RESEARCH + MARKET
With most fire extinguishers on the market based on a 60 year old design, there remains little innovation in this product area. As such, the fire extinguisher is a worthy candidate for incrimental innovation. With vehicle fires amounting to a substantial percentage of fire causes and the high probability that a police cruiser will be the first responder to such fires, officers must be well equipped to extinguish the fire effectively.
As a means to explore and communicate ideas, ideation through both sketching as well as low fidelity mockups was used throughout the development of the product.
The safety switch involves a rotating ring that is twisted 90 degrees by the thumb, which subsequently lines up a opening where the spring loaded button snaps up. This innovative safety switch improves upon the current mechanisms in several ways: firstly, its ambidextrous, whereas current extinguishers assume the user is gripping with the right hand and pulling the pin with their left. Secondly, it renders the safety action a single hand operation as opposed to two hands on current units.
After exploring different hose concepts, a coiled hose system was decided upon. Having the hose wrapped around an internal coil that pivots around the valve allows the user to easily pull the nozzle out when needed, while keeping the hose nicely hidden when in storage.
The goal of user testing was to study the intuition of the safety switch and coiled hose, while also testing various weights and nozzle ideations. Without any prior exposure, users were placed in the position of a police officer responding to a vehicle fire and were asked to remove the semi-working prototype from trunk height and “extinguish” the fire. The semi-working prototype had a functioning safety switch with a springloaded button and coil hose. Weights of could be added and removed in intervals of two and a half pounds to test various degrees of mobility.
User testing provided numerous insights and led to iterations that further re-enforced the final design. Though the safety switch and coiled hose had high success rates, additional ideation resulted in stronger signifiers. Such signifiers included a recessed area to promote interaction with the nozzle as well as internalizing the safety switch mechanism which provided the added benefit of a track that signified the twisting motion for the safety switch.
Expanding the width of the tank and decreasing the height allows for vertical trunk storage, increasing the ease of access, without a reduction in expellant volume.
Due to the nature of the product, the features of the fire extinguisher need to be intuitive. However, to further reduce any chance of user error is the inclusion of an instruction label. The label is located at the back of the extinguisher which would face the user when held to allow for ease of reading.
The recessed area visually communicates an interaction with the nozzle, while also facilitating ease of handling.
CENTRE OF GRAVITY
To afford users more control over the extinguisher, the grip is placed directly above the centre of gravity. This paired with a broader grip than existing extinguishers results in a more comfortable experience.
Using robust materials such as aluminum for the housing and tank as well as a polycarbonate ABS composite for the buttons and nozzle ensures it will withstand use and abuse.
An appearance model was created making use of rapid prototyping machines such as 3D printing and CNC milling.