The arrival of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has made us face constant societal challenges. Our hygienic habits are changing and the way we are currently disinfecting our items is not always effective due to the fact that we do not know how to do it. We all want to have a house clean of pathogens and the first step is cleaning what comes from the outside.
We know that the concept of the UV disinfection machine has been widely discussed but we want to give it the added value of ease of use, safety, design and customization so that it can be more easily implemented in every household.
What it does
Mimbox disinfects objects such as packages, keys, laptops or mobile phones within minutes by using ultraviolet light. It has 4 non-ozone emitting halogens that cover all possible angles of the disinfection space. In this way we avoid the creation of shadows and ensure that disinfection occurs in the entire area of the object.
As you can read in the FAQ's we totally discourage its use for food or textiles as in the first case the amount of free compounds generated in the food could be dangerous and in the second case because in textiles only a 25% disinfection is achieved (far below the required standards) and also because it fades colours.
How we built it
The mimbox story begins in the hackathon MuchoPorHacer organized by the Polytechnic University of Valencia and that took place from the 21st to the 22nd of April as a preparation for the EUvsVIRUS. At the end of the hackathon we already had an idea of what the machine could become.
To build it we first brainstormed about the problems we will face now and later. We discarded those whose solution escaped our knowledge and focused on those where we could offer technical quality, scalability and reduced time to market.
The idea that remained was mimbox. Jacob and Enric were in charge of designing the model in Sketch 3D while Clara, Onofre and Roger took care of the business model, the competition and the website.
Challenges we ran into
The most difficult challenges we have faced have been:
- How to make a device safe and appealing
- How to convey that our solution is not a medical device to insert textiles and masks
- Design a prototype that would be assembled with standard and easy-to-produce materials to maximize the scalability of the solution
- Achieve at least a TRL3 level of technical complexity
In the first case, when using ultraviolet light we had to protect the user from exposure. To do this we imitated the design of some X-ray rooms: "a room within a room" and we made "a box within a box". Together with the methacrylate that is capable of blocking UV and a sensorized door that turned off the UV lights when the door opens was more than enough. On the other hand the futuristic and customizable design of mimbox has proven to be effective in attracting attention.
In the second case, we changed the size and the colour. To avoid a bad use of the device we introduced in the web a list of FAQ's where it is exposed which objects can be introduced and which not.
In the third case, we have found it convenient to use already existing and cheap materials (i.e. methacrylate) to ensure scalability.
Finally, getting a TRL3 meant having a very clear idea, the technological principles and being able to create a proof of concept. Luckily we managed to do so!
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Five days ago, we were five people with very different profiles who had never worked together but decided to join a hackathon organized by the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Today we are a team and we created mimbox. Without a doubt, what we are all most proud of, is having managed to transmit our concept of mimbox through our design and our website; which is something very difficult to achieve.
Throughout these days we're really proud to have accomplished the following:
- Validated the problem through 15 problem/solution interviews
- Received feedback from 8 different skill mentors
- Conducted a survey to better understand new disinfection habits that has received a total of 515 responses
- Created a functional website that has received more than 1200 views with an average session length of more than 2.5 minutes
- Designed a prototype from scratch based on a problem hypothesis and implemented the pertinent changes while we gathered more technical information
- Accomplished to design a solution that reaches a TRL3
What we learned
Throughout this challenge, we've learned to master our ability to gather information and iterate quickly. Furthermore, we’ve learned lots of things we ignored. Here are some examples:
- Technical specifications that are required for the design of a PPE device
- EU regulations and its health and security recommendations
- How to align a product with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
- Iterate an MVP using lean startup methodology
What's next for mimbox
First of all, we are really happy because the Universitat Politècnica de València has offered us a totally free space in its entrepreneurial ecosystem called StartUPV and of course we have accepted.
There we will be able to build the prototype we have designed and test it with people and in a laboratory, specifically in the SB2CL Lab. Then if all goes well, we should give another spin to how to make it more scalable and easy to produce, contact interested local producers and start production. We have been assured that with the right contacts from the UPV the production can take about 3 months so it sounds promising. To achieve this, we will need to raise € 15,000 to test its effectiveness and efficiency in the lab and to produce the first batch.
If we were to become part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Covid platform, we would continue co-creating knowledge and gathering the latest insights to create a solution that is up to date with all breakthrough innovations.