Client specifications included the use of a clear, all plastic environment to improve visibility and contain debris, an easy to clean pull-out tray at the base, customized accessories for perches and feeders etc, "K-D" (knock-down) packaging, and shipping, assembly by the consumer without tools, non-architectural styling to accommodate a wide variety of home interiors, child-proof tray and door latches, and molded viewing panels that would resist the scratching caused by a climbing bird.
Hybrid construction concept:
Citing the extensive research we had compiled, I persuaded the client to abandon the "all plastic" concept in favor of a hybrid approach using both clear plastic viewing panels and wire sides. This would still allow the bird to climb without scarring the clear plastic viewing panels, allow better ventilation and help accommodate standard cage accessories.
Chief among the facts revealed by our research was a bird's need for direct sunlight to facilitate their absorption of vitamin D. While visiting aviaries and speaking with experts in the field, I learned of a type of fluorescent bulb called the "Vita-light™". It presented an opportunity to combine the client's highest priority, better visibility with the health benefits of this light source. By introducing a light source recessed within an optional upper shroud, tropical birds could now be displayed in much the same way that tropical fish had always been. And, like many aquariums, the lighted cover, along with colorful backgrounds could be desirable options.
Other features added to the original specs included two over-sized doors on both sides of the cage. This facilitated easier access to interior accessories and enabled two-handed interaction with the bird. For this purpose threshold "forearm rests" were included for comfort during extended interaction. They could also serve as a take-off and landing perches for the bird.
Bowed polycarbonate front and rear viewing panels added vertical strength and eliminated the need to injection-mold or thermo-form the plastic panels. Horizontally oriented wire bars for climbing and accommodating externally mounted flask feeders and standard accessories. Accommodations for conventional accessories and an externally fitted bird bath at the door. Variable diameter perches- to simulate tree branches. Escape-proof slide-out tray- for easy cleaning at the base. Wax paper liners for tray with liner supply cavity molded into base under tray. And, an optional swivel base.
To expedite the products introduction, the design constraints previously required by the client were lifted late in the program. Most visibly, the lamp shroud was redesigned by another designer to house a smaller conventional light source. The "non-architectural" style requirement was also lifted. The new "roof" no longer needed to be an optional accessory, and removable by the consumer. K-D (knock-down) packaging and shipping, and product assembly by the consumer without tools was no longer required. The product could now be shipped completely assembled. The "K-D" requirement had to this point required injection-molded corner posts with interlocking connections at the base, modular expansion collar, and top section. This change allowed for long-advocated less complicated, extruded corner posts as well as bowed Lexan™ sheets for the viewing panels. The client was successful in obtaining a US utility patent, July 96.
The "proof of concept" prototype was quickly assembled using cake racks joined together with zip ties, and plastic picture box frames. It included a removable fluorescent light and an escape-proof slide-out tray for easy cleaning at the base.
“Ecotat” Bird Cage:
The in depth product research and development of a bird cage. The final design featured improved visibility, internal lighting, modular expandability, improved access and interaction, and convenient cleaning. Contracted by the"Great American Royalty Group" and eventually Friends and Company, a Cincinnati based start-up, I worked with a team of researchers to study the pet product industry, and in particular to develop a bird cage and related accessories.
Page from the Ecotat brochure referencing the key design features.
"New Wave Perch™"- Variable diameter perches to simulate tree branches.
Horizontally oriented wire bars for climbing and accommodating externally mounted flask feeders.
With lighting and colorful backgrounds, tropical birds could now be displayed in much the same way as tropical fish.
The prototype included over sized doors on both sides for easier access to interior and two-handed interaction with bird. It could also accommodate conventional accessories, an external bird bath and an optional swivel base.
An expandable modular cage concept used molded plastic collars to join two or more cages vertically.
Externally mounted flask feeders: Hood and trough are designed to slip through the horizontal wires and clip in place. The hood keeps food and water clean, and a colorful float visually indicates the water level.
Concept sketch showing key features of the design.
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"By introducing a
tropical birds could
now be displayed in
much the same way
that tropical fish
had always been".
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