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The Challenge.

Blue Orchid CEO Sina Afshani was caring for an elderly loved one who needed assistance getting out of bed. When he went to go out and buy an assistive device to make this easier, he found a surprising gap: the only existing products either didn’t help at all, or cost $10,000.

Sina decided to use his industrial design background to fill that gap. He began to design his new assistive device, joining the Innovation Factory incubator in Hamilton. He worked with a small engineering firm to develop a prototype, but hit a wall in development: Blue Orchid needed a partner to go back to original requirements and deliver a design that was not only deeply functional, but beautiful enough to belong in the home or a long-term care facility.

Cortex’s deep integration of engineering and user experience made us an ideal partner. When we saw Sina’s project, we believed in its human value immediately: the need is obvious, and we knew we could help deliver the solution. That led us to become an investor as well, and we leveraged our network of manufacturing vendors to get Blue Orchid across the finish line and into production.

Wooden prototype to validate form:

Key Insights.

  • Structural elements must be aesthetic. Engineering and design have to be closely intertwined. The structure is the product. The components must be simple, functional and beautiful enough to belong in a home or care facility.
  • All mechanisms should inspire confidence. An exposed structure provides affordances for every part’s function. A rock-solid, transparent design makes intent obvious and boosts user confidence.
  • Regulatory requirements can be a design opportunity rather than a burden. Constraints are a wellspring for creativity. We looked at published regulatory standards for institutional and home use. Measurements and prototypes revealed that we could use passive actuation to aid in the lift — and make gravity work for the user.

Cortex Fundamental Deliverables.

  • Complexity underneath simplicity. All extrusions attach to a central diecast hub. This assembly integrates a hinge around which everything revolves when doing a lift. It anchors the design and encapsulates everything the product needs to be: functional, transparent, and intuitive. We originally validated this key component with low-cost plywood prototypes at full scale, testing key kinematic elements without having to wait for expensive parts.

  • Design for a target budget. Retail cost, profit margins and budget were known at the beginning. We delivered a production prototype that allowed us to validate ex factory cost and build the client’s business case within his niche.

  • Boots on the ground. We brought in our network of overseas manufacturers from the outset to validate production feasibility at every stage. That doesn’t mean just relying on recommendations and making phone calls: we fly, we stay, we share meals, we build rapport. It’s an asset when it comes to vetting manufacturers, reviewing shot samples, debugging manufacturing problems, qualifying parts, and approving finishes.


The Result.

  • The company used use our first round of prototyping to raise additional funds for production design and tooling.
  • The first 50 production units of Blue Orchid are undergoing a pilot study at a hospital.

© 2019 Cortex Design Inc.

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