breaking and snow-removal product to the 140H motor grader used by NDOT. Being majorly static in application, the structural integrity must not be compromised when connected to the 2,200kg weight of the Snow Lion product and under the forces expected to be experienced. The coupler system that Team 14 designed has a hydraulic actuator mounted on the coupler system that allows the Snow Lion product to be lifted 100mm above the road for transportation when the Snow Lion product is not in use. The hydraulic additionally allows the Snow Lion product to dig 50mm into the ground to ensure the road is contoured so that any layer of ice or snowpack that has formed is effectively removed from the road. The coupling system will also be able to apply a significant downforce in order to breakup the hardest of ice and snow packs.




The Snow Lion MGF coupler system will be constructed entirely from carbon steel. The prototype will be 3D printed from ASA plastic to save cost while the design is under review. A ⅕ scale is applied to the 3D model to accommodate the printer.

All parts were designed in SolidWorks and converted to STL files to be physically generated using ASA plastic from a Stratasys F170 3D printer.



Testing and Results

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Team 14 was unable to test the Coupler System with the Snow Lion MGF as a full, carbon steel model. Though no physical testing was performed, thorough simulations were conducted using SolidWorks Finite Element Analysis (FEA) under the same conditions that would be experienced in physical testing. These FEA analysis loading conditions were placed upon each design iteration and became the basis for a successful design. These conditions were quite high in value and can be considered conservative estimates. The first loading condition was a driving force of 3,000 kgf pressing against the bottom force of the MGF Snow Lion to simulate the friction force produced by driving the MGF across the ground. The second loading condition was a 2,000 kgf that was placed on the side of the MGF Snow Lion to simulate a turning force when taking a sharp corner. A final force of 17,600 kgf was placed within the hydraulic attachments points to simulate the necessary force of the hydraulic necessary to push the Snow Lion MGF into the ground with a force of 4,000 kgf to break up thick layers of ice and snow pack. These forces and their orientations can be seen within Figure 1. There was no yielding within the final design of the MGF Snow Lion Coupler System while maintaining a 1.2 safety factor per the industry standard. This indicates that the Coupler System is not expected to fail at any time during operation. Figures 1-2 demonstrate the test results of the final design and proves that it passes the necessary requirements. The design was intended to be a structural component that endures various constant loads and torques, and it succeeds in withstanding all the criteria. Team 14 had a total of 16 design modifications throughout the design process with several components receiving stress values beyond yielding, but no failures occurred on the final iteration with the addition of key design features to previous designs. One such feature was adding extra support material in key locations and strategic weldment placements. Another feature was the rounding of certain points of the steal joints that allowed the stress to dissipate throughout the design in order to avoid high stress peaks in these areas.



The Coupler System designed by Team 14 is currently the only device in existence that is able to connect the Snow Lion MGF to the 140H motor grader. This motor grader is widely used by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), and it is the #1 most common motor vehicle found on job sites in the US. The coupled system saves NDOT labor costs by combining the ice breaking functionality of the Snow Lion MGF and the snow-plow-like shovel of the motor grader rather than employing multiple vehicles to accomplish the same task. A hydraulic cylinder allows the Snow Lion MGF to be pressed 50mm into the road to break up thick layers of ice as well as lift 100mm above the road to avoid unnecessary wear during transportation. Initially, the Nevada Department of Transportation was concerned about damaging the roadways from the use of a mechanical ice breaker, but the Snow Lion has been proven to not damage asphalt. As an alternative to the traditional method of using chemical road salts, NDOT approves of the Snow Lion Coupler System as both an environmental and economic improvement. Overall, the design is successful in achieving its purpose as a fully-functioning interface between two separate systems.


Team 14 would like to acknowledge the following establishments: Snow Lion, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Innevation Center for providing the facilities, resources, and contributions to Team 14. Team 14 would also like to formally thank Chris Yocom for his mentorship.



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Meet the Team


Kevin Vigallon is a senior undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student from Pleasanton, CA and the team leader of the Snow Lion coupling system project. With his expected graduation in May 2018, he plans to pursue product design positions in the sporting goods industry after graduation. His engineering accomplishments include research and development in electronic footwear, Dean’s List honors, and winning the Pack Pitch entrepreneurship competition in October 2017. Outside of academics, he is a trumpet player at the University of Nevada Marching Band and enjoys training for triathlons.



Jerome Lupena is a senior undergraduate student from Dayton, Nevada studying Mechanical Engineering with a Mathematics Minor. At the University of Nevada, Jerome has been a member of the Dean’s List, ASCE student chapter, the ASCE Steel Bridge competition team, and the risk management chair of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Currently, Jerome works at the University Math Center as a math tutor, but after graduation wants to pursue becoming a manufacturing processes engineer. Outside of school, Jerome enjoys playing the trombone, hiking, and longboarding.




Lucas Littlehale is a senior undergraduate student from Reno, Nevada studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Mathematics Minor. His engineering accomplishments include having been on the Dean’s List, ASCE student chapter, and being apart of the ASCE Steel Bridge competition team. Lucas currently works within the @ONE located within the Knowledge Center Library at the university to assist students with various program questions as well as produce posters. Outside of school, Lucas enjoys skiing, hiking, and playing soccer with friends.




Thomas Mahoney is a senior undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno. For the 2017-2018 academic year in the “Introduction to Engineering Design” course, Thomas is in charge of the fabrication aspect of the Snow Lion coupling system project. Thomas is from Carson City, Nevada and plans to stay in the northern Nevada area after his expected graduation in May 2018. After graduation, Thomas plans on pursuing a career in the automotive industry. Outside of school, Thomas likes working on his vehicle and using his engineering skills to solve various problems in his life.




Kurtis Bulock was born in Las Vegas and moved to Reno Nevada when he was 10 years old. He found his interest in engineering using computers and enjoyed taking apart and putting back together household electronics in his youth. During his academic career his ability to define and solve problems developed as a growing characteristic. Using his problem solving skills he became the IT Specialist at his place of work managing and maintaining 15-20 computers as well as 20 printers and the networking for the entire store. He is also heavily involved in music via the University Marching Band and used his team building/leadership skills to become the Section Leader of the Nevada Trumpet Section and then moving into a visual technician position for the band in his final years. He is pursuing a minor in Unmanned Autonomous Systems and hopes to enter the field of autonomous vehicles after graduating.