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15 July 2006

Creating the ironing machine

I've been having a busy time over on the Cambrian House site lately. Check out my profile and the full set of awards I completed last night. It's a really fun site, especially the office tour and the link farm is, well, original. If you want to stretch your mind a bit, your can try to pwn it.

Anyone wanting to support my ideas is more than welcome to do so, and my top idea is well into the top 30 out of nearly 1000 ideas. Please feel free to support my ideas here. Maybe one will get built.

Anyway, the Cambrian House ideas explosion as they call it is still really based around websites. There's a world outside the web and problems that even Web 2.0 can't solve.

I had another look at the mounting ironing pile tonight and thought how many hours people waste ironing. Surely it is the most loathed domestic chore. I guess most people with spare money get someone else to do it for them. Alternatively for around $500 - $1000 (!) you can buy an ironing press but even the best only claim to cut ironing time in half which if you have three children like me is still a fair chunk out of your life.

So I came up with an idea for an ironing machine. Unfortunately not eligible for Cambrian House, being an invention rather than a website.

Here is the almost silent all in one laundry system which does everything, runs at a fraction of the cost, has no fast moving parts and makes next to no noise. It even runs multiple programs simultaneously, saves water and probably needs no ventilation. Finally, it's a lot safer than an iron with kids around.

I worked on two basic assumptions

1. That when you wash then tumble dry something and get it out just at the end it's probably about as crumpled as it was before it went in the wash. If you dried it on the radiator or it can't be tumble dried then the washing and drying process has made it more creased than it was and fixing this would go a long way to making ironing easier.

2. Rather than trying to invent something that irons things perfectly, especially difficult items like shirts is probably more than most people need. If it can do 90% of garments well enough that they can be worn as is and can make a good start on thing such as shirts that they could probably be worn as-is rather than finished by hand then this is probably good to be good enough. A bit like developing software, if you try to solve 100% of the problem in one go you might end up delivering an overly complex solution late as the requirements change during development.

So, this is what you do. Toss out the washing machine, tumble drier and ironing press. An all in one device has taken their place. Actually I think people might do this, but those folks with the room might just put the new device in the garage.

Digression for a moment here. We live near the end of a street with over 100 houses on it and have to pass most of them to get anywhere. Most of the houses have one garage and many have two. Our six year old the other day was really excited when we were driving down the road when she exclaimed "Look Daddy, that car's going into that house's garage". And then I realised the novelty, that in six years and passing 100 houses to leave the street and 100 houses when we return that after all that time it's probably the first time she has ever seen a garage being used for its original purpose. The lack of basements in Scotland has resulted into the garage becoming a general storage area that most cars have never seen the inside of. Still there might be some spare space someday to set up a software company....

So, back to ironing.

Imagine a multi-storey sandwich. Each layer, of which you could probably get about 20 stacked on top of each other is made up a of series of grills. The clothes are placed on top of the grill which is made up of triangles as the bars. So the clothes rest on top of a line of triangular tubes, flat side up. When the triangles line up this way, the edges of the triangular tubes touch meaning that the entire grill is a continuous surface. You place enough clothes on each surface (which in area would be the size of the top of the washing machine) to fill it up. There are enough grill bars such that when the equilateral triangles rotate 30%, so that the vertices are now face up, the spaces between them are small enough that socks etc won't fall down the gap.

Each layer slides out from the front of the machine which has fold down door. The layers all move independently like a set of drawers so that you can fill them up one at a time. Each layer is entirely self contained with an independent water supply. Each layer can be set for the water to be at a different temperature, or for different drying temperatures or ironing heat.

How does it work? There's two ways to wash things: Immersion and agitation (like a bath or a washing machine) and direct jets (like a shower or a dishwasher). Make a washing machine work on the direct jet principle and we may be onto something. A shower certainly uses less energy and makes me feel fresher than a bath anyway.

So within each of the triangular rods is a water supply which is heated on demand to the right temperature and is forced out under pressure through the top side of the triangular rods, thus directing jets of water onto the clothes at the correct temperature. There would also be jets of water directed down on to the clothes from above. The jets would be pulsed to agitate the clothes, effectively placing the clothes in a sandwich jacuzzi. The water drains away and so the clothes are washed. Repeat as necessary, adjusting temperature according to the settings etc. Rather than being horizontal the layers could be tilted at about 10 degrees to help the water to drain.

You'll see now why it's important that the rods are triangular. I mentioned that the sides line up flush against each other. Triangles are the only shape with at least three sides that can do this and still have space to rotate independently. The triangular rods then rotate 60 degrees (in series) to present the next side up to the clothes. This will clearly cause the clothes to move as the rods rotate, but as the rods are small, the movement won't be much. The next side up is a like a Swiss cheese in cross section, i.e. flat with loads of drainage holes. The sandwiches from top to bottom (or as many as you have indicated are being used in this wash) then compress down and wring or press the water out. No noisy spin cycle here. The holes in this side of the rods allow the water to drain out more effectively. I guess if you wanted, you could direct air in through these holes after this stage has passed. So now you have washed clothes that are still wet but are now needing dried out and pressed. The rods the clothes are resting on turn another 60 degrees. This last side is the heating element. With the clothes having been put into the machine flat and kept in that position by the plates above and below, they are now ready for pressing and ironing. First off the rods are warmed, and the clothes dried - just like a heated towel rail. The heating temperature can be set independently for each layer. Then the layers are pressed together so that the clothes are pressed between the heating plates, like a trouser press or ironing press. This side of the triangle has to be padded to accommodate shirt buttons etc.

And so the clothes come out washed, dried and pressed.

Maybe there's something I'm missing here, I don't expect to get it right first time at all, but we learn from mistakes and having built a few Real World products, I know there's a lot of things that change in design and prototype stage ( I have the prototypes to show for it, and the final product that time worked). The reason I'm entering this here rather than trying to patent and build it is that I don't have the time or resources to do so for an idea of this scale. I have plenty other ideas to keep me busy and I'm hoping that one reasonably decent idea well publicised will get the attention of investors so that I can show them all the other stuff I'm working on including the one that won first prize in a national invention competition last year for the UK retail sector and assessed by one of the biggest players in that sector to win. I guess also there aren't many creative engineers in Scotland who have been interviewed by both Google and Amazon - during my Amazon interview I had to think up something that Amazon could do. I thought up something like this Pandoro, well before it launched (Amazon have this on video). Another version of the same concept is on my Cambrian page as the custom radio station. Although I guess with The BBC now planning something similar it is a concept that is no longer as original as it was a few years ago.

It's a bit harder in Scotland than it is in the US - I have the ideas and a company. It seems neither is a requirement in the US to land a cheque for $25,000.


Anonymous said...

nice... how did you find napolean ? help me out here.. I've been looking for him for a while...

Anonymous said...

Clue: Napoleon rides a horse. Find the horse.

Anonymous said...

Well, i found a pink pony, would a pony symbolize a horse ?? ;-)

napolean was nowhere around...

Anonymous said...

If you give the pony what it wants you will move forward.

Anonymous said...

got it !!!. i was just lazy to read what the pony was asking me. I found him yeah !!! thanks a ton....

Anonymous said...

gah, I feel so dumb.

I finished pwn it, but can't get past the friggin' pony.

does have to do with the crown? (if so, how do I get the crown)

or do gems represent something I don't understand?

For a while I thought it had something to do with the gnome that goes into what appears to be an inventory.. if so, what are the other gems?

Craig Cockburn said...

You'll get past the pony if you give him a crown. There's one near the front door.

Anonymous said...

lol, still can't find it.

I'm gonna keep trying though.

so it's not the crown in the microwave, it's another one?

Craig Cockburn said...

It is the one in the microwave. But you have to have found another crown first to get the crown out of the microwave. There is a clue if you know where Cambrian House is based.

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