3fD: A year of cutting edge design, innovation, and creating a new studio.

13 apr 18

2017 has been a very busy and exciting year for 3fD. We’ve created some of our most ambitious products to date, as well as designed and built a brand-new studio to call home.

It all started when we were asked to design the world’s most energy efficient vaping device. Those of you who’ve met us will know how much we love a challenge, and this was certainly challenging. The device needed a large power capacity, the ability to rapidly heat up ‘on demand’, and be quickly and easily rechargeable. We knew there was no off-the-shelf solution, so we created one by combining a smart battery pack of our own design with an internal heat recovery system. We’re thrilled that the device has triggered a true paradigm shift in energy use within the category.

This year we’ve also created new agricultural equipment that runs on hybrid power. The design not only means the product out-performs competitors on energy-efficiency by miles, but it also brings commercial gains by getting the work done much faster.

In the meantime, we’ve perfected our innovative water-saving device called FloStem: a low-cost and user-friendly product for the home that allows people to be more aware of how much water they use. The device has clever engineering at its core. An impeller rotates as water flows through, driving a specially designed fixed ratio gearbox that shuts off when 45L of water has been used. An extraordinarily high gear ratio was required in order to make the device viable and it also needed to be small enough to fit through a letterbox.

As if all of this wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we’ve also converted an old Chapel in Whitchurch, Hampshire, into our brand-new studio and office space. As product designers and engineers, we were very particular about how we wanted the space to work and we soon realised that if we really wanted a studio that worked exactly how we wanted, we’d have to create it ourselves. And that’s exactly what we did.

We’ve designed and specified everything from the architectural and structural layout and interior, to the finishes, materials and a new stain-glassed window using our 3D product design and engineering expertise. The result is a new home that nurtures creativity, innovation and the wellbeing of our team and is a true reflection of us and how we work. Come and visit us if you’re ever passing through Whitchurch.

Despite having been kept busy with our own projects, we’ve also been aware of some of the wider issues and challenges facing our industry this year. For example, as a design company, we create products for our clients that are invariably made of plastic. However, in December the UN environment summit in Nairobi officially declared the plastic waste in our oceans a ‘planetary crisis’.

As individuals, we’re very conscious that the decisions we make in our work can make differences to the environment, and the wider world around us. That’s why we’re planning to do more work with bio-plastics in the year ahead to start looking into how we might be able to make a difference. We hope to share some of our findings with you this time next year. But whatever the problem is that we’re trying to solve, whether it be a commercial, environmental, practical or logistical, it all comes back to our approach.

We believe that design today means creating products that last. Products that are built to do a job and that don’t expire early, creating an avalanche of costs and waste materials in the process. As well as having instilled this design philosophy in our team, we’ve also invested in the simulation tools and the design processes to make it possible. We primarily sketch and design using digital tools, making the whole process of developing products more efficient because we can run tests on digital designs to help guarantee the success of the final product. Not only does the environment benefit, the user experience ends up being far superior because of the additional layer of testing early on. In turn, that means more products get sold.

On top of this, our turnkey approach means we can turn products around quicker than others, giving our clients the confidence that what we design will ultimately be able to be manufactured.

We may not have found a solution to the world’s plastic crisis, but our approach to design and engineering, and the values we foster within our team and projects, ensures that we continue to create compelling products that are great for users, good for our souls, helpful to the planet and ultimately, commercially successful.