3D printing is at it again. This time the innovative technology is actually speeding that rate at which new product idea can make it to market. Meet the the Smart Pitcher. The pitcher solves a small but annoying problem that bedevils households across America: how do you keep your water pitcher filled and your water cold.
The pitcher is equipped with two magnets. The first tells a magnetic switch in the fridge whether the pitcher is there. When the switch closes, the fridge begins to fill the pitcher with water until a second, floating, magnet reaches the top and closes a second switch, which stops the water.
Perhaps even more impressive than the Smart Pitcher was how the FirstBuild team reduced the product cycle from years to a matter of months. A typical cycle involves a “concepting period” lasting between one and two years, where business leaders talk about market opportunities and needs. If management buys in, the team builds a prototype that proves the design, then builds multiple versions of it to solve engineering problems, and finally sends the device out for field tests.
The Smart Pitcher simplified the development by purchasing a pitcher off the shelf, instead of creating a new one. Then they used consumer-grade 3D printers to speed up prototyping. Finally, they saved time by opting for finishes that could be accommodated on a drastically shortened schedule on the theory that the maker community, which is pitching in ideas on how to improve the pitcher, would embrace finishes and parts made through rapid manufacturing techniques. “A lot of the rigor that [ordinarily] goes into those processes is making sure that every single spec is adhered to the Nth degree,” said Dawson, the engineer behind the project. “Our community embraces the aesthetics of parts made through rapid prototyping.”
Be sure to follow other exciting home innovations with our pals over at GE Reports.