Who would have thought that the awful 13A plug design could be turned into something elegant?
Young designer Min-Kyo Choi has bagged the Design Museum-backed Brit Insurance Design Award 2010 for his novel take on Britain's bulky three-pin power plug. Choi's design, which Reg Hardware featured back in June 2009, packs the standard UK plug in to a flat unit 48 x 44 x 10mm. The Choi Plug Design Award winner: Choi's …
I was gobsmacked when I saw a video presenting this design a few months back, it's a long time since I've seen a product design that's made me say "WOW" like that.
A massive improvement to the function AND form of the standard three pin plug in my opinion and I really, really hope that Choi gets the recognition he deserves and that we are able to get plugs like this on consumer products from every manufacturer.
I'm really pleased this design has been recognised, I saw this about a year ago and I've been waiting for it to find its way to my favourite gadgets. I'm really tired of having chargers that fold up nicely but have a bloody great UK plug on the end that makes packing them in carry cases a real problem.
Sure, it is easy to come up with smart arse design for something if you don't actually have to make it work. The hard part is making it manufacturable, and safe. That work that will need to be done by someone who has knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes, i.e. someone with a *real* degree. Until that is done this very clever piece of design is utterly pointless.
Has she got "type approval" for it yet.
Is she allowed to sell it?
Is anyone going to make it?
Like all the best ideas it is so obvious once you've seen it. It is a wonderfully simple design and an answer to a real problem. The plug for my netbook is a real pain.
(Mind the power supply for my new full sized laptop is so big it damn near needs wheels, so an elegant mini plug is hardly needed there)
Many years ago I worked for a laptop repairer and used to see lots of smashed screens where basically the 3-pin plug had been put in the outer compartment of the laptop bag and an impact had pushed it through on to the screen.
This would stop that - well done!
Plugging a fused appliance into an AC supply "the wrong way" only becomes a hazard when there's a fault.
Got a few Aussie bits and pieces in the house that we use with adaptors. Compared to Euro plugs they're not bad, and at least Oz wall sockets are switched, but you can still poke metal objects in there too easily. The plugs ain't fused either which can create a fire hazard if a fault develops in a low-power appliance which causes it to draw more current than the cable is rated for.
I've honestly never understood why UK plugs are so absolutely ginormous. The plugs here in Australia carry the same voltage and current and they're half the size or less. And we don't see any higher a rate of auto-Darwinism with our power supplies.
Nevertheless, this is a really cool design, probably better than our Aussie plugs too!
..with a socket compatible with the folded up version so you don't have to bother with the faff.
Then the year after a socket that's compatible with both the regular plug and flat plug..
Now, nearly two years to think of what to put in the year after (that sounds wide open to innuendo)..
I bet the designers of laptop power supplies will be one of the first to adopt this type of plug,
The psu is always a bug bare when fitting a laptop into a case. it
I bet the designer will not get a job at apple though.... the fuction is deffinately more important than form in this case....
Mines the one without the unsightly bulge !!!
I thought it looked good when you showed the prototype. It looks even better now it's in production.
We get used to seeing something commen as being how it has always been and always will be. The genius here is in being able to see beyond that and create a completely new design that meets all the old requirements while being better than the original.
Well done that man.
But since the earth pin isn't needed for unearthed devices, and since those devices are usually shipped in Europe with a small 2 pin plus. A simple flat peg two pin plug and a plastic key to open the shutter are all that's really needed. No special need for a rotating thing.
So if the safety numpties block this, you may aswell sell the two pin thing in Europe for Brits to take home with them.
Are you speaking from under a bridge? I hope so.
Considering the sub-standard designs the rest of the world has come up with, I'm glad ours is functional and safe, and not something my (nonexistent) 3 year old can stick a teaspoon into and instantly fry themselves.
Christ, Europe had to "ban" banana plugs because they fit perfectly into their crappy non-shuttered, non-switched socket designs.
Oh, and it's not just the UK that uses BS1363. If we're to "be a good country" then you'd better get on with asking Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Botswana, Ghana, Hong Kong, Macau, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria, Mauritius, Iraq, Kuwait, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Belize, Dominica, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada to be a good country too.
PS: Good luck with Zimbabwe.
PPS: Yes I really am that sad.
"Are you speaking from under a bridge? I hope so."
No. I'm not trolling. Not this time (yes, I do occasionally (OK, maybe more than occasionally ...) ... it appeals to my Yank/Brit/Finn derived sense of humo(u)r ... so shoot me ;-)
"Considering the sub-standard designs the rest of the world has come up with, I'm glad ours is functional and safe, and not something my (nonexistent) 3 year old can stick a teaspoon into and instantly fry themselves."
What happens if your BS 1363 is plugged into the base-board-mounted socket upside down (ground-pin only)? Can you "stick a teaspoon" into the socket? There are other ways to defeat the so-called "protection", especially if you are a curious toddler ... and I guarantee that that standard 13 amp fuse isn't going to help much if little Buffy or Biff gets lucky ...
My (existing, now aging) toddler was protected from any such mishaps 25 years ago by whole-house GFI breakers in the power distribution box on the house side of the power meter. She survived childhood, and Uni. Now she's on her own ... and made installation of GFI a condition of sale when she bought her own house and started her own family.
The clunky Brit standard 13 A plug & socket is nearly a half century out of date.
European sockets have shutters too, and teaspoons don't fit the hole.
Europe has NOT banned banana plugs, pushing a single plug in would NOT open the shutter, and UK has no 'switch' requirement on it's sockets either.
And yes, a bunch of small countries and ex-UK colonies are the only people who use the UK plug.
Your safety problems are as imaginary as your 3 year old.
Oh and there's even a truly awesome child lock you can put on them that requires a complex rotation and insert, isn't available to the UK plugs because of the UK's poor clumsy design.
Really this man is designing to get around numpties like you. Because without you, UK sockets would support 2 pin unearthed devices just as they do in Europe without the plastic pin. The shutters could open on balanced pressure just like the Euro sockets do and the plastic sleeve long ago made the big plastic plate irrelevant.
Your plug has evolved but only to satisfied safety numpties, not users. And I expect those safety numpties to try to kill this plug too.
@ Anonymous Coward
I have teaspoons that fit the holes in Euro/Schuko sockets, and anyway it was just an example.
I should have been clearer about banana plugs... Dual banana plugs of the type used in hi-fi are prohibited in Europe because they can be inserted into Euro plugs. Regardless, a banana plug is just another example of something that fits perfectly.
I have seen more unshuttered euro sockets than I have seen shuttered. In fact, every time I visit mainland Europe I seem to see broken/cracked wall sockets, plugs with wires hanging out and high current devices being used where they shouldn't.
Congratulations on your wee rant though, and thanks for the name calling.
And to the folk banging on about GFI, it's not the be-all and end-all.
"And to the folk banging on about GFI, it's not the be-all and end-all."
Whole-house and/or per-circuit GFI works. Even with two pin "ungrounded" plugs. And cracked/broken Georgian Bakelite sockets. Or knob and tube, for that matter. Regardless of current/voltage. Always. End of discussion. I'm sorry if that gets in the way of your understanding of reality, but it is the truth nonetheless.
George VI is indeed dead, but not, I gather, due to electrocution, nor being burnt to death by a short-out fire. Quaint, I know, but that is how we like things here.
And to think our high standards of consumer protection don't even require a culture of private litigation, to come to a spluttering half-fruition, as in some countries which shall remain nameless!
Slim plug may not actually be quite as slim but the pins end up being recessed so nothing poking out to damage bags/feet etc. Personally I would rate it far better than this design. Also not quite as flimsy as this design and already available on the high street. Got to love a design award for a piece of engineering being handed out by an Art crowd.
1. That looks like it'll be a bitch to wire up
2. If someone walks past it and kicks it, it looks like the handle part will break off - in fact the whole thing looks rather flimsy.
It looks pretty, but design mockups often do - I suspect the press are jumping the gun here.
Have to admit I was all set to say "so what - who needs another new plug?". But actually I like it - it's neat and efficient and deserves to be widely adopted.
Perhaps Mr Choi might now turn his attention to why I need a dozen similar low-voltage and/or recharging devices around my home - few of which identify which piece of kit they belong to, and all of which seem to do a similar job. Next project please?
Yes, I am dreaming of a low voltage adaptor with multiple outputs, and where each output can have its own voltage and connector.
I know you can get low voltage adaptors with switchable connectors and a voltage setting control, but it is scarcely a solution to the rather stupid problem of needing to use one high voltage power socket for every low voltage device. Maybe I just don't understand Ohm's law properly, but it seems like this should be technically possible.
I seem to remember (from my rock band days) that guitar effects pedals (from certain manufacturers) could be chained together so that you only had to plug one of them into the wall.
Maybe I was just stimulating my imagination too much back then, but I know we also had an open standard for digital music around 1983, which - extraordinarily - everyone agreed upon and still uses. Sometimes musicians have nifty ideas decades before the rest of the tech community has even realised which end its arse is pointing.
The 'Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus '
...is designed for guitar effects pedals (so it has a low hum circuit design), but could be used for any low-power devices, which run on voltages which are a multiple of 9. (You can combine two outputs for 18v, etc.) Brilliant!
I lived in the UK for a long time and could never understand the need for the mega-beefy, over-engineered 13amp plug — 240v not withstanding.
Then one day it came to me. During WW2 the Brits were really short of metal to build things like ships and tanks so asked people to send in scrap metal, pots, pans and so forth for the war effort.
My theory is that the UK government designed the 13amp plug to be a cache of horded metal in the event the need arises again. Then they’ll tell all households to send in their plugs — maybe keeping just one to boil the kettle for tea.
That’s my theory anyway and I’ve never heard a better one. ;)
..if the designer has made sure that the internal cable routing is such that if the cable were torn out (by some clumsy git tripping over it, and the strain relief failing due to Rays, for example), whether it would tear out in the correct order, with the live coming out, then the neutral, then the earth (if any)?
..this is one of the current more subtle characteristics of the UK plug..
Yes, I'm getting it now, it's the one with the spiral bound notebook and flash of weak lemon drink in the pocket..
It's not just a case of changing the plugs. The reason they are so clunky is that they need to be individually fused...as UK homes normally use a "ring main" electrical supply setup. The main breaker is set to the maximum current for the ring (so this be could be > 30A ).
It all goes back to the UK being blown to s*#t in WWII...and not having much copper for wiring in the rebuild.
"It's not just a case of changing the plugs."
I know. But sometimes I think the plugs are being used as an excuse to continue allowing archaic wiring standards ...
"The reason they are so clunky is that they need to be individually fused..."
That word "need", I don't think it means what you think it means ... I have seen plugs with built-in fuses that are the same size as my standard plugs (Xmas tree lights come to mind).
"as UK homes normally use a "ring main" electrical supply setup."
Never heard of GFI circuit breakers? Hell, my wife has a GFI protected hairdryer, with the GFI circuitry mounted in the plug. It's less than a third the size of the 13 A Brit standard.
"The main breaker is set to the maximum current for the ring (so this be could be > 30A )."
Bad wiring practices are bad wiring practices. And less than a tenth of an amp can kill you, without blowing the fuse.
"It all goes back to the UK being blown to s*#t in WWII...and not having much copper for wiring in the rebuild."
Stop living in the fucking past! Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, but you lot do tend to wear the war(s) on your sleeve, don't you? That was over two thirds of a century ago, and I'll bet nobody reading this participated in, or even remembers it! ... George VI is STILL dead. As I said, grow up, join the 21st century, there's a good country.
 It's her "traveling" hairdryer; some of the places we visit when looking for horses have what I would consider dodgy wiring ...
 Statistically speaking, of course.
Ring main is not archaic. It's a neat solution to a problem that turned out to be a good idea in its own right. If anything's archaic it's individually-wired sockets a la rest of world. And before you get back on your high horse I'm not equating archaic with bad like you are. I take my hat off to the BS technical panel who sat down and came up with BS1363 back in the 40's - which isn't actually all that long ago compared to some.
"Stop living in the fucking past! Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, but you lot do tend to wear the war(s) on your sleeve, don't you?"
Christ you weren't joking when you said you did occasionally indulge in trolling then, were you?
"It's a neat solution to a problem that turned out to be a good idea in its own right."
No, it's not a good idea. It's a fucking abomination of electrical design. Think I'm wrong? Ask yourself this ... which countries use ring circuits in household wiring?
Again, I'm not trolling (this time). Just trying to knock some sense into some rather thick heads. I'm probably tilting at windmills again ...
Why, never saw that coming - yet another "why not ditch your wiring friendly and safe plug and use our terrible (relatively) dangerous crap plug instead" post. Yes, our 13A plug has a few faults (small size isn't one of it's plus points), but it has a lot going for it. We only need one or two circuits in the distribution board for an average house and everything is correctly fused for the cable connected.
Switch to unfused plugs and you then have a messy radial wiring system (something we ditched back in the 1940's when the 13A plug was introduced) AND incorrectly fused cables. Mind you, there is one obvious retort to "why not use our continental plugs ... and that is "which one ?" A French one, a German one, one or more of the Italian ones, ....
Such a huge consideration nowadays. How the swedish/dutch/germans/etc. must be cursing the hideous annual death toll exacted by their domestic wiring which has been using circuit breakers etc. for the last thirty years. Except they don't, because it all works just fine.
Nowadays the advantages of the 3-pin plug really are theoretical more than practical - given the number of UK homes which still use rubbish old fuse boards (complete with wrong gauge wire, nails etc. carrying current) I think we are on average far less safe than most of the two-pinners in Northern Europe.
I remember the issue of no fuse was brought up on the original article and I recalled that there was one. Reading the original article it reads:
'there’s a finger slot for pulling the plug out of the socket once you’re done. This section also contains the plug’s fuse – shown in red in the video.'
So yes there IS a fuse still, it's jus been cleverly hidden in its design.
I assume these plugs are not rewirable. That's not a problem, but you don't say how the live and neutral pins are connected. This must either be by flexible wiring or more likely by contacts within the plug - presumably in the central part because the sides fold flat. This means that the current handling capacity is limited and there is potential for arcing due to wear or the ingress of dirt.
One improvement to the design would be to provide a cover for the pins when in transit.
The ring main system is fine where you have a lot of low powered devices such as with computers and entertainment equipment. High powered devices such as room heaters and kettles would be better served by separate circuits. However we now have so many wall warts that it would make sense to have houses wired with permanent low voltage circuits.