31 August 2011
The world's most eco-friendly vacuum cleaner?
Cambridge Consultants’ ‘Ecovation’ process demonstrates potential for significant green gains in future product design
Cambridge Consultants, a leading design and development firm, has developed a new ‘eco-vacuum’ concept called Stem that would use 43% less energy than the average vacuum cleaner, whilst maintaining the same cleaning performance. This dramatic saving is made possible through Cambridge Consultants’ ‘Ecovation’ methodology - a process developed to integrate innovation and environmental considerations into each stage of the concept generation and design process. The approach employed in Ecovation can be applied to any type of product to reduce its overall environmental impact, and the eco-vacuum is the first example to be developed by Cambridge Consultants using the methodology.
The Stem eco-vacuum’s energy saving is derived from Cambridge Consultants’ Ecovation methodology. Focused on ways to reduce a product’s overall ‘eco-impact,’ the methodology nurtures the non-obvious approaches by considering the system as a whole, analysing all aspects of a product’s environmental impact during its lifecycle - from material extraction to manufacture, product use and finally disposal. This thorough understanding of both the product and the user focuses the innovation process to identify radical ideas to significantly reduce eco-impact, without impacting overall performance. With power consumption by far the biggest factor in a vacuum’s eco-impact rating, Stem would deliver a 27% reduction on overall environmental impact over the vacuum’s entire lifecycle, compared to the industry standard.
In the case of the eco-vacuum, Cambridge Consultants made an initial human factors study of vacuum cleaner users and assessed the current market leading vacuums to determine the performance and use of current technology. From this ethnographic analysis and the innovation process, radical new concepts were generated which when integrated, considerably reduce the energy usage of the vacuum cleaner.
The first concept enables the eco-vacuum to automatically vary its power usage depending on the job being done. Whether using the floor head or the hose attachment, with this concept the user gets the power they need when they need it. Secondly, the eco-vacuum intelligently reduces the power usage when no cleaning is happening, for example when paused for moving furniture.
The layout for the internal parts for the vacuum was assessed and optimised for best airflow and maximum efficiency. Crucially, the environmental gains were achieved without impacting on consumer expectations of vacuum cleaners. The eco-vacuum delivers the same cleaning performance as a conventional cleaner, is similar in size and weight to standard models, meets all regulatory requirements, and comes in at a price point comparable to premium models.
“Ecovation, as demonstrated by the eco-vacuum, has the potential to make a significant step change in reducing the eco-impact of almost any product,” commented Edward Brunner, Principal Engineer, Cambridge Consultants. "This first concept design is not just an example of what vacuums of the future may look like, but how all consumer products of the future will be designed.
"Cambridge Consultants applied the Ecovation process to vacuum cleaners in order to highlight the environmental savings that could be made without losing performance. Vacuum cleaners are a useful example of a product where consumers associate high power with high performance and, as a result, vacuum cleaners have rarely been looked at as ‘eco-products’. Our eco-vacuum concept clearly shows that this should no longer be the case."
Edward Brunner will be attending IFA in Berlin on 2nd September 2011 and will be available to discuss the eco-vacuum concept and Cambridge Consultants’ Ecovation Design Methodology.
Tel: +44 (0)1223 420024
Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 700 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, oil and gas, and wireless communications.
Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R&D services which offers its clients a new way to innovate. Altran works alongside its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. In 2015, the Altran group generated revenues of €1.945bn. With a headcount of more than 27,000 employees, Altran is present in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit www.altran.com.
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