Product Design in Development with the ‘Bat Detector Holder’

I am always working with clients on one design or another. The clients intellectual property and confidentiality is of key importance when designing and developing any new product. This does mean however that I cannot share very much with you all about the things I am working on. So when I work on designing of one of my own innovations, I have the freedom to tell the world about it.

Here is one current example…

Inspired by a good friends needs as an Ecologist; while out in the field surveying bat populations, she has to hold onto a clipboard, an electronic bat detector and at the same time make notes. The detector is an expensive device and should not be dropped. So you can see the age old problem – not enough hands! The original idea was to design something to simply clamp the detector onto the side of the clip board. Then I came to realise that we could go one better than that – how about a holder that allows easy use of the device, pointing forwards while orientated above the clipboard, and can also be folded down to the centre of gravity of said clipboard, so keeping the detector safe when not in use?

Holder in extended position

May solution is the Bat Detector Holder! An extendable device that keeps the setup balanced via symmetry and simple mechanical function. When this design is completed, the bat detector will sit in the centre of the white bar that connects the two mirrored arms, so staying flat for safe ease of use.

For the design I used 3D CAD via SolidWorks, and for the psychical prototyping 3D printing and hands on workshop skills for the inclusion of non-3D printed elements. Utilising a pulley mechanism, the detector always remains flat in both the extended and closed positions.

Holder in closed position

My first prototype, comprised simply to test the folding principle, was created using 3D printed components and technical Lego (great for testing simple mechanical functions). The first fully functional prototype utilises metal components, so to develop a secure stable functional prototype. The metal belt pulleys are similar to the ones found in my own 3D printer as is the rubber belt itself. This guarantees the availability of standardised parts when reaching the stage of mass production. Iterations in the design will involve making the item out of less material and so more compact, without sacrificing stability, while considering cost reduction principals of design for manufacture.

Gluing the pulley cable

This product is of course not yet finished. I have given my friend a block of Fimo so she can make an replica of the bat detector, to the same weight and dimensions, so I can make a cradle for the device and test it on the current prototype. I predict that the extra weight may require the need to make some adjustments, which include another pulley on the opposite arm, and also a stop mechanism to ensure the detector keeps in the correct horizontal position while the arm is extended, so not to flip over. Further modifications will also include removing the side faces so making sure to not get in the way while note taking. After this time the design can be tested in field. So watch this space for a further blog post on this products development!

This product can also potentially be used for any number of surveying equipment, and so goes beyond to scope of this project in its market potential. Being a Product Designer about is more than just designing for clients. A good designer should be creating items from the position of their own interest, both for personal entrepreneurism, to sharpen skills, and for the love of design!

If you are interested in having me design for you please contact me via charles@titherley.com or on +44(0)7869 275799.

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