Product design company, 3fD, has created a low-cost water-saving device available to consumers.
Called FloSTEM, the product utilises a combination of a user-friendly intuitive design and innovative engineering. Only the size of a golf ball, it contains an inbuilt gearbox allowing consumers to easily control and monitor their water usage without the need for smart devices or apps.
Ally La Seur, Operations Manager at 3fD, commented: "Many water saving devices limit usage by measuring time rather than volume, so people are left with no real understanding of how much water they’re actually using. The ones that do measure volume are often expensive devices with integrated electronics and apps. FloSTEM is a much cheaper device that allows everyday consumers to measure and control their domestic water by using the power of product design and engineering rather than electronics.”
FloSTEM doesn’t need to be monitored, meaning one can attach it to the shower head or tap without having to think about it. Users can then keep on top of their water usage in ‘packets’ of 45 litres; at this point the FloSTEM shuts off the water until the user presses a button to allow the next packet of water to flow. While 45 litres may seem low – with the average 8-minute showing using 65 litres – 3fD chose this volume to highlight peoples’ water consumption.
Le Sueur continued: “It was really important to us that the device didn’t feel punishing or negative. Instead we wanted to inform and empower consumers by giving them a simple and clear insight into the water usage and giving them the choice of whether to use more or adapt their habits in order to conserve."
FloSTEM has some incredibly complex engineering at its core. Inside, an impeller rotates as water flows through, driving a fixed ratio gearbox that triggers the shut-off mechanism when 45 litres has passed through. A high gear ratio was required in order to make the device viable, and the team sought inspiration by looking into ‘epicyclic’ water mechanisms – even dissecting an egg timer to do so. To make the idea more challenging, the device had to be made from plastic and be small enough to fit through a letterbox.
Simon Willis, Product Designer at 3fD commented, “We chose to use an epicyclic gearbox because they can be made really compact and can reach the very high ratio that we needed to make the device work. The final gearbox has many nuances to make it work especially for FloSTEM and it’s certainly the smallest gearbox that we’ve ever come across.”