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Recently given the Cool Idea award from Proto Labs, Voto uses fuel-cell technology to transform heat into electricity that can be used for mobile-phone charging or LED lighting. As part of the award, Proto Labs produced moulds and subsequent production of the parts that make up the Voto handle.

The handheld device — which is hoped to help bring affordable electricity to developing countries — consists of a fuel-cell box, fuel cards, a plastic handle that houses a NiMH battery, a white LED and electronic circuitry.

Users insert the supplied fuel cards, wood, charcoal, food waste, or even cow dung into the fuel-cell box, which is then placed into the middle of a camping stove.

Once the stove is lit and the fuel-cell box heats up, electricity is captured and stored in the NiMH battery. After the fire cools, the Voto is disconnected and is ready to charge a phone or power its built-in LED light.

Before applying to the Cool Idea award, Point Source Power produced nearly 100 prototypes built of parts sourced from big box home repair stores to those made with 3D printers. The company turned to Proto Labs because it needed a professional-looking product that would allow it to move forward with broader sales and distribution.

Key benefits of product application

  • Voto is designed for places such as Africa, which alone has more than 650 million mobile-phone subscribers, most of which do not have electricity in their homes, and must travel to charge them.
  • Voto is hoped to be a better replacement for toxic and expensive kerosene lamps.
  • Craig Jacobson, chief executive officer of Point Source Power, says it is an intuitive product that people enjoy using and that is affordable to billions of people living without access to modern electricity.
  • Founder and chairman of Proto Labs, Larry Lukis, said: ‘The Voto solves an ever-present problem facing residents of developing nations through practical means. By incorporating a device that’s already used in daily life — a camping stove — this product brings increased quality of life to residents of those countries.’

Proto Labs

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Protomold delivers injection-moulded parts from moulds manufactured utilising state-of-the-art high-speed CNC machining technologies. Parts can be moulded using almost any engineering-grade resin and are ideal for prototyping, bridge tooling and low-volume production.

First Cut satisfies the need for functional prototypes much earlier in the development cycle for quantities of 1–10+. Because First Cut delivers prototypes in engineering-grade resins and aluminium they will have real material properties and improved surface finishes. In other words, they will be functional.

When you submit your 3D CAD model, Proto Labs’ powerful super-compute cluster creates an interactive quote giving pricing options and where appropriate, suggesting changes to improve manufacturability. You simply interact with your quote online, tailor options such as material and delivery to your requirements and with every change, the pricing information automatically updates. This built-in ‘what-if’ analysis enables last-minute project refinements to be accommodated at the click of a button.

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