If there is one product that a Brit never leaves home without it’s an umbrella.
Although a conventional umbrella is fine if you have to dash out to get a sandwich or get to your parked car but what if you have to stand for long periods, say at a sporting event?
This is exactly the predicament Stephen Collier found himself in at last year’s Grand National when the weather literally rained on his parade. Feeling rather soggy and wind blown he hatched a plan for a new type of umbrella, modeled on a motorbike helmet.
He founded a company in Kenilworth called Hospitality Umbrellas and set to work on bringing the Rainshader to market.
Although the umbrella is no stranger to redesign, there are some exciting features in the Rainshader that make it particularly appealing for those who often have to contend with the rain (and on this island we often have to) – it doesn’t blow inside out, poke passers-by in the eye or drip on neighbours’ shoulders in crowds. (Watch the video at the end to see just how much wind it can handle).
However, being a businessman and not a designer, Collier needed help and so approached the Warwick Manufacturing Group‘s SME team at the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI) to access expertise in new product development.
The support he received ranged from addressing design challenges through to help with protecting intellectual property and developing the manufacturing output.
“With the Rainshader we applied new and smarter approaches to develop the product, for example allowing for the mass customisation of the umbrella for various customer branding requirements and using additive manufacturing (3D printing) for prototyping purposes,” explains Dr Xiao Ma, WMG technology transfer specialist.
The Rainshader consists of fibre glass ribs and a rubber handle making it less conductive than steel framed umbrellas when caught in open areas during electrical storms. Collier also hopes that with its large surface area, the umbrella will prove attractive to advertisers, particularly at track and field events.
“By producing such a distinctive design we have opened up exciting possibilities for branding and we believe this product offers more viewable advertising space than any other umbrellas on the market, which has become very attractive to corporate advertisers,” he says.
The Rainshader is available now from its website for £24.99 and will also be at selected sporting and track events throughout 2013 to 2014.
Watch the Rainshader being tested up to Gale Force 7 without blowing inside out: