A regenerative desiccant dehumidifier designed to maintain humidity levels inside delivery trucks
Duration: 12 weeks
Context: Graduate Project Internship
Category: SME's Product Design
Tools Used: Fusion 360, Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop
Role: Designer, Researcher, Prototyper
A SME cardboard factory was facing issues with their business, during the monsoon season. It led to weaker boards, poor storage opportutiies
From site visits and ethnographic research, I found different types of people within the factory who could be of great help. This allowed for a collaborative problem finding step that was crucial to outline the problem.
Then a study into the science of moisture and humidity provided some ideas. Other research into past, natural and artificial methods of dehumidification was explored. These provided a list of solutions that can be implemented.
Demos is a product-based solution that aims to maintain humidity levels within the storage space during transit. Coupled with a change in the manufacturing process and ventilation techniques, this aims to reduce the level of moisture within the product. See Solution
The product is then further developed as a brand, noting several key service design features and pipelines (such as the circular design in the manufacturing method) and developing a business not bound by the monsoon season
See the entire project below
Ever just jump straight into cold water? It's a good way to wake up the mind and body. Here I decided to jump straight into the 'cold water' by talking to the owner without any prior research. I think it can shed all the anxiousness about a new project and like in my case provide clear problem areas that need solving.
"Every monsoon, most deliveries that we give to the clients are returned back to us. They complain that the cardboard is soft, warped, damp, and weak to use. We have to re-do the whole process which sets us back further. It takes us a long time to gain back this loss."
Stanley Josifus, the owner of Wellpack Industries.
Note: This is not Stanley Josifus as I didn't have his permission to include his picture.
Beyond our dialogue, three distinct problems were highlighted in our conversation
After our initial talk, I set out to plan the project based on how to tackle this ideally in the set timeline I had.
Outlining each stage and verifying the methods
I think planning helps a lot when it comes to executing a project because it allows me a bird's eye view of the path ahead.
Outlining the production process of cardboard
And the cardboard industry in India
It is an important part for the manufacturing sector (which relies heavily on corrugated packaging for finished goods transportation and handling.)
Increasing consumer awareness towards sustainable packaging and growth of the e-commerce industry has led to increase in business. Rising population, rising income levels and changes in their lifestyle, are also factors at play.
The paper industry is a growing market, with 750 mills scattered all across the nation. These contribute to cardboard manufacturers and act as the first rung in the ladder of the value chain. This growth and new players entering the market will create a need for packaging material for delivery and storage.
Going to the factory
I had almost full access to the factory and I ensured I made multiple trips and spoke to everyone as much as possible.
My findings showed:
Entrance of the factory is quite small.
The storage unit where the Kraft paper roles are kept face the external environment
The process is quite straightforward. Sheets are cut, formed, glued and then cut in templates based on the orders by the clients.
Until delivery, the boxes are stored in the small spaces next to the entrances. During delivery, a team of employees stacks multiple sheets into the back of the truck.
The truck is driven to each delivery point until it come backs to the factory.
Factory floor plan was done to access the 'flow'.
Exact measurements were not needed but a layout helped to understand the movement of resources.
Areas of Intervention
Looking at the big picture
The diagram on the left shows how each commodity shifts from person to person or organization to organization. This value chain is specific to the client’s business.
I chose to look into this, and outline it, to better understand the problem, map out relevant key players/stakeholders, to
find the optimum intervention.
- An incomplete process is followed (no heating at the first few stages of production, no testing post productions). A heating machine is needed, but there is no space in the factory for it.
- The production process is quite efficient and fast.
- Delivery takes place every other day and the truck is always fully stocked, leaving very little room.
- Storage areas, though designated, are poorly ventilated and exposed to the environment.
In this stage, I wanted to understand who the solution is for. I made stakeholder maps, to find out the proximity of each user to the factory and then mapped them according to Power Vs Interest.
From there, I spoke to each member of the factory.
From the owner to the floor worker, I currated a set of questions that provided a much clearer understanding of the situtation. These are what I found:
Maintain a good relationship with the clients
Use own platform to promote and showcase business capability
Streamline the production line during monsoon to account for humidity
Make money to provide for their families
Enjoy the work that they do and want to be seen working for the foreseeable future.
Would not oppose training of their job roles as some lack experience
This enabled me to generate user personas with a focused on key persons on the factory floor.
After speaking to the workers in the factory I chose to document the factory space and learn about moisture and humidity.
Moisture and its effects on Cardboard.
During monsoon, the amount of water in the air increases drastically, and with the temperature, creates the right dew point (saturation line) for rainfall and condensation to occur. The chart below shows the data of moisture in a 1 cubic meter volume of air.
This stage was a bit out of touch bit I chose to explore it as I didn't want to leave anything out of the research.
Areas of Intervention
The factory space also revealed a certain level of humidity damage. From pealing of paint, damp floors, and moss growth, the problem expressed became clearer to address.
For this particular case, there are two solutions levels.
1) A humidity control for the storage areas
2) Humidity maintainer in the delivery vehicles.
- Moisture increases due to monsoons and excess water in the space
- If water goes in between the layers of the cardboard, it causes irreparable damage. The glue loses hold and the layers fall apart. Another thing to note is that if completely wet, the cardboard begins to dry from the edges towards the center.
Scoping out the Solution
Realising that the factory storage space and delivery are areas that tend to face humidity post production, meant that the problem resided in managing ways to store cardboard and deliver it well. Hence, my search began in looking at existing solutions that can be implemented
With the constraints in mind, I looked into strategies that help and control humidity
The information here is a result of the competitive analysis, where the value curve was formed by reading user feedback on forums, and the market projections from the cost vs technology bracket of the dehumidifiers available.
From this, I moved on to compile the key points from the research and field visits.
Solutions must be low-cost and easy to implement.
solution is ideal.
Users trust testimonials and see value in them.
Increase ventilation in the storage area and factory.
Maintain humidity during the transit.
Which led to a ideation session based on parameters of humidity elimination or management
Personally, a difficult part of every project. It's always difficult to discard ideas but its necessary.
I then mapped the ideas onto a Impact VS feasibility matrix. This led to filter out the best idea to implement based on the timeline.
This solution is a low cost ventillation concept that that cam be adopted into both factory floors, such that there is good ariflow around the storage areas.
Keep windows ajar, to create a crossflow on both floors. Cover open areas with tarpoil.
Place multiple roof turbine exhausts to facilitate airflow to drive moisture in the air upwards and away from storage areas.
Ventilation in factory
Reduce water concentration, to make it dry faster and leaving less time to allow for humidity to settle on the cardboard sheets. This will ensure less damage to occur between the layers.
- Introduce gaps whilst stacking. The lesser the contact surface, the better, as this will let the air flow.
- A designated space for stacking different inventory in terms of weight, size and ply number.
- Block openings so that rain does’nt enter into the inventory.
This solution is a low-cost ventilation concept that that cam be adopted into both factory floors, such that there is good airflow around the storage areas.
And by making mockups, I was able to visualize and understand the basic ergonomics of the product.
With that figured out, I made a lab prototype to put under testing phases.
From the data collected, I was able to make some changes to the design.
The test showed that having a airflow was a good choice, though it didn’t work as well, I decided to change the design to get better airflow. Changing the hole placement, sealed the fan better and added a channel.
The functional prototype was made with an inbuilt battery and 4 neodymium magnets. Taking it to the field, I tested the product within the truck walls.
The Final Design
The desiccant dehumidifier. Demos is a product made with replaceable pars, such that it reduced waste, and promotes regeneration.
The design of this product ensures that each component used is standard (from the fan, batteries, and the circuitry) and uses durable materials that last long. Each part is not glued, so its easier to replace.
I always make it a point to define the end cycle of my designs. Its our responsibility as designers to do this.
Demos, which was an internship project, went on to be showcased at my graduation design jury. The panel members loved the idea, and appreciated the use of the coursework of my undergraduate program.
The client liked the insights presented, as well as the suggestions to combat the moisture issues.
The learning I got from this project, showed me more about the variety of design work that I could be doing, from a strategy perspective.