You may remember my post back in October when I introduced the new Axor Starck Organic range following my trip to Berlin to attend the World premier event? Well if not you might want to have a read as it contains Philippe Starck‘s account of the design process and his inspiration for the new collection. But whilst Starck may have designed the Organic range there were of course lots of people at Axor involved in the process, especially the development of the technology that made the whole collection possible. Having met up with the Axor team again at imm cologne earlier this year, I was keen to delve a little bit deeper into the new collection and luckily I was able to speak to a few of the team members who played an integral role in the realisation of Axor Starck Organic.
Benjamin Holzer is Head of Product Management Hansgrohe SE/Axor and Manuel Zuefle is Product Manager Hansgrohe SE/Axor. I had a couple of questions for them and they kindly agreed to answer them for me.
Did Philippe Starck’s design for the collection present you with any major challenges and if so how did you overcome them?
Sure – not every design proposal is technically realizable. We began the design process with our list of pre-defined goals for the collection. We wanted to create a mixer that is both emotional and sustainable in every aspect. These characteristics were at the core of our fourth collaboration with Philippe Starck. Every design meeting with him was a dialogue about how we could allow people to interact with and handle water in a completely new way. Only then did we begin to talk about the design. From there we received a series of design proposals to which we added our technical know-how and our water competence. In the end, the collection comes down to: user friendliness, comfort, sustainability, and added value for our customers.
To overcome design challenges that revolved around usability and comfort, we produced lots of 3-D models from simple pencil drawings using the rapid prototyping method. Looking at these, one can see the natural progression of Philippe Starck’s designs right up to the final product, which is completely free of any protrusions on the surface of the mixer. A second challenge his designs presented, was the incorporation of the cartridge into the spout. To overcome this challenge we had to develop a new type of cartridge, which greatly differs from cartridges in standard two-handle mixers.
To what extent did Axor and the technology already developed by the spray research laboratory influence the outcome of the final product range?
To a large extent – we wanted to create a wash basin mixer that feels different from all mixers on the market today. We asked ourselves if we could manage to transfer the technology of a shower spray into a mixer spray. The answer is ‘Yes’. The origin of the technology for the final Axor Starck Organic product range lies in the Raindance 100 hand-shower. This product has 90 nozzles spread over a diameter of 100mm. The Axor Starck Organic mixer also has 90 nozzles but spread over a much smaller diameter. Therefore, to achieve a “shower-like” sensation for our hands, we had to pay close attention to spacing and dimensioning of the nozzles on the smaller (Ø20mm) spout disc. The result was the achievement of more with less: powerful design, intelligent functions, and the efficient use of resources.
Next I wanted to find out more about Axor’s reputation for water and energy saving technology. Luckily Markus Woehrle, Head of Hansgrohe’s Spray Research Laboratory was on hand to talk me through it.
Hansgrohe is renowned for producing wash basin mixers with a flow rate below the international standard of 7 litres per minute. How difficult is it to go beyond the required standards and how much of this capability depends on technological innovation?
The Axor Organic wash basin mixer encompasses new technologies, which allow us to not only satisfy the increasing demands for decreasing water and energy consumption, but also to increase ease of usability and comfort compared to standard wash basin mixers. In order to combine a lower water flow rate with greater amounts of comfort, and simultaneously point the user towards a more conscious usage of water and energy, means encountering a series of challenges:
- Decoupling of the water and temperature valves to save energy. For many, it is comfortable and sufficient to wash their hands with cold water, which helps to save energy. Others prefer to wash their hands with warm water, and this is of course possible with the Axor Starck Organic mixer, but to do so, one must consciously change the temperature setting on the separated valve.
- Combining the water valve with the spout of the mixer. This meant a new cartridge had to be developed.
- Keeping our QuickClean function and user friendliness. This means we needed to develop a silicone spray former.
In summary, it was important to integrate all of these needs and demands into a functional and balanced mixer. The technology behind this new mixer is hardly noticeable, but it encompasses a high degree of experience, curiosity, and developmental trial-and-error.
The finer mixer spray encompasses many characteristics from shower spray development. With little water, well thought out alignment of the nozzles, and compatible technologies for flow regulation, full-faced, consistent jet cones can be achieved. This new kind of mixer spray, not only exceeds regular mixer sprays in aesthetics and zone of impact, but it also provides a shower-like sensation while washing hands. Towards the end of our development process, 90 silicone nozzles found their way onto a silicone mixer spout with a diameter of 20mm. The nozzles with a diameter of approximately 0.7mm were designed to release between 3-6 liters/minute and were tested for elasticity (QuickClean Function) in our limescale and spray laboratories. Sufficient spacing and dimensioning of the nozzles was key to avoiding a mono-spray and achieving a high-quality water experience.