We focused on two strategies to reduce small plastic waste around the area of small liquids, useable in several Billion dollar problem areas (medicine, health and beauty, pets, plants)
Firstly, is to elevate the dispenser so that it's stylish, multiple-use (refill) and multipurpose, eventually multi-user and intelligent. Think swiss army knife or leatherman vs a butter knife.
Secondly, empathic design tightly integrating it into a users travels through life, to help overcome pains and reach sustainable gains in least hassle way. Think googlemaps+GPS+traffic alerts vs dashboard compass and paper map.
The better we help achieve users end goals, the more likely they are to stick to using a reusable device instead of the popular single use options and the tons of landfill waste they create.
Over this document we'll be looking at a few options starting inexpensive as possible simply and passive, explaining refill and then getting into active devices that are very likely to be the future of medicine and liquid dispensing.
THE KEYCHAIN PUMP
A simple refillable keychain pump could be used for any liquid the end-user wants to carry around in a pocket or bag.
By attaching one or multiple to a keyring that fits into a pocket, it's always available when needed, this increased mobility and freedom, can overcome the friction of change, and make this even sexier than throwing something away.
Below is a refillable one off the shelf for reference.
Pretty much any liquid can work, from soap, to breath spray, to medicinals like bug spray or antibiotics, or pain (e.g. aspirin dissolved in a gel) or drink like energy shots in a pump vs bottle.
A twistable pump head could provide: jet stream, mister/inhaler....eye dropper, nasal sprayer, foamer.
A industry standard .25ml dose/pump, would work for a wide arrange of uses.
Also by simply diluting with water at home, a dose can personalized to different needs, as life demands:
For consistent doses every time like vitamins, medicines, 1 dose is 1 pump. If less than 1 pump is needed (e.g. 1/2 dose) don't lift all the way up, or dilute appropriately (1/2 dose is 1:1 active:water, 1/4 is 1:3)
For variables doses like with pain control or caffeiene, 1 dose might be 3 pumps. So 1 pump is small, 2 pumps is medium, 3 pumps is full, 4 super sized (33% more).
Multiple pumps could also work with liquid spices in baking/drinks to avoid dirtying/cleaning measuring spoons, (i.e. 2 pumps = 1/4 tsp for spices like vanilla during making cookies).
MEDICAL SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS
Many pills would benefit from this approach, often mostly inert fillers. Converted to a liquid, it has many advantages:
- they could be consumed without extra water for on the go
- is easy to fractionally dose more or less (unlike crushing/cutting pills)
- liposomally encapsulated they could have comparable shelf life to pills
- enhanced bioavailability - faster onset for "breakthrough pain"
- and multistage time release characteristics for more even delivery
Again dilution would come in useful, some people are hypersensitive, some are high tolerance, no one size fits all and this tolerance sometimes changes over time.
Since it uses a non-contact modes of dispensing they could be shared across multiple patients unlike needles hygienically. This might be useful for field medics, in crisis zones (war, epidemics), who can't carry around single use containers practically.
If successful it could significantly lessen the massive amount of single use plastic pill containers and caps, gel caps, bags the norm in the medical field.
Eventually a intelligent device with integrated sensing, dock, communicating with apps and webservices, could be even better for the increasingly complex schedules demanded by modern medicine.
With prescription use on the rise, and dozens of pills common, when you get older, this could be a human friendly solution to the inhuman complexities of titrating or microdosing on a schedule, eliminate the hassles and mess of cutting and crushing pills and remembering what to take and when, particularly when out and about and not feeling well.
It can help save lives, practically, and affordably: noncompliant use of prescriptions is a huge hundred billion dollar a year issue:
approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed, and...is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations, and to cost the American health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year. from New York Times "cost of not taking your medicine"
Healthcare was 17.8 percent of GDP in 2015 and estimated to grow to 20% by 2025. Almost all of it relies on medicine in the form of prescribed pills that have to be taken responsibly often on a shedule, and dangerous...even deadly when not respected.
In 2016: 59,000 deaths from drug overdoses occurred, more than car crashes, heart attacks, HIV, or shooting, more than were lost in the vietnam war, which an intelligent system could better prevent.
We played with the first off the shelf version (above) and found many issues with it, has to be disassembled to be filled, plastic and glass breaks/cracks if dropped, tends to drip on viscous fluids. More parts than needed. Took note of all the issues and brainstormed better ways, which meant a complete redesign.
We designed around the assumption inspired by smartphones battery use, that a simple recharge/refill station is available every few days, and recharging must be no more difficult than to swap a battery. We assumed that costs must be at the low cost end be negligible (e.g. shaving blade handle)
The winner was variation on a syringe, that has many benefits:
- It's airless, helping preserve content integrity
- It's allows orientation-less pumping ( hanging upside down, putting eyedrops in or sinus medication)
- It only costs a few cents to make, made with existing injection molding infrastructure used for single use plastics.
- It's easy to clean and refill, or recycle/remake
- child locks could be added numerous ways from push buttons to combination locks
- It could be styled simple and basic for free or fancy for profit (like smart phone cases), fancy could even subsidize the free/low cost tier
TOP RIGHT: the directional valves need to refill and then dispense in the proper flow pattern through a multiple use airless syringe.
The refill is done via a basketball like valve fed by an external needle in the top and larger similar chamber.
BOTTOM LEFT: a part of a series of refill/dispense containers, that can be modeled like an interconnected chain of reusable syringes. Refill/collection stations starting from brewery to bicycle or food truck to the home refill station (e.g. FlavorBook in the fridge or pantry by mailbox), to finally this portable device.
BOTTOM RIGHT: a life-cycle (aka statechart) of operation: initial upstroke to unlock, rest of full up stroke to fill, and down stroke to dispense a defined dose (e.g. .25ml) through a simple, possibly adjustable spray head (stream, spray, pump liquid), then if fully depressed close and lock to avoid drips when in pocket/bag.
This version fabricated out of off the shelf, aluminum pill carrier and a few medical plastic syringe, a standard needle syringe was used to fill/refill.
The cost to manufacture these are a few cents, meeting our goal for commodity costs demanded by consumer product goods, and durably operating life of hundreds or more reuses if syringe's self lubricating elastic material is chosen properly to solution being dispensed, with a fraction of the parts and materials in the reference sprayer.
While it can be any size, 2.5ml to 15ml designers were tested, which we found was plenty for most soaps, medicinals, and beauty products consumed daily.
Assembled, looks like a normal keychain fob. Avoiding social stigma of carrying whatever is inside, as well the awkwardness of taking them. Like taking medication during meetings, it could appear like taking a breath spray in the time it takes to yawn (which probably happens a lot at meetings anyway lol)
Typical Use Workflow
1) to grab device out off pocket
2) use thumb/thumbnail to unlock
3) raise pump head up to fill dose (only lift up partially if you need a smaller dose)
4) press down to dispense dose
5) optionally, repeat steps for 3+4 for multiple dose as needed
6) press all way down to lock close.
if necessary to switch fluids, just empty out by pumping dry.
1) Like in step 3 above, raise pump head to expose refill port but not enough to fill
2) attach refill tip to refill port (or refill dock)
3) press down on dock pump till it stops (indicating fullness)
4) disconnect refill tip,
5) press pump head all way down to lock close.
6) use as normal, repeat as necessary.
Here's the 2.5ml (10 dose) mockup at actual size and on keychain.
A clasp mechanism, is used to attach to either a keyring or belt loop. In this version is a simple hard plastic passive clip on, but could be spring-loaded carbiner for more aggressive movement (e.g. mountain climbing)
Like a smart phone cover could have stylistic clip-on covers and protectors, in the below shot, a bit Alien/Geiger looking.
Several could fit on a bigger keychain for different purposes (e.g. a nurses ward serving different patients or mobile medic needing an a wide amount of options),
This more "pro" version uses
- 3d printed, screw on end plates for tactile visual identification, useful in the dark and sight impaired, or in teams (even a five year old who can't read well, can understand "get me the bubble gum pink looking one"), even design your own for personalization.
- magnetic attachments to create stacking radial symmetry, even inside the chaos of a pocket.
- an adjustable and lockable clip so a single hook can work with big belts or tiny keyrings, in either clip on or screw durably attached. Retracting reels too.
Once done these sprayer are returned to the source (e.g. hospital) for refills, cleaning and reuse. They are small enough to mail back in an envelope, and cheap enough to have multiple in use, so you're never out. A long term goal would be autoclave sterilization and collaboration with drones.
The Active version
- would have simple sensing for measuring pumps and times, logging for accounting, reporting billing.
- possibly powered dispensing (e.g. nebulization for inhalation)
- app integration for changing dosing settings.
- biometrics - like iPhone sensor to avoid unauthorized (e.g child lock) use and even ensure that the recipient is the intended one (simlar to scan your id for verification before you sign).
- it could have safety limits like number of hits per hour/day,
- a countdown timer how soon the next time could be from the one you just took.
- analytics on use: a accounting person looking at aggregate rates of consumption in the hospital/store vs where the nearest/cheapest refill for the outtage projected over the weekend from the flood related accidents.
Like a ipod/smartphone, recharging could be done by a passive or active dock.
The dock is similar construction using a larger syringe, that is also refillable from a even larger source (Inspired by Nature like a tree->branch->twig->leaf->cell), likely fed itself with a Flavorbook and by mail or delivery Splosh like refills.
The one below is elevated so that it's easy to grab, while still attached to pile of keys with only one hand, perhaps with a Apple like magnetic refill connector.
TO A MORE INTELLIGENT FUTURE
With integrated sensing, and recording, it one step closer to a Star Trek like future, possibly even as relevant as a smartphone for our body's needs.
It could be used for how you feel subjectively:
"the medicine you just took should be taking effect, is it helping the headache?"
or communicate with external biometrics sensors (blood glucose, heart rate) like already being worked on by Xprize tricorder that affordably
"works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free. Goodbye, medical establishment." - from interview with CEO of Mercedes benz
This combined data could be used by anyone, pro athlete or soccer mom for highest performance in life, even recreational for hobbies, personal research and feedback, medically for insurance for compliance, and encourage responsible of pain and antibiotics use, when a doctor prescribes them on a specific schedule.
Some day an active/powered device and dock could work like an iPod/dock, for recharging both power and fluids on a prescribed schedule. Particularly when device carries multiple channels/reservoir (single device many liquids) mixed on demand, like playing a chord, the intensity of notes based on mood and place in like piano roll score, set by some UI like:
In an AI active (app + webservice) scenario, imagine that the C.A.D. (computer aided dosing), helps orchestrate so that incompatible things are not taken (antioxidants and oxidants) at the same time or when empty stomach or food is needed. A patients life is simplified, just it's time to take next dose, no worries about what mix of things is inside, no more counting pills, underdosing or overdosing. This is not as far as it seems, IBM Watson already helps "nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses, ...you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans."
This can mean all the difference between getting better or getting worse. Having a family together or torn apart, where a simple solution like this could benefit any life, human, pet or plant refillable liquids.
EXAMPLE USE CASES:
SOAP/SHAMPOO: vs sachets, you take the family's keyring (with multiple of these dispensers attached, each personalized with faceplate to keep track) to the refill station nearest (or when they come to you) and fill up soap/shampoo/conditioner, the keyring keeps them all together and may hang in the shower as it's a water proof pumping mechanism.
FOOD/DRINK: John loves vanilla lattes, wants to add vanilla to his morning coffee + milk, but doesn't want alcohol tincture or the powder that doesn't dissolve well or flavor much, so he gets Cloud9's cold brewed low alcohol OMGVanilla which requires refridgeration and airtight, needing a airless pump like this. He takes this dispensor out of the fridge and pumps 4 times, takes a taste, decides to add 2 more pumps, and then remembers that for next day. A future adjustable dose might allow him to set that 6 sized dose as one pump.
PRESCRIPTION - MEDICAL: A patient gets prescription topical and oral pill antibiotics they need to take hourly. They are given 2 of these dispensors one with a oral and second with a topical antibiotic and a timer app that tells a schedule for them to take them on. e.g. 2 pump to mouth every hour, 1 pump topical every 15 minutes. This schedule being critical and optimal to the maximum effect so important in conquering a living and complex infection (which asexually doubles quickly)
For a followup, the patient goes shared the data with the doctor for a online review and they see that they've been 95% on track with their schedule and the treatment is working mostly for antibiotics but apparently not as well for antifungals. So they switch up to a different antifungal keep the same antibiotic, refill the device (possibly arrives by mail) and continue on the protocol.
Once completed, the doctor approves a 20% service discount for being a good healthier patient, which if the system works to make people healthier, collectively overtime costs patients, hospitals, insurance and society significantly less.
RECREATIONAL - MEDICAL: A mountain climber is ascending half dome, half way up, they get a scrape but cannot stop climbing. They would spray a topical bandage with some antiseptic and pain control, as needed so they can continue to the top safely and not distracted. As they move still climbing, they will likely continually break the bandage and need reapplication so having this on a carabiner would be the best solution.
When next at a refill place (tent, car, convenience store), they recharge for the next days anticipated adventures. This might also be via the mobile app, ordered and delivered ahead of his next location at in store pickup location, or maybe even delivered by hyperloop/smart-car/drone delivery to his exact location wherever he is.
PETS: Lassie, since the big trip, needs deworming and flea spray, two dispensors are charged up at the vet, used for 2 week treatment then returned to the clinic. The fleas fails to respond so it's refilled again at nominal charge second dispensor returned. Lassie finally flea free from correcting the source returns the second dispensor, the previous is already out helping Hodor the kitten.
PLANTS :Terror in the prized garden. the roses have aphids, and the tomatoes have mites, and the cabbage mold at base. Granny Smith goes down to garden store rents 3 dispensors filled with different appropriate sprays on price per pump. She then returns them back to the store once done for the deposit refund.