dimanche 23 septembre 2018

Behind one innovation may be many others...

Let's take a quick look at the evolution of the roofer's soldering iron. While this iconic product, which is over 20 years old, has been redesigned a number of times, it has undergone no radical changes.

Designers are generally faced with two choices.
1. Pursue a technological breakthrough.
2. Pursue a gradual evolution, rather than a revolution.
We have opted for the latter. Users want to preserve the distinctive characteristics that have made the product's reputation:
  • the burner and its tip;
  • the ergonomic handle;
  • the metal casing that houses the tool's core components (electric circuitry, adjustment knob) and ensures its robustness.
At this stage, how could we bring something extra to our customers without taking anything away from the basic model? In other words, how could we do for the roofer's soldering iron what the New Beetle did for the Volkswagen Type 1?
For the handle, we kept the original shape, while adding several improvements:
  • a soft grip;
  • nubbed handle for improved grip;
  • a dual-material design that highlights the basics of the Express brand (shape and colour).
These already make for a considerable improvement.
The same approach was adopted for the metal casing: the shape was redesigned to match the handle, as well as to be more slender, enabling the user to access small spaces more easily.
The Piezo button is fully built-in and flush with the casing. With nothing protruding from the casing, usability and impact protection are improved.
The adjustment knob is also built-in. The position of the knob is also clearer, making it easier to adjust the power. Lastly, the knob has a high resistance, making accidental adjustments a thing of the past!
The above is just the tip of the iceberg: let us now look at the parts that are invisible to the user, but which form the core of the tool.
As we saw above, the flush Piezo button reduces the risk of damage, but what happens when it needs to be changed?
In the past, this required the tool to be put out of service and dismantling of the burner and casing, with no guarantee of a successful outcome.
Today, the Piezo button can be removed with a click and replaced with ease!
Also, with older models, changing a nozzle clogged by brazing fumes meant completely dismantling the burner with a 23 mm hex wrench, which could be a problem if you didn't have one to hand!
Now, the wrench is built in to the bottom of the tool's metal casing.
Furthermore, we directly addressed the issue of brazing fumes, which are the cause of many problems for users, who have to regularly change the nozzle.
We connected the casing and handle with a conduit that carries air sucked in from the rear of the handle to the burner. This means that brazing fumes are no longer sucked in by the burner, which significantly extends the useful life of both the burner and nozzle.
The modifications made to our tool have reduced its weight by 18%, burner included.
This is how carefully considered innovation can enhance a product while preserving its core features and spirit.
Sometimes it's a good idea to take a look at what's under the hood.

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