Eddy is designed to be retrofitted onto any existing washing machine.
Sketching and card models were a straightforward way to quickly develop and refine concepts
Testing the cleaning armature mechanism using 3D printed prototypes.
Diagram illustrating the path washing machine effluent takes through the Eddy.
Cutaway diagram revealing the Eddy's impeller and demonstrating the cleaning mechanisms airflow.
What it does
Despite their small size, microplastics pose a colossal threat to the health of our oceans. The Eddy is a retrofittable filtration system for washing machines, designed to stop microplastic pollution from synthetic clothing reaching the marine environment.
Microplastic pollution is one of the most serious threats to the marine environment. One of the largest contributors to this pollution are the filaments released from synthetic clothing during washing. Just a single 6kg washload can flush up to 700,000 microfibres down the drain, into marine life, our food, and in turn, to us. Some estimates put the number of these fibres already in our oceans at over 1.4 million trillion. Disturbingly, there are countless washing machines worldwide constantly adding to the problem. My challenge was to create a viable, user-friendly solution that could help to curb this microplastic pollution.
How it works
Retrofitted to any machine, water from your washing machine runs into the Eddy’s filter chamber. Here a vortex or “eddy” is created that gives the design its name. This turbulent water prevents fibres from the polluted water building up unevenly on the filter. The stainless-steel micro-mesh filter is rated to 5 microns one third the diameter of a human hair, ensuring microfibers will be stopped but clean water can pass through safely to the ocean. During cleaning, a vacuum hose can be applied, creating suction along the three, slotted armatures that draw microfibres off the filter surface. This same airflow drives an impeller, imparting spin to the cleaning arms, allowing them to rotate and cover the whole circumference of the filter cylinder. These fibres are sucked into the vacuum cleaner, isolating them from human contact and ensuring fibres end up in the bin along with other waste, not the ocean.
Preceding the design stage, an important part of the Eddy's development was a research report focusing on microfiber pollution. With this information I could hit the ground running on the design process. Simple methods for initial idealization such as post it note sketches and mind-mapping were used to generate a wide net of ideas. Using this array of possibilities, I narrowed focus and ideas progressed. Detailed sketching and sketch models allowed me to begin testing basic user interactions. This stage was crucial in developing an understanding of how potential users would interact with each concept. From these findings, I realized that I was so focused on what would be the best way to get the filter out of the device for cleaning, I didn’t consider if the filter even had to be removed at all. Based on this, I went back to the drawing board to develop and refine a new approach to how a washing machine filter could be cleaned. Using CAD and 3D printing potential solutions was crucial in being able to design a mechanism that functioned as required. My first impeller design functioned poorly as when vacuum was applied the cleaning armatures would not turn. In a few iterations, I identified and strengthened the faults, allowing the mechanism to run effectively.
How it is different
There are currently very few options for reducing microfibre pollution that are readily available to everyday consumers. Of these options, fewer still are designed with the user experience in mind. Some of the Eddy's key differences that give it an edge on existing products include: The Eddys internal pump, which generates a constant flow of water through the device. This makes the Eddy far more reliable than other washing machine filters, as it is far less likely to back up like other gravity-fed filters can. This pump also means the Eddy can be placed below the point of drainage, allowing it to be used in more locations, including under the laundry sink. Also, where other filters need to be disassembled for cleaning, the Eddy features an innovative cleaning mechanism that allows the user to attach their household vacuum cleaner to a purpose-built port. Making maintenance a straightforward and easy task, rather than a difficult, messy chore.
I believe that the Eddy and products like it, are crucial if we want to stand any chance of slowing down the copious amounts of microplastic fibres that are entering our oceans every day. While the Eddy is a strong foundation, there is much more development required to ensure that the eddy is the highly efficient, effective, sustainable and user-friendly device it needs to be. I sincerely hope that someday soon, I will have opportunity to work closely with a larger team of designers and engineers. All with the collective goal of developing the best possible solution to one the largest threats to the health of our oceans.
Eddy received a Good Design Award Winner Accolade in the Next Gen category in recognition for outstanding design and innovation. “There is clear effort, thought and consideration that has gone into this design. The Jury saw this as an intelligent and viable design solution to a significant environmental threat.”