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Turning the Tables by 3fD

19 November 2010

Made Magazine - Turning the Tables

Author: Martin Parley, MADE Magazine, Nov 2010

Feeding young children can be eventful at the best of times, but if you are out and about, it can be a struggle. One mother is on a crusade to rectify this. Martin Parley from MADE Magazine finds out more.

Providing a nutritious meal for babies when on the go is a difficult task. Not only do newborns have no concept of meal times or locations, but parents also need easily digestable food that can be prepared quickly and safely, with as little difficulty as possible.

This is a daily challenge for parents such as Tilly Beazeley,‘When I had my son, I wanted fresh food wherever I was. I would spend ages cooking for only two to three spoons of food. So I thought there has to be something easier to feed a child that complies with health standards at each stage of the process’. Not prepared to accept the lack of products to help her on the market, she began thinking about what she would want from such a utensil.

‘It has to be easy to clean and to feed the child,’ she said, ‘I thought about a garlic press, but it was too small, and a potato ricer is too big. Also, these products are not meant for heat, and a bowl and spoon are not included’. With these requirements in mind, Beazeley decided to create the Wean Machine. It comprises a bowl, spoon and mashing system, so fresh baby food can be prepared quickly. The main body and handle are polyoxymethylene plastic, with the other parts, such as the cover and grates, made from polypropylene.

‘The clever part is that it is self-contained and helps educate children about healthy food,’ says Beazeley. ‘By mashing food into an attached bowl, it provides soft food for teething children and it means the child can have fresh, home cooked and healthy food that saves time and money.’ She adds, ‘Because it can be used for almost any food, such as fruits to make sauces or vegetables to make [puree], waste is reduced. You can make what you need, or simply refrigerate or freeze leftovers. ‘It also means the family does not have to  compromise at dinner. Whatever they are having can be put through the Wean Machine, making feeding time easier.’

Mother of invention Beazeley worked with 3form Design based in Andover,UK, to realise her idea. 3form Design also specialise in manufacturing and logistics. Austen Miller, Senior Partner at 3form, says, ‘When Tilly arrived, we turned the process on its head and offered her a turnkey approach, by providing design and manufacturing in one, rather than going to separate companies.

‘This was necessary because the product goes against the normal rules where standard techniques are used, such as [having] multiple thicknesses on one item, giving her a unique product. Its strength relies on different small parts, such as the clear lid.’

The design of the product was quick, taking two months, while the manufacturing refinement took a year. Certain details, such as the colour of the plastic, were difficult to obtain, because the yellow that Tilly wanted is hard to get right. It leached in testing. The material is injection moulded with anti-bacterial properties.

Miller continues, ’There was an issue with the spoon that fits inside the product, and the injection mark on this is usually to one side. When ejected from the moulding tool leave visible lines. We wanted to put it in the centre. So, we redesigned the nozzle for cosmetic purposes, which also gave us better mould balances to the flow and left the mark in the middle’.

Beazeley adds, ‘I wanted [the spoon] to be soft tipped, although with a certain degree of rigidity. [Also] the only place the branding could be situated was on the spoon so this had to meet safety [printing] standards.’ She adds, ‘As a mother I needed to ensure it was safe, above and beyond the call of duty’.

‘The spoon is now relatively soft, smooth and flat with the ink inlaid,’ says Miller. ‘Sometimes with the injection moulding we were left with a jagged edge on the spoon, so we lined the nozzle with chrome to give it a smooth finish.’ As the Wean Machine is a child’s product, the producers needed to ensure no harm could come through it, which meant adhering to standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration, as well as laws for safe disposal. This extends to the factory it is made in. ‘Care needs to be taken to avoid any potential cross contamination, as there are strict standards for baby items,’ says Beazeley, ‘The factory we chose was in China, because we went over there to inspect it and they were fully proactive in ensuring everything was how we wanted it.’

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