Design is directed towards human beings. To design is to solve human problems by identifying them and executing the best solution.
Have you ever come across an existing product that annoys the hell out of you? I know I have!
And I know that many of you have too and have thought the same as me… “What was the designer thinking!!!”
Well, I had this feeling for years about one specific product. A product that’s close to my heart and that I carry with me 24/7… My blue inhaler.
I can remember carrying this little thing with me when I use to play football. Apart from the medication that I needed off it… The design sucked in so many levels!
Yes, I have inhaled mud, dust, you name it; I’ve inhaled.
Anyway, as a product designer who suffers from asthma and seeing people around me suffering as well with the existing inhaler product. I knew it was time to make a change (superhero moment).
Don’t get me wrong; the inhaler does its job correctly (medication wise), hence why it’s been here for countless years. However, it’s design is too generic for certain environments such as sports.
Here’s how I redesigned the standard blue Ventolin inhaler into a sport inahler design ready for manufacturing…
#1 CHOOSE A PRODUCT THAT FRUSTRATES MANY PEOPLE
A great way to start redesigning an existing product is if you also see it with your own eyes how other people are annoyed with it as well…
I can remember this young boy wanting to throw his inhaler over the building roof that was near the football yard. He had enough like so many young active people.
For years all I kept hearing from everyone…
“My bag is far away from me; sometimes I can’t be bothered to take it”
“It puffs by itself in my pocket…”
“My inhaler gets loose in my hand when it’s raining…”
“I can’t press the canister when my fingers are cold…”
“My teeth hurt when I take my inhaler in a rush…”
“Canister + casing always separate…”
“Bloody falls out of my pocket…”
“Big; not practical…”
“Its embarrassing man…”
“Make it cool Weaam… You’re a designer!!!”
Not only have I seen many people, who have asthma struggle in sport, I also had a bad experience myself.
Well, you see back then my priority was to be cool in front of my teammates. (I know, it’s bad. Hey I was only 15 years old).
I can remember one day in training, I was coughing a lot. Whilst I was panicking about my breathing and people finding out, I was trying to unzip my pocket that had my inhaler.
Unfortunately my zip had broken and I couldn’t reach my inhaler in time, so I had a severe panic attack. Only then did my football club found out about my asthma.
Just to think all that fuss was to be cool in front of teammates; it wasn’t worth it at all.
With this alarming experience, and seeing youth in my community struggling in sports, I knew I had to do something…
#2 THE INSPIRATION FOR THE IDEA
Since I stopped playing football, and focusing on my design career I still wanted to be involved with the young sports people in my community. I made sure I put time aside to go and watch them play.
I also got involved with training them, which was really fun. But there was always the same issue that crept up…
The inhaler kept ruining everyone’s flow!
I felt annoyed for them. So the following visits, I took my sketch pad along with me, and began sketching a few ideas that popped in my mind.
I had to find a solution promptly, because there were kids wanting to give up their sport…
I started observing issues more closely such as:
- Canister coming out of case
- Players stopping in the middle of the game
- Inhaler falling out of pockets
- Name calling (typical stigma)
- Wearing inhaler around neck by the bib
- Wearing inhaler in the sock and in shim pads
- Players didn’t know that their inhalers were on the floor
And the one that made me laugh the most was this one… “Weaam I’ll put my inhaler in my afro if I have too!”
The more I went to watch them play, the more ideas were generated…
Talking to the youth, observing issues, and involving myself with asthma groups (i.e. Asthma UK) wasn’t enough. I had to dig deeper and extend my research by meeting professionals such as:
- Nurse for medical research
- Medical Product Researcher
- Football Coach
- And finally, I only went and had a drink with Nicola Minchiello!
I loved every minute 😀
She’s humble yet professional. We had a laugh together and she came up with great suggestions…
“Weaam, think about a wearable inhaler that is more practical and hygienic…”– Nicola. M.
After gathering a wide range of research, I was curious to see what this little bad boy is made out of and how it actually works before i designed anything:
#3 REVERSE ENGINEER THE EXISTING PRODUCT
It was time to show the blue inhaler how I really felt about it!
Ok, ok, ok, I didn’t hammer it into pieces!
Here it is…
However I had a spare one to dismantle (ok brake):
This type of inhaler rarely had internal components; however the valve within the main body seemed complex.
Components that were in this inhaler:
- Stainless steel canister
- Main body (polypropylene)
- Cap (polypropylene, satin finish)
- Canister: 73mm (plastic tube included)
One of my friends finished with her fancy automatic trigger inhaler. This was a great opportunity to see what was in it.
I’ve always wondered why these kind of inhalers are so bulky…
There we have it. Yep, I had the same look that you’re making right now.
There were sooooooo many parts to it!
This didn’t change the fact that I had to research all the components thoroughly to understand how it worked.
Here are a few more close-ups of parts…
Well after that pool of parts, I wanted to begin sketching and thinking of solutions.
To design an asthma inhaler that is appropriate in a sport context and also responses to the physical and emotional needs of a young sports person.
Now the fun begins!
#4 DEVELOPING THE DESIGN CONCEPT
As any design project I did my grafting. I gathered facts, figures, graphs, and statistics, which I’m not going to bore you with today.
It was overwhelming reading all this information. I discovered there was still a market gap for a new sport inhaler to be designed.
With the thorough research that I had done, plus the contacts that I had made, and the youth by my side; the design development began to accelerate…
I had so many ideas in my head, I couldn’t stop sketching…
(I love this phase, because you can be as bonkers as you want)
It was difficult to make decisions just from these sketches that I had drawn. I was beginning to aesthetically experiment with different forms and strongly moving away from the standard inhaler ‘L’ shape.
I showed my sketches to people who were involved in my project, and their preferred initial design concept was this one…
(Even Nicola got excited by this concept design)
They all really liked the simplicity and funkiness of this concept.
The sketches were cool; but as product designers we all know to validate any concept we have to model in 3D.
That way our users can make a judgment by not only imagining with us but also physically interacting with our ideas.
I used soft blue foam to develop and evaluate important factors such as ergonomics and form. (Basically developing the size and comfort of the inhaler).
Initial mock ups…
Modelling your initial ideas with blue foam will help you understand aspects that sketching won’t. Also the material is cheap and easy to manipulate.
It all depends on you; on what you want to take from of this stage.
To get the ball rolling I couldn’t resist to imitate the canister itself and its manoeuvre when pressed. So I used wooden dowel to imitate the canister and green felt for the feel of functionality.
My brother wouldn’t let go!
Well, I have to admit; they were comfy and fun to press…
Whilst I was jotting notes about factors such as texture that the inhaler could have, tapered angles, a thumb dimple…
After a lot of persuasion my brother agreed to model his hands for me:
He couldn’t stop pressing the little things!
After testing different models, sticking to the standard form wasn’t such a bad idea.
You see, as product designers one of the most important things to keep in mind is…
Make sure that your users feel that their product can be trusted. That it won’t let them down in any way. Redesigning a familiar product can end up ugly if we’re not cautious.
That’s why I put faith in my users and went ahead with their suggestions.
My user focus groups suggested sticking to the ‘L’ format of the inhaler and to focus more on the visual language, comfort, material, practicality, and trusting the product.
At the end of the day; I didn’t just want my sport inhaler design to revolve around fashion and become this insensitive product that people won’t know it’s actually a medical product above anything else.
I wanted my design to firstly be a quality medical product. Followed by being an appropriate sport accessory. And it’s down to the user if they want it to become a fashionable product.
Which brings us to…
#5 UNDERSTANDING THE VISUAL BRAND LANGUAGE
Helpful Books that I read in my design process…
I read a few books on ‘design for the sport’. One of the main books that made an impact in my design process was…
The Design Of Sports Winning- Susan Andrew.
It allowed me to open my eyes and understand key points that drove my project to the next level; here are a few key notes:
- Sport brands play an emotional part in sport design
- Sport and fashion are becoming inseparable
- Sport products are all about capturing that sport visual language
- Appropriate materials for the sports
- Sport product focus: performance/ function/ sport aesthetics
- Key note: The graphics of sport
Visual Language Exploration
I created many traced sketches of branded products such as football boots to understand their form, style, and flare to help the design of the inhaler evolve…
To thoroughly understand what makes a product such as a Gillette Razor more appealing than a Standard Razor.
I studied Gillette’s visual brand language and incorporated it in an inhaler concept that I had in mind:
It was so much fun!
My inhaler looked like a Gillette razor Hahahaha.
I tried it again with other products (e.g. Adidas football boots).
I just couldn’t resist!
At this point, I also began rationalising the user interaction…
And finding solutions to make active people feel emotionally and socially comfortable when taking their inhaler in public.
By briefly understanding what sort of visual language to exploit, I began thinking of key design features that the sport inhaler could have, such as:
- The quality of material with ‘3D’ graphics
- Capturing a sport essence e.g. stripes, colour contrast
- Featuring grip surfaces
- Considering personalisation
- Powerful performance
- To portray aspiration/ good value
- And quality through aesthetics/function
- High standard of detail and visual relationships
And finally to consider a subtle aerodynamic aesthetic within the form.
#6 EVOLVING THE FORM
To capture the essence of sport I asked people what was the first word that popped in their mind when I said ‘SPORT’.
This is what I recieved…
As you can see I received all sorts of words. One of the main words that stuck in my mind was aerodynamics.
I researched briefly on aerodynamics to capture this idea of movement into my inhaler style and form.
These are the shapes I discovered through researching products that had this kind of motion within their design i.e. motorcycles:
The shapes reflect motion, speed, and power, which inspired me to go straight onto the style of the inhaler design…
#7 STYLE AND FORM DEVELOPMENT
Developing the style and form was fun but I still needed to consider things such as:
- Mass customisation
- Ergonomic factors
- Specific style
- Appropriate materials for a sport inhaler product
I got inspired by many different products, which got me sketching again:
Luckily I had an opportunity to meet my Nurse and Nicola again for valuable feedback…
Comments from my Nurse:
- Smallest canister is the green inhaler canister
- Refill idea is great and it will save a lot money
- Sport inhaler can create a ‘product attachment’
- Design features for the sports
- Arm positioning will not affect the medication delivery
- Consider the way of cleaning after use
Comments from Nicola:
“Cool, very stylish”
“Consider appropriate material for sports…”
“I want to play around with it (need models)”
“Think of product branding…”
“Underpin style Weaam!”
It turned out that the most preferred designs were these three…
I knew at this stage I had to create a specification that will help me justify my decisions.
Creating a specification is a great way to appropriately evaluate design concepts.
The design concept so far looked like this…
There were many different parts of the inhaler design that needed developing. But I couldn’t focus on details yet. I knew that this will only narrow my mind; it was far too early for this.
So I stepped back and took a breather.
I knew at this point it was time to develop the scale; to begin focusing on proportions of features i.e. mouthpiece.
#8 FORM DEVELOPMENT
(ERGONOMICS, SCALE, AND COMFORT)
I dedicated weeks just on testing different inhaler forms. They were all made on the CNC machine (designed on SolidWorks CAD) and retouched by hand.
I carried these models around with me everywhere!
Any chance that I could test them out on someone; I took them out.
But to show you the scale of them, I persuaded one of my friends to model for me…
He loved it! And asked for close up shots…
(Core Body Development)
“How about now Weaam, am I working it… :D”
My friend got a bit carried away. After we had a laugh his preference between the two different mouthpieces was the oval design like many other people who tested it as well.
Things didn’t stop there though!
The conflict between Ergonomics and Aesthetics began!
(It was about time these two were going head to head)
SolidWorks (Wireframe view to see the internal spacing)
The bigger inhaler form on the left was comfortable and its proportions were applicable, however the question that always crept up was…
Can it be smaller?
And yes it was possible. The smaller model on the right hand side proved it. Proved that ergonomic features and aesthetic features can have a beautiful harmony between them.
With these foam models that were much more tighter than the initial models; more issues emerged, such as…
- The mouthpiece was too small
- The height of the main body had to be longer
And the bottom of the inhaler had to have a more oval circle than the top to exclude the inhaler rolling side to side when worn on the arm and the wrist.
Whilst I was solving the issues I added a detail…
I angled the mouthpiece and the main body to capture the aerodynamic feel. Also to create a visual relationship between the two features which was aesthetically pleasing.
Now with these added details; the inhaler became more appropriate as a wearable product.
Whilst I was adding details and solving minor issues to the design on SolidWorks; a technical error on the CNC machine had happened. (Just my luck)
Yes my heart was palpitating, but as the sort of product designer I am, I quickly got over the fact that my model was ruined (just quite) and thought to myself how can I use this in my favour.
Then KAMBOOM, there it was…
#9 THE CUSTOMISATION FEATURE IDEA
From an error that the CNC machine had made came the idea of separating the cap from the main body. I knew that this small dint at the back of the model could mean more.
So I thought of another idea…
The Concept Of ‘Peeling’
I cut out this shape from a mobile rubber casing (purple casing on the photo) and wrapped it around one of the foam models. I can remember being so excited about the idea, I knew it had potential.
From the excitement I totally forgot that glue and silicone are like chalk and cheese.
So I had to remember what I learnt back at school about textiles!
At first it went horribly wrong sewing silicone pieces together, but got there in the end…
The elastomer skin began to form visual relationships between the features.
(The cap seal on the top, the mouth grip, and the mouthpiece cap could be all as one part)
Here is a 3D model of the sort of form I wanted:
From intensive market research and having a great focus group I knew that my users love sport accessories and want something cool.
But not too cool to be over complicated for them.
To assure myself that I was on the right track in my design process, I evaluated the inhaler design again against the specification:
The bold points were further developments. The concept so far seemed adequate due to the aesthetics not resolved yet.
However the features of the practicality side of things were in a high standard i.e. Mouthpiece grip.
Things began to feel too stressful, so I thought it was a great time to visually jazz things up.
#10 AESTHETIC DEVELOPMENT
It was time to liven things up!
Transforming this gloomy Ventolin blue inhaler into this super cool medical sports product that people with asthma would want for their birthday.
Yes I said it. Want for their birthday!
To get into a vibrant mood and into the right mind frame I thoroughly studied different fashionable products that have that sort of essence about them.
The kind of products that are super cool functionally and aesthetically yet have a meaning behind every detail on their design.
I let loose, pumped up awesome music, and selected products from different sports to help me create diverse styles for my design.
And of course what better way to do this than sketching:
I was Inspired by the Nike Huarache Shoes:
And many more…
Adidas Football Boots:
Golden Puma Shin pads:
Nike Boxing Shoes:
Even Reebok Running Spikes:
Bringing colour, texture, and detail brought the inhaler design to life!
All I had in my mind at the time was how will this styled inhaler appear in a place like a gym. Will it look out of place or at home?
To look around the gym, I had to act like I wanted to join and would love to have a tour. So the receptionist toured me everywhere!
I freely observed everything, from people’s footwear, water bottles, watches, training gear.
I kept thinking… “What if sport inhalers were super cool as well?”
The inhaler fitted perfectly in this context.
That evening I immediately went back on my laptop and began refining the inhaler design.
Critical decisions: 2D Illustrator visuals…
Aesthetically developing the inhaler design was a fun experience for me.
The fun didn’t stop there though. I wanted to make different test rigs and assess if this idea of mine does actually work (even if I’ve used the existing valve design)…
#11 BUILD YOUR OWN TEST RIGS
Creating test rigs will allow you to assess the product concept performance.
So any technical factors such as…
- How many air holes does the inhaler design require?
- How big should the holes be?
- Can they be located anywhere?
- How high should the canister button be?
- How far down would the canister button be pushed too?
When I tested the air holes, it required numerous inhalations.
I also ensured that the amount of medication was correctly delivered. The 4mm pressure was measured from an existing inhaler by marking the depth of the canister when pressed down.
I wanted to put my test rig to the test.
Testing took place in a basketball game, running on a track, and water sports i.e. canoeing.
To show you how things went I chose football, because it involves general sport factors such as body contact, sweat and mud.
Ok you caught me; I chose football because it was an excuse to play again! 🙂
The inhaler kept pushing against my arm. It hurt!
I made a few challenges to see if the inhaler was secured enough in this position…
And after all that fun, I wanted to see if it was comfortable to use…
I only went and inhaled mud again! For the hundredth time.
Here are the overall key dissatisfactions about the inhaler:
- Need a smart arm and wrist accessory to secure inhaler
- Sophisticated elastomer accessory needs to be considered
- Cushioned material underneath the inhaler
- Filter mesh in the main case (mud prevention)
(front air holes were worse).
Another practical detailed feature stimulated from these tests…
Taking the mouth cap off with my teeth.
This subtle design feature will help uses access the medication quicker, especailly in cold weather. Remember this?…
“I can’t press the canister when my fingers are cold…”
With all these issues that needed to be solved, I knew it was a great time to create more accurate models on SolidWorks to then be 3D printed.
#12 CREATE 3D MODELS THROUGH RAPID PROTOTYPING…
Creating models with a 3D rapid prototype printer can help you underpin the technical features as well as refining the size and form.
The first two models on the photograph below were presented to my university tutors and a guess tutor, who was called Doctor Paul Atkinson.
(Industrial Designer, Design Historian, and Design Educator)
This was an opportunity to show them that the inhaler wasn’t just a concept anymore; it was a product.
Feedback from presentation…
Paul Atkinson’s feedback really made me think about:
- Understanding why my sport inhaler is better?
- Signifying inhaler for emergency situations.
- Rationalising the inhaler as a good medical product
- The interaction with the product is important and how it works
“Very cool Weaam, I want one for my birthday hahahaha…”- tutor
I had to quickly gather my thoughts (summary note):
And then began…
#13 FOCUSING ON DESIGN DETAILS
The core design of the inhlaer was there, I needed to start designing my features now:
Window Signifier Development
After the considerations from the presentation feedback, I had to think about medical emergency scenarios.
How will paramedics know if this sport inhaler is actually a Ventolin inhaler?
So I came up with this subtle solution…
Making the casing blue to signify the inhaler and type of medication would have been too harsh to the design and to be honest a little bit lazy. Not innovative.
So the solution was to create a sort of window to reveal the medical information.
I know your probably thinking… ‘Will the canister twist inside allowing the medical information to disappear?’
And the answer is no, because through testing the canister will be secured by designed ribs that will prevent this happening.
Mouth Cap Development
“How the cap will attach onto the main body?”
“How easy is it to open the cap…?”
“How easy is it to open the cap by hand?”
Alternative mouth closure idea: Concept of pulling the cap off which will then naturally snap into place…
This needed thorough test rigs that would involve different elastomers (the properties of the material will judge the functionality of the feature).
So thats why I went back to my initial idea…
That also had an attachable ring to it…
With an ergonomically designed cap…
That includes a teeth indent for easier interaction.
User feedback: “Very comfortable and easy to understand…”
Canister Button Development
The canister button worked well with the thumb dimple that I ergonomically designed:
Mouthpiece needed to be a little bit bigger; felt too thin in between lips. Also the inhaler body needed to increase by 5mm in height…
This made the inhaler overall appear elegantly slimmer in its form.
Air Holes Amendment…
Through testing of the air holes it did not make a difference where the air holes were located.
I thought it was appropriate to move the holes from the front to the sides, because visually they were appropriate there and the window signifier was in the way.
The Filter design
Its got slits to be secured in the inhaler by the ribs and central hole for the fitting of the canister.
Here are a few more design details that I had to resolve…
But the design details weren’t all external. I had to also develop the internal parts as well.
#14 INTERNAL TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT
In this stage I had to prove that the existing canister does technically function well in this sport inhaler design.
I had to work in detail on the internal ribs and technical sections such as the inner valve. Getting the right size and angle was a little tricky.
So I used SolidWorks to help me underpin these issues…
Every detail had to be designed with precision.
The moment of truth! (drum roll please :D)
It worked! All the detail designing paid off 😀
The sport inhaler design delivered the medication correctly.
You’re probably wondering why the canister is sticking out from the inhaler casing…
I used a Ventolin canister to achieve the correct dosage. However the sport inhaler that I’ve designed will use the smallest canister, which is the green inhaler canister (Serevent).
(Different canisters have different pressure springs to deliver the right amount of medication.)
After that quick test (Hallelujah), there were a few modifications yet to amend.
Tweaks here and there and it was time to take a photo againt the existing product…
Well I was allowed to celebrate for a few hours then off I went again to test this final prototype. I didn’t want to miss anything. Attentiion to detial was critical at this point.
I took this prototype inhaler and tested it on more people; observing every move:
(Dear me, us product designers when we get excited over our work, there’s no stopping us hahahaha)
It was fun! And I recieved great user feedback as well.
“The mouthpiece fits nicely…”
“The form has got a sporty touch to it;
“Looks better than the standard inhaler design…”
“Comfortable in the hands; can i have this model…”
“The thumb dimple feels soooooo comfortable Weaam!”
“Let me shake it about; Nice the canister is secured…”
The inhaler design is nearly there and ready for me to thoroughly solve the manufacturing details.
But before I do, I couldn’t forget one of the main features that made me think of the sport inhaler in the first place…
#15 THE WEAR ABILITY FEATURE IDEA
Initially the sport inhaler’s focus feature was the wearable design.
However through the design development I thought that the sport inhaler had resolved many significant features that made it appropriate for its purpose- in Sports.
The external accessories were suggestions in this project due to time, (this was my graduation final project). I didn’t want my design to just focus on one feature.
But for a bit of fun, here is how the inhaler would look around a neck:
He’s back at it again! He’s such a poseur 😉
More shots of Arm Strap and Wrist Strap feature concept…
Wearing the inhaler made sense. It didn’t feel awkward.
Sure it was strapped on with a shoe lace around the neck and an elastic fabric strap around the arm, but sometimes it’s about functionality rather than making things look pretty.
I knew that the wear ability feature idea was possible, and if further development were to be made; aesthetically the relationship between the sport inhaler and accessories would be designed sophisticatedly.
Just like the iPod and its arm pocket design that you see with joggers in your local area. The two products merge as one product.
At the time I knew the appropriate decision was to only focus on the inhaler design; making it ready for manufacturing.
Every detail had to have a purpose.
“Weaam every detail has to have a meaningful value behind it; its not enough to just design things for the sake of creating…”
– Howard Litcher (Nike Designer)
#16 MICRO DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
There were many vital detail decisions that I had to make to complete the product design.
Using Adobe Illustrator helped me refine every detail of the inhaler design.
Here are 4 different styles of inhalers that were developed throughout this project. However the style that was developed further was the red inhaler style.
I knew if I focused thoroughly on one inhaler style that I will achieve high quality of detail and accuracy throught my design process.
Here are a few micro developments of different parts of the inhaler. (The illustrator visuals are only some of the important decisions that I had to make).
The Micro Design Developments Of The Sport Inhaler:
Closure of canister cap
Pattern of air holes on canister button and grip design
Embossed thin triangular stripes for window protection
The window signifier
Slit for the mouth cap
Black stripes for extra grip
Bottom detail cut outs for subtle sport aesthetic
White side detial
Ergonomic thumb dimple design
Creating 2D visuals can help you quickly decide aesthetic factors. After underpinning details of the inhaler, I knew I was nearly there with the completion of the design.
#17 REFINING THE DESIGN
This model was made to help me think about final refinements and the manufacturing production.
With a little help from marker pens to colour onto the model, details on the product inhaler were magnified and easier to focus on.
The small touch ups:
Definition, Accuracy, Refinement…
All the lines and features had to have a visual relationship.
At this stage you’ll be coming to an end of your design phase. We’ve ensured that every part of our product concept is designed with sensitivity.
And that’s great! But now Its time to really test your design concept.
This is where many design concepts end and the 10% that go all the way. I’m going to show you how to transfrom your aswsome design concept into a marketable product.
Its time to begin designing for manufacture!
This section is all about:
- Technology insight and challenges
- Understanding manufacturing processes
- Selecting the appropraite material
- Designing for assembly and production
- Environmental considerations
- Engineering drawings
#18 TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT AND CHALLENGES
One of the challenging issues was to make sure that the user trusted my inhaler. I wanted my sport inhaler to become a medical product that aspires sports people.
I considered many inhaler technologies such as the modern inhalers that incorporated wireless.
However, it was very important that I designed an appropriate inhaler for sport environments, and not over complicate things.
You see, sometimes making things simple is the genius part. ‘Less is more’- Dieter Rams
So I kept things simple and rational…
On a basic level, the sport inhaler is less focused on technology and rather focused on standardisation to keep the trust between the user and the product.
Also to make it appropriate for its purpose.
Reasons for my decision…
- Easy to understand
- Easy to clean
- Easy to recognise
- Quick and easy to disassemble
- Relatively inexpensive
- Familiar to the public
- Trust worthy
Rather than incorparating insensitve features; I had to drift my focus on selecting appropraite materials. This was one of the main advantages that made the sport inhaler more convenient than the existing inhaler product.
#19 STUDY MATERIAL PROPERTIES
I researched for weeks on material consideration. I’m not going to bore you with material properties, but what I’ll show you is how to select the suitable materials for your design parts:
1. Select your part
2. Research suitable materials that may be considered
3. Write down the different material properties; their props and cons
4. And finally after thoroughly researching the diverse materials make your selection.
Here is an example…
I selected the Sport Inhaler cainster cap for my first part:
Then I researched different materials that could be appropriate in sports and health…
For the main body (white under shell):
- PE (Polyethylene):
– Resistance of punching and tearing
– Impact resistance
– Thin walled packaging e.g. plastic bags
– Non- toxic
– Difficult to bond
– Low strength
– Water resistance
– Cost: low
– Temperature resistance
– Mainly for electrical applications e.g. computers
- PP (Polypropylene):
– Exceptional fatigue resistance
– Non- toxic
– Water resistance
– Tough and flexible
– Ideal for snap fits and hinges
– Versatile material: wide range of applications e.g. water pipes
– Added antistatic additives: dust/dirt resistance
– Cost: low
And for the elastomer material (red skin), I considered…
- Santoprene (rubber material):
– Mixture of PP and EPDM rubber
– Same levels of flexibility and durability as natural rubber
– Long lifespan in hot or cold environments
– Cost: low
– Feel: grip/ appealing to the touch
– Usually a multi-part (multishot moulding)
– If thickness is 0.5, when bonding adhesives are eliminated
– Applications: medical equipment etc.
I decided to select PP (Polypropylene) for the main body of the cap and for the elastomer I selected Santoprene. You can see clearly how I made this decision.
This stage can seem endless and overwhelming, but when its done; you will have knowledge and understanding of the different materials.
You’ll know for definite that you’ve made the correct decision without any hesitation. Here are the rest of the sport inhaler parts and their material selections.
(For a tight secure fit, the inner walls of the mouth cap is PP)
This filter mesh already exists in the market; however I altered the form to suit the function of it in the inhaler. Open cell (soft polyurethane foam) will prevent dirt/dust to pass through.
The cost of materials will depend on the unit of production that you decide on. Don’t worry about your level of knowledge on this topic.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to collaborate with manufactures, but when I do in the future I will create an article to help you guys.
Lets move onto the next phase, which in fact is as crucial…
#20 UNDERSTAND MANUFACTURING PROCESSES
I researched in depth on various manufacturing processes such as different types of injection moulding, thermoforming, and vacuum casting.
I realised that most of my inhaler design parts can be manufactured similarly. They can all be Multi Shot Moulded (Type of injection moulding) like this screw driver:
This type of manufacturing process can create 1000s of the sport inhalers per day (mass production). I quickly searched and gathered similar products that have been multi shot moulded…
You see sometimes when you really want to grasp the manufacturing side of things, you have to play around with similar products and combine information from books/internet to fully understand.
To feel and touch a product can make a huge difference to your knowledge.
I found that it was hard to separate the materials apart, which meant that the products were very durable. I discovered that there were random embossed sections on all three products.
This made the two types of materials form a strong bond. I started enforcing this in my own design…
Manufacturing Process Of Inhaler Cap:
- PP (Polypropylene) is injected in mould…
- Moulded (PP) is removed by robotic arms and transferred into a separate die…
- At this point the Santoprene is injected over the original moulding
- Finished part is then removed from mould.
I found it difficult to understand how the black Santoprene button will be processed within this two shot moulding process.
So as usual, I sketched it to thoroughly to comprehend the manufacturing process step by step … (nothing fancy here)
By just putting that extra effort, I understood how my mouth cap and the window signifier would be manufactured as well.
They will also be two shot moulded in the same way as the inhaler cap.
The Manufacturing Process Of Main Inhaler Body:
I decided that the manufacturing of the main body will be three shot moulded due to the design being cost effective.
Here’s a step by step justification of three shot moulding process:
Well, how I understood it from an engineer consultant…
(Rough sketches and model that helped me understand)
Through the development modelling process i had another model that the CNC machine didnt like. Instead of throwing it away i used it to help me visualise how the materials will be flushed and feel as one mould.
1. PP is injected… this main white core body would have two cavities to make the core body, the ribs and the nozzle for the canister…
2. The PP moulded part will be removed by robotic arms and transferred into a separate die…
3. At this point, a second plastic will be injected over the original mould (Santoprene)
(not all the way to the bottom… there is a step…)
4. The PP moulded part with the Santoprene red part will be removed as one part by robotic arms and transferred into a separate die…
5. A third layer of black Santoprene will be injected from the sides on the previous moulding (PP+ Santoprene) which are the black stripes…
6. The PP moulded part with the Santoprene red part and with the black stripes will be removed as one part by robotic arms and transferred into a separate die…
7. A fourth layer of black Santoprene will be injected from the bottom on the previous moulding (PP+ Santoprene) which is the thumb dimple.
(However this stage will occur at the same time as the black stripes stage but will have a cavity coming from the bottom as well as the sides.)
8. The finished ‘component’ will be removed from the final mould. Overall component: PP white core body that will include red and black Santoprene parts.
Basically where there is a different colour, there has to be a separate cavity. In my case I had a white plastic core body, black elastomer parts (stripes and thumb dimple), and red elastomer.
Ok, take a breather! You’re not on your own on this one; I was doing the same face expression as you’re doing right now. So don’t Panic!
I know how you’re feeling right now. Trust me, there are so many books out there today about manufacturing processes…
I read books such as:
- Materials for inspirational design
By Chris Lefteri
- Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals
By Rob Thompson
- Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design
By Chris Lefteri
Also if you have contacts with engineer consultants, manufactures, or even university tutors that will be an advantage.
Ok now you know how thorough the process has to be if you want to take your design to the next level.
Now to push things up a notch; it’s time to assemble your finished parts…
#21 DESIGN FOR ASSEMBLY
How will your parts of your product elegantly come together?
Sport inhaler components:
Air filter mesh
Main inhaler body
Assembly of inhaler cap on main inhaler body:
- Bayonet attachment selected to allow simplicity in the product.
- Easy to understand and use.
- The slots for the nipples are long to ensure Secureness
- Slits to allow the ribs from the main inhaler body to slot in
- This will secure the filter in place.
- 2 small ribs are designed: Allows filter to stand vertically
Assembly of canister in inhaler case:
Assembly of window flushed in main inhaler body:
Window will be carefully and professionally glued and snap fitted onto the recess. Additionally, the brand name will be printed on the PP white part.
Assembly of mouth cap on inhaler mouthpiece:
- Tight fit due to parts having different surface finish
- Ring elastically snaps onto the slit that’s on mouthpiece
#22 DESIGN FOR PRODUCTION
In this stage it’s all about fine details that will help the manufacturing process run smoothly, such as: wall thicknesses, internal ribs, recesses and bosses, shrinkages and so on.
I had to think about…
Wall thickness decision:
From research I identified that most inhaler wall thicknesses are 1mm/1.5mm and uniformed.
Therefore I decided the best results in injected moulded products are when the product has uniformed wall thickness like this…
In the inhaler are 2 long thin ribs and 2 short thin ones. My reasons are because this will strengthen the main body and will support the flow of the material during moulding.
(Plus secures filter and directs canister in place)
They are concealed to the wall to reduce air traps and stress concentration points.
Holes and recesses:
These will be combined to reduce manufacturing cost (no second operation)
I had to also be aware of Multishot moulding (injection moulding) implications that needed consideration. One of the main implications was Shrinkage.
Shrinkage is basically stressing that builds up caused by sharp corners and too small draft angles.
To avoid this issue ensure that your design includes fillets and draft angles.
#23 ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS
Not only should your product design be user friendly, but also friendly to the environment.
Here are things to consider in your designs:
- The inhaler is Recyclable due to its use of materials. However the canister is not recyclable due to medication chemicals.
- The user will only go to the pharmacy to get a new canister. (Refilling and Renewing; this will create product attachment)
- Labelling your product with the correct regulations, i.e. CE…
Now we have gone through the main technical insights; it’s time to give the engineers and manufactures a copy of what we want them to produce for us.
But instead of showing them sketches and models; we have to translate our product design into their language…
#24 ENGINEERING DRAWINGS
One of the main parts of designing a concept for manufacturing is to create technical drawings. These types of drawings make your product concept precise, accurate, and believable.
Basically, they’re detailed drawings that include measurments of every detail you’ve designed.
Here are my technical drawings…
(Fonts on your drawings depand on your theme)
Part Drawing: Main Body The Of Inhaler
Again the cost of manufacturing will depend on what process you select.
These technical drawings were made on SolidWorks. This Software is so awesome that it’s not actually difficult to create a technical drawing.
However saying this … Don’t go all crazy with the number of dimensions and information that needs to be there. We still need to understand the fundamentals of technical drawings.
GA Drawing (General Assembly Drawing):
This stage is so critical, if you get the slightest thing wrong in your drawings, say good bye to your design career. Ok I’m exaggerating a little :b
But it’s really important to study how to create an engineering drawing and talk to engineers for support.
Things went a little bit too technical for me and after all these dimensions and redoing the same drawings over and over again.
So to wind down I just stepped back and viewed my design project from a birds a view.
You see, when we’re in our own little bubble (focusing on so many important details) unfortunately we forget to enjoy the process and most importantly enjoy ourselves.
So a good way to wind down and have a bit of fun is to loosen up, gather a few friends round and begin to come up with a name for your product…
#25 CREATE YOUR PRODUCT NAME
Take a breather from all the technical stuff and have fun for a minute.
Here is what my friends and I came up with (the top 6 from 30 different names)…
Ok I know, some are ridiculous! Stop laughing.
But from showing a few to everyone who was involved in my project, I decided to go for…
I chose the name reStylHaler, because it is what it is, I have re- styled the existing Ventolin inhaler to suit in a sport environment. Genius right 😉
Right back to being serious…
#26 FINAL DESIGN EVALUATION
To reduce design refinements and ensuring that you haven’t forgotten anything, go back to your design specification and evaluate your final design against it.
Think about what makes your product better than the existing design? Was it worth redesigning?
- Sport features appropriate in different sport environment
- Price: Approx. £20 due to quality material, and manufacturing
- Dust free!
- Honest in its design; Encourage active people to use it.
- Water resistance i.e. can be used in canoeing
- Durable due to its wall thickness (1mm)
- Medication type clearer (window signifier)
Yes the RestylHaler uses the same technology (medication delivery) as the existing inhaler; but this decision was made to gain the users’ trust.
It’s like the evolution of glasses design. How glasses went from being an embarrassing geek product to one of the main accessories that many people pay a lot of money for.
I wanted to capture that same essence.
Why not redesign this dull medical product into something super cool yet has purpose and impact in people’s lives. Its design is sensitive and not just an visual make over.
The Final Thoughts…
Future developments will include:
- Wearable accessories
- Different styles… Themes i.e. Olympics
Now you’ve got the design of your product underpinned, you’re ready to hand over your technical drawings and manufacturing information to the engineers/manufactures.
The hard work doesn’t end there.
You,ve got one final step to complete…
#27 MAKE YOUR PRODUCT BELIEVABLE! (PRESENTATION MATERIAL)
Its time to show off what you’ve designed! Show the world what you’ve done. Sure the technical drawings will impact immensely in the manufacturing process, but presentation material is as significant.
Your presentation material shows people that your design concept could be the next big thing. Its a marketable tool.
Here are tips to help you create quality presentation material:
My inhaler prototype was made by a 3D printer (prior created on SolidWorks) then assembled and retouched by hand.
In the workshop I called it my little transformer; because it was made from so many different parts to achieve quality spray-paint finish.
To achieve a realistic prototype I knew I had to be very creative, for example I imitated the canister bottle by curving a small sheet of steel and sticking a label on it, people thought it was the real thing.
(Some actually tried using it and ended up accidently breaking my model).
It took two solid weeks to make the final prototype to accomplish cool photographs.
What I would suggest is that if you’ve got extra money to hire a professional photographer to help you get that money shot do so. Its worth it!
So what does your presentation material need to include?
It needs to include how users will interact with your product concept…
How would your product be merchandised in a store?
How will your product look like in its appropriate environment? The product home…
How will people use it (step by step)?
Will your customers have choice?
A sexy cut out view with annotation and a exploded view…
(This should be short and sweet; to the point)
More fantastic photography by Ghamdan Mohamed (my uncle)… and the odd one or two by me. I just couldn’t resist 😀
Community involvement; my users…
Bless them they were there from the start!
I can remember feeling so happy not because I completed the project… no it was way deeper than this.
The involvement and support from the youth in my community was breath taking. It made me realise that I’ve become this role model. To say thanks to them I wanted them involved in my presentation material.
The youth didn’t have to get involved but they wanted to for me, actually one young boy said to me…
“Weaam you have backed us up for years, now it’s your turn, we are all behind you!… and this inhaler looks wicked, can you get me one for free!”
This university graduation project was an enjoyable closure to my years in university. The ironic thing about it all is that it all ended where I started.
(Drawn my first sketches in the same football yard when i was eight years old).
So what happens now?
#28 ATTEND EXHIBITIONS AND NETWORK
With all your hard work you can begin to network with design companies, investors, manufactures, and journalist and so on by exhibiting your design.
By doing so you might go all the way and see your design in the matket.
Here are a few photos of the exhibitions that I went to for my inhaler design…
Creative Spark 2012 Exhibition at Sheffield Hallam University
New Designers 2012 Exhibition: Business Design Centre in London…
And the exciting thing about big exhibitions; You never know who your’re going to bump into! 😀
Chatting casually with the NIKE DESIGNER; SIR HOWARD!
He emailed me the following morning…
But the best thing about it all…
Is seeing everyone excited and using my design.
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