Two configurations for heat

Litho is a radial fan that can be used in two different ways: as portable product and as wall-mounting product. Designed by the study DesignSuMisura, it has been produced by Ermete Giudici.

Silvia Fissore

1 the idea

The idea at the base of the project was the creation of a radial fan with the unique characteristic of being used in two different ways: as portable appliance and as wall-mounting product, in this case with a particular protection index against humidity. The design development has been entrusted to the Milanese study DesignSuMisura for the company Ermete Giudici.

2 the concept design
The purchaser had required a product characterized by a slim shape, a very felt trend in the household appliance world. The formal language followed by designers, then, is fully focused on the effect of subtle and elegant lines that enclose a new technology.

3 engineering
The research of a “slim” solution has requested the study and the design of different components from those commonly used for these products. It was necessary to design an air flow system that, even in so small spaces, had such an efficiency and air delivery that it was possible to dissipate the heat of the resistance in adequate way.

4 materials and production
Concerning materials, the choice has been based on technical-esthetical reasons: PP offers excellent ductility and injection mouldability for the manufacturing of bodies, while the Pa nylon, used for the inside grid and fan, is highly tolerant to the high inner temperatures. Besides, the PP is not charged: a solution adopted to maintain a low specific weight and to assure a high esthetical quality of the surface. The company proposes a single model in 7 different chromatic versions.

5 final result and operation
Design and silence, high Protection Index against humidity and versatility are the salient features that characterize the product. The appliance can be adapted to the various environments of the domestic habitat and can be proposed to the user with a simple and elegant control interface.

Litho is a radial fan whose air suction direction is orthogonal to the air output direction, with the peculiarity of being used in two different ways: as portable product and as wall-mounting product. The project was born inside the Milanese Study DesignSuMisura, which has been collaborating for a long time with the manufacturing company, Ermete Giudici Spa, whose main customers are some primary brands of the big organized distribution. The team of DesignSuMisura has integrally followed the product development from its initial concept, suggested by the buyer, passing through all engineering phases followed by the designer Mauro Cozzi. The implementation of prototypes for tests, the product optimizations, the implementation of the finished product and its approval by certification bodies have been followed by the technical and quality office of Ermete Giudici.

The idea
In Italy fans have a significant market penetration only if used as temporary/auxiliary heating systems, either for climatic reasons or for a matter of life styles and habits. The prevalence of condominium housing solutions and then of centralized heating systems is undoubtedly a determinant element in this matter. We cannot neglect then also the “sore point” of the “expensive energy”, considering that today the electrical energy bill represents a strong hindrance to the commercial development of these applications, as it happens on the contrary in other Countries.
The project owner, Ermete Giudici, has asked DesignSumisura for a product having double configuration, that’s to say operating both as portable and elegant fan, easily positioned in whatever environment and able to enhance its esthetical value, and as sober but also very modern wall-mounting appliance. “The portable solution, according to the corporate estimates – explains the engineer Marco Giudici, manager of Ermete Giudici – is used in Italy by 80% while the fixed wall application is certainly less usual in Italy than in other markets such as Germany, France, Spain and Great Britain. In any case, being the latter some countries to which our company is commercially oriented, we have decided of proposing the wall application, too”. The result is that we have conferred the final product “higher versatility, particular protection against water that makes it unique compared to competitors and that we have opened the market to more consistent numbers”. The design idea, in short, was to propose a high-end product, where the esthetical element keeps pace with functions and ergonomics to satisfy the requirements of a target paying attention to design details, to the quality of materials and to user-friendliness and installation.

The concept design
The Litho fan has been conceived with a clean and elegant design and provides a very silent air conveyance system: two important elements in end-users’ evaluation criteria. “The clean and slightly bombed shapes of the object – explains Alberto Villa, designer and founder of the study DesignSuMisura in Milan Milano, – have been conceived to make the product perceived as subtle and elegant and at the same time to enhance the value of a technology purposely studied to make the appliance compact and ultra slim”.
“In our opinion the peculiarity of being thin – adds the designer – is also a leitmotif very diffused in the household appliance sector and it is a trend certainly deriving from the consumer electronics world”. According to market studies and analyses, nowadays the slim aspect of the product is directly linked with the perception, by users, of a modern, technological and up to date appliance. “For this reason the concept design has bet on a formal language exalting and emphasizing this aspect” explains Alessandro Gorla, of the DesignSuMisura team that has worked at the Litho project together with Giorgio Tusa.
The research of a “slim” solution has requested the study and the design of components differing from those commonly used for these products. “The company, in fact, had to invest a lot in the study and implementation of an air flow that, even in so small spaces, has such an efficiency and air delivery to be able to dissipate the resistance heat adequately” further explains the engineer Giudici.
Besides, the fact that one of the main peculiarities of the product was the possibility of using it both as portable fan and, once turned upside down, as wall-mounting product (to be used essentially in the bathroom, ambit where the esthetical aspect is very important), has required an engineering work and a study of prototypes that have involved numerous tests and changes in the design phase.

In the initial brief phase, the purchaser’s request was then the realization of an elegant and modern product to be adapted at best to the different housing and domestic environments. The product, thanks to a purposely studied conveyor, was expected to be as thin as possible and then to enhance this peculiarity, without forgetting its double free standing and wall-mounted configuration. “As the latter is a totally new characteristic – explains the designer Villa – also the study and design phase has required longer times and the development complexity has been greater”.
“From the point of view of the formal study, after a first phase of analysis and exploration of the languages best suiting this product type, we have submitted various proposals to the customer that has chosen what direction to pursue” goes on Mauro Cozzi who has followed the engineering phase. “After accomplishing some esthetical perfecting, we have made a first volumetric-esthetical prototype of polystyrene, performed by us in study. We are very keen to this component of our design course. The material implementation of the prototype allows us to achieve a constant and important feedback. Many esthetical refinements are directly carried out on these prototypes and then reported on the mathematics”. The prototype is then very useful for attaining feedbacks on the product physicality and certainly on its use. “It especially helps us in designing the experience component of the product, that’s to say how it will be perceived, used and handled by the end user” adds Villa.
After defining the formal design of the appliance, they have proceeded with the real engineering phase of the product. “During this phase – adds Cozzi – we manufactured three prototypes made of sintered nylon. This material and technology are very suitable for studying the product, due to both mechanical and thermal characteristics”.
One prototype was useful for testing the study of the air flows and two were used to verify the final product functioning. “Besides, we executed on prototypes the test to obtain the IP 24” certification, that’s to say the protection degree against strenuous elements like water and moisture, considering that one of the main places where the appliance is installed is the bathroom. “The IP is undoubtedly a very important sale argument for this product typology” explains Alberto Villa.
During the product engineering, one of the main challenges to be faced for the radial fan was the design of air flows. “One of the biggest problems for the design of radial fans – explains in fact Mauro Cozzi – is the need of conveying the air output flow through a much smaller surface than that available in axial fans, with the same power used. The risk is then of having too high air output temperatures. This would also affect the resistance of the air output grid, considering that in this case we have opted for a grid made of thermoplastic material”. Therefore the target was to achieve an air output temperature “not exceeding, in the highest peak point, 110° – 120° absolute centigrade degrees and uniformly distributed – adds Cozzi. – One of the big problems of radial fans, compared to axial ones, is that the distribution of the air temperature in the output area is never uniform. The consequence is the formation of very cold zones and other very hot areas in the resistance”. These are, then, the specifications at the base of the study from which they have derived “a completely new shape of the impeller and especially a shape of the conveyor of the air deflector studied and designed to direct the air flow in uniform way. Another study component was the rear filter, which has been studied and designed to be easily removable and washable through a locking/unlocking system. The maintenance of these products, in fact, is very important because, despite the presence of the protection grid, the quantity of dust accumulated for the sucked air compels to carry out cleaning operations constantly and frequently. The presence of the removable and washable filter protects the appliance from dust and then maintains its reliability for a longer time.

Used materials and production
The choice of the materials used for the implementation of the Litho fan was dictated by essentially technical reasons: “first of all PP provides excellent ductility and injection mouldability for the implementation of bodies – explains Alberto Villa – while the Pa nylon used for the internal grid and the fan bears the high internal temperatures very well. Besides, the PP is not charged: a choice made to maintain the low specific weight and to guarantee a high esthetical quality of the surface”.
At present a single model, in seven different chromatic versions, has been proposed. “To assure an excellent level of surface brightness – adds Villa – we have opted for a painted front side, with a protective post-painting treatment, to assure high chromatic quality and very good gloss result not attainable through the simple injection moulding”.

Final result and operation

Design and silence, double use, in portable and wall-mounted version, energy efficiency, high protection degree (IP 24): these are in short the final characteristics of the product. “It is the only product that we know, presently available on the market, – underlines the engineer Giudici – that is IP 21 certified, that’s to say protected against the vertical rain when it is used as portable, and IP 24, when installed in the bathroom”. For the wall installation they have conceived a fixing bracket that not only guarantees the safe and stable positioning of the product but it assures also its adjustment in rotation to decide the optimal orientation. “The wall bracket has also been studied to offer the optimal distance from the wall – explains Villa- which is necessary to guarantee the right air input flow from the product rear side”.
Finally, it is worth expressing a final remark about the external shell and in particular about the formal language of the product, “which must always exalt and communicate its content and its function. In this case the external lines highlight a slim and elegant product, where the air output grid, integrated into the appliance shapes, interrupt the front side from the chromatic but not from the esthetical point of view, making it compact and linear to sight, suggesting a hidden technology, not invasive and certainly innovative. The taut and slightly curved lines, finally, communicate also the silence of the air flow output” ends Villa.

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