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Product Design Class Project

Bottle Packing Device

Over the course of a semester, I worked with three classmates to design a device to meet the needs of a community business partner. The company we worked with was the Elevator Brewing Company from Columbus, Ohio. The project required teams to find needs within the chosen setting and develop prototypes to address those needs.

Date: Aug 2016 - Dec 2016

Team: Basil de Jong, Erin McNally, Jackson Heinz

Shadowing and Interviews

We went to the Elevator brewery to meet with head brewer Larry Osborne and observe as he conducted everyday tasks around the brewery. The team members took pictures, videos, and wrote extensive notes on various tasks with potential for improvement. 

Once we finished the shadowing, the team met and discussed different categories of problems that we might address with our device. As part of a class assignment, we developed quantitative metrics to evaluate ten total observed problems, writing out detailed needs statements along the way. 


Sketching and Brainstorming

Working from our list of potential problems, the team used a mindmap to identify related problem concepts and refine the needs of the user. We used the initial discussion to narrow our focus to two or three potential problems that our device would address to improve the user experience. These focus areas emerged after considering the time and budget constraints built into the class.

This led to a sketching phase where each team member came up with ideas for multiple approaches to solving each problem. After further discussion within the team, we decided to create a device aimed at allowing the workers at the brewery to fill six-pack sleeves easily with a single hand motion, rather than gripping bottles awkwardly with two hands. Some of my sketches can be seen in the adjacent picture. 

Early Prototypes and Testing

I used my sketches to construct a quick scale model of the device using cardboard and tape. I was able to hold it in my hand and get a sense of how it might be used to pick up the beer bottles. 

From there, the team moved on to building a slightly more durable prototype out of wood and easily accessible scrap materials. This model also provided great feedback on how to arrange different moving parts of the design in the most comfortable and efficient way. We were able to test picking up bottles with the second prototype. 

Final Prototype

The final part of the assignment was the construction of a working prototype. The team used various materials and building techniques to make the final product. Plywood was finished precisely using a laser cutter, and an acrylic sheet was laser cut as well. Other parts were made from wood or metal and assembled in a wood shop.

We conducted an ergonomic evaluation that confirmed our method of placing bottles in a six-pack sleeve was far more comfortable and less of an injury risk than gripping the bottles between the fingers of two hands. This was done using the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) to score each method. 

Our design and the accompanying report and poster earned positive feedback from the faculty judges in the end-of-semester design showcase. 

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