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Thread: MIT Student Product Development

  1. #1
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    Default MIT Student Product Development

    Hi All,

    I'm a mechanical engineering student at MIT in the US. I'm currently taking a class we call 2.009 Product Engineering Processes and it is one of the final classes that all MIT mechanical engineering students take before they graduate. It brings all the knowledge that we have learned throughout our time at MIT and brings it all together in the development of a real-world product.

    This year, my team (Orange Team) is working to re-design the deck suits and survival suits often used in cold climate sailing, boating, and commercialfishing. Our current vision for this product is to create a device that is comfortable, provides ease of movement, has an internal heating mechanism/insulator, is waterproof, and has a flotation mechanism. We envision that this product will be worn at all times and will allow the user to survive for several hours in 0'C water.

    Would anyone with experience in cold climate sailing/fishing/boating be able to comment on our current aspirations for this product? What sort of problems (if any) have you experienced with current market deck suits and survival suits? What attributes are you guys looking for the most in these types of products? Do you even wear these sort of products? If not, then why? Any other anecdotes related to this type of product or problem would also be much appreciated.

    Thank you,
    MIT 2.009 Orange Team

  2. #2
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    I suggest you look at the Race To Alaska and the Ocean Rodeo suits that most participants wear. Entertaining and instructive!

    r2ak.com
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

    15' Welsford Navigator Inconceivable
    16' W. Simmons Mattinicus double ender ​Matty

  3. #3
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    Study Mustang Survival's lines of boat crew suits, ice immersion suits, and off-shore sailing suits to identify ways you might expand the range.

    My own happy compromise is a work suit. This will allow water intrusion that a boat suit or other dry suit will keep out but the various cinch straps will keep it low enough that body heat will make up. I estimate about three hours comfort time in 40 F water. For dirty work like fishing, I just put Grundens on over to keep fish gurry and such off the fabric. I like a suit with no attached bootie because it dries more readily and is thus more suited for long and repetitive wear.

    G'luck

  4. #4
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    Hello, robinw. Congrats on your making it this far at MIT. Good luck in crossing the finishing line.

    Regarding your cold water immersion suit: I do not go out in cold waters much any more, but I work closely with an industry that does - I do naval architecture catering to the lobster fishing industry in south-west Nova Scotia. The fishing season here starts mid-November and runs through to the end of May, so cold water is a regular occupational hazard. Sadly, many of the fishermen do not wear appropriate safety clothing, mostly due to two factors - ease of movement and cost. I think that most safety clothing manufacturers address the problem of ease of movement to a degree, but many seem to lose sight of the fact that a fisherman is not going to buy a set of working outerwear that costs (in some cases) upwards of a thousand dollars or more. To be used, the clothing must be accessibly priced, so your team must look at cost of manufacturing as well as safety components and ease of movement. Finally, if you want commercial users to look kindly on your product, you will have to make them tough. No fisherman wants to put on his new supersuit and have it torn open and ruined in a few hours from the normal wear and tear of his daily activities.

    Good luck with your project - I hope it is a smashing success and makes it to market.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    A lot of theses, dissertations, and projects such as yours end poorly because of the difficulty of the task undertaken. Realize that there is a whole industry out there that has put huge amounts of research and development effort and money into the question you are trying to address. Consider what the odds might be of your "inventing a better mousetrap."

    I might suggest that you consider something more "elegant," as it were. Where, IMHO, there is a need is for development in the field of "personal flotation devices." There are, of course, many on the market, but none are of any value if they are not 1) readily available (i.e. affordably priced) and 2) worn at all times around the water.

    You might consider how such a PFD might be designed.

    1) It has to be affordable, as in as cheap as the cheapo "Mae West" style foam filled orange jobs you see everywhere. Many good ones now cost $100 or more. Joe Sixpack isn't likely to buy a half-dozen for friends and family to use on his fishing boat. That rules out elaborate CO2 cartridge automatic inflation devices and the like. (And the more mechanically dependent it is, the higher the manufacturer's liability cost factor will be, so... keep it simple.)

    2) It has to be "minimal," which is to say it can't interfere with the user's movement. Otherwise, it won't get worn. (And incorporating a "lifeline" halter is a must, as the first line of defense is staying on the boat and out of the water.)

    3) It also has to meet the USCG and SOLAS certification requirements in all respects.

    If anybody can come up with a wearable PFD that meets the affordability and comfort parameters better than the current products on the market, they will indeed have invented a "better mousetrap."

  6. #6
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    Where, IMHO, there is a need is for development in the field of "personal flotation devices." There are, of course, many on the market, but none are of any value if they are not 1) readily available (i.e. affordably priced) and 2) worn at all times around the water.
    Well, #2 is simply not true at all.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    What I'd like in a cold water suit? Ease of taking it on and taking it off. Failure here is why many people don't even consider wearing them. Try to put on a drysuit in a small boat while sailing (when it starts to breeze up and risk increases), and you'll soon see why that matters.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    I often wear a dry suit, and the biggest problem is overheating, not getting too cold. There's no easy way to adjust the insulating value. Any real workout and it gets sweaty, even in a quality breathable suit. Traditional foul weather gear is much more flexible in that regard.
    -Dave

  9. #9
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    When I was still a deckie on tug boats I made a PFD vest modeled on the shape of the basic insulated vest. Floatation was the softest closed cell foam I could find shredded and sewn into an open mesh material, diamond pattern. Two overlapping layers on the chest and high around the collar, one on the back. All this was sewne into the final vest material, nylon inside for easy wearing and hefty waxed denim outside for ability to stand up to hard wear. I designed a pocket system to hold the normal working items I needed for deck work - handheld VHF, knife, adjustable spud wrench, whistle, light, tobacco pouch, pipe holder, lighter, flask, et cetera. [No smoking, of course, around fuel barges, but I also had in mind using the vest for sailing. The flask was for coffee when on the tug.] I made it large enough that it went over my Grundens without scrunching. I had a sewn on chest harness that was self-tightening when the tether was attached to one end ring, run through the other and back through the first. This left it comfortably loose until needed.

    In winter my sailing and tugging clothing was silk long johns, wool pants, shirt, and sweater. Then Grundens when working or nice Goretex Henri Lloyd's when sailing and finally the vest. Later I got a nice Mustang float coat that's very comfortable and has an easily deployed neoprene "diaper" that will further limit water intrusion.

    And that's what I was wearing when I capsized a dink about a mile and a half from shore one clear but cold early March afternoon. Sorry about the problems getting the photo over, but here I am safe and about to be rewarded with a glass of the good.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    Ian, somehow I would never have taken you for a silk underwear kind of guy!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: MIT Student Product Development

    Random thought: Is there any chemical reaction that can produce heat but which just sits there doing nothing until the fateful moment when some sensor drops below 97 degrees? Can you make underwear out of it? I am aware of one of the the ways this can go wrong; my dad was a WW2 bomber mechanic and the first high altitude suits that had electric heat put the same density of heating elements in the confined crotch as in the rest of the suit. This resulted in a lot of poor aiming of weapons systems, perhaps some sterility :-)

    Ken

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