Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton were studying mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University when a group project designed to make a product that would benefit students on campus sparked the idea for a new company.
Alexander and Stanton co-founded Pittsburgh, Pa.,-based SolePower, which develops power-generating shoe insoles for charging portable electronics. The insoles not only make it handy to charge cell phones on the go, but the technology also has the potential to serve as a reliable power source in developing nations.
Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton
To help design the insoles, the SolePower team turned to the Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program and Digital Prototypingsoftware including Autodesk Fusion 360, Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk PLM 360. For its innovative work, SolePower has been recognized as the Autodesk Inventing the Future recipient for April.
Autodesk seeks Inventing the Future candidates each month from its Manufacturing customer base through a brief Q&A interview about the company’s business, products and inventive spirit. Here’s what the SolePower team had to say about its business, future goals and experiences leveraging Autodesk software:
Autodesk: What does your company develop and why is it important to the world?
SolePower: At SolePower, we’re developing power-generating shoe insoles for charging portable electronics, such as cell phones and GPS devices, just by walking. Today everyone walks around with a super computer in their pocket, and we base our lives on the ability to communicate quickly and access information anywhere. The universal problem felt by everyone who uses portable electronics is that we have no convenient, mobile power source. SolePower is helping to solve this problem by developing a portable power source as mobile as the devices it powers. By capturing the power in a step and converting it to usable power, we’re enabling the next generation of portable devices to be comfortably wearable and completely mobile.
While everyone wants their cell phones to stop dying, there are other impactful applications in developing regions. There are over one billion people in the world without reliable access to power. Yet the majority of these people rely heavily on phones for everything from education and health information to banking and business transactions. This energy deficit also means that people lack sufficient and safe lighting for basic activities such as doing homework and cooking. SolePower has the potential to provide a critical, renewable, and reliable power source to greatly improve quality of life for people around the world.
Autodesk: How has adopting technology helped your business evolve?
SolePower: As an early stage startup, it’s often difficult to find quality tools necessary to build a hardware product that are also affordable and efficient. Autodesk has provided us with access to CAD and simulation programs critical to the design process, and product lifecycle management software to improve management of the tasks required to bring the product to market. These programs help us act more like a lean software startup by allowing us to iterate and prototype quickly and cost-effectively.
Autodesk Digital Prototyping software has also helped us better interact with potential customers. SolePower has leveraged Autodesk rendering software to model multiple aesthetic concepts, which allows potential customers can give feedback on the look of the insoles and detachable battery pack before each version is finished. This enables our engineers to work their suggestions into the design real-time, before each version is physically produced.
Autodesk: What Autodesk software do you use and why?
SolePower: Autodesk software we have relied on includes Autodesk Inventor for modeling the mechanisms inside the insole and our battery pack. As we move forward with manufacturing and supply chain management, we’ve used the Autodesk PLM 360 tool to remain organized. Autodesk Fusion 360 allows us to make more organic shapes and has a really useful feature for adding notes to the models. This enables us to more effectively communicate ideas and tasks between team members.
Autodesk: Where do you see your business five years from now? In 10 years?
SolePower:In five years, we will have successfully entered our target market (outdoor enthusiasts: hikers, backpackers, campers, etc). We will leverage Autodesk software and the knowledge gained from our prototyping and testing process to improve the efficiency of the insoles. We have a couple other products up our sleeves, which we’re not quite ready to announce, that we’ll be commercializing as well.
In 10 years, we hope that SolePower will be the go-to mobile power source that charges wearables and portable electronics all over the world.
Autodesk: What does being a ________ mean to you? [You fill in blank with your occupation.]
Alexander:Being a tech entrepreneur means having the opportunity to solve problems with interesting hardware solutions. It means finding talented people to join our team that are equally as passionate about our technology and business, and finding a network of mentors, manufacturers and other entrepreneurs that can see our vision and want to help.
Stanton: Being a tech entrepreneur means we get to work on cutting-edge technologies with an awesome team. It means we get to set our own development schedules and work on technology that we feel impacts the world.
Do you think your company has what it takes to be recognized by Autodesk for Inventing the Future? If so, send in your submission to email@example.com.