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A View from John Maeda

Redesign Redefined

From scrap automobile parts to life-saving neonatal incubators.

  • November 9, 2007

Last night I attended the Design That Matters benefit dinner held at the MIT Museum. It was the kind of social affair where the weight of the cause greatly outweighed any concerns about what was being offered on the menu. Pictured above is RISD graduate student Tom Weis demonstrating to guest Paul Thompson his collaboration with RISD students MIke Hahn and Adam Geremia for client CIMIT to construct a neonatal incubator composed of mechanical parts from a Toyota pickup truck. Neonatal incubators apparently go for $20,000 and are impossible to deploy in Third World countries. On the other hand, dilapidated automobiles and trucks are in major supply there. So the concept of Weiss and his partners’ design was to use mechanical parts that were already available in communities and redesign the system parts into a brand-new object. The logistics issues of getting the parts to where they are needed is solved by using scrap automobile parts, and so is the issue of cost. Labor costs get added in to the equation, of course, but the conclusion is that a lower-cost neonatal incubator that can save thousands of babies’ lives can certainly be built with this new technique.

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