Philip Walton from Blucurve explains the company's latest design partnerships in the water cooler industry.
Water cooler design is alive and well at Blucurve. Philip Walton, who formerly headed the design team at UK-based water cooler manufacturer Ebac, set up the new company in 2010. Two other former Ebac employees, Andrew Smith and Steve Vipond, set up a separate design company called Bigto (an acronym for Before I Get Too Old) and now the two companies work together, with plans to merge the companies in 2012.
Also working in conjunction with specialist designer/model maker Celyn Mitchell and his company Form Products, the collaborative's main focus is product design across a range of industries, including water coolers, garden equipment, and even model making for themed keyboards for Disney, aesthetic design for DVD players and dehumidifier and air-conditioning units.
"We're designers and engineers from an industrial background, so we're very much aware of how to bring products to market and the essence of manufacturing," says Philip Walton. "We can offer more than just aesthetics."
One of Philip's main aims for the new company was to take some of the products over to the US market, particularly the WaterTrail technology. This led to a meeting of minds with water cooler manufacturer Crystal Mountain in north America.
At the time, Crystal Mountain was really looking to innovate its water cooler range. As Philip explains: "We felt that our experience with Ebac of high quality injection moulding parts would fit well with their requirements. Ebac was happy for Crystal Mountain to take the north American licence for the WaterTrail and we started from there.
"The first water cooler concept we designed was the Everest about 18 months ago, which included Crystal Mountains' own water system."
Crystal Mountain secured a great distribution deal with a major north America distributor and has had great success with the Everest cooler. Blucurve worked in conjunction with Crystal Mountain's engineering department in China on the cooler launch. The cooler also won the Aqua Award for most innovative product at the recent EW show in Odessa
"The intended next stage was to put the WaterTrail into the Everest cooler, but we noticed that the market in the US for bottom-loading water coolers was really on the up," he adds. "Certainly, when we were talking to retailers, bottom-loading coolers were really what they were looking for, so we decided to develop one with a new patented SmartFlo hygienic water technology inside. This gives Crystal Mountain a unique system that's high-performance and ultra-hygienic."
Bottom-loading coolers require an efficient suction-type pump to provide the pressure needed to pump the water up, and some models have proved unreliable so a lot of thought was put into the exact technology needed.
The new cooler is already proving popular in the marketplace. "We're now onto the next stage, which is putting the WaterTrail into a new water cooler for Crystal Mountain," says Walton.
In Europe, meanwhile, Blucurve is working with Italian water cooler company DI-AL in Italy, which also owns Drink Cup.
Owner Marco Ferrera has invested heavily in one-way PET bottles, in particular a new square-shaped bottle. As companies can save money by getting a higher density of water bottles on the pallet inside trucks, square bottles mean more water per truck.
"But a square bottle doesn't suit a round cooler," says Walton. "We found from our Ebac days that if you wanted to make something aesthetically nice, the bottle is as big a part of this as anything. We did this with Powwow – putting a triangular bottle on a triangular cooler with the SlimCool, and smaller bottle and the FMax to fit the standard 18.9-litre water cooler bottle.
"For DI-AL, we developed a square cooler with the water trail inside, which was essential to his one-trip PET market. We've worked with Ebac to manufacture the cooler and we've just ordered the production tooling. It's a unique package for DI-AL and should be a great success. We made three models for the recent VendItalia show and they were very well received."
So what does Philip think are the key factors in future water cooler design?
"I'd like to say that green issues will come to the fore, but that never really seems to happen," he says. "We talk about the environment so much and then do so little. I still think water coolers could be a lot more energy efficient than they are. We do meet Energy Star ratings, but the bar isn't set too high there.
"We're also looking at other systems such as under-sink filtration systems. We do have an under-sink chiller in the pipeline, aimed at the southern European markets.
"At the end of the day, we're an industrial design company, so we support anything that makes things look nicer. As a global society, we're becoming much more tuned in to high-end aesthetics and accessible technology and we will follow these trends. Perhaps the i-cooler is in our sights!"
Interview by Hannah Oakman. Hannah is editor of Cooler Innovation magazine
This article was first published
in Cooler Innovation.