Want to hang on to relaxed, summery vibes? A start-up in the UK, Nipi Smart Cooler, created a unique “smart” cooler to elevate picnics, camping and tailgating to a whole new level! Using Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions throughout the product development process allowed Nipi Smart Cooler to create a functional prototype 75% faster than using traditional manufacturing methods. Aimed at the consumer market, the company has already surpassed its crowdfunding goal, and was recently backed by an Asian investor in order to accelerate the product to market.
What Makes a Cooler So Smart?
Nipi contains features that make it a must have! A solar panel drives the cooling mechanism, allowing for up to six days of ice retention. Nipi also includes a charging hub, internal and external LED lighting, a safe, cup holders and a cutting board.
3D printing allowed for the development and testing of these component parts of the Nipi during the planning stages. Luke Guttery, Product Design Lead at Nipi Smart Cooler, explains that 3D printing was critical in shrinking the time of design cycles. “It’s amazing how quickly we could go from an idea on a piece of paper to a fully-functional prototype that we could test outdoors. Without 3D printing, this simply would not have been achievable in the given timeframe. In just a few days we had already produced the main body in UV resistant materials to test the solar panels in the sun, and large-scale over-molded wheels with rigid interiors and rubber treads. Using this technology, we were able to develop a final working prototype in a just under a week, whereas with traditional manufacturing it would be closer to a month.”
From Awesome Idea to Hot New Product
Nipi relied on 3D Print Bureau, a Stratasys service provider in the UK, to take the cooler from a concept to a prototype. Together the team used both Stratasys’ FDM and PolyJet 3D printing technology to produce parts to examine design, fit, form and function before plans became final.
The Nipi is meant to be outdoors, so the prototype of the smart cooler’s body required a material that could endure the continued exposure to sunlight. Using Stratasys’ superior UV- and heat-resistant ASA thermoplastic FDM material, 3D Print Bureau produced a working prototype that could support the solar panel testing required in multiple outdoor environments.
Stratasys multi-material PolyJet 3D printing handled the over-molded parts, such as the handles and large tires that required accurate combinations of rigid and rubber-like materials. With the ability to 3D print these multi-material parts at once, as well as the capability to mix materials to create new material properties, 3D Print Bureau was able to quickly produce several variations in different levels of hardness for the Nipi team to test.
“Utilizing the best of each of Stratasys’ technologies was integral to getting a fully-functional, test-worthy prototype to the Nipi team,” says Gary Miller, Managing Director of 3D Print Bureau.
3D Printing: A True Game-changer for Agile Startups
Guttery of Nipi Smart Cooler finds the advantages of 3D printing outstanding. “For start-ups like us, I cannot overemphasize how important it is to quickly get to a stage where you can feasibly say whether your idea could be a viable product. Having access to this technology gives us the ability to make that decision faster than ever before.”
Andy Middleton, President of Stratasys EMEA, agrees: “For many start-ups with great ideas, limited capital to supplement costly and time-consuming traditional manufacturing is often the reason some innovations fail to reach the marketplace. 3D printing grants product designers the means to quickly and cost-effectively determine whether their idea can function and perform as intended, and Nipi is the perfect example.”