Working on his master’s thesis at the University of Antwerp, Arne Pauwels discovered that temperature is not the most important factor for preserving fruit and vegetables. On the field it’s also hot, yet crops stay fresh before they’re harvested. He found that the key to keeping produce fresh is to keep them well hydrated: something that can be solved by placing them in a humid environment.
Inspired by evaporative coolers, he came up with the concept of Wakati. With a tent structure and a small solar panel of just three watts, Wakati creates a sterilized micro climate that doesn’t require expensive cooling systems.
From a Cost-Effective Pilot Run…
The Wakati climate-controlled unit uses less than 1% of the energy a refrigerator needs to run. With the entire solution costing a fraction of the common alternatives, limiting the expense of the separate components was key. As Arne put it, “For the housing of the ventilator, we turned to 3D Printing. It enabled us to continuously optimize the design in the testing phase and allowed us to produce cost-effective functional prototypes in FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) to convince investors and potential customers.”
…to Small Series Production
3D Printing at Materialise means bridging the gap between prototyping and manufacturing. The wide range of offered technologies makes it possible to choose the best technology for each step of the product development process. Once the final design was complete, it was printed in stereolithography to serve as a master for vacuum casting. This turned Wakati into a production run of 120 units in no time. Arne is delighted with the outcome: “In developing countries, there’s a major need for cheap solutions to limit post-harvest losses. Thanks to 3D Printing, I was able to develop a product at a reasonable cost without compromising the sustainability.”