Gearbox for the shower proves a low cost water saving device

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A tiny inbuilt gearbox allows users to monitor their water usage in ‘packets’ of 45

A ‘fit and forget’ device to be fitted between a shower-head and shower, or a tap and a hose pipe, FloStem has been designed to enable consumers to monitor their water usage in ‘packets’ of 45L – when 45L of water has passed through the device it shuts off until the user presses a button on the side.

With an average 8-minute shower using 65L and a typical bath 80L, creators of the FloStem design studio 3fD, chose to limit the device at 45L to emphasise water saving functionality and to give people a realistic insight into their water consumption.

The golf ball sized device uses a tiny inbuilt gearbox that allows consumers to keep an eye on water use without the need for additional smart devices or apps, while being able to be retrofitted to existing pipework.

The design was originally developed for use outdoors with a hosepipe


“It was really important to us that the device didn’t feel punishing or negative,” said 3fD operations manager Ally Le Sueur.

“Instead we wanted to inform and empower consumers by giving them a simple and clear insight into the water usage and giving them the choice of whether to use more or adapt their habits in order to conserve.”

An extraordinarily high gear ratio was required in order to make the device viable, and the team sought inspiration by looking into ‘epicyclic’ water mechanisms and even dissecting an egg timer.

To add to their design challenge, the device had to be made from plastic and be small enough to fit through a letterbox.

Physical prototypes for a physical means of measuring water

Last year the team created their first prototypes of the tiny gears and parts using their in-house Stratsys Fortus 3D printer, allowing them to test their device and design data before manufacturing started.

“Many water saving devices limit usage by measuring time rather than volume, so people are left with no real understanding of how much water they’re actually using. The ones that do measure volume are often expensive devices with integrated electronics and apps,” continued Le Sueur.

“FloStem is a much cheaper device that allows everyday consumers to measure and control their domestic water by using the power of product design and engineering rather than electronics.”

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