The home health market is characterized by high style, low priced competition, and ever-increasing feature content. Sunbeam was already a major force in the industry, but it was against this backdrop that they were seeking to leapfrog their competition with an all-new ultrasonic vaporizer. Sprocket was pleased to land the project, and it has become a 'text book' case when we describe the industrial design process to clients.

Sunbeam had already identified several key targets for the new design. From the two different tank volumes that would be required, to the method of carrying the product, to how the user would clean the product -- they had already given us a great starting point by doing their homework. For example, Sunbeam already knew it was a chore to refill water tanks in a bath tub, and the weight of the water caused awkward strain on the customer. Knowing this, we were able to shape the small tank in such a way that it fit under the faucet of a short, round sink. The lesson here is that the better-defined a project is, the better your end result will be.

Sprocket began by comparing what design characteristics we did not want, based on the existing product landscape. We identified forms and themes through a series of sketches and renderings, targeting Sunbeam's goals and intended customer. Three likely directions emerged from this process, which were developed into full-scale foam models for comparison. After a final round of refinements on paper, a winning design was chosen, which we carefully developed in Alias to its final form. A rapid prototype model followed, to prove the concept and verify the fitment of parts.

We were able to give the larger tank a different appearance from the smaller, while still utilizing the same base. This gave Sunbeam more marketing options for private-labeling and point-of-sale, while keeping 85% of the parts the same. The new Sunbeam was intuitive to use, easy to carry, and easy to clean. It was the first ultrasonic humidifier to have top-mounted controls, and it became a benchmark product when it was introduced. After just a few years, it too became leapfrogged, in a market that never rests. Such is the cycle of product design!

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