Startup interview: CAD software for designing new kind of baby stroller by Prambag team

Can you tell us about your team? What do you do?

We are an international team with a diverse set of skills and experience in design, engineering and business. We have a common passion to develop tangible solutions to customer problems and that’s exactly what we are doing in our startup PramBag. Our startup’s mission is to empower parents to explore the world with their baby. We are based in Helsinki, Finland and our first product is a baby stroller, that transforms quickly and easily into a baby-carrying backpack. All while the baby is inside safely and comfortably.
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In the industry you are working in, what do you think is the biggest opportunity?

We are aiming to disrupt the baby pram and stroller industry, which hasn’t changed as much as we’d like to believe in the past few decades. There hasn’t been any significant innovations in this field since the invention of the stroller in the 70s. We believe this is the perfect time to change this industry as urbanization is growing, with more and more people in the world living in cities. People are interested in health and wellbeing, and focus on improving their lifestyle. PramBag taps into these opportunities – the importance of which will only grow in the future. It is a big market to be in, and in the recent past there has been a steady increase in the demand for baby products aimed at active modern parents.

What impact can your product make?

With its fast & easy-to-use features, PramBag is targeted towards active young parents in crowded cities who want to experience more convenience and accessibility. It enables them to explore the outdoors while being hands free. Our vision is to create a lifestyle solution with which parents can solve most hassles of parenting and focus on what matters the most: time together and living. We believe that this is a solution to a real problem faced in several countries across the world.

How did you come up with the idea of the product?

Our founder has a passion for travelling. He saw and felt the problem first hand while travelling in several countries across Europe and Asia. Everywhere, parents were not getting the convenience they need to maintain an active lifestyle. In countries like India, the problem is more profound. However, in Europe it exists to a large extent especially in cities like Paris, London and Amsterdam. In Finland, public transport is one of the best in the world and even then, parental mobility problems can be seen everyday with parents travelling in buses and trams.

After encountering the problems, interviews and studies were conducted with parents and we came up with the idea of a lifestyle solution, which gives parents the power to choose what type of product to use when.

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In your project, can you describe what was already done?

After identifying and validating the problem in Helsinki, we focused on effective execution. This summer we were in the Summer of Startups accelerator program in Startup Sauna. During this period, we designed, engineered, selected materials and manufactured three prototypes ourselves. This was accompanied by receiving feedback from parents in our focus group. This pace and user-centric approach is unique to this industry which has long product cycles. Our engineering and design expertise goes a long way in innovating novel solutions for this industry.

Please describe in detail, how you utilised the CAD software during the development of your product?

For the latest version that I’ve worked with, first there has been sketching on paper, and discussions with the engineers, after that sketching out the more detailed version. At this point I started to make a 3d-model, preferably using parametric modelling software.

For the latest program I used, I wanted something that I could do motion simulation with. I wanted to see how the parts turn and how the telescopic parts would work together. Also, an important part in making the choice was that there would be a free trial for startups.

After I got the model working, I would go into more detailed parts design. I want to work so, that I can see the whole assembly and can add onto that what I need. It is important for me to see how the new parts look with the rest of the design.

When the model is done, I showed it to the team and we did several iterations. The ease of making changes is also why I want to work with parametric modelling only.

The last step so far, was to make renderings for our presentations. For that I tweaked the materials, render, and did some final touches in image editing software. We also did one final thing and that was to make a scaled 3d-printed prototype of the latest 3d-model.

Can you describe in which areas the CAD software performed well?

I like how you can work directly in the assembly and you can add parts there as needed. The motion simulation was the biggest thing for me, since we have this folding construction.

The renderings could be made directly out of the software and they were good enough, that was a big plus too. I like also how the renderer worked, like you could get a clearer picture by waiting, but could see pretty fast if it was going into the right direction. Also, t-splines was pretty cool to have there.

In addition to this, we’re planning on implementing this model sharing system that comes with the software. Meaning, the model files are already in a cloud service, so keeping up with revisions would be easier. I wouldn’t know for sure, since we haven’t tried it out yet. Before that, we would have to upload the 3d-files onto Google Drive or Dropbox and share them that way.

What kind of things in CAD did you found particularly challenging? What kind of improvements CAD software may need?

If I were to mention problems in that particular program I used, the parts tree got messy pretty quickly. It was hard to control turning on and off parts, since there weren’t any good controls for that, so often I ended up clicking stuff on or off one by one. Also, I don’t quite get why they wanted to list all the actions in one list for all of the parts. It gets very messy when you start adding a lot of parts.

As for improvements, I’d like robust and logical controls, I don’t care if they look pretty or not, ease of control is the most important thing. The graphical elements, like window borders, buttons etc. should be so that they do not take unnecessary amount of space from your desktop. I’ve used like 14 or 15 different CAD programs, and sometimes they are done well, sometimes not. Too bad my favorite one is not parametric.

This improvement part is hard to answer, seems even a bit of a too broad subject. Like, generally speaking, what kind of improvements would CAD programs need? Being more user friendly, meaning, lessening the need for a really deep understanding on how the program works in order to not mess up things. Or maybe the other way around, that the logic is shown better to the user, so she/he can make better modelling choices. Users shouldn’t have to learn all the quirks of the software. If there is some way you need to do something in modelling to avoid problems, the user should know why it has to be this way. The reason shouldn’t be that the program “doesn’t like” it done that way.

Something like virtual or augmented reality might be an interesting addition to CAD work too. Might cut down on the need for 3d-prints, and also give a better understanding of the proportions of the model, etc.

The ease of usage has come a long way in rendering software for example, there used to be a time when you really needed to know your stuff if you wanted to get nice renders, like 10 or 15 years ago. These days, it is very easy in comparison, as it should be.

What kind of technologies, methods and materials did you use for physical prototyping?

Mikko: 3d-printing, and the rest was pretty much traditional workshop techniques. The fabrics were sewn into shape, around the baby carriage part. The most “high-tech” metal working was turning aluminum in a metal lathe.

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Early prototype

Was there a big difference between geometries of digital and physical prototypes? If yes, what was it?

I didn’t notice any big difference in the 3d-prints, to the 3d-model. The bigger problem for me sometimes is (or was), the difference between how the actual part looks in real life and how it appears on the screen. It maybe sounds a bit nutty, but for a while at one time in my CAD career, I would not believe that what I was seeing on the screen was the accurate representation. Isometric view is sometimes so harsh looking… But then I learned the hard way to trust and understand better what I’m seeing on the screen, and how it relates to the actual physical end product.

What kind of experience in CAD did you receive during the project? Can you give any CAD-related advice to other startuppers?

I got some new CAD working experience, learning a new software. As for advice, I’d say look for possibilities of free software for startups, those exist.

Project-wise, where are you now and what are your next steps?

The next step is continuing with the iterations with feedback from parents in our focus group. I’d like to do as much design as possible in the software, before doing the next physical prototype.

Website

http://www.prambag.co/

 

 

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