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Welsh entrepreneurs utilise university expertise for unique sun safety product



A Cwmbran-based business recently drafted in experts from Cardiff Metropolitan University to help design an innovative new child sun safety product.

Kelli Aspland and Laura Griffin, who run Auriella Ltd, wanted to develop a product to promote sun safety in schools working within the confines of the increasingly common-place 'no-touch' policies.

Concerned about their children's safety in the sun during play-time in school, the businesswomen approached Cardiff School of Art and Design (CSAD) for expert help in developing a solution.

The University involved undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as offering world-class support from its Massachusetts Institute of Technology-accredited FabLab Cardiff.

In the first instance, CSAD incorporated the project into its BA/BSc Product Design course, by asking 3rd year students to develop designs as part of their academic studies.

The undergraduates created various ideas with the final designs passed on to Masters students to develop further. Product Design Masters student Laura Smith worked extensively with Kelli and Laura, and the three collaboratively came up with the final solution - 'Solar Buddies'. The prototypes were then built in Cardiff Met's FabLab.

Solar Buddies is a refillable touch-free sun-cream applicator. It features a chunky, easy-grip bottle, a roller ball to control the flow of the lotion and a sponge to help rub the lotion into the skin.

Kelli Aspland from Solar Buddies said: "Having the expert help from Cardiff Met has really made a difference in our journey to creating Solar Buddies. We knew what we wanted to create, but the School of Art and Design and FabLab really helped with the technical aspects that we weren't so familiar with.

"Having young children ourselves, we knew just how much of a concern it was that our children were protected from the sun during outdoor play sessions in school.

"We are overwhelmed by the support Solar Buddies has received already, and we can't wait to expand further in to the UK."

Gareth Barham, Principal Lecturer in Product Design at Cardiff Met, who worked extensively with the entrepreneurs said: "It's a fantastic solution to a real problem and I'm proud that we have been involved in the design and development of what is a very ethical product.

"This project demonstrates the benefits of academic collaboration with commercial industry and illustrates how product design as a profession can contribute to a better quality of life."

The Solar Buddies duo made use of the University's FabLab Cardiff, a technical workshop that specialises in research, enterprise and invention which is linked to a global FabLab network.

Speaking about Solar Buddies project, FabLab Cardiff Manager, Martijn Gommeren, said: "FabLab Cardiff played an intrinsic role in developing Solar Buddies - the team was able to use our huge range of digital manufacturing equipment to create several prototypes in a short space of time within budget and deadline.

"It was highly rewarding to work on a design that started with our undergraduate students and had progressed to postgraduate level. I hope that the product receives the recognition that it rightly deserves."

The venture is supported by Melanoma UK, who received a donation of £2,108 from the fundraising at the Solar Buddies launch event in March.

Schools across the UK have already shown interest, with St David's and Woodland Primary Schools in Cwmbran already booking in workshops, and interest from schools farther afield in Birmingham and Manchester.

Solar Buddies is now on sale at www.solarbuddies.co.uk