The Vortex brief
Driven by the success of the aerofoil system, we put together a team to take us one step - in fact several steps - beyond. The 'Vortex' team comprises highly-skilled practitioners with over 150 years of combined industry expertise. Moreover, they have joined forces with our technical partner, Williams Advanced Engineering, to deploy some of the world’s most advanced R&D technologies, including high-fidelity computational fluid dynamic modelling and independent EN23953 laboratory testing.
Together, they have been working quietly behind the scenes for the last three years, identifying and addressing some of the key energy performance losses in multi-deck cabinets, and developing horizontal innovations besides. In fact we've already introduced some of this new technology to the market, but we've not made a song-and-dance about it; our technical experts are not the extrovert type.
We gave our Vortex team the following brief...
40% is not enough...
The simple fact is that fitting aerofoils to your cabinets will deliver up to a 40% improvement in energy performance in laboratory and 25% in store conditions. A straightforward, quick-to-implement solution.
However, we knew we could improve upon the savings achievable from aerofoils alone. So in conjunction with Williams' senior aerodynamicists, we have climbed inside a multi-deck cabinet (virtually, that is) to model every aspect of its aerodynamic and thermodynamic behaviour. We are now developing solutions to common problems including product temperature hot-spots and warm air ingress, as well as overcoming the energy losses associated with sloped shelving.
Our aerofoils already do an unparalleled job of straightening the cold air curtain and retaining it within the cabinet. Some multi-deck cabinets, however, have wide air discharges or discharges that are set forward from the shelf edges. Hence, we turned our attention to the function of the air-discharge mechanism in the cabinet canopy to see if we could increase the uniformity of the air curtain at the point of origin. In turn, this would enable us to fit aerofoils as close to the shelf edge as possible, in fact no more than our target maximum of 70mm away.
To achieve this, we have developed and launched two new technologies that further assist in both straightening and narrowing the air curtain. Our 'aerosteer' product reduces the width of the air curtain, and our 'aerorev' device modifies the vertical plane of the air curtain to bring it closer to the shelf-edge. Without these devices, any form of air-guiding technology would have to be positioned an uncompromising distance from the shelf-edge for it to work properly.
Both of these products deliver energy savings in their own right by reducing cold air spill. We're now deploying them in combination with aerofoils to maximise energy performance whilst minimising the shelf-to-aerofoil gap.
Small is beautiful...
When we ask customers and store staff what they think of our aerofoil installations, their lack of reply and slightly puzzled look is just the response we want. The aerofoils go completely unnoticed. Perfect!
Nonetheless, we are constantly preoccupied with the aesthetic qualities of our aerofoil and so we set out to make it even more inconspicuous. The result is our micro-aerofoil, a low-profile aerofoil that performs just as well as our standard aerofoil, and is more suited to clients with smaller ticket labels or narrower shelf-edge profiles.
What else can we squeeze into an aerofoil?
We're not just about energy performance, and our in-house retail experts have recognised how aerofoils can serve as a springboard for other consumer-friendly technology.
The intellectual property embracing our original aerofoil patent therefore made provision to integrate electronic shelf labeling (ESL) within the aerofoil blade. Given the gradual adoption of ESL in the retail industry, we have embarked on a development project in conjunction with a leading ESL provider. This exciting initiative will combine the latest thin-film, energy-harvesting and battery technology to incorporate electronic pricing seemlessly within the customer-facing aerofoil.
That's the front of the aerofoil, but what about the rear? We knew from the start that aerofoils would sit an ideal distance from the shelf to serve as a mounting for product illumination, and our patent portfolio therefore includes incorporation of lighting in the aerofoil blade. Our Vortex team have added this to their product pipeline, again exploiting the very latest in LED lighting and battery technology.
And it doesn't stop there...
Our Vortex team has been so successful in fulfilling their original brief that we've given them free rein to take the project forward with some real blue-sky thinking. Furthermore, we want to do this in close collaboration with our retail and OEM partners.