EYE ON INNOVATION: New Fridge Keeps Cool Without Electricity

A new powerless refrigerator uses evaporation to keep food cool and prevent items from spoiling.

Students from the University of Calgary put a new spin on refrigeration.

Great news for your next camping trip, yes, but even greater news for those parts of the world that are deprived of reliable electricity sources. As reported by Wonderfulengineering.com, for those who live in these regions, refrigeration isn’t just a way to preserve favorite foods, “it is a matter of survival itself…”

The idea for the electricity-free fridge recently captured first place in the Biomimicry Global Design Competition, sponsored by Montana-based Biomimicry Institute, which challenged students and researchers worldwide to develop nature-inspired products that address critical sustainability issues. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Cool G-RO Luggage Likely to Go Places

“Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ sign…please make sure you’ve stowed your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin.”

That’s an easy request if you’re traveling with the new G-RO carry-on luggage, which is set to reach the market next summer. Its size is compliant with TSA, FAA, airline and international travel regs.

Photo By: New York Post

But we like it because of its smart product design.

Developed by New York-based Shalgi Design Studio, this luggage is well thought out, and includes uncommon features such as patented, large, low-mass “all-terrain” wheels; a strong, ballistic nylon overall material for the case; a charging station with two USB ports to charge your laptop, tablet and smartphone simultaneously; a location tracker and proximity detector; a built-in tablet stand; and even a waterproof bottom. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: EPA Rules Fuel Inventive New Gas Can

As a homeowner, have you ever noticed how frequently you’re filling up your gas can in order to fuel your lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chainsaws and more?

The spill-proof SureCan works to make this chore less messy and way more environmentally friendly

Photo from Building-products.com

As a reviewer from Tool-rank.com recently raved, SureCan is “the best gas can I have ever used. It is a gas can that doesn’t leak and doesn’t spill, even when you are trying to use a heavy, full gas can to fill a small chainsaw tank.”

This spill-proofing is especially important these days, given that the EPA has strict new rules regarding gas cans to cut down on spillage and the venting of gas fumes into the atmosphere. Tool-rank.com again: “With these new regulations, the EPA made the cheap and common plastic gas can a thing of the past, which had the side effect of putting some gas can manufacturers out of business. If you have had a hard time finding a cheap gas can, this is why.”

The durable, six-layer, high-density polyethylene container features stainless steel springs, aluminum rivets, viton seals and a self-ventilating feature. SureCan calls its product the greenest red can on the market.

Prices vary: 2.2 gallon can, $37; 5 gallon can, $45.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at cool technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.


EYE ON INNOVATION: Travel Light with Silicone Drinkware

If you’re a camper or day hiker, you’re constantly on the lookout for ultra-light gear for the trail. Add these silicone drinking cups to your pack list.

Photo: Werd.com

They look just like glass, but are unbreakable, won’t weigh down your pack and, yes, they’re made out of silicone.

Portland, Ore.-based outdoor gear manufacturer and outfitter Snow Peak offers these safe, food-grade cups that are, as Werd.com comments on its website, quite versatile: “Hot tea, cold whiskey, they can handle it all.” These cups are available in various sizes, including a highball glass, stemless wine tumbler and rocks glass. Founded in 1958 by Japanese mountaineer Yukio Yamai, Snow Peak strives to, as its website states, “create products that inspire people to enjoy the outdoors, [seeking] harmony between people and nature.”

At Proto Labs, we’re familiar of course with silicone parts and products, because we offer our own quick-turn liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding process, which can produce various durometers of standard, medical-grade and optically clear silicone parts and products, much like these drinking cups.

Price range for Snow Peak’s cups: $25 to $27.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at cool technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Five Tech Trends of 2015

As 2015’s Q4 nears, a brief look at the year’s technology trends is in order. This list includes innovations or trends that have recently arrived or will soon, and is an amalgam sourced from Forbes, MIT Technology Review, CNET and others. In various ways, Proto Labs touches each of these trends.

Computing Everywhere
Most computing these days is in your pocket or purse — that is, in your smartphone. As Forbes reports, “smartphones will be used in new contexts and environments. Along with wearables, smartphones will offer connected screens in the workplace and in public. User experience will be key.”

Smartphones also play a prime role in the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Along these lines, Proto Labs produces parts for companies serving this connectivity market. For example, Garageio, which is an app for smartphones that allows users to control and monitor their garage doors with their phones, is a past winner of our Cool Idea! Award.

A final note on smartphone use. Several news sources report that the majority of digital media consumption now takes place on mobile devices rather than desktop. Mobile usage as a whole — app and mobile web — totals more than 60 percent, versus less than 40 percent for desktop usage.

Smart Machines
This year, major brands such as Whirlpool, LG, GE and Samsung introduced their latest versions of smart home devices such as washing machines and refrigerators. Plus, we already have cars that help us park, navigate and stay in our lanes.

Proto Labs’ digitally connected manufacturing equipment is, in essence, a network of smart machines communicating with one another. This approach has helped us transform traditional manufacturing into an automated, digital enterprise.

CNET reports that smart machines will continue to evolve, and Forbes predicts that “the smart-machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.”

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