Judy lost her right arm in an accident only a decade ago. Although she has several prosthetic arms, she finds it easier to go about her day without a prosthetic, as do 30–50% of people with upper extremity amputations (Atkins et al., 1996; Silcox et al., 1993). The bottle opener fills the need of opening bottles and jars easily with one hand. It aims to aid Judy gain more independence at home or on the go.
Introduction / Background
I meet with Judy, a woman in her late 60s who lost her right arm in an accident. When I told her about my project, she was excited to show me all the assistive devices that she had and used everyday, many of which were made by her husband. It amazed me how simple innovations make the most impact, like a cutting board that her husband had put pegs into so that Judy could easily chop vegetables by herself. She also had something that stood out to me, a large contraption the size of a food processor to open bottles and jars for her.
I wanted to create something for Judy so she can easily open bottles and jars without being plugged into a wall and having to deal with a bunch of settings. This started my search for a better, more compact bottle opener.
Opening a bottle is an action that requires a hand to stabilize the bottle and a hand to twist the cap. With the use of only one arm, Judy would need to find another way of stabilizing a bottle. A device or product that will allow Judy to easily open a twist cap bottle with the use of only one arm is needed.
List of requirements
- Successful opens a bottle with only one hand
- Small enough to fit in a purse or backpack
- Not obtrusive (not bigger than the hand)
- Opens bottles of varying sizes
- Easy to use
Design and Development (Methods/Approach)
The first point of inquiry was to perform a task simulation to gain some insight into the problems that a person with use of only one arm faces in their day-to-day activities. I went to a cafeteria on my campus, purchased a plate of food, ate, and returned my plate. During this process I had to employ a lot of ingenuity and problem solving, but I was able to complete the simulation without any major snag until I had to open my twist cap bottle. At first I was puzzled, there didn’t seem to be a solution. I put it against my stomach, in the crease of my elbow, and eventually I realized that I’ve done this before. When I am driving in my car and have a bottle I need to open I put it between my legs. It was such an obvious solution and one that Judy even mentioned. Although putting a bottle between your legs is the simplest solution, there are still problems in this solution. Some are those that I have face first hand, e.g. bottles being too soft and spouting water all over my legs, glass bottle sliding around instead of opening, and bottles that are too big.
I started researching what bottle openers are out there and found a good many of them, but they all had the same problem; they were all bulky and could not be easily transported. My goal with creating a bottle opener was to have something that could be transported in a backpack or purse. I also wanted something that worked well with an uncomplicated mechanism. I looked at the two hand roles required to open as bottle—one hand to stabilize and one to twist the cap open. I found that designing a stabilizer would result in minimal machinery. My main inspiration for the functional aspect was a vise or clamp. The apparatus I ended up with was a knob on the end of a threaded rod that fitted into an insert. On the end of the rod there is a curved face that pushes the bottle into the overall body of the bottle opener. I minimized on size as much as possible while still enabling my client to open a two-liter bottle.
In my first iteration I had a square shape with the vise mechanism I explained earlier. It functioned well, but was still larger than I wanted and the threaded rod could not spin freely. I changed the shape to be circular so it would fit larger bottles and cut down on overall volume. The bracket is also circular now. Soft silicone rubber replaced the shelf liner I had previously to make the bottle opener nonslip.
Evaluation and Results
To test the functionality of the bottle opener I asked Judy to use it to open a bottle, which she did under ten seconds. She found it to be easy to use and easy to learn. Without asking a single question about how it worked, she was able to open the bottle with no hesitation. The only change she would have made was to have varying sizes. She felt that the bottle opener might be too large for her purposes. Beyond the size stipulation, the bottle opener met all other criteria I set out to accomplish.
With the opportunity to move forward with the bottle opener I would want to explore the possibility of a collapsible body so that it can be more easily transported.
I would like to express gratitude Dr. Choi for her guidance and feedback during the product development and design stage. I would also like to thank Judy Maddox for testing my bottle opener and sharing her knowledge an insight.
Atkins, D.J., Heard, D.C.Y., and Donovan, W.H. 1996. Epidemiologic overview of individuals with upper limb loss and their reported research priorities. Journal of Prosthetic and Orthotics, 8(1):2–11.