Product Safety Consultation

Last week, the Department for Business and Trade launched a product safety consultation, in a bid to reform the current regulatory framework for product safety. The consultation, open until 24th October, is being announced as part of the Government’s Smarter Regulation Programme.

This news came shortly after the announcement that the UKCA marking deadline was to be extended by a further two years

While we commend a review into the current framework around standards, we would question whether it is possible to make such reforms, when resources such as Trading Standards and Third-Party Test Houses are already overstretched. Derogation and e-labelling reforms are all well and good, so long as there are robust policies and organisations in place to ensure these are not exploited. Take for example the problems of cyber security we all encounter day by day with spurious websites and hacking, let alone the lies told as supposed facts.

Dodgy products are a scourge to our collective safety, and we would like greater scrutiny of any product coming in from offshore, not less. In all honesty we must expect unscrupulous manufacturers and importers to take every advantage, and to exploit every vulnerability and loop- hole they can. Being offshore is a great way to hide things, especially if an e-certificate says it is compliant. The earlier point about cyber security should ring alarm bells.

Back to the marking of products. It would be ideal if all territories could come on board with this proposal within a unified framework agreement. The proposal does not mention the problems of products carrying multiple territory compliance markings and how to accommodate different languages.

The consultation document includes several questions, and it urges us to respond to these via the online survey. This is not something you can do during a quick break. It is a big survey to do correctly, and the submission of proof will put many people off. Rather than kick the issues of deadlines down the road and tie business up in consultations they don’t have time to deal with, might we offer two suggestions for HM Gov to think about.

  • Get to grips with UKCA and get on with it or bin it within the term of this parliament because the UK needs to know one way or the other and not watch the can being kicked down the road to land in someone else’s back yard to deal with.
  • Level the playing field for UK businesses who are making good products by getting tough on those who evade their compliance responsibility.

These suggestions will clarify the situation post Brexit and give the UK a robust mechanism to deter products coming onto the market that have no right to be there.

Let’s create something great together



Here be Monsters!

In the quest for high power batteries to provide us with more convenience in our electrical devices, humanity has embarked on a high-speed journey, pushing off the tarmac, onto the tracks and now careering over unmarked territory. Like the seafaring charts of old, the empty places are filled with depictions of horrible beasts and warnings, stating “here be monsters”. 

Let’s explain this further….

Irrespective of where we derive electrical energy, it must be stored if we cannot use it immediately. Batteries are used for this purpose and there are many different types of battery that have been developed to meet the demands of their application. When a battery needs to be compact, offer high power, and be fast-charging, the designers generally turn to lithium battery technology. This type of battery is ubiquitous in disposable products -– power tools, EVs, mobile phones and far too many others to mention.

Because lithium chemistry batteries have a high-power density, even a partially charged battery has enormous potential to cause damage if that energy is uncontrollably released. Mechanical damage to the battery can initiate this so it is vital that products containing these batteries are disposed of correctly. Every day there are fires caused by batteries at recycling centres, in street rubbish bins and in refuse collection vehicles. The close proximity of other fuel items often leads to these fires becoming major incidents. 

Another cause of battery fires occurs when the power within the battery is not safely managed,  often because of due to it being incorrectly manufactured, installed or charged. When those safety measures fail or are absent, a battery effectively turns into a self-igniting incendiary. A lithium battery fire is very difficult to extinguish and the chemical breakdown results in huge clouds of dense toxic smoke being emitted instantaneously. The effects in a small space are very frightening and extremely dangerous.

Here be the monsters!

The battery or its chemistry is not actually the monster; it is the unscrupulous manufacturers of the batteries and the chargers saving a few pennies in the design of the monitoring circuitry, reducing the integrity of the mechanical protection, or quite frankly, not caring that they are making every penny of profit they can by ignoring both moral and legal requirements to provide safe products. 

They are not the only monsters. There are the monsters who tear the planet apart and provide the raw materials to feed this frenzy of battery power. There are the monsters who turn a blind eye to the damage being done in the name of progress. There are the monsters who sell products, not fit for purpose, to those who feel they cannot do without them. There the are monsters who mark products with compliance symbols to deceive everyone else in to thinking products are as safe as they can be. 

Sadly, this long list of monsters is ever increasing because the ways and means of trapping and neutralising them has not developed as quickly as the monsters have exploited the opportunity to thrive. 

Some of these things we cannot do much about but there are some monsters we can be alert to, and keep out of our lives. These include:

– Challenging our trust that everything we buy is safe, especially if the item is suspiciously low value, is an unknown brand or comes from a drop-shipped source obtained online.

– Considering the reasons behind the rules and regulations we are asked to comply with. Although these can appear frustrating, some regulations really do make sense, especially about recycling and those in user guides. 

– Correctly disposing of battery powered products at recycling centres or drop off points.

– Only charging battery products while you can monitor them. 

If we all follow these simple rules, these monsters become far less dangerous to us and our planet. 



Coffee & Sex Robots

Over the years we have rejected quite a few design concepts presented to us. Some were dangerous, some were copies of other products and a few were just too far off in the future. Over a cup of coffee we got talking about some of these and very soon got onto comparing how some of the old wish lists we had read for anthropomorphic sex robots compared to what we now know is possible. It surprised us to learn that a fully featured doll is still a little way off but there are some parts of the wish list we could tick off.

  1. Conversational dolls responding directly to the user. using ChatGPT or one of its variants with a bit of programming and specific response preferences would fulfill that.
  2. Animated face. using micro servos and actuators synchronised to speech resulting in a lifelike look and with expressions is already possible.
  3. Feedback. movement and pressure sensors integrated into ‘touchable areas’ and synchronized with verbal and facial output is practical. Adding localised stimulations of tightness, vibration, heat and pulsing begins to close the feedback loop.
  4. Companionship. a life sized, human replicant can be built with any body type and appearance. They can be dressed to suit and the parameters of the conversation delivered through AI can be set to suit the user’s preference.
  5. What else? Hmmm, let’s see.

That could include the capability of complex movement so a robot can share the dynamics and active space of humans by engaging with us when walking, exercising, and caring for us, just as though they too were human. If we consider that companies like General Dynamics, Hanson Robotics and Honda, to name but a few, are making huge advances in this area, then we should conclude this capability is not far away. Sex doll creators are pushing these same limits all the time so whether the human-like sex robot market is fulfilled by the robotics companies, the adult toy industry or a collaboration, is somewhat irrelevant because in the long term we are sure it will happen.

With our coffee cups almost empty we predicted that quite soon we are going to see robots indistinguishable from ourselves and able to do “more than” the ironing or washing up. Would those same robots have autonomy and decision making? The answer is, at some point, it will be crude to begin with and will then develop exponentially through learning. Free will is something we all cherish but possibly not something that would be a part of the makeup for a sex robot, especially when the point of a sex robot is to say yes to everything and to actively play its role.

Smug with our coffee time prediction it then went quiet as the enormity of what we had concluded was possible dawned on us. Just because something can be done, it should not always be done. Who would set the moral and ethical code that controlled what these new ‘beings’ were designed to represent and be configured for? It’s a much bigger topic than can be covered in a coffee break and one that left us pondering over empty cups.



Funding Your New Product Development

April sees the start of a new financial year for most businesses. Once the year end is out of the way, it’s a good time to start planning your future activity and look at any new product development opportunities you might have been considering for a while.

Taking a great product to manufacture takes time and money, however there are funding opportunities in existence to help with this process. In this article we’ll look at ways of supporting and funding fledgling businesses.

The Business Support Finder and Find a Grant platforms are really useful for identifying any possible sources of Government funding for your business. There are also companies out there like Fund Onion and Fin point who run business finance platforms that match small business owners to their most suitable lenders for free. You can also make use of Grant Writers, like Grant Up to help you plan and write your application.

However, you can investigate and apply for funding yourself and if you fit the criteria, you can use these grants to help you on your way to getting your product manufactured whether you are an individual or a business.

Below are a few options to help point you in the right direction:

Barclays Eagle Labs
The Eagle Labs can help whether you are a start up or scale up business. The Digital Growth Grant will fund training resources and opportunities for entrepreneurs, including a Learning Management System providing virtual training to over 10,000 businesses and training modules created for young people to inspire the next generation of UK entrepreneurs.

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme
The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) is designed to help small, early-stage companies raise equity finance by offering tax reliefs to individual investors who purchase new shares in those companies. Businesses can receive up to £150,000 through the scheme.

British Design Fund
The British Design Fund is an early stage investment fund that specifically invests in, and provides support for early stage UK product design and manufacturing companies.

Syndicate Room
Syndicate Room is an organisation that enables members of the public to invest in the same projects as professional “lead” investors, while providing everyone with the same economic terms and legal protections. Lead investors will conduct their own valuations and due diligence before investing, and members of the public will benefit from the reassurance that their money is being invested in a promising project.

South West Enterprise Fund (SWEF)
If you are aged between 18-30 and based in the South West region, this fund offers start up businesses grants up to £2,000 to start or grow your new business venture.

Crowdfunding has revolutionised the way businesses and projects are funded, allowing small start-ups to use the power of the internet, social media and engagement to raise funds from a number of investors.
You can read Hillside Product Design’s Crowdfunding article to find out more detail about how to best utilise these platforms.

Sated Design have further financial advice partners to get you set-up from the outset and help you fund getting your product to market. Just contact us for the most up to date information.
Please reference Sated Design and/or Hillside Product Design Limited if you contact any of these parties.

And then when you’re ready, we can help to make your new product idea a reality!

One final tip is to check with HMRC or an Accountant that you are doing things in the right order. For example, a start-up company would need to consider things like VAT and R&D tax credits but if these aren’t done at the right time, you might find that you are not able to claim everything you are entitled to.



Safer Internet Day

In our tech-obsessed modern world, there’s an emerging paradox ; the potential for smart devices and autonomous vehicles to improve their safe use is a key advantage and a clear justification for their existence in the marketplace. However, on the flip side they also represent a new target for cyber crime. With every new product development in the Internet of Things (IoT) there is a risk of it following with a compromise of security resulting in loss of data privacy, spoofing and malware attacks.

These threats are very real. A forecast by the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that there will be 41.6 billion IoT devices in 2025, capable of generating 79.4 zettabytes of data. That’s a lot of information that needs protection!

As an example to the scale of the potential problem of cyber security, in the autonomous and connected vehicles market it is estimated there will be over 33 million sold globally by the year 2040. This means that there will be millions of cars using our roads that are all connected to the infrastructure and to other vehicles and road users. The potential consequences of a cyber attack could be catastrophic and extremely dangerous. Vehicle thefts, collisions and loss of life could all be attributed to a data breach or systems fail as a result of a cyber attack.

The key to resolving this will be a robust and effective cyber security solution that can work across multiple software and communication interfaces. This is as complicated as it sounds and will need constant research and development in order to keep up with ever changing and sophisticated Advanced Persistent Threats. Many developers of IoT devices are not best placed to build the interfaces that will keep their products safe from cyber attacks. This development work is costly and time consuming and requires continuous investment in order to keep ahead of the ‘Hackers’.

There needs to be more financial support and funding available to support businesses who develop reliable testing methods and standards for the safety and security of smart, app-based and autonomous products.

The Government went some way towards this with the launch of the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (the CSIIF) in 2018, (now in its third phase) however this is only a drop in the ocean when you consider the global impacts of data hacks into products used by consumers across the entire globe. Also, this does not address the lack of global regulations and standards in operation which developers understand and can incorporate into any new product development

Away from the developers, educating and raising awareness to consumers about the risks of using a product that’s not data safe is equally crucial. This is also a priority task for Government. If consumers are taught to ask the right questions when choosing a smart device and/or autonomous product, the winners in the marketplace will be those businesses who take cyber security risks seriously and supply to the market products that ensure data privacy.



A long time coming – The adult toy industry finally gets a set of quality standards

Sated Design’s mission has always been to bring legitimate product design into the ‘wild west’ of adult toys. News of the new ISO 3533: Sex toys design and safety standards is music to our ears when so many products in the marketplace are badly designed, poorly made and risk harming the end users.

Considering how and where adult toys are used, a lack of safety and quality standards particularly with regards to materials has posed huge risks to the professionalism and reputation of the industry. The disregards of some for even the most basic diligence in materials and design has caused medical related problems for end users; so much so that the formation of the new ISO 3533 was reported as being initially proposed by medical professionals, concerned by the number of sex toy related surgical procedures and ailments they were seeing.

In our opinion there is no excuse for producing a product that risks harming its user and there are many safety standards which are sidestepped by crafty use of product descriptions. It is common knowledge that adult toy products can still fall in the “novelty product” category which means a set of tight industry standards are not applied. And yet, as the adult toy industry grows strongly (some estimate that its value will reach more than $36.1 billion by 2027), the industry is still struggling to be taken seriously.

Many resellers and a great many more consumers remain ignorant to the risks a badly designed adult toy can cause. Adoption of the voluntary ISO 3533 by designers and manufacturers with support from marketing could prove to be a great mechanism to raise awareness and use market forces to drive away those few who spoil it for everyone else. The certification will mean recognition for those who are producing best in class, high quality products. This will raise the bar for the quality of adult toys and the longer term hope is that this will percolate down to the consumers via the retailers so consumers will understand how to make the right product choices.

Sated Design is a company of product designers who are working on the cutting edge of new materials, processes and technologies in an incredibly diverse range of disciplines. It is our ethos that every adult toy product we design will be safe and fit for purpose. We welcome any standard, voluntary or otherwise that supports the work we do.

If you have an idea for a new adult toy or wish to review a current one we’d be happy to discuss this with you. Contact us today.



Considering the gender balance in product design

Last month, the cancellation of Nasa’s all-female space walk because there wasn’t a spacesuit available in the correct size for Anne McClain sparked controversy. It also got some people considering women in the modern world and how they navigate it when it may appear that world has been designed for men.

The last 60+ years have seen the numbers of women within the workplace, increase and has resulted in women entering a much broader range of occupations, from mainly supportive, nurturing roles such as teaching and nursing to every walk of occupational and professional life. Women are working in industries and roles previously regarded as the sole prerogative of men.

In a recent BBC news article, Caroline Criado Perez, a journalist and the author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, told the BBC she was totally unsurprised by the spacesuit debacle. From police stab vests that don’t account for breasts, to safety goggles too large for women’s faces, to boots that don’t fit women’s feet, Ms Criado Perez says the list is endless.

“This is just what happens over and over when it comes to what we design,” she says. “We are so used to thinking of men as the default and women as the sort of niche – a variety of man… The average woman is an outlier.”

Ms Criado Perez’s recent comments regarding this are not new, but we need to be careful and consider if what she talks about is really the norm. Our experience is that when it comes to the adult toy industry, some of the most innovative designs currently and emerging in to this market are created by women. We’re seeing new female-centric technologies emerge that not only focus on female stimulation but also address issues that have been swept under the rug for decades.

In the last few years, the sex tech industry has seen more and more women-founded and operated sex toy companies. From crystal dildos, to a vibrator that doubles as a necklace; female-created toys are both innovative, and non-intimidating.

Polly Rodriguez, CEO of Unbound, a feminist sex toy subscription service said recently “Today, we see a new wave of femme-owned businesses, designing the next generation of products and experiences with the goal of taking the category mainstream. There is something inherently feminist and defiant in starting a business in this space, because historically, women have not had the right to their own bodies and we’re still fighting for that right today.”

We think it is worth noting that product design and engineering as a whole needs more gender balance in its ranks. There is a strong argument to say that every design team should have the balance of input of both genders. A good conclusion in the article by Ms Criado Perez was that companies should be prepared to demonstrate how they have been successful in doing this so they can inspire others to do the same. Certainly food for thought!

Sated Design are currently expanding and looking to take on more product designers. If you think you can make a difference and support us then we look forward to hearing from you.

Contact [email protected] to find out more.



What happens to E-Waste?

Electronic products are all around us today. In fact if you’re reading this article then you’re looking at one right now. But what happens when these products reach the end of their life, or are made obsolete by newer tech? This is a question with two outcomes, good news and bad news. We would all agree that we absolutely must do something to deal with E-Waste. The bad news is that the results of that process often cause damage we do not see or choose to ignore. The way we deal with our E-Waste must be something we are all made aware of so we really understand the true cost of that new smart phone or TV.

Products like smart phones, IT equipment and home appliances are advancing so rapidly in their capabilities that they become redundant within months of their launch. Many homes and businesses are disposing of old tech products and the question is what can be done with these container loads of E-Waste?

E-Waste contains many valuable materials which can be recovered, such as gold, silver, copper, tin and palladium. The process for recycling electronic goods is similar to other more general recycling processes, following a path of collection, transportation, sorting and separation. Waste is collected and sent to a processing plant where items are manually sorted and disassembled, with parts like batteries removed and sent to specialist facilities.

Items that can’t be dismantled efficiently are shredded into smaller pieces and then spread out on conveyor belts using a shaking process. A high power magnet then sorts out the ferrous metals and further mechanical processes separate the metals from non-metals. A water separation process then divides the remaining plastic and glass materials.

Glass from cathode ray tubes (CRTs) commonly found in televisions and monitors contain more hazardous materials like lead, barium and phosphor. Processing these items is more complex, with extra washing and sorting steps to remove oxides and phosphors and to separate leaded and non-leaded glass.

Smelting is used to recover metals like gold, silver, tin and copper from PCBs and nickel, steel, cadmium and cobalt from batteries.

This is the good news part of the story because it results in a reasonable percentage of resources recovered. The bad news is that the predicted 50 million metric tons of E-Waste produced this year alone will create a big problem despite much of it being capable of being repaired or reused. The majority of it ends up in landfill or is incinerated, E-Waste is often legally and illegally exported to countries like China, India and Nigeria due to absence of more rigorous regulation. Once there, toxic materials like lead, arsenic and mercury leach into the water course, soil and air to become a huge long term problem in the environment affecting plants, animals and humans. The residents of Guiyu in China (an area known for recycling E-Waste) have the highest reported level of lead and dioxin found in people globally.

Out of sight and out of mind is not the way to deal with this problem. There is no easy answer but the majority of us are buyers of electronic products and we need to demand products that are easier to recycle and made with reclaimed material. Only then will product designers, not accountants get to set the design brief for how products should end their life.



Quick paddle, it’s a hippo

Quick paddle, it’s a hippo - Zambezi Challenge - hippo sign

Paul Barton has recently completed some remarkable fund raising efforts to support Rowcroft Hospice and raising £5,250 to date in honour of his mother, Mary Barton. This included a 100km paddle down the Zambezi where he across an angry hippo.

“If you’re thinking about taking on an extreme challenge for Rowcroft, my advice would be to do it” said Paul, IT Manager of Sated Design. “I’ve just got back from one of the most amazing experiences of my life; it has changed the way I look at things – I also ache a lot”.

Rowcroft Hospice helps to make every day the best day possible for people with life-limiting illnesses across South Devon, helping families to make the most of every day. Every year it costs almost £9million to fund their services and the majority of their funding comes from the local community.

Paul took on two challenges to raise funds for Rowcroft.  The first challenge, in which Paul aimed to raise £500, was a Superhero Skydiving Challenge. He was a sight to behold, wearing a Spiderman suit, as he jumped from 15,000ft and reached speeds of 120mph. “I exceeded my target by over 400% and raised a fantastic £2,212.02 and all the money raised is going directly to Rowcroft”, said Paul.

The second one, was The Zambezi Challenge, where Paul bravely tackled the white water rapids of the Bakota Gorge, avoiding angry hippos, sleeping crocodiles (or so he thought) and high winds blowing him backwards. “I decided I wanted to take on something more challenging, so I signed up to take a 100km paddle down one of Africa’s most dangerous rivers. To date, I have exceeded my target and raised £3,038”.

Paul continued by saying, “The first day was without question the hardest, we had to cover 27km to reach our camp and be off the river before dusk, but unseasonal weather and high winds were blowing us backwards in the water. With no choice but to continue – seeing an angry hippo at this point was the last thing any of us wanted and that is exactly what happened!

“One of my most memorable moments was meeting an angry, isolated hippo on a narrow section of river. Our guide ordered us to paddle rapidly to the bank and get out; by this time the hippo was mock-charging and making quite a statement!  We saw hundreds of hippos on our journey; thankfully we only had a couple of close encounters like this one”, concluded Paul.

See what Paul endured on his fifth and final day of relentless paddling (115Km in total).  You can see Paul in Svens boat wearing a blue tee shirt. Watch out for 18:15 where the white water rapids throw him out of the boat! Also catch Paul’s appearances at these times: 2:30, 5:05, 7:20, 10:45 and 13:28.

“Please join us in congratulating Paul in his efforts and for this Christmas please make a donation via Justgiving for his tremendous efforts”, said Chris Howsam, Director Sated Design.  Chris continued, “We are extremely impressed by what he has put himself through and what he has achieved and we will continue to support him in future challenges”.

Paul finished off by saying “Rowcroft were truly amazing throughout and I know my family could not have got through that difficult time without their support”.

Quick paddle, it’s a hippo photo selection:



Adult toys using new materials

New materials for Adult Toys

We have seen all sorts of  new materials that are used with adult sex toys. Glass, wood and stone are some of the recent favourites but we never expected to see a faux wood effect. The jury is out on this one for us because we see innovation being more than a cosmetic wrapping.

Sex Toy Material Selection

It is always important to select the correct material for a product or certain parts of a product. Selecting materials to be used in sex toys are no exception. The material is key to creating the sex toy experience from glass toys that are smooth and rigid to silicone sex toys that are flexible and can be textured. Further developments in silicone materials feature the ability to conduct low levels of electricity which create a very unique experience. All materials used in sex toys need to be safe to use with the skin and at Sated Design our extensive knowledge and experience with material will ensure we can help you to create an innovative, exciting and safe product.