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Inside The Tech 2016

March 28, 2016

This week, we sat down with Ben, the CookStove's Lead Engineer, to learn more about how the team approached designing a streamlined version of the CampStove that could still burn wood like gas.

Tell us about a problem that you were excited to solve during this project.

Ben, Senior Product Engineer: "We set out to design a stove that would allow people who were already set with a charge to cook over a smokeless wood fire. I was excited to design a super efficient fan that could move more air with less electricity. We ended up designing a new fan that's oriented vertically instead of horizontally as in the CampStove to save space. We went through a long motor optimization process to reduce the power drawn by the fan.”

Which aspects of the CookStove are you proud of?

Ben: "I'm proud of the nested fan design that allowed us to package everything in a slim, beautiful power pack.”

How are you using the CookStove now?

Ben: "I like to use the CookStove on backpacking trips over the weekends. In addition to boiling my water quickly, it's really nice to stare into a fire after a long day of hiking even if conditions don't permit making a bigger fire. During the week, I primarily use it to grill burgers on my fire escape."

See Full CookStove Specs

We sat down with a few members of the SolarPanel 5 Series Product Development Team to learn more about their experience designing a panel that gets the most power possible from the sun.

Tell us about a problem that you were excited to solve during this project.

Anton, Director of Design: "Most solar panels are generic. They look and function similarly but when it comes down to it, they aren’t designed to help you get the most charge from the sun. I was excited by the opportunity to design a simple panel that was intuitive for people to use.”

Steve, Director of Manufacturing: "On the manufacturing side, we saw a lot of panels on the market using materials that make them unnecessarily thick. We wanted to create a panel that was much thinner but just as durable. It took significant time and effort to dial in but ultimately we found a lamination and laser cutting process that resulted in the thin panel we were hoping for.”

Andrew, Product Development: “We wanted to design a panel with an improved feature set that was different from the other solar panels on the market and not too expensive."

Monte, Engineer: "Developing a charging software that could maximize energy output under a wide range of sun conditions was a challenge that I was excited to tackle." 

Which aspects of the SolarPanels are you proud of?

Anton: "While we use the same technology as highly efficient monochrystaline photovoltaic cells, the SolarPanel 5 and 5+ will drastically improve your charging output. The sundial and kickstand work together to help you align perfectly to the sun.”

Steve: "I love knowing that the panel will automatically reconnect to my phone after a cloud passes."

Tracy: "I’m really excited that we were able to pack such sophisticated software into such a small space (see the orange bar on your panel)."

How are you using the SolarPanels now?

Andrew: "On the handful of sunny days we've had this year, I've thrown the 5+ in my backpack and brought it along with me as a backup charger wherever I'm going in the city.”

Steve: "I like to pair my SolarPanel 5+ with a PowerLight Mini on camping trips. When the sun goes down, I'll top off my lantern for use that night, and use the remaining juice in the SolarPanel's onboard storage to give my phone a boost."

Monte: "When I was back home in Australia, I spent some time living in an off-grid mountain cabin and used the Solar Kit to keep my devices charged and the space well lit.”

See Full SolarPanel Specs

We sat down with a few members of the PowerLight Mini Product Development Team to get a better understanding of the small details that make a big difference.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when designing the PowerLight Mini?

Mindy, Industrial Designer: "We really had to push ourselves to design a small, pocketable shape that could house a robust set of mechanical features."

Tim, Senior Product Engineer: "Getting the light guide pattern to its highest efficiency took multiple tooling samples. Each time we had a new sample, we'd have to remodel the light guide, but we finally got it!"

Tracy, Electrical Engineer: “Configuring all of the hardware into such a tight form factor was definitely the biggest challenge and ultimately our biggest success.”

Roxanne, Manufacturing Engineer: "A big challenge with PowerLight Mini was fine-tuning the features to get the look and feel of the product just right. A lot of careful thought and minor tweaks went into friction of the kickstand, the click of the button, and the finishing of the stainless steel body.” 

What were the biggest successes?

Mindy: "To me, our biggest success was when we turned on PowerLight Mini for the first time and saw how well the light guide worked. The light was so even and impressively bright, even to the Product Development team who had high expectations. We had applied a lot of learnings from developing PowerLight to developing PowerLight Mini and seeing those insights pay off was rewarding because it meant we truly had a better understanding of how to improve and perfect edge lighting systems."

Tim: "A great success was predicting the center of gravity when the PowerLight Mini hung at an angle. We wanted it to stop and rest horizontally when hung this way but without product samples it was hard to know how it would rest. Everything panned out on our computers but until we got samples we didn't know for sure. The first thing I did when we received samples was test it out and it worked."

Roxanne: "Surviving all of the user tests. The PowerLight Mini has so many features in such a small form; there is a lot of opportunity for error. We had a huge team of beta users that tested the PowerLight Mini to its limits- in all types of destructive scenarios and extreme weather. These babies took a beating! And all of that initial user feedback helped our team develop an even better and more durable product."

Are you using the PowerLight Mini?

Tim: "Oh yeah. I wear it in my back pocket when I skateboard."

Tracy: "I keep it in my backpack all the time so I have a light or charge whenever I need it."

Roxanne: "It's mounted on my bike right now!"

Mindy: "It saved me the other day when my phone died before a group dinner and I had no idea where I was going."

See Full PowerLight Mini Specs

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