A few years ago, Jeff Weber found himself in a hospital emergency room with a broken heel. Like millions of people before him, he was handed a pair of basic crutches.
“Within a matter of a few hours, I realized how ill-designed they were and how painful they were to use,” he said. “Instead of wood, crutches are now aluminum and foam, but beyond that, nothing has evolved.”
So Weber, a Minneapolis-based designer and founder of Studio Weber + Associates, set about making something better. “I had nothing to do but sit on my butt,” he said.
The final product he developed, Mobilegs, is a plastic and aluminum crutch that replaces a typical foam-padded shoulder cradle with a plastic web, similar to the design of an executive office chair. The Mobilegs crutch, brought to market by Mobi LLC of Minneapolis, won the medical and scientific category award in the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s design competition. Winners were selected April 3 at NPE2012, held April 1-5 in Orlando.
Weber, who discussed the product's development in a March 28 news release, also won the IDSA/Plastics News Design Award. Winners of the award are product designers selected by members of the Industrial Designers Society of America.
“You almost can't wait to hurt your ankle just so you can use it,” joked Augusto Picozza, director of industrial design for Jarden Consumer Solutions and one of the IDSA judges for the competition. “It showed the greatest transformation from what was [in the market] and what can be.”
Illinois Tool Works Inc. of Glenview, Ill., is the mold maker and molder for the Mobilegs. BASF AG is the material supplier.
Since coming on the market, the Mobilegs has won approval from medical professionals and users. Ricky Rubio, a player for the National Basketball Association's Minnesota Timberwolves, has used the Mobilegs since suffering a knee injury.
Michael Paloian, a design judge and a designer for Integrated Design Systems Inc. of Great Neck, N.Y., said it makes sense that users appreciate the crutch. “[The design] actually makes the product look more like a sports product than a handicap product,” he said.
Other parts noted for their design by IDSA members Paloian, Picozza and Sean Hagen of BlackHägen Design, were the CaliBowl by Simple Wave LLC of Hayward, Calif., and the Regeneration chair by Knoll Inc. of Holland, Mich.
The chair, molded by Bemis Manufacturing Co. using materials supplied by DuPont and Laverne, uses a woven pattern to give a beautiful look to an office chair, but presents that chair at a competitive cost for non-executive-level employees.
The CaliBowl, molded by Jatco Inc., takes an aesthetic twist on the typical plastic housewares bowl, Paloian said. Unlike the thin plastic bowls seen on most store shelves, the bowl is sculpted with thin walls and an undercut to keep items from spilling out.
“I spent 14 years at Tupperware,” Picozza said, “and I can't figure out how they molded it.
Jatco also was mold maker for the CaliBowl, which also tied for the SPI Judge's Award in the design competition.
Simple Wave shares the award with the IML Syringe Barrel, a pre-fillable syringe using in-mold labeling. Tech Mold Inc. of Tempe. Ariz., CBW Automation and Mold-Masters Ltd. jointly developed the IML Syringe Barrel. Tech Mold built the mold. PolyOne Corp. and Inland Label and Marketing Services LLC provided the material.
The IML Syringe also won the Emerging Technology Award for its use of the MuCell process by Trexel Inc.
The Best In Show Award went to the 111 Navy Chair by Emeco of Hanover, Pa., using recycled PET supplied by BASF. The chair aims to provide higher value to recycled resin, with the name taken from the 111 PET bottles that are recycled into each chair, which is a replica of the 1940s all-aluminum Navy chair.
The 111 Navy Chair also took the top award for Buildings and Furnishings and the Sustainable Consumer Product Award.
Other awards went to:
* Trexel Inc. won the Emerging Technology Award for a margarine tub with an in-mold label for Paccor Packaging Deutschland GmbH. Using the MuCell process provides a soft-touch effect, and adds insulating properties to the injection molded polypropylene tub.
* A water outlet for Nissan Motor Co. won the Single Part Award. BMC Inc. of Walworth, Wis., molds the part, which is a metal-to-plastic conversion and combines what had been two parts. Solvay Specialty Polymers supplied the resin and Industrial Molds Group was the mold maker.
* Tigris, an all-plastic airline trolley molded by Bemis Manufacturing using material from Solvay Advanced Materials, won the Automotive and Transportation category. VinylTech International Inc. of North Jackson, Ohio, was the mold maker. The Tigris also won the Innovations in Plastics Award and the Project Award. Tigris brand owner AeroCat BV of Tilburg, the Netherlands, intended the trolley to be a lighter and fully recyclable replacement for metal trolleys.
* The Consumer Products Award went to the Purist Hydroflo water bottle for bicycles. Harbor Fluid Products is the designer, molder and mold maker.
* The 1-Seal container lid for the Better Bean Co. of Eugene, Ore., won the Packaging Award. The lid is made with a proprietary technology using an in-mold label to create a cap and seal in one step, which eliminates the need for foil or a film seal. Arta Plast AB of Tyreso, Sweden, is the molder and mold maker, using equipment from Packline West Inc. of La Verne, Calif.
* The Genesys fluid pump by Multi-Duti Manufacturing Inc. won the Sustainable Part/Component Award. The pump is the first known end-suction centrifugal pump using Bulk Molding Compounds Inc.'s BMCI-840 material, while still meeting strict functional requirements. Ci-Dell Plastics of Mequon, Wis., is the molder and Mold Craft Inc. of Willernie, Minn., made the mold.
* The Sustainable Process Award went to polylactic acid foam articles produced by Sekisui Plastics Co. Ltd. of Tokyo. Sekisui is also the designer, molder and mold maker. The project used Sekisui's expanded PLA foam beads to produce a variety of shapes, including helmet inserts.