Case Study - Food and Beverage - Espro

February 11, 2016 Case Studies

Espro Inc., Vancouver B.C.

Chris McLean, co-founder of Espro, is a mechanical engineer with an industrial designer bent. His business partner, Bruce Constantine, is also an engineer, entrepreneur and business graduate. Both were committed coffee hobbyists in search of the perfect cup of coffee.

Unsatisfied with the unchanged 30-year-old design of the traditional French press, they set off to design new and improved technology. With two goals in mind, one, to eliminate the residual grit left by all presses and two, to design a coffee system that fully expresses what the farmer and roaster intended. They want people to try the coffees available from the entire world and be able to taste the varietal differences and uniqueness of each flavour.

With a detailed design specification, they needed to source a manufacturer to provide the perfect seal system for their unique filters. Searching for a “resourceful, creative, flexible and preferably Canadian company”, Chris’ online search did not take long to find Vicone High Performance Rubber and President Eric Leclair. “The Espro project was a little unusual for us,” said Eric Leclair. “Generally our customers are looking for conception and design support as well as material sourcing but with Espro, they had a very specific design concept and an understanding of their requirements. Our role was more one of tweaking the design to achieve optimal performance”. With this new partnership, the Small 8 oz Espro™ Press was launched and quickly achieved market success. It was not long before Espro Press fans starting asking for a Large 32 ounce multi-cup model.

Adapting the filter seals

“At first glance, this seemed like an easy product extension, simply increase the scale of the seals to accommodate the larger vessel,” said Eric Leclair, ¸“however, it turned out to be the biggest pain point of the project. Achieving optimal seal function on a larger diameter vs. a smaller one proved to be quite a challenge.”

In a traditional French press, as the filter plunges down, coffee grinds flow through the loose filter, and also past the seal between the filter and the container, and create the sludge and murky taste that is associated with the French Press coffee maker. With the Espro patent pending 2 stage micro-filter design, the innovative double filter allows for staged filtering getting beneath the grinds and filtering twice, leaving the entire flavour and none of the grinds from the dissolved solids.

The upper of the two filters holds the silicone seal, which is made of a body, and two lips. At the larger scale, the two lips were not uniformly thick. The lips weren’t reacting to the pressures of the coffee plunge consistently, and allowed grinds to slip past the seal.

“The performance inconsistency was unfortunately discovered after product prototyping,” says Eric Leclair. “And this is when it became a project not only about design but about relationships.”

“This was a design challenge that required a tremendous back and forth between Vicone and Espro,” explained Eric Leclair. There were clear manufacturing restraints that resulted in the inconsistencies. The final solution was a design revision that required creative manufacturing retooling resulting in modifications to the seals’ thickness, tolerance, radius and height. “This situation potentially had all the elements of souring a good relationship, frustration and disappointment could have thrown us all off focus. However, our relationship today remains very strong. The situation actually pushed and brought out the best work from both companies” continued Leclair.

“As a client, we, (Espro) posed some very demanding tolerances on Vicone. Eric and Vicone met these demands and worked through all the challenges. In our experience, they went well beyond supplier customer expectations. In a sense this experience with Vicone mirrors our original goal which was to take an existing process, make it easier and improve the quality and that is exactly what both the Espro Press and Vicone do.”

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