repairable & recyclable kara coffee machine sets a sustainable standard for appliance design

Setting a more sustainable standard for domestic appliance design, Thomas Mair’s modular Kara coffee machine is built to be repairable, recyclable, and long-lasting. In an effort to reduce landfill waste and extend the life of each product, the product designer composes the machine out of simple, clearly-labeled modules that can be swapped out without technical knowledge or special equipment.

Kara, whose aesthetically pleasing design adds a splash of color to the kitchen counter, urges the user to repair the machine if problems arise. Together, simply labeled components, a written instruction manual, and an interactive touchscreen facilitate a straightforward repair.

Each module of the coffee machine can be removed without the use of special equipment. Thomas Mair notes that: ‘the way we treat electronics is fundamentally broken. Instead of repairing a broken appliance, we replace it. When we do, it’s estimated that only one fifth of electric goods actually get recycled. This is not sustainable and cannot be sustained.

Setting out to fix this problem, the designer conceives an alternative way of designing and building electronics — one that looks at the entire life cycle of the product and encourages maintenance and repairability while minimizing waste. The result is a trendy modular coffee machine design where, if damaged, repairing it is the only logical choice.

A repairable coffee maker that reduces electronic waste.

Kara coffee machine manufactured by Thomas Mair

The Kara coffee machine designed by Thomas Mair is designed to be easily repaired without the need for specialized tools or technical knowledge. The shell is designed so that each part can be 3D printed if you don’t have access to its original replacement, and technical components — which are part of an open system — can be easily replaced or substituted. In addition to being simple to disassemble and recycle, the machine’s color-coded plastic components facilitate use and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the kitchen.

Kara also heavily relies on design cues to convey to the user that it is repairable. On a day-to-day basis, users interact with the front which includes everything they may need to prepare their cup of coffee, while the concealed back is dedicated to maintenance and repair. Meanwhile, internals aren’t hidden and are instead embraced as part of the design. Labels further clearly indicate when each part is in the right place and aligning magnets make assembly a breeze. In addition, the supplementary user manual explains each step simply and logically for the layperson, while a small touchscreen provides information on the maintenance processes.

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