At the University of Skövde, Frida Nordling and Agnes Fryklind, are studying the Product Design Engineering programme. They are in the middle of their final project and on behalf of a Swedish company, they will produce a prototype of a body armor for women in the army. A more customised body protection is requested by many female users.
For the two students it was important that the final project design would involve the end user, and that the result corresponded to the user's specific needs.
Agnes and Frida got in touch with the company SnigelDesign in Stockholm. The company's owner and founder sewed his first backpack as a fourteen-year-old and has since developed over 3,000 products during 30 years. SnigelDesign has extensive experience in developing and designing equipment, from backpacks to body protection gear used by Swedish and foreign police, military and security guards.
“In our final project we wanted to develop some kind of equipment as we both like to be out in the nature. We have a common interest in snowboarding and we took the Swedish Hunting exam/licence together. It´s been exciting to work with equipment for the army, it is important and very much on the agenda."
After meetings with the company owner Per-Henrik Magnusson, it was clear that the students had found a partner.
“We received a couple of proposals for assignments and one of them was to develop body armor for female soldiers. It is really a topical issue and for us it was a given choice.”
Tested existing body armor
There have been a number of visits to SnigelDesign and the students have met the product development team. But initially, literature studies and a market analysis were needed to see how the body armor, now used by the Army, looked.
“We visited a regiment to be able to test the body armor that are used today and get an understanding of how they fitted and felt when wearing them. We did run an obstacle course wearing body armor and we also got to observe soldiers doing an exercise. It was very useful and important for us to have the opportunity to test the protective gear, it gave a completely different understanding when we, later, talked to the soldiers,” says Frida.
“It was also very useful to observe on others, how the body protection could restrict one’s movements. What is to be protection can become a limitation if the body armor does not fit well,” notes Agnes.
Interviews with the users
The students have interviewed women in the Army to find out their opinions and experiences of existing body armor and what needs they express.
“Many women with a slightly larger bust raise problems with pressure over the breasts and many also get chafing on both shoulders and hips. Today's body armor are made according to a standard that doesn't really exist, because men also have problems when wearing them. What emerged in the interviews will lead to a foundation on which we work further and determine a requirement specification.”
“We convert the needs into measurable requirements and we work iteratively. We get to use all the parts of the design process that we have learnt during our education and based on our work, concepts are developed and a design proposal is produced with an associated prototype. We both really enjoy working like this, in a process with several different methods.
The duo spends many hours working on their final project and Frida and Agnes found each other early during their education.
“Skövde is a good place to study, you can reach everything by bike in five minutes. The university has nice premises, there are good places to study and you get good contact with the teachers. The Product Design Engineering programme is a combination of design and technology.”