What if you could make products without using injection molds? You would save tens of thousands of dollars on molds and could shave months off new product development time.
This was the thought we had while we were in the middle of tooling for the Handground Precision Coffee Grinder. Our manufacturing partner had just informed us that there was a delay with the tool making factory and due to the timing with Chinese New Year, our schedule would be pushed back two months.
This frustration led us to start thinking about ways to avoid the lengthy and costly tool making process. We worked with several 3D printing companies to prototype components during the development Handground and were surprised by the quality and strength of the printed parts. The downside to 3D printing was it had a high cost and a long lead time to produce parts. Our first prototype grinder cost over $1000 to make with 3D printed and custom components.
Yet the idea was too tempting to not think about. If we could use 3D printers in production instead of plastic injection molds, we would be able to produce an infinite number of unique products and designs with one machine. The brainstorming session began.
We wanted to identify a product in the coffee space that didn’t have moving components, could fit within the 8” by 10” size of a 3D printer's build plate, didn’t come into contact with food or hot water and would benefit from a variety of different designs. After evaluating several different ideas, we arrived at the idea of 3D printing pour over stands as the option with the most factors in its favor.
Our philosophy has always been to challenge our assumptions as early as possible so we made a list of the key assumptions that would need testing.
3D Printed Pour Over Stand Assumptions:
They can withstand the heat and weight during the coffee brewing process
We can produce them at a speed and price that is profitable
People will want to buy our stands
The first assumption we tested was the technical question of whether a 3D printed stand could withstand the weight and heat during the coffee brewing process. To do this we designed a stand, the Voronoi shown above, and arranged for it to be 3D printed from a startup called Voodoo Manufacturing.
Voodoo uses consumer grade Makerbot 3D printers and are able to offer prints at a fraction of the cost compared to commercial 3D printers like those used at Shapeways. Voodoo's website claims that they ship orders next business day, however due to questions about the model, weekends and shipping times it took 7-10 days for our orders to arrive.
When the stand did arrive we put it to the test and it passed with no problems. A rare occurrence during the product development process.
While the cost and speed of Voodoo was lower than Shapeways, it was still too high of a price to be able to resell the stands. We began to research 3D printers, material prices and print times. Our math showed that if we printed the parts ourselves we could do it for 1/10th the cost of Voodoo.
Developing our own 3D printing capabilities in house would increase our workload and have higher initial capital investment to buy the printers. But it would allow us to produce the stands at a cost that would work for our community and be able to cut down the design iteration time from 7-10 days to a few hours.
The final assumption we had to test was whether people would be interested in buying 3D printed pour over stands. In a couple days we modeled five different concepts for pour over stands and created renderings of each of them. By presenting several different concepts we hoped to uncover the pros and cons of each design. This could then help us develop a series of constraints that need to be considered for all future pour over designs.
Once the renderings were done we designed a survey that would be sent out to Team Handground. The first half of the survey didn’t show any of the renderings, instead it asked questions about why people choose to use the pour over brew method and what equipment they currently use.
We then dove deeper and asked about the pros and cons of each piece of equipment and why they purchased it. This helped us understand the current market and the factors that lead to purchasing decisions.
The rest of this article contains the results of the second half of the survey. The purpose of these questions was to gather information about our third assumption, people will want to purchase 3D printed pour over stands.
Survey Structure for Pour Over Concepts
We asked the two questions above for for each of the five pour over concepts. In the sections below you will see the following for each concept:
Picture of the concept
Brief story behind the design
Red graph with the results of initial reactions
Top 25 words mentioned in the open ended responses
Sample open ended responses from Team Handground
1st Place - Latte Wave
“Good design is as little as possible” was the thought we had in mind when modeling this concept. We started with a C shaped sketch and then swept the sketch line with a flat oval T-spline.
The flared top edges appeared naturally and we then flattened the base to provide a level surface for placing a cup. The space on the back is perfect for a logo and 3D printing will enable us to customize the logo for individual orders.
Love - Favorite of all concepts presented. Seems easy to wash, not as fragile or easy to knock over cone, and could accommodate larger mugs. Carmen K - Athens, GA
Love - Like this one, because it doesn't restrict the cup and looks stable, but I am worried that the seating plane for the cup will warp with heat, maybe a ceramic insert or a replaceable one if it warps.
Like - I like how close it is to the cup. I'm thinking less splashing. It might be too bulky to store but it would look nice on the counter especially if it came in lots of colors.
Love - My favorite. Easy to clean. Sturdy. Great for companies with logos. Little room is needed. Can be left on the counter. Simple design.
Like - the unfortunate thing here is that you are really limiting the height of the vessel that can fit under it. no travel mugs here. The overall design though is super slick and I think that having the ability to co-brand this with your partners makes a lot of sense. looks stable. ultra modern. not nestable. Aldous Y - Lander, WY
Doesn't look too sturdy and the logo should be printed on the flat portion where u but the cup, it would look so much better.
Not sure I like it, little too futuristic
less jazzed about relying on the bottom portion being flat as well as how much space it will take up on the counter Joe - California
Dislike - can see where this form factor will appeal to many, and it's scalability is attractive, but I would look at it every morning and see it as a giant tongue on my counter. But I'm weird. J.Cohen - Bodega, CA
Dislike - Looks bouncy. Too curvy. Want to be able to put a regular dripper on top Maren S. - Oslo, Norway
Dislike - Nifty visual appeal. Simple, highly branded design suggests 'freebie.' I'm concerned about the loose grasp on the cone. Tim A - Boston, MA
2nd Place - Standing Loop
The inspiration for this design came from playing with a strip of paper. When starting a new design one of our favorite things to do is make a prototype out of cardboard, aluminum foil or in this case, paper.
As we twisted the strip of paper in different ways we could imagine where the coffee cup and filter cone would go. This method helps to create shapes that are simple and natural.
Like - I like this because from one angle it looks like a ribbon and could be marketed supporting one of the many charities that use ribbons. I also like the openness.
Like - This is one of those designs that is so simple, you think to yourself "Why didn't I think of that?!" It could easily be scaled, it is doesn't appear stable, but is. Brilliant. It doesn't scream "Handground" per se. But it is quite good. J.Cohen - Bodega, CA
Love - Tony Hawk could totally skate a 10' tall version of this, complete with scalding hot cauldron of coffee. Will my son's hotwheels work on this version?
Love - Ooo, looks super cool. I'd convert to a pour over person for this one! I like how compact and stable this design is. Flows nicely. Looking at this design calms me! Wondering how it attaches though…
Modern sleek look but there is something not just right in the look. It seems this might be hard to maneuver one's hands in and could lead to spills. Tom L - Concord, NC
Sorry to beat a dead horse, but this looks like it would love to roll to the left or the right. I think it's the most beautiful in its simplicity, but in practicality, it loses. Perhaps if the design were less "long" and more "wide".
It looks like it takes up more space than any of the others, and you can only put your cup in diagonally from the side. This is definitely a right-handed pour over. Not a problem for me, unless I'm standing to the left of it, and bump it as I try to pull my mug out.
Also, unlike the others, this one will let any stray drips fall right no the counter. Something designs 2 and 3 won't do. I didn't think of that before, but I would prefer to wipe down my pour-over periodically, instead of the counter every time. Stein, S.A. - Chicago, IL
Like the look, don't know how it would work on a scale Rachel Apple - OKC, OK
Dislike - It looks too tippy for "not-fully-awake" operator.
Dislike - No way to easily put a scale under that mug Sagar Navare - New Orleans, LA
Strongly dislike - too much. Looks like if you poured too aggressively you would make a mess and it would tip over. Also very far away from any handground logos, appearance or feeling.
3rd Place - Voronoi
This was the first concept for a 3D printed pour over stand that we designed and printed. We wanted to do something that was simple, unique and could only be produced with a 3D printer. After modeling the outline of the stand we used a Voronoi generator script Github Link to create the Voronoi pattern.
Like - The concept appears pretty close to perfect. The inner dimensions seem capable of supporting a pretty wide variety of mug shapes, although my "go to mug" is rather taller than the average, so it probably wouldn't fit without modding the front a bit.
Also, I imagine many will leave the handle of the mug sticking out the forward opening for easy withdrawal. I think it should follow the profile of the Handground grinder a bit more, and if the cutouts could resemble coffee beans a bit more, that might make a bigger visual impact. But all in all, very nicely presented. J.Cohen - Bodega, CA
Love - The uniqueness of this design; delicate looking, yet strong enough to support the 'pour over' filter system. My concern is the flexibility of sizes for mugs. Cheryl Wright-SW Michigan
Love - 1. Relatively small footprint 2. Secure holder for funnel 3. Easy positioning for the cup to ensure placement 4. Appears that the stand could easily be moved while hot without burning hand. Terri S. – Florida, USA
Like - Hard to tell from the picture but I'm not sure how tall of a cup (travel/car) it would accept. I really like that it looks stable. It also looks like I could put a standard dripper on top if I were to damage the one pictured. Sean Schluntz - San Ramon CA
I like how it looks and the sturdiness of it but I don't like how big it is or that the mug is so tucked away inside it Zack A - Iowa, USA
I like the idea but it's not quite there - the lines/flow of the curves don't seem quite right, don't flow into each other naturally. I think it could work really well if you refined this. Anonymous - Melbourne, Australia
looks busy, worried it might not fit all my mugs. looks like it would be hard to clean if it got dirty J.A. - Canada
The design is eye catching and different from anything else sitting on my counter. I'm curious about how high the pour over is to the mug. Wouldn't this create a lot of splash? Crystal C - Arizona, USA
Dislike - It obscures the flow of coffee into the cup. To me, the point of a pour over stand it to elevate the filter and help make the flow of brewed coffee visible. This helps in the fine tuning of brewing methods as you can tell if you need to adjust your grind size by how the coffee flows into the cup, either too slow or too fast. David Inden - Seattle, WA
Dislike - The dripper is too high in relative to the mug, also the opening will limit the type of mug that can be use. Wengkee - KL, Malaysia
Strongly Dislike - It looks creepy. Like a weird body part. Plus I think it would be tough to clean. Margaret - Danville, CA
4th Place - Continuous Loop
The original goal for this design was to make an infinity loop where the top loop would support the cone and the bottom half of the loop would provide the base for the coffee cup. One thing led to another and we ended up with this funky, mind bending design.
To be truly functional this design would likely need a wider base for more stability but the purpose of creating these concepts was to find a design direction to start pursuing
Graph of survey results
Love - Amazing. It looks like it couldn't work. It twists my brain. Perry G - Dallas Center, IA
Like - Funky & simple although need to be sure glass unit isn't wobbly Gavin Laniger - London, England
Like - My concern here would be balance. I feel like if the base were wider, or there was no base for the cup, per se, but feet somehow, I would feel more comfortable bumping it.
Love - I just love the look of this stand. It's not only unique, but it looks like a piece of artwork.
Hmmm.... this looks great... But something in me says this is unstable and that threatens hot grindy water spilling all over the place... not okay with that.
I like that it's a unique artsy eye-catching design, I dislike how it appears to be incompatible with pour overs that have flat bottom bases like the ceramic V60 and potential pour-over stability issues. Matt Farnham - Santa Rosa, CA
small and easy to put out of the way yet still functional. I would question the stability if accidentally brushed during brew times. I definitely would NOT put this on bar at a busy cafe. Aldous Y - Lander, WY
Dislike - Two words. Structurally Unstable. I can see this thing tipping over as soon as someone accidentally pours too fast at the cone's edges. And that cone doesn't look very well seated in the twist.
A bit of a broader base, and expand/stabilize the twists that entwine the cone and you may be onto something. Oh, and give the cone some spiral fluting inside, like the V60. That is all. J.Cohen - Bodega, CA
Strongly Dislike - This fills me with anxiety. I'm having trouble breathing.
Strongly Dislike - Feels like an unstable string. only benefit is minimalist material usage. Maybe a three strand helix? Jeremi Przadka - Gurnee, IL
Dislike - beautiful, but it looks like I could just knock it over and create a mess Aaron E - Urbana, IL
5th Place - Teepee
This design was inspired by a 3D printed geometric lampshade and ended up resembling a modern teepee. It holds the funnel at a high point to create clearance for taller cups. Ironically this design came in last place and was also the quickest to model, only taking 20 min to complete.
Graph of survey results
Like - I like it mainly because I have a similar looking bowl in my kitchen and it would match. But it seems like too much distance between the filter and cup - looks like it would be messy.
Like - I love how this one reminds me of nature. i dont think this design would age Bec C - Newcastle, Australia
Like - This one reminds me of a bonfire and I love bonfires
I both like this and dislike this the more I look at it. The style is instantly intriguing but then it seems a bit too "stick" like after looking and then it also seems fragile. Tom L - Concord, NC
Eh, it's interesting, but I'm generally not such a fan of the "mug in a cage" style pour over brewers, and this one isn't as interesting or "fun" as the voronoi. Stein, S.A. - Chicago, IL
Not bad at all. Looks like an ancient fishing apparatus from Vietnam. :) Honestly. A bit too straight lined to my liking. Doesn't mean it's not right. Others might love it. And I think it won't be able to fit the Hario fat server too.
Strongly Dislike - Looks like a head massage device. It also looks like it could be quite tall. With limited counter space for most people this one seems to occupy more than it needs to take up. Andy Muir - Boston, Massachusetts
Dislike - Looks mathematical, parabolic or something. Or like prison. Tim A - Boston, MA
Strongly Dislike - Looks like a spider. Also looks like it would tip over. Coffee might splash dripping from that high. Might not fit all mugs. Kristina W. - Columbus, OH
Dislike - With the height of the cone from the mug, I would think that there would be considerable splashing of any coffee brewed with this stand.
Lessons For Pour Over Stand Designers
When analyzing the results we saw several themes that came up across all of the different concepts. These are the core constraints that any pour over stand designer should consider in the design process.
Enough height for larger mugs
Not too high that it will cause splashing
Ability to use different pour over cones with a flat bottom
Ability to use with a scale
As we looked at these results the Latin maxim “De gustibus non est disputandum” came to mind. It translates to “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes" and I think that is represented in the reactions we saw to the concept stands.
While some stands were more generally appealing to the entire audience, each stand resonated with at least a few people in such a way that their first reaction was Love. When it comes to taste, everyone’s subjective personal opinions are their own and can not be right or wrong.
This is what excites us so much about 3D printing. We will no longer be forced to choose one design that must appeal to a mass audience and can instead produce a variety of designs that strike a deeper aesthetic cord.
This is especially interesting because we learned in the first half of the survey that “aesthetics” is the number one reason why people choose to use a pour over stand and the most important feature they consider when purchasing one.
The next step in the process is to begin prototyping the stands and sending them out for beta testing. You can sign up to be a beta tester by visiting this link: Beta Tester Sign Up