From NASA to Hotdog Fingers: Unconventional OXO Product Testing
Words Lindsay Mecca
OXO products are built to last a lifetime, so we put each and every item through extensive testing to ensure it will hold up to everything that’s thrown its way every day.
Often, our product testing is straightforward – we’ve sliced over 700 avocados of different shapes and sizes to test our Avocado Slicer; we’ve cooked over 1,000 slices of bacon to test our Microwave Bacon Crisper. In the OXO office, we look forward to product testing days because they’re filled with seemingly endless tasty tested treats.
Sometimes, though, we need to get a little more creative with how we test. Here are a few of our favorite examples.
Safety First with Hotdog Fingers
The prospect of slicing and dicing with a mandoline or knife gives some people pause – after all, it’s nerve-wracking to be that close to sharp blades. We designed our cut gloves to help ease this fear, and that meant a lot of testing to ensure they delivered.
The first step was making sure we used a material that was, in fact, cut resistant. At OXO, we always keep the hands we’re designing for in mind, but it wouldn’t be safe to jump straight into testing on actual hands. At first, we tried creating “fingers” out of carrots, but the knife slipped off their hard surface even when wrapped, so the test didn’t yield accurate results. We needed something that more closely mimicked the give of a human finger and we found our answer in an unexpected, much-loved cookout staple: hot dogs.
We use hot dog “fingers” to test a variety of glove materials that could withstand a knife or mandoline blade. Once that step was complete and samples of gloves were made, we graduated to the next step: testing with silicone molds of fingers and palms.
But the humble hotdog played a heroic role in early days, and hands everywhere are safer for it.
NASA helps with Potty Training
In addition to ensuring our products work great and endure, we also know the importance of stain-resistance and cleanability. This is especially true for Tot products, given all the…um…substances they come in contact with…and especially when it comes to our Tot Potty line.
To avoid potty biohazard issues, our Tot product team took a cue from NASA and leveraged the same “recipe” they use when evaluating how certain waste…substances exist in space. Tommy, an OXO product engineer, mixed yeast, water, psyllium, peanut oil and miso paste—among other things—and spent days smearing it on, in and around our OXO Tot Sit Right Potty, 2-in-1 Go Potty and our Potty Chair; he even tested it on the fabric of our strollers, just to be sure.
This helped not only evaluate our products’ stain resistance and cleanability but also how they held up to various elements. So, parents, rest easy – we’re certain our Tot items can withstand your little one.
Taking Dead Weight for a Stroll
When we created our Cubby Strollers, we wanted to be sure they could handle a variety of family adventures. Therefore we needed to test how the Strollers performed on different types of terrain, carrying little passengers of different weights.
Our engineers volunteered to sit in the strollers, but the team needed to find someone truer to size. For safety reasons, they could not use an actual child; instead, they found their answer in kettlebells. The Tot team spend days with strollers full of kettlebells, strolling around Central Park. They added weight for older tots and subtracted weight for younger kids. They pushed the stroller up and down every surface they could find – grassy hills, cobblestones, trails, sandy paths, pavement. Mission accomplished, with little ones kept safe and sound.
From Coffee to Cats
Many of our products go through lifecycle testing, which means we use it over and over until it fails; this allows us to get a sense of and solve for weak points. We usually build machines to ensure constant use, like this one set up to continuously test the Transitions Straw Cup.
Lifecycle and product reliability testing takes a long time (as it should – the longer it takes, the longer our products perform) and when we tested our Coffee Grinder, we knew that it would get expensive to buy countless buckets of coffee beans. And at that stage, we didn’t need coffee specifically, because material with physical properties of coffee beans would suffice.
We found an unexpected solution: dry cat food. It was significantly less expensive to source in bulk, and its consistency and the way it breaks into particles puts the same resistance and stress on the Grinder’s motor, gear box and burrs. This testing swap allowed us to test the reliability of those parts, and the product as a whole, in a more cost-effective way, but we definitely don’t recommend grinding anything other than coffee in your home!
Inspiration can come from unexpected places, both for product invention and product testing. We’ll keep you posted as we look for ideas from places you’d never expect, all in the service of testing safely, and guaranteeing great OXO product performance.
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