Air Up, the Water Bottle Designed With 3D Printing That Changes the Taste of Water
The possibilities of additive manufacturing are countless and varied. The company we’re featuring today, Air Up, is one such example. Based in Munich, it has set a new trend in healthy drinks by selling bottles that flavor water using the principle of retro-olfaction. The company was founded due to the fact that many of us don’t drink enough water in a day – yet we know how important regular hydration is for our health. So the founders decided to develop this original concept to encourage more water consumption.
Many of us rely on sugary drinks, coffee and herbal teas to keep us hydrated. Yet water is the best source of liquid for the body. That’s why the Air Up team wanted to develop a bottle concept that would give water different flavors, making people want to drink water more. The fast-growing company has reached 1 million customers and 240 employees in just two years, until March 2022. And for us it is particularly interesting because 3D printing played a key role in the development process of their bottles, both for direct printing of prototypes and for rapid manufacturing of molds for silicone molding to create food-grade prototypes, saving the startup time and money and getting to market quickly.
How an Air Up Bottle Works
The principle is quite simple: the user of the bottle clips a Pod, or a capsule of the flavour of his choice, to the straw. When he or she starts to drink, flavored air bubbles rise through the capsules into the oral cavity and reach his olfactory receptors. These are responsible for transmitting the smell to the brain. Since the smell of the capsules comes from the throat, our brain recognizes the smell but perceives it as a taste. In this way, the water becomes more attractive, but remains healthy and without added sugar. In addition, the aromatic capsules can flavor at least five to seven liters of water, which reduces the waste of plastic bottles.
The Role of 3D Printing
3D printing has long been an important tool for creating a final product concept quickly and cheaply. After deciding to realize the topic of their Bachelor’s thesis, Jäger and Jüngst, the founders of Air Up, chose the right 3D printing method to build the first prototypes of the water bottle according to their ideas. They used rapid tooling, a combination of 3D printed tools and traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding, thermoforming and silicone molding. Among other things, this allowed them to modify their prototype designs flexibly, economically and very quickly.
For this project, they worked closely with a Formlabs partner, Beta2Shape, who provided assistance and guidance to the team. The Air Up founders first purchased a Form 2 3D printer, and then expanded their printing capabilities to a Form 3 and a Form 3L. The Formlabs SLA machines were used not only for the silicone molding of the complex mouthpieces, but also for other parts, including prototyping the cap and straw mechanisms.
In order to offer consumers a pure and varied drinking experience with this feedback principle, special requirements had to be met in the design of the mouthpiece and the CEO Jäger describes the solution as such: “I used 3D printing to create a mold into which I could pour the silicone. I tried hundreds of variations and was always able to evolve the prototypes into a truly finished material.” The 3D printed molds and poured silicone allowed Jäger to work with extra attention to detail and dimension without losing valuable time. You can find more information about these water bottles HERE.
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