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Microwave Pot

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Microwave Pot

  1. 1. MICROWAVE POTLet’s do lunch A canteen sandwich and a chocolate bar, washed down with a can of drink from the vending machine. Welcome to the typical lunchtime experience for people across the UK. But a student at the Royal College of Art is determined to change all this. She hasA REDESIGNED MICROWAVE HEATER COULD HELP UK designed a system that could – if commercialised – encourage people to eat more healthily, and rejuvenate a disappearing partWORKERS TO PREPARE QUICK, HEALTHY LUNCHTIME of our working culture: lunch.MEALS – KEEPING THEM MORE PRODUCTIVE IN THE Daisy Finetto, a design student at the RCA, has devised Pot &AFTERNOON. LOU READE REPORTS. Dok, comprising a specially designed plastic pot that sits on top of a small, simplified microwave heater. The heater is designed specifically for the office environment. Microwaves are directed up into the pot, heating the contents – such as the remains of last night’s beef casserole. Finetto presented the design at the recent RCA Graduate Show. She was inspired to develop the idea – a five-month project as part of her course – having earlier carried out research into eating in different cultures. ‘I came across eating in the workplace, and wondered how people did it,’ she says.  31
  2. 2. TOP MIDDLE LEFT MIDDLE RIGHT Each Dok is simple to use, and Microwaves are contained within The system is designed to be easy to individual units can be connected the pot, to give even heating of use, with only one thing to control. together. the food inside.32 MADE [ issue 3.12]
  3. 3. Finetto grew up in Italy and only came to the UK four years ago. The design of the pot is also crucial to the system. In aShe saw a very different attitude to food here. In the UK, there is conventional microwave oven, a metal mesh preventsa very pragmatic attitude towards lunch: many people grab a microwaves from escaping. Finetto’s pot includes a layer ofsandwich and eat at their desks, anxious not to cut into precious special film – patented by 3M – that is coated with metallicwork time. Compare this with other cultures, where a healthy, nanoparticles. This takes the place of the mesh, and keeps themore leisurely lunch is seen as a vital ‘refuelling’ step that will take microwaves within the pot. The pot has a metal strip, which allowsworkers through the long afternoon. it to be lined up with a similar strip in the lid. ‘The pot has to be A prime example is in India, where many office workers eat closed in order to heat up,’ she says. ‘It also means there’s no riskfreshly prepared food from home courtesy of the ‘dabbawala’ of food splatter, so the Dok doesn’t get dirty. You won’t be puttingsystem – which delivers the food to the office, and takes the your pot onto somebody else’s mess.’container home again. Part of her brief was to investigate why At the same time, if the pot is lifted off the Dok during cooking,people do not bring their own food from home. ‘If you’ve not heating will be interrupted – then resume when it is put back ineaten a proper meal, it can affect productivity in the afternoon,’ place. The most likely pot design would be in three layers: the innershe explains. layer would be a stain-resistant plastic or ceramic, the middle As part of her research into the idea, Finetto went to various layer is the nanoparticle film and the outer layer is something likeoffices to find what people did. In one memorable interview, she polypropylene or polyethylene.asked a man if he thought his lunch of Pot Noodle, crisps andchocolate bar was healthy. ‘He said ‘yes’ – because the Pot ‘The three layers would be heat-bonded together,’ she says,Noodle had some vegetables in it,’ she says. adding that she has also looked at whether the inner layer could be replaced at some point. ‘There are lots of ways I want to take She also looked at what facilities people had at their disposal.A recurring theme was the office microwave – often second it forward if I can,’ she says. ‘It’s something that I’d want to findhand, and invariably slightly mucky. ‘It occurred to me that out through testing.’there was no microwave designed specifically for the office Two pots were modelled in SolidWorks and made on aenvironment,’ she says. laser-cutting machine, but she envisages three different designs: The microwaves she saw were often dirty, because nobody took a 450ml soup pot; a 550ml steam pot and a 550ml standard pot.ownership of them. This made people less inclined to use them – Each design has handles on the side, so that it can be lifted inforcing them into the sandwich-at-the-desk routine. ‘I wondered order to prevent burnt fingers. Pots could also be personalised inhow I could change this, and push people towards healthier a range of colours, while the pot lid is transparent. ‘I like the ideachoices – but without preaching at them,’ she says. of seeing your food as it is cooking,’ she says. Microwave ovens found in offices are designed for domestic For obvious reasons, Finetto’s Dok is not a working model, butuse, so they have multiple programs and settings that will never be just one with the correct look of a final product, with glass andused: there can be few people who use the grill or defrost settings aluminium elements. ‘I could only take it to a certain point in fivebetween meetings and catching up on emails. ‘I wanted to get months,’ she says. ‘I put various technologies together and cameaway from the visual imagery of the microwave, so realised that up with what I think would be a good solution to this problem.I had to make it look different,’ she says. I’d love to see how much further I could take it.’ Finetto spoke to an engineer who works with microwave Small magnetrons are proven technology, although moreovens. He told her that modern magnetrons – the component expensive than standard magnetrons, while the 3M film is stillthat generates the microwaves – can now be much smaller. developmental. ‘They have developed and tested it, but it’s notThis allowed her to design a compact microwave unit that had in any products yet,’ she says.enough power – equivalent to 800 Watts – to heat food quickly. So far, she has spoken to various companies that work withA variety of home-cooked foods – pasta, soup, casseroles, chilli domestic appliances, to seek their advice. ‘Lots of them love– could all be brought from home and prepared quickly andsimply using the system. the project, but whether they would want to take it forward is a different matter,’ she says. ‘I think taking the idea to a company Rather than having the format of an oven – where a shutdoor encloses the microwaves – she designed a hob, which she would be the best way of taking it forward, rather than tryingcalled the Dok. In this arrangement, the microwaves are directed to do it myself.’upwards into the pot. The Dok has a single setting, which allows the Finetto believes that the idea she came up with is partly downuser to adjust the heating time. No other functions are available. to her Italian heritage. ‘In Italy, people love food – and spend aDoks can also be daisy chained together from a single plug, so long time taking lunch,’ she says. ‘That’s why I saw the importancethat a number of people can use the system at the same time. of a lunch break in this project.’ 33

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