Furnishings case study - Air purifier
FICEP S3, the company from Nuno Neves, has redesigned a large product into a smaller one: an air purifier for our homes, so necessary these days with the coronavirus situation. The AMS mini helps us to clean the air of spaces and release almost 100% of all pathogens that are active in the air collected by the system. The result is the same air, but dry and sterilized.
Nuno Neves https://ficeps3.com
Mechanical engineering at Ohio Technical College in Cleveland. Master’s in Technological Entrepreneurship and Management Science and Engineering Stanford University.
Cofounder and director of FICEP S3. Member of faculty at Master's in Additive Manufacturing Engineering at the CIM UPC (Polytechnic University of Barcelona). Mentor in Technological Entrepreneurship at the Department of Computational and Mathematical Engineering at Stanford University.
Interest in digital modelling and additive technologies
It came out of a project we were running a few years ago where we needed to design a machine and we were having trouble trying to fit in all the elements in the designated space. Additive manufacturing let us to design the product based on its function without having to worry about how we were going to manufacture it.
Use of digital technologies
In 100% of the projects.
Our customers are made up mainly of independent designers and engineers, as well as major multinationals.
We offer our customers help with their projects from start to finish. If the only thing our customer has is an idea, we take that idea, we work on it from the initial sketches to the final business model, how it’s going to be distributed and how the idea’s going to be patented.
We guide them through the entire process so that the customer never has to worry "do I need moulds?” or “do I need to contact other companies?” We handle it all in-house and give the customer the final product.
Initial goal and problem
In this case study, Nuno explains the redesign of a large product and pushes a smaller one and all the challenges that entails.
Problem to solve
The main challenge we faced was to fit together all the technology into a small package, something you could hold in your hands. We also felt it was really important to design with a purpose, which was to purify the air, but also to divert and distract the end user's attention from that purpose.
We felt that there was a market need for a real quality product. Normally, everything we see are products that come from China, that aren't tested or certified. The AMS mini is manufactured in Europe, here in our facilities. We don't import anything from outside Europe and we felt that that was very important to guarantee quality.
The solution we were looking for was to have a very small system but that could move a lot of air.
We faced several limitations to ‘miniaturise’ the product. We went from something that moves 10,000 cubic metres of air per hour, to something that moves 300 cubic metres of air per hour, and it's no mean feat to move that much air in such a small product.
Sources of inspiration
We used the Panot, the typical tile from the streets of Barcelona, as our reference for the exterior design of the AMS mini because the product is designed in Barcelona. We’re always looking for inspiration in the city's architecture. The upper part of the AMS mini was designed with inspiration drawn from the Roman road we have here in Vilassar de Dalt. The fact that we use additive manufacturing allows us to customise the product to the customer's wishes.
When we design our concepts we always start by drawing them by hand. The reason for this is because when you start designing something in 3D on the computer, you usually end up making a bunch of different models.
When you draw by hand, you take your time to think, to sketch shadows, to look at proportions, to look at depth... And while you do it, you get more involved emotionally with the final product. It's very important that the designer or engineer who’s working on the project puts some of themself in it.
Once we’re happy with the sketches we have, we start the 3D process. First we do what I like to call a 3D concept design, so the concept design is basically its outer layer and that's more or less how it’ll look. We then use our rendering technology to put it into the space to see how it looks there.
Once we're happy with the exterior design we start working on the interior design. Sometimes the final design changes a little because we need to widen it or make it taller, sometimes the electronic components we want to use don't fit inside... But usually 90% is more or less the same as that first design we did by hand.
Once we’ve got the 3D design done and validated, it takes around 16 hours to print and 72 hours to cool down. Normally, we can have a project in three days to test out and touch with our hands.
Tools and materials
The prototype and the design for production are done in PA12, which is a highly chemical and ultraviolet light resistant type of nylon.
Problems when prototyping
When we go from the prototype to the customer's final product, we don't run into many limitations since we can adapt things very, very quickly because we're using additive manufacturing. We could make all the changes we needed based on the information we had from the customer and we were able to manufacture the final product.
The fact that we used additive manufacturing lets us skip several steps. Instead of making foam or silicone prototypes, we can go directly to a 3D prototype, which is already functional.
For the final product we also use additive manufacturing for various reasons. The main reason is because there are geometries in the unit that we can't do with injection moulds: it would be very hard to do and expensive.
We also offer customers the possibility of customisation. Instead of having our design a bank or a hotel can choose something that identifies their city or image, through their logo or their name.
Each AMS mini is hand assembled. We don’t use automated processes to assemble it. We do it that way because we want each individual unit to be different, to be unique. The customer has a unique product, not like the next customer's. The hand finish also gives us a type of style and texture that can't be replicated by automation.
Distribution and sales
We started by setting up a network of distributors around the world, in Europe, South America, Africa, and the Middle East. These distributors already work with medical products, so they know the type of product and they know how to convey information to the end customer.
Now we have a very strong market in South America and the Middle East. We're also working with one of the largest banks in Africa to install AMS minis in their banks.
The advertising we did basically consisted of sending out a short press release. It was published in Italy, in Spain, in Russia, in the United States... Some magazines also reached out to us for more information.
Impact on the market
We're very pleased at the moment with the way the public has received the product, especially in the Middle East and Africa. We anticipate that there are lots of people who value their health above other things and will increasingly prioritise these kind of products.