11 Jan 2006
Spotlighting The Environment(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 01,2006)
Unitrust Development Co
"We rely too much on energy from electricity and petroleum, so we need products that work in other ways," contends Ricky Chan, senior design engineer at the company, whose main business is semiconductor trading and distribution.
Enter the firm's new hand-cranked Dynamo Torch with Mobile Phone Charger. "The main feature is the mobile phone charger - the torch is a bonus," Chan adds, noting that cell phones are very popular and batteries are always running out of electricity. "With our product, you just need to plug our power adaptor into the charger, wind it up and you have power."
The Dynamo Torch operates on a rechargeable NiCd battery that can be recharged about 1,000 times, with 2-3 minutes of cranking producing enough energy for a 3-4 minute phone conversation.
Chan feels the device could fill a strong need in developing countries, such as the Chinese mainland, where power supplies may not be readily available.
Other possible applications include use by hikers or campers, or in emergencies when electricity grids fail. "We first started thinking about creating a product like this when there was no electricity after the tsunami in 2004," he explains.
The Dynamo Torch also offers an added benefit as one minute of cranking yields 30 minutes of torchlight, thanks to three super-bright LED bulbs that have a working lifetime of 100,000 hours.
The 140x46x51mm unit, which comes with a set of five plug-in connectors designed to fit into any mobile phone, can be ordered in any colour.
Chan reveals that Unitrust is considering whether to offer the torch in a choice of sizes. "We may reduce the size if there is a market demand," he says.
Unitrust has developed two variations on its torch-cum-phone charger theme: a manually-operated phone charger (without torch) and a torch (minus phone charger).
"The phone charger, which also manually converts movement to electrical energy, comes with its own set of five plug-in connectors," Chan explains.
"The charger uses a repetitive squeezing action rather than cranking, while the standalone torch uses the same cranking principle and rechargeable battery as the Dynamo Torch."
Another new product is a holder that comes in either solar- or battery-powered versions, both of which swing signs or labels back and forth in 60-120 degree arcs.
The Solar Holder measures 52x28x98mm and operates continuously in indoor or outdoor light, while the Battery Holder is available in small (52x28x98mm), medium (52x28x118mm) and large (68x43x155mm) sizes and runs on AA or AAA batteries. "This is very good for store window displays because a moving sign attracts attention," Chan says.
As a trading firm, the company sources and distributes semiconductors for consumer electronic products, including mobile phones, set-top boxes and digital cameras.
However, the five-year-old company is getting its feet wet as a manufacturer with a factory on the mainland, and has begun exploring markets for its products.
"Semiconductors are 90% of our business but we want the manufacturing part of our business to grow," Chan explains, adding that Unitrust has an R&D staff of 10 engineers who design all of the firm's products. "We would also consider OEM production."
In the pipeline is an MP3 ballpoint pen that doubles as a digital voice recorder. "It's very convenient," Chan says. "We're thinking about adding a laser pointer."
The pen has a built-in flash memory disk and can offer a maximum memory of one gigabyte, with four megabytes providing 15 minutes of recording time.
Unitrust, which has showcased its products at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair and plans to exhibit at other fairs around the world, uses its website to promote its products.
"Over the next five years, we want to keep developing innovative products," says Chan, "and to see what other portable products we can make without batteries."
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
Unitrust Development Co