The following case study shows the design process of the development of an idea into an award winning product. The challenge was to provide pet feeding systems which keep spills contained, reduce property damage, prevent spilled water from saturating spilled food, and allow pet owners to clean the feeding system in a few convenient steps. Among other benefits, such feeding systems would save pet owners a substantial amount of time and cost that is normally required for routine cleaning and maintenance.
Another challenge was that the bowls be elevated to a height appropriate to the size and breed of animal to help prevent the well known phenomena: (1) gastric distress and bloating associated with feeding from a bowl on the floor when an animal swallows large amounts of air during feeding while constantly holding its head lower than its chest; or (2) the development of chronic shoulder and back fatigue associated with the repetitive cycle of the lowering of the head as the animal first retrieves its food from a bowl on the floor, followed by the raising of the head as the animal then proceeds to chew and swallow. This feeding center would also separate any spilled water from any spilled food for ease of recycling and/or cleaning of the station. Since this mess could be contained the feeding station could now be designed to attractively be placed in a more convenient area of the home.
Here are some examples of pet feeders we found on the market. Existing trays for pet food bowls allow food and water to spill onto the tray and splash up onto walls. Food that falls onto the tray becomes quickly saturated with spilled water.
Brainstorming is a classic technique for generating a large quantity of ideas and solutions in a relatively short period of time. This creative activity was held in group settings during which our team was asked to articulate their thoughts and share their insights with each other.
The mantra that “no idea is a poor idea” inspires uninhibited thought and self-expression in this non-critical and energetic exercise. Therefore, even the most immature or seemingly silly of ideas are encouraged to be shared within the group as they often fuel the thoughts of others. The solutions that arise through the momentum of this activity are later evaluated for merit, relevance, and appropriateness in a separate exercise. Creative brainstorming is often one of the first steps in the iterative process of developing an appropriate design. The professionals at SPARK are well schooled in this technique.
The initial idea was to create a feeder that had protective walls surrounding the food and water bowls with a potential filtering system, which would separate spilled water.
Once the idea becomes a concept the sketches get refined to prepare the prototypes. Concept design refers to both that phase in the product development cycle during which multiple ideas for products are formalized for socialization and evaluation; as well as to the definitive idea that has been approved by the client for engineering development, documentation and mass production. The inspired minds at SPARK create credible ideas that are later morphed and honed into a single viable design with the active participation of our satisfied clients.
Testing and Prototyping
Spark Innovation’s design process and methodology focuses on user research and rapid prototyping. The firm employs a variety of computer tools and experienced craft designers to creat the models at earliest stages of a project. At Spark we use a fused deposition modeling (FDM) for modeling, prototyping, and production applications. It is essential to test and create prototypes on 1:1 scale. This will insure that the measurements and functions work and can allow for changes if necessary.
Once the measurements and key issues are defined, Spark developed a range of solutions that satisfied or exceeded these defined needs.
Ergonomic Product Design
Ergonomic design refers to the specific practice of developing objects and spaces to be ergonomically appropriate for the user. The human form or in this case the animal form, height and weight of all dogs and cats were considered primary drivers of ergonomic design. Typical goals of ergonomic design in this pet feeder included comfort, reducing the number of steps needed for different tasks, creating intuitive interfaces, and other factors that make using products a more pleasant experience for the animals and for their owners.
The Neater Feeder’s contoured design is comfortable for cats and dogs of any size. The food and water bowls are raised to a height appropriate to the physical needs of the companion animal. The footprint size and side wall heights are optimized to the most popular animals within these two groups with due consideration given to ease of access, comfort, nutritional requirements determining bowl sizes, and safety of the animal; as well as to the wants of the home owner including aesthetic appeal, safety, and hygiene. The small Neater Feeder is appropriately sized for all cats and dogs up to 35 pounds and the large Neater Feeder is designed for breeds 35 to 100-plus pounds. Optional leg extensions increase feeding height for an elevated feeding position that is shown to be beneficial for dogs’ digestion and joint health.
Concept development is the process of generating ideas that lead to solutions that resolve well defined problems through the manifestation of designs. At SPARK, concept development is an iterative process of generating ideas, evaluating ideas, developing concepts, refining concepts through feedback, designing concept models, testing functional prototypes, and evaluating designs for function, for use, for compliance with industry standards, for manufacture, and for market acceptance.
Industrial design is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, use, appearance, and value of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both the user and the manufacturer. The discipline of Industrial design helps to bridge the gap between the needs of product users and the needs of product makers through creative thought and collaboration. At SPARK, it is the responsibility of the industrial designer to assess the needs and desires of the consumer and to translate them into viable designs for products that can be effectively engineered and efficiently manufactured.
Industrial design intent is the term used to describe the documentation and/or the artifacts that the industrial designer “hands-off” to the mechanical designer after the CONCEPT DESIGN has been approved by the client and is then ready to be engineered for manufacture. At SPARK, industrial design intent can take the form of any or all of the following visual material preliminary CAD Geometry, two dimensional documentation drawings, product renderings, product models and prototypes.
Technical and CAD Drawings/Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
Computer-Aided Design is the use of digital technology in the design, development and documentation of product designs. Complementary computer hardware and software platforms allow design data to be shared seamlessly across the network and around the globe for evaluation with designers, engineers, clients, end-users and manufacturers alike. Industry standard computer software packages range from 2D vector-based Illustration and Drafting software, to even more complex 3D Surface Modeling and 3D Solid Modeling software. On behalf of our clients, Spark Innovations Inc. uses a variety of leading edge software programs to visualize product concepts, to fabricate concept models, to evaluate product efficiencies and to engineer product designs for manufacture. These include Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, SOLIDWORKS, PRO/Engineer, and CATIA.
A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to an inventor or his assignee for a fixed period of time in exchange for a disclosure of an invention. At Spark we completed the patent drawing and through our expert patent layers summit the application. A design patent is a patent granted on the ornamental design of a functional item. Design patents are a type of industrial design right. Ornamental designs of the external look and styling of a product is an example of what can be protected with design patents.
The design inspiration came from the owners of two very messy, 95 pound, German wirehaired pointers. Tired of constantly cleaning up the soggy food and spilled water that these two dogs made they felt there was an opportunity to create an attractive feeding center that would contain this mess. The objective was to design for mass production an attractive, accessible food and water distribution centre for dogs and cats permitting them to feed at an inclusive station that retains any spilled water and/or any spilled food associated with companion animal feeding in order to prevent damage to the household premises.
The Neater Feeder is unique from any other pet feeding product available. The Neater Feeder has protective walls surrounding the food and water bowls and a unique filtering system, which separates spilled food from spilled water. Spilled food is captured by the filter, so it stays clean, dry and off the floor. This way it can be safely reused or easily discarded. Spilled water is channeled down a sloped surface and through a filter into a lower reservoir where it is stored safely off the floor, preventing hazardous, slippery conditions and damaging stains.