Plastics consumer products earn recognition for industrial design

An adult hearing device, a baby bassinet, a home speaker, a security system and an entertainment headset are among the 2018 International Design Excellence Awards' top winners with significant plastics content.

The Herndon, Va.-based Industrial Designers Society of America announced the winners in a Sept. 22 ceremony concluding the group's three-day International Design Conference in New Orleans.

Judges evaluated nearly 1,700 entries from around the world, and named 32 gold, 52 silver and 61 bronze IDEA winners.

Jury Chair Michael Kahwaji headed the panel of design experts from consultancies, corporations and universities. Kahwaji is a senior design manager at Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor, Mich.

IDEA winners received trophies with a new design for the contest's 38th iteration. The awards were created by integrated design and branding firm fuseproject LLC.

Eargo hearing device

Ammunition LLC and Eargo Inc.'s design of a hearing device won two major awards. Kahwaji selected it for the Jury Chair's award, and the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association selected it for the Plastics Innovation award.

The design also won gold in the medical and health category.

Design firm Ammunition's San Francisco office and startup product maker Eargo Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. created a Class I Food and Drug Administration-regulated device for adults experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss.

An ABS/polycarbonate blend with a soft-touch paint is specified for the charger body. The earbud's soft patented Flexi Fibers are made with a medical-grade liquid silicone rubber, and the earbud body is another plastic.

The portable charger has an ergonomic pebble-shaped design but does not require batteries.

Dr. Florent Michel, an otolaryngologist with more than 30 years' experience, created the Eargo hearing device and co-founded the business. He replicated the feathers of a fishing fly to create the soft self-adjusting Flexi Fibers, which suspend the device in the ear without blocking the ear canal. The device allows bass sounds to travel into the ear; only treble sounds need be amplified.

Several rounds of user testing were conducted with early prototypes for the charging case. It was decided to make it slightly larger than necessary to benefit people with low dexterity and for holding more battery charge.

Magnets keep the lid closed. When the case is open, inner light-emitting-diode illumination makes it easy for a user to properly place the earbuds into the cradles.

The charger weighs 1.9 ounces, and the virtually invisible earbud is 0.04 ounces.

The firm introduced its $1,950 Eargo Plus model in mid-2015 and its $2,450 Eargo Max model in 2018.

Eargo sells the device and charger on a nonprescription direct-to-consumer basis.

Snoo Smart Sleeper

Yves Béhar's design of the Happiest Baby Inc.'s Snoo Smart Sleeper responsive bassinet received the Curator's Choice recognition from Marc Greuther, chief curator and senior director of historical resources at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Mich.

Béhar, founder of fuseproject, also won a gold award in the children's products category for the bassinet, which is sold by Happiest Baby Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif.

Materials in the Snoo include nylon spacer mesh and wood. Separate layers of fabric are knit together and linked by a monofilament yarn to make a connecting cushion for the Snoo's double layer of spacer textile mesh.

The outer layer is firm. Large openings facilitate the flow of fresh air and make the baby visible inside the bassinet.

The inner layer of mesh is flexible. It is connected to the platform and can move and distort with a swinging motion.

Three microphones listen for the baby's cry, differentiating it from outside noises. Speakers and other technology are hidden under the mattress.

The Snoo sack holds the baby with enough of a snug embrace to emulate the womb, maintains a comfortable temperature and allows a slight swinging motion.

Happiest Baby's Snoo weighs 38 pounds, measures 30 by 16 by 30 inches and retails for $1,160.

Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and child development specialist, and his wife and business partner, Nina Montée-Karp, co-founded the Happiest Baby business in 2001.

A daughter, Lexi, came up with the name Snoo as a sweet baby-sounding word and a shortened word for snooze. Dr. Karp's work is based on five S's — swaddle, side-stomach position, shush, swing and suck. Snoo becomes the sixth S.

An app allows parents to see at a glance exactly which one of the Smart Sleeper's five levels has been activated.

Béhar sold 75 percent of fuseproject to Beijing-based BlueFocus Communication Group Co. Ltd. in 2014, and BlueFocus acquired the remaining 25 percent of the San Francisco-based industrial design firm in 2017. BlueFocus adopted the name BlueFocus Intelligent Communications Group Co. Ltd. in June 2018.

Alphabet Inc.'s winners

Two subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc. won five gold awards.

Google LLC's hardware design team in Mountain View, Calif., won in the consumer technology category for the Home Max and Mini assistant and the Pixel 2 and 2XL phones and their cases.

The Google team won a third gold award in the same category for the thin $999 Google Pixelbook laptop and the $99 Pixelbook Pen. Materials include aluminum and Gorilla-brand Glass.

Nest Labs Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., won in the home category for both its Cam IQ outdoor security camera and its Secure home security product.

Google's Home Max provides music lovers with hands-free help from the Google Assistant. With far-field voice control, Max can hear a voice across a room even while music is playing.

Designers specified 20 percent recycled polycarbonate for the top and bottom housings on the Home Max and Home Mini.

The front face of the Home Max is an acoustically transparent mélange-yarn fabric with discreet user interface features that are seen only when needed. Max is designed to fit into a home with the technology hidden away.

Nubs of extra feet assist with Home Max vibration dampening.

The original Google Home entered the U.S. market in November 2016. Users noted it was not loud enough and music quality was not high enough. Google Home Max can amplify more than 20 times louder than Google Home.

The Google Home Max weighs 11.7 pounds and measures 13.2 by 7.4 by 6 inches.

The Home Max costs $399 and the Home Mini $49.

The Pixel 2 and 2XL cases contain polyester and nylon knit on the exterior, a soft microfiber inner liner to protect the phone, PC for the cores and welded silicone for the Google G logo on the back. Color options include carbon, cement, midnight and coral.

The Pixel 2 case weighs 0.8 ounces and measures 3 by 6 by 0.5 inches. The Pixel 2 XL case weighs 0.9 ounces and measures 3.2 by 6.4 by 0.4 inches.

A Pixel 2 or 2XL case costs $40.

The Google hardware design team began development of the Home Max, Home Mini and Pixel 2 and 2XL cases in 2016.

Each of the products entered the commercial market in October 2017.

Nest began designing and developing both the Cam IQ outdoor security camera and the Secure home security product in August 2015 in Palo Alto and introduced each commercially in September 2017.

The Cam IQ Outdoor security camera costs $349, and the basic Secure system is $399.

Most of the production of Cam IQ and Secure occurs at facilities in China's Guangdong Province.

Lite-On Technology Corp.'s mobile mechanical strategic business group does the primary injection, insert, two-shot and in-mold lamination molding at a plant in Guangzhou. Audio equipment maker Tymphany HK Ltd. supplies the speaker, including a plastic part called the Dome, which it produces in Huizhou.

A vendor handled work on the camera module's intelligent-character-recognition housing, and Chicony Power Technology Co. Ltd. provides the power supply from a factory in Dongguan.

Polymers in the Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera include ultraviolet-resistant grades of Lexan EXL9330 opaque PC-siloxane copolymer for the main shell and Lexan EXL1434T PC-siloxane copolymer with light-diffusing FXD171R transparent/translucent PC on the front face. The in-mold lamination uses Makrofol DE1-1 PC-based extrusion film with a hard coat for UV and scratch resistance.

Other materials include anodized, cast and machined aluminum for the highball, tumbler, branding irons, cup plate and wall plate.

The camera uses advanced visual algorithms to distinguish between a person and a thing, and it can deliver critical and actionable information to a cell phone.

The 4K sensor, high dynamic range and 12x digital zoom can follow an intruder. A speaker and microphone allow a user to let a person know the occupant is paying attention.

The camera weighs 20 ounces, measures 5 by 3.7 by 3.7 inches and comes with a 25-foot-long cable.

With a Nest Aware subscription, the Nest Cam IQ can recognize faces, differentiate between family and strangers and save video images.

A Nest Secure alarm system includes Nest Guard, two Nest Detects for door or window placements, two Nest Tags for remote access and the Nest Cam Outdoor camera, a predecessor of the CAM IQ unit.

The Nest Secure has PC for the main body surfaces, white PC with a UV clear coat for the outer housing, LSR feet and translucent PC for the light ring.

Polymers in the Nest Guard include a keypad top and buttons of physical-vapor-deposition-plated PC that are painted white and have a clear matte topcoat. The Nest Guard weighs 9 ounces, measures 3.7 by 2.1 inches and comes with a cable length of 6 feet.

The Nest Detect's main body surfaces are PC, and the lens is high density polyethylene. Nest Detect weighs 1.26 ounces and measures 3.2 by 0.8 by 0.9 inches.

The Nest Tag's housings are Lexan EXL1434 PC-siloxane copolymer. The key loop is made of Elastollan LP 9277 thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer. Nest Tag weighs 0.17 ounces and has a diameter of 1.46 inches and a thickness of 0.28 inches.

Industrial Desingers Society of America photo Syrp Ltd. won a gold award in the commercial and industrial category for the firm's Magic Carpet Pro heavy-duty camera slider for professional filmmaking. The camera slider uses PC/ABS blends and acetal. Magic Carpet Pro

Designers at Syrp Ltd. won a gold award in the commercial and industrial category for the firm's Magic Carpet Pro heavy-duty camera slider for professional film making.

The team specified PC/ABS blends for the nonstructural large casing on the underside of the carriage.

The rollers are machined acetal, and some of the levers with sliding surfaces are injection molded acetal.

Internal parts for the quick-release system are nylon 6 filled with 10-30 percent glass fiber. These large rings required shrinkage control as well as surface hardness to handle point loads for ball bearings.

Sixty-five percent filled nylon 6 was used for a locking plate that was originally intended to be die cast alloy. The change allowed for a small amount of flexibility while retaining high overall rigidity. The part was easy to finish. TPE was overmolded for the grip.

After computer numerical control machining, some injection molded nylon 6 was used for better concentricity and rotational balance.

Compression molded silicone was used for expanding joints.

Major structural components are made with various grades of die cast aluminum, and the track rails are extruded aluminum.

Production occurs in shops in the Shenzhen and Dongguan regions of China.

Syrp was formed in 2011 as a supplier of film-making equipment. Syrp is located in Grey Lynn, New Zealand, an inner suburb of Auckland.

An early discussion about the increasing use of digital single-lens reflex cameras for film making sparked the start of development leading to the Magic Carpet Pro. Typically, DSLR cameras are used for traditional photography.

Development started in 2015, and the product entered the commercial market in early 2018.

The Magic Carpet Pro is designed to provide smooth tracking moves with heavier camera loads.

It has a concealed motion-smoothing flywheel in the central carriage, interchangeable track lengths and a quick release system. Further, it is motion-control ready via Syrp's wireless motorized controllers.

At the end of its useful life, the product can be disassembled and recycled. Clear material markings appear on the plastic and alloy parts.

The Magic Carpet Pro comes in two standard lengths of 2 or 3 feet with the capability to infinitely add more lengths. The base 2-foot version costs $989, weighs 10.7 pounds and has a width of 7.6 inches and a height of 2.9 inches.

Credit goes to Syrp designers Chris Thomson, James Allen and Samuel Blok.

Nuraphone headset

Nura Operations Pty. Ltd. designers and others won a gold award in the entertainment category for the nuraphone-brand headset with in- and over-ear inova-brand architecture. Nura was founded in 2016.

The creators specified soft-touch biocompatible silicone for the inova structure, ABS for the majority of the internal plastic components, TPE overmolding of the cables, nylon and high-grade Japanese spring steel for the headband and lightweight anodized aluminum for the earcups.

Production occurs in Shenzhen.

Challenging design and development work took place at the Nura facility in Brunswick, Australia, an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, and the product entered the commercial market in November 2017. The retail cost is $399.

Designers wanted to create headphones that automatically learn and adapt to a listener's hearing. Fitting a considerable amount of technology into a wearable device — ultimately in the earcups — led to multiple design iterations.

To ensure comfort for long listening sessions, the team conducted more than 300 user tests, developed more than 100 versions of the inova structure and held more than 20 trials of the passive cooling TeslaFlow check valves.

Other challenges involved overcoming user experience, programming and graphic design obstacles related to a companion app that guides a customer through the creation of a hearing profile.

Nura characterizes the product as the world's first headphone to automatically learn and adapt to an individual's hearing. In the learning phase, a listener hears a series of tones producing an internal otoacoustic-emission signal. The nuraphone detects the signal and crafts it to a person's hearing profile. The nuraphone balances musical tones for each listener.

A nuraphone weighs 0.73 pound and measures 7.4 by 6.6 by 3.5 inches.

Credit goes to Nura designers Lorenzo Pavesi and Jonathan Yap, who worked in collaboration with Andrew Crawford and Evan Pell of the industrial design firm Tricycle Developments Pty. Ltd. of West Melbourne, Australia, and Nicol Boyd, co-founder of the Hong Kong-based Office for Product Design Ltd.
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» Publication Date: 24/09/2018

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement N° 690103