EQUIPMENT

S2 SPLIT-HEAD FRAMING HAMMER
To really understand how this hammer ascended to the top of its category, you have to watch users after they pick it up. Viemeister held the sustainable hickory wood handle behind his neck with a hand on each end, like a batter warming up in the on-deck circle. Frauenfelder tested the center of gravity (lower than expected) and studied how to replace the user-serviceable split head. Rabinowicz slung the S2 onto one shoulder and then gave it a few test swings with both hands, sizing up whether it better suited her as a tool or a protective weapon. All three jurors said they wanted to take it home, even though none is a professional carpenter. The waterlogged entry form (“looked like they filled it out on the worksite,” said Viemeister) only added to the product’s charm.

ATOMdesign was granted a utility patent with 28 claims for the S2, and the innovations are evident to anyone who has used a hammer before. “Shock gaskets” sitting between the modular heads and the wooden handle are for dampening vibrations during a strike. The dual carbon-steel heads appear easily customizable for different hammer-head types, which will become available this year. The heads also have long chins, or “overstrike plates,” to reduce the damage caused by missing a nail. The long ergonomic shaft translates into more powerful strikes. And the curvature along the top of the hammer offers increased leverage for removing bent nails. The only mystery was a grooved notch in the top of the front head—a magnetic nail starter, it turned out, which frees up a hand for holding a board (and it’s the only framing hammer on the market that will hold a two-headed duplex nail).

“There’s a reason for everything,” Frauenfelder said.

“And all the reasons are functional,” added Rabinowicz.

The S2 is also beautiful. The blue elastomeric shock absorbers could have been hidden entirely; instead, they are used as a decorative addition. The bottom of the handle has two dark wood circles on one side, ATOMdesign’s logo, set off by the V-shaped brushed steel bas-relief on the overstrike plate. “A lot of branding here,” said Rabinowicz. Which got the jurors to wondering if the S2’s one flaw might be that it’s just too pretty for a construction worker. “Maybe they’’ll think this is like a sissy hammer,” Frauenfelder said. “Maybe they made the handle longer so you could hit people with it when they call you a sissy,” Viemeister answered.

As it turns out, the hammer is not just for sissies. “We’ve put it in the hands of framers,” says ATOMdesign president and founder Yani Deros, “and they were all fighting over it.”

MEDSHIELDS
Just 4 millimeters thick, MEDshields stick to the wearer’s face with two hypoallergenic adhesive tabs, creating an almost invisible layer that “removes the artificial boundary between you and your surgeon or doctor,” noted Rabinowicz. Eyes are protected from contamination and can see clearly thanks to an antifogging agent that coats the product, and yet the lenses feel nearly weightless—the shield is even lighter than its packaging. Designed to fit comfortably alongside a variety of respiratory masks, MEDshields cost only 80 to 99 cents per unit, less than most other types of protective eyewear. And unlike the polycarbonates used in many competing products, the polyester film is completely recyclable. Still, both Viemeister and Rabinowicz agreed that the eyewear would be even more impressive if the lenses had been manufactured out of recycled material from the start. As it happens, the company is now experimenting with a starch-based film that will decompose naturally.

AEROVIRONMENT ARCHITECTURAL WIND (AVX 400)
Large-scale renewable energy solutions tend to look industrial, divorcing them from the architecture they inhabit. Not so with the AVX 400, which is both wind turbine and kinetic sculpture. The modular 4-by-6-foot stands are meant to communicate an environmentally friendly message as they sit in long lines along the tops of big-box stores. “They can even put it on an ugly building and make it look interesting,” said Viemester. The jurors were less taken with the individual turbines, whose forms were inspired by the classic box fan. “It probably could have been done more beautifully,” said Frauenfelder. But he was impressed that the swooping canopy and bars in front were designed to protect birds from getting caught in the blades.

This turbine saves the world, too: From a wind of just 7 mph, the smaller unit generates 400 watts and the larger model 1,000 watts. That results in roughly 55kWh per month for the smaller unit, which can be plugged directly into the grid line current. “I’m thinking about how we could redesign these right now,” said Rabinowicz. “There is so much opportunity because the concept is so strong.”

LUMINETX VEINVIEWER
Technically, the VeinViewer takes images of veins and arteries embedded within the body and projects them, in real time, onto the skin’s surface. But Frauenfelder summed up this product’s winning feature much more succinctly: “It turns the patient into the user interface.” The merging of internal and external not only clearly maps the vascular system for injections but also makes the patient more involved in medical procedures.

The designers had to overcome enormous engineering challenges in placing this technology into a clinical environment (currently, some 200 clinics have adopted it). The mount had to be mobile and compact enough to pass through doors and hallways while protecting the infrared light source, digital video camera, Texas Instruments DLP image-processing microchip, and a projector inside. The camera has a fixed focal point and must operate within about 30 inches of the patient. The armature needed to be flexible enough to move anywhere in space without a locking mechanism. There also had to be a pocket for the reference card that is used to calibrate the focus.

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