The infant industry is characterized by multiple companies which all offer fairly similar products. This means that each company has to make their version stand out both for the purposes of marketing and so that they don’t run into patent infringement issues.
Lift-to-fold strollers are one example of this type of product. They are convenient for parents who don’t have time to wrestle a stroller into it’s compact state or don’t want to rearrange the entire car every morning. The strollers come with a strap that lies flat across the bottom of the seat which, when lifted, causes the entire stroller to fold away until it resembles an oversize briefcase. This smaller package can then be carried or stored easily.
When Cosco wanted to come out with their version of a lift-to-fold stroller, they realized that many of their competitors had already patented the common mechanisms that can make it work. This is where Creative was able to help. After researching on our client’s behalf, we found a total of 12 different patents already filed for lift-to-fold stroller mechanisms; we had to find a way to achieve the same result with a different mechanism.
We came up with a couple of concepts that were original enough to be outside the existing patents and that could even allow Cosco to file for their own patent. After sending these concepts to the client, they decided on a single link system which locked securely and was both simple and robust.
After deciding on the mechanism, the client wanted to look into ways in which the user could open the stroller up with a foot instead of a hand. We did a lot of brainstorming on how to do this safely without the possibility of pinching fingers or toes, but kept running into other safety issues. Since this product was going to be used with and around children, we knew that safety was of the highest priority and we worked tirelessly with the client until the final design was completely safe.
In the end we realized that there was a fundamental issue in the idea of opening up the stroller with a foot lever. As the stroller opens, the handle has to move all the way from the ground to its final height. The foot lever could only have a maximum travel of about one foot, which meant that, at minimum, every inch of foot travel would equate to about four inches of handle travel. If a parent moved their foot quickly, a child walking by could easily get hit in the head by a fast moving handle. We shared this thought with Cosco and they agreed that the fundamental concept of a foot lever was just too dangerous to be implemented. Instead we used a simpler hand opening action which was much less likely to result in injuries.
We made a complete prototype of the stroller using wheels and metal pieces from a preexisting stroller and SLS joints for the folding mechanism. We sent this prototype to the client and they knew, from the smooth folding actions and the ease of use, that this was a design they could market and sell.