To help reduce plastic pollution, the founder of Toolaloo sought the creative assistance of Avid Product Development to design a tool to easily carry reusable shopping bags.
Over 99 million consumers in the U.S. turn to reusable shopping bags to protect the environment and save non-renewable resources. The use of eco-friendly tote bags also is rising as more retail stores charge for single-use bags and laws are enacted to ban or tax plastic bags. American shoppers, however, fail to bring their reusable bags into the store 40% of the time by leaving them in their vehicles or at home.
“Often times, I have my reusable bags in the car, but then I don’t bring them in the store. Or when I do bring my bags in, I forget to use them because they are buried underneath my groceries,” expressed Erica Scanlon, an eco-friendly Colorado consumer and founder of Toolaloo, a product that makes shopping with reusable bags more convenient.
This admission made Scanlon enthusiastic and motivated to create a solution. “I envisioned my product bridging the gap between convenience and eco-conscious living by being used while shopping.”
With an idea to easily transport reusable shopping bags, Scanlon sought the assistance of several engineers in the Boulder, Colorado area to develop her idea into a device that she could use herself and eventually manufacture. Displeased with the time frame for development and the functionality of the preliminary models, Scanlon questioned whether the “tool can even be made” and joined a Colorado Inventors’ Roundtable Meetup. It was at this roundtable where she met Doug Collins, co-owner of Avid Product Development.
Scanlon thereupon turned to Avid Product Development to create a functional, aesthetic design and help bring her idea to market.
The Beginnings of Toolaloo
After learning the intended uses of the device and the needs of its target audience, the engineers at Avid recreated the design to include additional features and functionality. With Scanlon’s instructions for further usability, the design evolved into more of a multi-functional tool and less like a carabiner to simply move reusable bags out of the way of a shopping cart.
Ryan Bilson, who co-owns Avid with Collins, redesigned the tool to include an attachable drink holder and a convenient headrest hook for easy storage of reusable bags in the car. A multi-use handle for shoppers to carry shopping bags by their sides or over the shoulder and a rubber grip sleeve were also added to the design.
“The engineers at Avid were very responsive and attentive to the additions of further features to my product. They are business people who take creativity seriously.”
Subsequent prototypes were produced with the various 3D printing technologies available at Avid. The use of in-house Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing allowed Avid to quickly create economical models throughout the different phases of the prototyping process.
To assess the viability of the prototypes, Bilson and Scanlon went grocery shopping. Testing the design at multiple grocery stores revealed that the rubber sleeve needed to be reconfigured to fit various shopping carts with varying perimeters, with and without second horizontal bars. Per Scanlon’s direction, Dawson Swan, one of Avid’s mechanical engineers, integrated a spring-loaded locking mechanism into the design to prevent bags from spilling.
These results helped Avid refine the tool for enhanced usability and manufacturability. The tests also confirmed that the most efficient production method for Toolaloo is injection molding with a durable plastic with amble strength and stiffness for multi-functional use. Following the finalization of the design, Swan located an injection molding source located in the U.S. that could manufacture Toolaloo within Scanlon’s production budget.
The first initial injection molded product, unfortunately, failed further beta testing and evaluation. This was due to an inaccurate tolerance – the acceptable limit of variation from the specified measurement – for the rubber sleeve. Swan worked with the injection molding company to establish a tolerance zone essential for repeat manufacturability and functionality of the tool.
Toolaloo Makes Shopping with Reusable Bags Easy
With assistance from Avid Product Development, Erica Scanlon created an all-in-one solution for consumers to use
reusable bags throughout their shopping journey and help reduce thousands of pounds of plastic waste.
“The team at Avid was always professional, communicative, timely, and friendly to boot. They had the ability to hear all of my thoughts, ideas, and concerns and expanded on them to give me exactly what I was looking for.
I absolutely enjoyed working with Avid and would use them again and feel confident recommending them.”
Toolaloo has been featured in US Weekly, Family Circle, HSN, and more.
Learn more about and purchase the tool at Toolaloo.