In order to maintain their effectiveness, vaccines must generally be kept between 2°C- 8°C. It has been estimated that more than 50% of vaccines are lost due to a variety of reasons which can be related to equipment failures, power issues, transportation difficulties or lack of suitable storage equipment. This project focused on creating a context appropriate product which will aid in maintaining the cold chain of vaccines and reduce overall wastage.
Following initial research, charities such as PATH and Médecins Sans Frontières were contacted to get a better insight of the issues. From this, the key issues were addressed and a timeline of problems created.
Mind maps, user journey maps, analysing existing products and benchmarking products allowed me understand the market and see potential areas for improvement with current solutions.
Prototyping & Testing
For the insulation, several tests measuring the temperature change of water within various materials were conducted. The best insulation tested was the vacuum panels which only had a +2.67°C increase over 80 minutes. Not only this, but VIPs also have a thickness between 20-25 mm, much less than other materials. Using VIPs provides an opportunity to increase the internal capacity of the coolbox while maintaining a good level of insulation.
To prove the cooling method, a working prototype was made. A model using Zeolite beads and water was assembled. Using the vacuum pump, the pressure within the flasks is reduced, reducing the boiling point of water. The water begins to boil at room temperature, evaporates and cools down to around 4°C, which is ideal for vaccines.
Development & Branding
The outer casing design of the coolbox was heavily influenced by the manufacturing method. Rotomoulding would allow for the casing to be made easily with a uniform thickness at a low cost. This manufacturing process also allows the lid and base to be moulded as one and cut apart, saving tooling costs. To aid in the development of the product, I created both physical and CAD models.
I showed group of people various product images then, using stickers, they marked out colours they felt would be most suitable. The majority of those asked felt that a light, almost white colour, would be best for as they felt it "gave the illusion of a medical device" which would be "trust worthy". These were the kinds of feelings that the coolbox should emit. Many also chose bright colours from power tools and toolboxes as they felt this made it different to current coolboxes. From this primary research, a final colour pallet of bright white, green and light grey were decided upon. The bright white would reflect the 'cold' aspect of the box while the green and grey would assist the robust feel that was desired.
The final product removes the need for any ice packs or electricity. Ice packs often cause accidental freezing and so over 50% of vaccines need to be thrown away. Eliminating these ice packs reduces this dramatically. This also increases the internal capacity of the cool box, meaning that Vac³ can hold upwards of 70 vaccine vials (10+ dose each).
The use of the pump means that now, long and difficult journeys can be made without the need for electricity, fridges or ice packs. The vacuum pump and Zeolite beads will keep the cool box sustained between 2°C- 8°C for the whole journey by only needing to pump the vacuum once every couple of days. Using this pump allows the coolbox to have an infinite cold life. For villages and facilities with power, Vac³ can also be cooled using electric vacuum pumps.