Polymer materials play significant roles in nearly two dozen of the gold winners in the 2002 Industrial Design Excellence Awards competition. The Industrial Designers Society of America of Dulles, Va., and BusinessWeek magazine co-sponsor the annual contest.
Charles Jones, global vice president of product design and usability for Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor, Mich., headed the 16-member selection panel of design professionals and educators. The IDEA 2002 jury selected 41 gold, 60 silver and 73 bronze winners out of 1,265 entries. Following are select highlights from some of this year's plastics-intensive gold award winners.
Design firm Altitude Inc. of Somerville, Mass., and Malden Mills of Lawrence, Mass., won gold for Malden Mills' Polartec heat blanket of woven polyester and conductive stainless-steel fibers. Over a four-year period the firms designed the complex product as an electric-blanket reinvention. Malden Mills makes the fabric and circular-knot blanket, performs final assembly in the United States and acquires the electronics from China. The color-coded circular wireless temperature controllers and the transformer are injection molded of ABS, polycarbonate, PC/ABS blend and DuPont's Delrin acetal. Malden Mills weaves conductive yarns into an inherent structure, applies dye and naps the material to achieve a velour surface without damaging the blanket's conductivity. A Land's End catalog introduced the product line in September. Three sizes - larger than traditional electric blankets - cost $159-$219.
Altitude and Pingtel Corp. of Woburn, Mass., was honored for Pingtel's Xpressa telephone, which uses a Java-based Internet platform and an intuitive interface layout. Housings are injection molded of a PC/ABS blend with silver paint applied to the rear foot and bezel area. Rear toes of thermoplastic elastomer are overmolded on the rear foot to prevent slippage. Beta models were deployed in late 2000. As Pingtel's first product, the 2-pound Internet-protocol Xpressa with an onboard computer debuted in May 2001 with a suggested price of $450. Subsequent changes have improved performance of the silicone elastomeric keypad. Pingtel has registered about 10,000 application developers for the session-initiation-protocol telephone.
Kohler Co. of Kohler, Wis., earned gold honors for its highly engineered So_k overflowing bath of fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The bathing well and overflow channel are formed separately and then bonded with a high-strength methacrylate adhesive. Brackets provide additional support between the well and channel. Kohler views the bath as a reinvention of the deep soaking tub. In contrast to pummeling water jets, a So_k bath has an effervescence system that brings bubbles to the surface. Water cascades over the well and recirculates. The bath entered the market in May 2001 at a retail price of $6,000.
Akro-Mils of Akron, Ohio, a unit of Myers Industries Inc., received a gold award for its well-organized AkroClean janitor cart. A flexible configuration and storage area eases the workload on building and mall cleaners. Structural-web molding is used for the main structure and blow molding for the center-positioned trash cabinet, both of high density polypropylene. The cabinet can accommodate refuse bags of up to 32 gallons, and it offers side access. Two 10-inch-diameter wheels are made of a two-durometer PVC blend, and the four 4-inch-diameter corner casters are thermoplastic rubber. Hubs are a rugged PP that won't dent, mar, fade or stain.
Fuseproject of San Francisco, engineering contractor Gecko of Palo Alto, Calif., and software contractor City Electric of San Francisco won for a branded line of practical colorful computer accessories. The modestly priced products from People PC Inc. of San Francisco are made with injection molded ABS, nylon felt, ethylene vinyl acetate foam and Velcro fasteners. The fashionable products include a keyboard with integrated hot keys, various cable ties and monitor saddle accessories for pencils, flowers, business cards or paper positioning.
Pearce Research and Design of Woodland Hills, Calif., and Steelcase Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., captured gold for Steelcase's lightweight Cachet office-chair line. Steelcase reached into the plastics injection molding community to implement elements of the concept. Both stacking and swivel models have a balanced-action rocker mechanism allowing an individual to gently recline and gain comfort as the seat flexes on rubber torsion springs. Extensive use of gas-assist injection molding lowers Cachet's weight. The frame is injection molded of glass-reinforced nylon. The seats and slotted backs are made in a two-shot injection molding process on a rotary platen press with glass-reinforced PP for the perimeter frame and unfilled PP for the surface. Steelcase performs final assembly. Four-leg stackable models range from $300-$530, and swivel five-caster-based models, from $500-$650. Cachet reached the commercial market in January.
Three offices of IDEO Product Development were involved in separate gold-award winners. IDEO's Palo Alto, Calif., office and Handspring Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., won for the hand-held Treo communicator. The housing is a PC/ABS alloy, and PC is used in the lid and infrared lens. The wireless Handspring Treo combines the functions of a cellular telephone, personal organizer and Web browser. The compact, 5.4-ounce device reached the domestic market in February, retailing for $249.
IDEO's London office and H2Eye International Ltd. of London won for the user interface of H2Eye's Spyfish submarine. An STV system allows nondivers aboard a boat to explore beneath the water's surface via a video-camera-equipped Spyfish. Parts of the interface are molded with engineering-grade thermoplastics, including dual-density, glass-reinforced microcellular polyurethane that is completed with 15 painting stages. H2Eye began commercializing the STV in February at a retail price of $14,900.
IDEO's San Francisco office and United Media Inc. of New York won for the modular-workspace-concept Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle, based on ideas submitted by the comic strip's readers.
Apple Computer Inc. of Cupertino, Calif., and some of its suppliers won four gold awards for the replacement iMac computer, the iPod MP3 player, retail store design and MacWorld San Francisco 2002 exhibit. The space saving $1,299-$1,799 iMac has a hemispherical base and a 15-inch flat-panel display; materials include PC, ABS, stainless steel and aluminum. The 61/2-ounce $399 iPod, which can store 1,000 songs, is formed of PC/ABS and stamped stainless steel.
Dorel Design & Development of Canton, Mass., a unit of Dorel Industries Inc., and four design and development firms took home gold for the functional Perfect Portions infant-feeding line. The products include eating utensils and bowls for use during four development stages in the first 36 months of age. Edges catch spills, and the forms are easy to hold. For most items, injection molded polypropylene is overmolded with a specially blended thermoplastic elastomer. For a bottle base, processors nap-fit an injection molded TPE onto blow molded polyethylene. Items cost $1.99-$4.99 each and range from 5-inch-long utensils to 8-inch-diameter bowls. Dot Studio Inc. of Cranston, R.I., Insight Product Development of Concord, Mass., Velocity Product Development of North Conway, N.H., and Danebroch Studios of Providence, R.I., participated in the design and award.
Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich., earned top honors for its 2002 Thunderbird convertible roadster. The $35,495 two-seater's styling evokes memories of the 1955-57 classic Thunderbird roadsters. Sheet molded compound is used for the hood, deck lid, fenders, reinforced grille opening, upper back and optional removable top with porthole windows. Ford used polyolefins for the front and rear bumper fascias and the rocker molds, and sheet metal in other body parts. Ford developed the premium roadster as its first car program using C3P tools encompassing computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing. The tools complement craftsmanship processes and niche production limited to about 25,000 units per year.
Belkin Components of Compton, Calif., and Nectar Design of Signal Hill, Calif., won for a device with which a user controls more than one computer through a single keyboard-video-mouse station. The design saves spaces and simplifies control. Materials in the OmniView SoHo Series KVM station include ABS for housings, PC for light-emitting-diode pipes and stamped sheet metal for the frame. The proprietary peripheral targets small or home offices before this type of product's normal market of server administrators. A configuration for two ports costs $129 and four ports, $179.
Design firm Karim Rashid Inc. of New York was honored for a polymer-rich portable chess set for Bozart Toys Inc. of Philadelphia. Pop-art circles replace the traditional square grid on the board of injection molded acrylic and screen-printed graphics. The tactile chess figures are molded in a custom-blended thermoplastic elastomer of a soft durometer with a fluorescent pigment additive. The raised board allows light hitting the table to reflect under the translucent figures, which glow and appear lit. Bozart introduced the $50 set in October and sold 25,000 in two months. Design-to-market time was five months.
Laerdal Medical Corp. of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., and Machineart Corex of Hoboken, N.J., struck gold with Laerdal's SpeedBlocks head-immobilization device. Emergency medical technicians can immobilize a patient's head using a hybrid reusable or disposable device that is pre-mounted to a backboard. The system supplants use of large foam blocks and surgical tape. Materials include high density PE for the base and blocks, PE foam padding, nylon rivets, nylon-hook and PP-loop fasteners and PP mounting straps with acetal buckles. Radiologist review of X-ray images found improved translucency with the SpeedBlocks device vs. the major competing, reusable head immobilizer. A SpeedBlocks' starter pack of base and blocks retails for $50.
The Issaquah, Wash., studio of Designafairs USA earned its award for the Sonoline Antares medical ultrasound system. The space-conscious system from Siemens Medical Solutions Inc.'s ultrasound group in Issaquah, a Siemens AG unit, entered the market in August for use in clinics and hospitals. The Antares has about one-third as many mechanical parts and is about half the size and cost of the predecessor Elegra system with the same functionality. The Antares' materials include injection molded ABS for the monitor, keyboard and control panel, pressure formed sheet from Kleerdex Corp.'s Kydex acrylic/PVC alloy for electronics covers, and painted cast and extruded aluminum for the external structure. The transducer holders are injection molded ABS with a Santoprene liner. The wrist rest is cast urethane with a soft-touch surface. The OEM top mat is a cast elastomeric urethane, and the bumpers are Santoprene TPE from Advanced Elastomer Systems.
KI of Green Bay, Wis., a unit of Krueger International Inc., and Metaphase Design Group Inc. of St. Louis were honored for the simple but robust KI Einstein classroom furniture line. Four sizes of chairs, $32-$35 each, and desks, $39, accommodate preschoolers to adults. Units are easily moved for classroom configurations or stacked for storage. Seats, backs and tops are molded of ABS, and the elliptical tube frames are automatically formed of satin-finish steel. The glides are nylon in the rear and thermoplastic elastomer for the rail and front.
Metaphase received another gold award for an intravenous site protector dressing for IV House Inc. of Hazelwood, Mo. Soon entering production, the inexpensive item is a latex-free alternative to taping a catheter to a patient's body. A ventilated dome of low density polyethylene has a flange on which a fabric dressing is ultrasonically welded. Xymid LLC of Newark, Del., developed the fabric, which is fully stretchable in one direction and is composed of 60 percent of DuPont's Tyvek spun-bonded polyolefin, 10 percent of its Lycra stretch fiber, and 30 percent nylon.
Segway LLC of Manchester, N.H., won for its innovative two-wheel human transporter. HT parts and components consist of die-cast aluminum and several grades of polymers from GE Plastics. Sollx film is applied using an in-mold-decoration process overlaying Xenoy PC/polybutylene terephthalate for the fenders. A 20 percent glass-reinforced Noryl nylon-based blend with modified polyphenylene ether forms the wheels, and a 30 percent glass-reinforced Noryl is used for the handlebars. For aesthetics, Cycoloy PC/ABS covers the aluminum control shaft and user interface. A clamp of 25 percent carbon-fiber-reinforced Ultem polyetherimide joins the user interface to the control shaft. And an impact-modified Valox PBT/PC forms the battery housing's halves, which are welded together. The Segway HT was introduced to select corporate and institutional customers in December and is projected to reach the general market in a few months at about $8,000 for a commercial model and $3,000 for a consumer model. Meanwhile, Segway has convinced dozens of states to change laws that have barred motorized vehicles from sidewalks. The HT scooter can travel 5-17 mph.
Ziba Design Inc. of Portland, Ore., and Odak Kozmetik Sanayi of Turgutreis, Turkey, won gold for packaging Odak skin-care products that compete in the high-end market with Clinique, Estée Lauder and Chanel. The flexible packaging uses shapes and colors to achieve instant consumer recognition. The moisturizer and lotion containers are made of injection molded ABS, and the cleanser in a bottle looking like a tube is made of blow molded PE. Each item retails for $8-$15. The packaging, parts of which nest together, was introduced in October.
Smart Design of New York won for its work on Good Grips suction-cup bathroom accessories from Oxo International of New York. Several items have injection molded PVC in a rigid form for the colorful core and a soft and translucent form for the exterior skin. The patented elliptical suction cups are custom designed to support expected loads. Nine initial products include single and dual toothbrush holders; heavy-duty and light-duty hooks; a toothbrush/toothpaste holder; an adjustable, fogless mirror; small and large soap dishes; and a corner shelf. Other items are in development. The toothbrush holders use only soft PVC, but items needing more structure have a rigid PVC core. Items cost $2-$15.
Smart Design earned another gold award for Oxo's cardboard Grind It packaging printed on various uncoated stocks.
Lunar Design Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., and Nova Cruz Products LLC of Dover, N.H., were honored for the $800 Xootr eX3 electric scooter. Polyurethane is overmolded onto the die-cast wheels. The deck and steering column are aluminum, and the handle is steel tubing. Injection molded plastics are used in several other parts.
MegaSecur Inc. of Victoriaville, Quebec, won for its Water-Gate dam, principally of polyethylene covered with PVC. The basic 28-inch-high, 35-foot-long water barrier costs C$3,050 (US$2,000) and can replace sandbags for floods or toxic spills and create water reservoirs from low-level flows enabling firefighters to set their pumps.
Thirteen other gold award winners used some polymers in their designs:
* Brian Stonecipher, a design student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, for a conceptual PediaPod hospital laboratory accessory for infants undergoing cardiac catheterization.
* BodyMedia Inc. of Pittsburgh and K-Development Inc. of Erie, Pa., for the $995 SenseWear Pro armband for measuring multiple body parameters.
* LG Electronics Inc. of Seoul, South Korea, for a project exploring quality-of-life improvements through digital technology.
* Walter Dorwin Teague Associates Inc. of Redmond, Wash., and the Redmond product development site of TeraBeam Corp. for a $4,500 device that measures optical window attenuation.
* Henry Law, a design student at the Castro Valley, Calif., campus of San Jose State University for a footwear concept.
* Integrated Vision Inc. of Craftsbury Common, Vt., and Roush Industries Inc. of Livonia, Mich., for CNH Global NV's New Holland CX grain-harvesting combine.
* Tor Petterson Associates LLC of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., for Consolidated Devices Inc.'s dial torque-measuring wrench for industrial applications.
* General Electric Co.'s GE Appliances business unit of Louisville, Ky., for the GE Profile Advantium 120-volt above-the-cooktop oven.
* Priority Designs of Columbus, Ohio, for STX Ignitor protective gear and pads for lacrosse players.
* Design Continuum of West Newton, Mass., and Master Lock Co. of Milwaukee for padlocks with titanium-reinforced steel lock components and a coinjection molded ABS bumper.
* Steiner Design Associates of Greenwich, Conn., for VisionRx Inc.'s concept for an eye-test system to speed license renewals in diver-motor-vehicle offices.
* Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. of Seoul for a digital home medical system.
* Hands On! Inc. and C.W. Shaw Inc., both of St. Petersburg, Fla., for an $8 million "W5:whowhatwherewhenwhy" exhibit in Belfast, Northern Ireland.