Engineering Study: Toaster ReDesigned

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Redesigned for Sustainability of Product Life Cycle
Engineering Design / Design for Manufacturing and Sustainability

In this seven week project, we started out with a generic Procter-Silex brand toaster. After taking it apart down to its most simple parts, we examined each component in order to learn about inefficiencies in its design for easy assembly, manufacturing, and overall impact on the environment. In addition, we used this data to determine product and functional requirements in order to redesign the toaster not only for better manufacturing process, but user experience.

What followed was a prototype that seeks to remedy all of the problems with the current product, from creation to user experience, to end of product life cycle. Through careful analysis of all these variables and considerations we designed a more modern, compact, wall mounted version of the toaster that has a dropping mechanism as well as a bread slide for easy removal of cooked bread and more intuitive user experience.

Team: Brian Xiao, Gaurav Asthana, Taylor Mau, Scarlett Wu, Lama Alfalaij
Role I Played: User Experience Research, Competitive Analysis, Product Analysis, Product Design

Simplifying these functional requirements allowed us to gain insight into ways of improving features of the product. One example is the function of bread insertion and dispensing: when we imagine a toaster, the lifting mechanism seems almost essential. However, it is not the lift- ing of bread that is needed. Instead it is simply the transfer of food from the heating element to the user. Understanding this allowed us to think much more creatively of ways in which to improve the product.

Our team had several insights during this project not only about how users interact with a toaster, but ways in which the toaster could be made more cheaply and efficiently with less impact on the environment.

The Proctor-Silex toaster we started out with was quite poor in quality and durability. However, improving it through careful research of user habits and pain points was not enough, as we learned. Through careful analysis of not only functional requirements but also parts for elimina- tion, we realized that improvements through the redesign of the toaster can be made not only to its exterior, but to its manufacturing and assembly process as well as its overall impact on the environment.

We made these improvements, such as the removal of the lifting mechanism, so that we could improve not only the experience, but also the assembly process. In the case of the dropping mechanism, its replacement of the lifting mechanism also meant the exclusion of a spring loaded system, thereby making the device simpler for manufacturing. In addition, the trans- formation of the crumb tray to a bread sliding tray simplifies the structure of the product in removing the need for a door access to the crumb tray.

Additional efforts such as concepts for possibilities of integrating internet of things to this de- vice were made to extend the life cycle of the product. Through careful analysis of the product’s life cycle, we were able to create a toaster that was vastly more sustainable through use of re- cycled materials to create the toaster. However, we have decided that another way to improve the sustainability of the device would also be in its usage by the consumer. Therefore, a device with a longer life, namely, a toaster that could be updated and improved via the internet, could make for a product that would be in use for much longer, reducing the possibility of the cus- tomer throwing the product away and creating more waste. By extending its life cycle, perhaps this product could make a stand against our throwaway culture.

Appendix A: Part Count Assessment

Based on the table above, we calculated that the toaster was comprised of 114 parts.
We discovered that 77 of these parts were CFEs, making the part count efficiency ratio to be around 32%.

A part count efficiency of 32% indicates that the design of the toaster is very inefficient. There are multiple components that can be removed or redesigned.

Appendix B: House of Quality


Our team analyzed the Proctor Silex Toaster along with two of its competitors, Keemo and Hamilton Beach. A variety of customer needs were identified by the team as whole through a collaborative brainstorming exercise. By using reviews on Amazon, we addressed these needs and rated them based on their importance to customers. We examined a variety of factors for the Quality Function Deployment such as the range of inserting and dispensing for the consum- ers of the respective products. Additionally, we evaluated factors such as the size, weight, and durability and their relation to the utility offered to the consumer. By listening to the voice of the customers, we found additional factors that affected the user’s experience such as cleanup and safety concerns. We looked to gain insights about functional requirements from extreme users by thinking about children and school cafeteria workers. As a personal exploration ex- ercise, we attempted to focus on the use of sustainable materials and were driven to explore alternate sources of energy to power the toaster.

Our House of Quality produced the importance ratings of the functional requirements. Our toaster’s ability to dispense toast was identified as one of the top requirements that needed
to change with a rating of 69. To address this concern, we want to design an easy dispensing mechanism instead of the current lifting one. This would remove some components associated with the lifting mechanism like the springs. The Proctor Silex toaster along with the Keemo and Hamilton Beach toaster offers a high lift feature that allows for the toast to be lifted about an inch higher for easier grasping.

Equally important, with also a rating of 69, is safety. It would also be prudent to utilize a wooden or heat resistant frame as an added safety feature. This was identified as an opportuni- ty to use sustainable materials as well. Wood’s quality of being a poor conductor of heat can be leveraged for this purpose. The wooden surfaces can be placed near the areas where humans may come in contact with high heat.

Another safety factor often overlooked is the temperature of the bread after it is done toast- ing; often times, even after cooking, the toast is still too hot to handle. By creating a better dispensing mechanism like having the toast drop out of the bottom, we would be able to solve both the dispensing and safety issues.

Other safety concerns include ensuring that the product does not have any exposed heating elements; this is especially imperative in the case of families; curious children might reach into the slots. In our Proctor Silex toaster, though the front stays quite cool during use, the sides can become quite hot. By contrast, the Keemo Two Slice toaster and the Hamilton Beach Four Slice toaster both have “cool touch” exteriors. A cover that closes the space housing the exposed heating coils could also be implemented.

For cleanability we assigned a rating of 64. Through complaints about the various crumb trays on other toasters, we concluded that ultimately, side access to the crumb tray is most user friendly.

Of the three toasters, the Proctor Silex model is most difficult to clean; in order to open the crumb tray on the bottom, the user must lift up the product, and flip it completely upside down in order to access it. The Keemo Two Slice toaster and the Hamilton Beach model both have their crumb tray handles open out toward the rear for easy access.

The ability to transfer heat to bread received a rating of 40, as it is still crucial to its function so that the toaster can cook the toast quickly and evenly. Despite its problems with consistency of toasting, the Proctor Silex toaster actually cooks quite fast. Also lauded for its speed is the Keemo Two Slice Toaster. However, despite being the most premium product of the three, Hamilton Beach Toaster has customers that complain about its slow rate of heating and lack of consistency in cooking. This may be due to the product’s large size, and additional features.

The doneness level adjustment was assigned a rating of 33; the product must have at least five settings with a well designed interface. The most simple toaster is Proctor Silex, with basic function of browning settings ranging from 1 (the lightest) to 7 (the darkest). The Keemo and Hamilton Beach models have the same function, with the addition of features such as bagel mode, cancel, and defrost. However, the Hamilton Beach toaster’s browning settings are designed to be much simpler, with 9 dots and bread icons that show a range between white, brown, and black.

Finally, the lowest importance rating of 31 was assigned to the toasters’ ability to consume less energy. We realized this is important for some customers who are looking for ways to save energy due to their environmental or cost concern. We also talked about customers who go camping and who would need a toaster that is off-the-grid.

To address some of these concerns, we are exploring the possibility of using the heat generated from the refrigerator’s heat exchanger to power the toast. This way, the heat is gained from the environment rather than generating it.

Brian XiaoComment