Let’s face it, everyday products that leak, glug, drip, ooze or otherwise are a real pain. Sometimes it’s just a messy annoyance but when the formulation is an expensive cosmetic or medicinal product – or worse a harmful concentrated cleaner or pesticide – the consequences are more serious. Problems can also endure, if liquids like ink or paint leave behind a permanent stain.
You might think you have a well-designed fluidics product, but it might not perform well when the environment around it changes. How does it cope, for example, with the pressure changes on a plane? Or how about if it’s been sitting in the heat of the sun after you left it on your dashboard? Does it still perform well then, or are you just left with a big mess?
The point is that fluid delivery is harder than it looks. And if precise and robust control of delivery can dramatically enhance the convenience, performance and user experience of a product, the opposite can undermine its reputation at a stroke. This fundamental truism has been at the heart of many innovative strides we’ve made here at Cambridge Consultants. We benefit from what you might call the ‘one plus one equals three’ synergy of a multidisciplinary team with expertise that ranges from microfluidics, physics and system design to chemistry and materials understanding. Together we’ve worked on everything from beverage systems to drug delivery devices, industrial processes and inkjet printing.
Fluid delivery innovation – the baby bottle and beyond
Truly understanding the science behind a fluidics system AND having the capabilities to engineer it into a mass manufacturable product is a unique combination of skills that can drive commercial advantage in many consumer sectors and beyond.
Understanding the fluidics doesn’t just result in non-leaky systems. It can bring about some really different innovations and create entirely new types of products. Heating a formulation before use, for example, can greatly improve efficacy and enhance the pleasure of using it. In skincare, warming products reduces their viscosity, so they flow over the skin more easily, as well as helping to clean pores. However, warming the whole product risks encouraging the growth of bacteria over time – so heating only what is needed at the point of dispense is preferable. Heating during fluid delivery also brings benefits in drug delivery. Heating an IVF drug before injection, for instance, can reduce the viscosity and hence reduce pain when using it, as our piOna autoinjector example shows.
In beverages, control of dispense temperature is becoming more important due to the rising popularity of herbal teas. These products require tightly controlled water temperature to extract the best flavor profile and are much more sensitive to incorrect water temperature than traditional black teas.
The baby bottle challenge
We recently set our team of engineers, designers and scientists the challenge of seeing how they could apply their skills to infant feeding – a universal human necessity and a vast and competitive global marketplace. In the world of the baby bottle, poor fluidic control can have obvious consequences for the child. Air ingestion can contribute to indigestion and colic, for instance. Conversely, convenient, rapid, and safe heating can bring significant benefit to the user experience. And if the baby’s happy, the parents are happy.
Our team had a clear yet challenging task… improve the infant feeding experience. After technical investigation and getting to grips with the user journey they identified several key pain points for parents and babies: warming chilled milk, air ingestion from an empty teat at the end of a feed, teats collapsing and bottles leaking in certain situations. These were the problems – common to many products – that we set out to solve. Our ebook: Fluid delivery innovation – the baby bottle and beyond has all the details.
Fluidics sparking innovation opportunities
The technology and expertise we applied to the baby bottle is equally applicable to challenges we’ve faced across markets. Heating at point-of-dispense is useful to ease the application of high-viscosity formulations and serums. As I’ve already alluded to, controlling a precise application rate is vital in cosmetic, fragrance and skincare products. And of course, controlled dosing will lead to better results with cleaning products, weed killers and host of other products. You can read more about our broad industry approach, and other dispense management solutions, in the ebook. Meanwhile, do please drop me a line if you’d like to discuss any aspect of the topic in more detail.