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A product design blog containing unique observations, advice and ideas to improve objects from the mind of Product Tank.

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design idea - plugger

I have a friend who works for the NHS.  She told me that none of the sinks in hospitals have plugs for infection control. Washing in a sink is carried out by leaving the tap running, which wastes huge ammounts of water (throughout all the hospitals in the UK) and makes it very difficult to control temperature if the sink has separate taps.

I started thinking about making a disposable plug from starch based plastics, until I realised that all I really needed was a disk of card - the waxy variety used for coffee cups.  It wouldn't need to be very robust to withstand 15 minutes of one sided immersion, then be pulled out and put in the bin.  It would also be very difficult to be used twice, because once water logged it would start to degrade and it would be very cheap to produce.  I'm sure the problem and solution is not as simple as a disk of card, but something like this could give greater patient experience and cut down on wasting water.


design idea - potted

I've jsut been watching a friend try and re-pot a new plant.  The plant would not come out of the old pot, so in the end she had to knife down the side of the pot to free the plant, leaving a broken pot that no one can do anything with.  I'm sure its been done, but I cannot see why every pot used by gardening centres cannot have tabs that allow it to be splt and then put back together again.  The cost of the extra tooling could be amortized into the price of the plant, cutting down on long term waste by making something much more reusable.  With careful design the plant pot could still be one piece, to save pieces becomming separated and lost.


design idea - chopper the knife

Its personal preference, but if I could just use one knife for food preparation, then it would have to be a cleaver for functionality.  However, I find a serrated blade as well as a sharp edge useful. 

The problem with combining both cutting edges on a knife is that it can make the knife difficult to sharpen.

The quick design I came up with is to put the serrated blade on an angle, so that you can get the best of both worlds, having the straight blade closest to the handle for fast cutting control.

Just a thought.


Tap tap tap

I read an article on how much water people in 1st world countries waste.  It got me thinking about ways to design taps to give people greater control/choice.  So I've been looking at designing a tap with a push and hold button, allowing the user to get a quick squirt for brushing teeth and a push on and push again to stop button, to fill a bowl.  The tap would be powered by a solar panel hidden behind a 2 way glass mirror above the basin.  I think the project would have more research than commercial value.  It brings into question the designers role, there's a fine line between trying to dictate behaviour or giving greater options.


green screw

I've been toying with ideas around making products more easy to separate for recycling.  Many products have too many hidden clips etc. What if on the back of a product, one green annodised screw denoted that by undoing it, the whole products constituent parts/materials would be easily separated.  Designing with this in mind would bring about different aesthetics.  Rather than try and hide the methods of fixing, we could make them a feature of the design.  A friend read this and pointed out that it wouldn't work on a car! I had had smaller electronic devices (radio's, mobile phones, TV remotes) in mind when I was musing.


design idea - lif(t)able

I have a sideboard that things regularly fall down the back of and I'd love to be able to clean under it once a year without having to lift all the contents out to move it, so I've been toying with the idea of furniture with pistons in each corner.  By fitting a tyre pump to a hidden port I could pump the sideboard up high enough to get a vacuum cleaner under it, without worrrying about the contents falling over.  Once finished a simple valve release would allow the cabinet to gently fall back to the floor.  If I didn't want to make it part of the aesthetic, I'd just put a cover on the port and no one would be any the wiser about how much more useable the piece of furniture was.


design idea - Salt n pepper

I’ve been thinking about products that could be emailed to a customer, rather than transported physically. In the same way that data is sent to a manufacturer who imputs it into a computer that cuts a tool, that makes a product.

I’ve heard that in the future every home will have a rapid prototyping tool, in a similar way to the Star-Trek replicater. My thought was, what if every home with a printer already had the beginnings of that tool, what could I design that could be downloaded then printed out and easily made.

My first design idea (simple, practical, with no moving parts) is a salt and pepper pot. I’ve been experimenting with various designs and having made several prototypes have come up with two interesting shapes that can be constructed from a sheet of A4 paper.


design idea - tupper-aware

I’ve a lot of plastic food boxes at home that have been manufactured with a return lip around the edge of the pot. Every time I put a box in the dishwasher or on the draining board, the lip fills with water. I then have to dry it and everything it’s sprayed with water as it was being lifted up. So I’ve been looking at ways of manufacturing the lip so that it self drains. A simple, slightly angled lip with breaks around the edge, would mean it self-drains whilst still providing rigidity.


design idea - PCB recycling

Much of our computer waste is recycled in India by children sat over gas burners, melting circuit boards to try and extract the metals (picture courtesy of Greenpeace India), many get lead poisoning from the fumes. I was trying to think of a solution, improving the salvaging conditions with extractor fans and better equipment is one approach, but I focused on the PCB. I started wondering if you could print a PCB, I’ve seen paint that has enough of a metal base to conduct electricity. I then saw the work of Sam Buxton, a designer who acid etches sheet metal. If the problem of extraction is based on the current method of board manufacture, my though was to acid etch (or laser cut) the metal before bonding, then adhere it to the board using a water-soluble solution. This would allow much easier recycling, because the board wouldn’t need to be robust enough to survive an acid bath. Dipping the board in a tank of water would allow the etched metal to come away. The board could then become more easily recyclable. A board would be layered with adhesive (1), the etched metal sheet laid on top (2) holes would be drilled (3) and the individual boards cut out (4).




design idea - Ski Boot

Tis the ski season! Last year I was a beginner who kept falling over and then couldn't get back into my bindings, because the soles of my boots were jammed with compacted snow.  So I started thinking about a beginners boot that the snow couldn't stick too.  One idea is to have sprung sealed rubber discs in the soles so snow is compacted into them and then pushed out, when you lift your feet, reducing the surface area it has to adhere to.  It would also give better grip when walking back to the chalet after a busy day.


design idea - torch light

Recently I've experienced a series of powercuts.  The first time I couldn't find the torch, the second time I realised I hadn't recharged it.  So I though about designing a table lamp that was the torch and recharged it everytime it was used.  Depending on brightness and power consumption, it could use two different bulbs, one for table lamp mains power and one for torch light battery power.


design idea - Squash bottle

A thread on discussed a new packaging design, where a consumer buys a spray pump with a bottle of concentrate, to which they add water. They then buy more concentrate as necessary. This cuts down on weight during transportation and saves throwing away the bottle. It got me thinking, if you could cut down on weight, you could also cut down on volume, making more environmental savings. I did a quick sketch for a collapsible bottle, something that has been done before, but not applied in this way because the volume always had to be 100%.
This started me thinking..... does reducing the volume of the bottle actually make any cost/environmental saving and if so , how much? Is there a tool to help designers easily calculate this? I couldn’t find one, so I’m now working on a calculator that I will put in the download section as soon as it’s finished.



design idea - Grilling

This evening after my evening meal I was thinking what a pain it was to clean the grill tray and the wire rack, they don't fit in the washing up bowl or my dishwasher. I dont like to line the tray with foil because it's bad for the environment and even if I do i still have to clean the rack.  Wouldn't it be great if there was a silicone tray that you could put in the dish washer.  Easy drain ribs and a pouring lip would help to pour out all the collected fat.  If you were grilling for the whole family you could put two side by side or just use one if cooking for two.






Over my breakfast this morning I was thinking about toaster designs and how most of the time I only want to toast one piece of bread.  If there was a button somewhere on the toaster that switched off the elements in one of the compartments, would it save power? I think so, which could potentially make a huge energy saving over the whole country. It would certainly prolong the life of the toaster.  The button could be highly visual and tactile, not needing an L.E.D indicator and would cost very little for manufacturers to add.



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