Cambridge Consultants, a design and development firm, has developed a new eco-vacuum concept called Stem that would use 43% less energy than the average vacuum cleaner, while maintaining the same cleaning performance. The dramatic saving is made possible through the company’s Ecovation methodology—a process developed to integrate innovation and environmental considerations into each stage of the concept generation and design process. The approach can be applied to any type of product to reduce its overall environmental impact, and the eco-vacuum is the first example to be developed using the methodology.
Focused on ways to reduce a product’s overall “eco-impact,” the methodology nurtures the non-obvious approaches by considering the system as a whole, analyzing all aspects of a product’s environmental impact during its lifecycle—from material extraction to manufacture, product use and finally disposal. This thorough understanding of both the product and the user focuses the innovation process to identify radical ideas to significantly reduce eco-impact without impacting overall performance. With power consumption by far the biggest factor in a vacuum’s eco-impact rating, Stem would deliver a 27% reduction on overall environmental impact over the vacuum’s entire lifecycle, compared to the industry standard.
In the case of the eco-vacuum, Cambridge made an initial human factors study of vacuum cleaner users and assessed the current market leading vacuums to determine the performance and use of current technology. From this ethnographic analysis and the innovation process, radical new concepts were generated that when integrated, considerably reduce the energy usage of the vacuum cleaner.
The first concept enables the eco-vacuum to automatically vary its power usage depending on the job being done. Whether using the floor head or the hose attachment, with this concept the user gets the power they need when they need it. Secondly, the eco-vacuum intelligently reduces the power usage when no cleaning is happening, for example when paused for moving furniture.
The layout for the internal parts for the vacuum was assessed and optimized for best airflow and maximum efficiency. Crucially, the environmental gains were achieved without impacting consumer expectations of vacuum cleaners. The eco-vacuum delivers the same cleaning performance as a conventional cleaner, is similar in size and weight to standard models, meets all regulatory requirements, and comes in at a price point comparable to premium models.
“Ecovation, as demonstrated by the eco-vacuum, has the potential to make a significant step change in reducing the eco-impact of almost any product,” said Edward Brunner, principal engineer, Cambridge Consultants. “This first concept design is not just an example of what vacuums of the future may look like, but how all consumer products of the future will be designed.
“Cambridge Consultants applied the Ecovation process to vacuum cleaners in order to highlight the environmental savings that could be made without losing performance. Vacuum cleaners are a useful example of a product where consumers associate high power with high performance and, as a result, vacuum cleaners have rarely been looked at as eco-products. Our eco-vacuum concept clearly shows that this should no longer be the case.”
Filed Under: Energy management + harvesting, Green engineering