Pet products

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The cat’s whiskers

In a multi-pet household, feeding time can often degenerate into chaos with one pet scoffing what’s in their bowl only to steal out of another.

Cambridge-based company SureFlap is addressing this problem with a follow-up to its successful SureFlap microchip cat flap called SureFeed.

Basically, as your pet approaches a SureFlap product, sensors within it recognise its microchip or RFID collar tag and will trigger the flap, in the case of the cat flap, or the lid, in the case of the feeder, to only open for them. Once they walk away, it will close again.

SureFlap was invented by Dr Nick Hill, a Cambridge physicist who, after experiencing first-hand the unpleasant consequences of unwanted neighbourhood cats entering his home through the cat flap and terrorising his own cat, set out to find a solution.

After three years of research and development he invented a technology that uses a cat’s existing microchip like an electronic door key, giving it exclusive access to the home.

The SureFlap cat flap was launched in 2008 and since then a range of other products have followed – a larger version (2011) and DualScan version (2013) for multiple cats and then the cat feeder (2014).


Hill has always known that, amongst other factors, industrial design is key to the success of SureFlap products. “I want our products to look great, be the best at what they do and be loved by the people who buy them,” he says.

SureFlap uses SolidWorks to develop both aesthetic aspects of the design and the complex internal mechanical functions.

This is particularly evident in the motor-powered multi-linkage mechanism in the new feeder.

As well as the design and engineering work, photorealistic visualisations produced in SolidWorks are used for design sign offs and to create compelling marketing material.

So, with the new SureFeed product, pet feeding time should be both chaos and theft-free.

Frog’s life

Ever wanted to keep a pet frog but never been sure what to put it in?

British manufacturer Reef One has the ideal solution in the form of the biOrb Air – a fully automated terrarium to keep both tropical plants and frogs happy.

Natural daylight is provided by a six LED array at the top of the sphere, a constantly running fan recycles the air, and an ultrasonic mister provides water.

Reef One called upon the services of Product Resolutions, a Norfolk-based product design consultancy, who worked very closely with its development team to ensure all the functional, aesthetic and manufacturing requirements were met.

Following the concept development stage, the designers used SolidWorks to produce the initial 3D CAD models and Keyshot to produce the renderings.

“The key design challenge was to encapsulate all the lighting, control electronics and misting system into a clean and contemporary design that would sit well in all environments,” explains Paul Robbins, Product Resolutions’ director.

Product Resolutions’ in-house Makerbot printed the smaller components, whilst larger CNC or vacuum-cast parts were provided by its partners in China.

With the BioOrb Air now available to purchase, it’s easier than ever to give a frog a comfortable home.

Dog’s life

Dog owners often treat their pets as part of the family, doing their best to care for them and ensuring they’re in premium health.

“Many of us have no idea how to best take care of our companions through the different stages of their lives. Day-today needs of rest, activity, nutrition, and long-term trends in health and behaviour remain guess work,” explains Ben Jacobs, co-founder of San Francisco-based start-up Whistle.

Whistle was founded with the aim of creating an activity tracker that attaches to a dog’s collar and connects wirelessly to an app on a smartphone enabling owners to monitor health, set goals for their pets that they can visually track, and also share information and photos via social media.

To help them bring this idea of smart activity tracking to the pet market, Whistle worked with the designers at San Francisco design firm NewDealDesign.

Together they came up with a solution that encompasses all product touch-points. The two piece system uses a strong silicone band to wrap around the collar while a mounting plate safely secures the device to a dog’s collar.

Brushed stainless steel caps create a robust ‘sandwich’ whilst welding and triple shot injection ensure that the main body remains safe from water and prying paws.

We take a look at what’s new in the pet market

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