RCA student radically improves the UK plug 01.07.09

The show-stopper at this year's Royal College of Art graduate show was a plug. About time someone tackled the UK's clunky electrics

The Royal College of Art's graduate show has opened, and this year, the show-stopper was a plug. Min-Kyu Choi impressed every passer by with his neat, apparently market-ready plug that folds down to the width of an Apple MacBook Air. "The MacBook Air is the world's thinnest laptop ever. However, here in the UK, we still use the world's biggest three-pin plug," says Choi.

Choi's plug is just 10mm wide when it is folded. To unfold it, the two live pins swivel 90 degrees, and the plastic surround folds back around the pins so the face of the plug looks the same as a standard UK plug. The idea produced a spin off, too. Choi created a multi-plug adaptor, a compact standard plug sized unit with space for three folded plugs to slot in, as well as one that charges USB devices.

It's so plausible and so obvious a product that it should produce a few red faces; how many more years were we going to attach our palm sized mobiles and wafer thin laptops to an object that's barely been touched since its first design in 1946? Choi picked an everyday product that most other designers find too mundane to dabble with and drastically improved it - exactly the kind of thinking that we should be celebrating right now.

www.madeinmind.co.uk

 

Words

Anna Bates

 

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76 comments

  • Comment Link Neil Thursday, 24 September 2015 20:41 posted by Neil

    So, to all you "it's not safe, where does the fuse go," people:
    1) it does contain a fuse, under the red release switch. That switch unlocks the flats but can be removed with a Phillips head screw underneath. This is only possible when folded (so you can't do it when plugged in)

    2) it is internally switched. You could plug it in when the flaps are folded, but it would be switched off. It would be possible to make a connection across the leads, but this internal switch would help train people out of this behavior.

    3) I know the UK has higher voltage than almost everyone else, but you must admit your plugs are insanely chunky and space inefficient. I say kudos to this person for attempting to tackle the problem, even if their solution has drawbacks.

    To be stuck on the old way of doing things out of what appears to be a sense of tradition is silly.

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  • Comment Link Shane Thursday, 24 September 2015 20:22 posted by Shane

    There is a fuse if you look at the little red tab, I think it's behind there. If so this is brilliant. With regards to touching the pins, they are insulated up to the point at which they touch the live conductors inside the socket so will meet the standards just fine. Absolutely genius idea.

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  • Comment Link David May Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:41 posted by David May

    The main design fault with the UK plug is that the cable is side-entry. This means that if someone trips on the cable, either it will stay in the socket and they will fall, or the plug will break exposing live connections. The cable should come directly from the front of the plug - as it does everywhere else in the world - then when someone trips, it simply disconnects.

    This change could - and should - be incorporated in the proposed design.

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  • Comment Link dooby Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:40 posted by dooby

    some of you need your eyes checking. It clearly says fused on it and presumably the red tab is where the fuse goes in and no live pin would be exposed while plugging it in because it has safety sleeves around the base of the pins - just like our current two pin shaver plugs etc.

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  • Comment Link David May Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:40 posted by David May

    The main design fault with the UK plug is that the cable is side-entry. This means that if someone trips on the cable, either it will stay in the socket and they will fall, or the plug will break exposing live connections. The cable should come directly from the front of the plug - as it does everywhere else in the world - then when someone trips, it simply disconnects.

    This change could - and should - be incorporated in the proposed design.

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  • Comment Link James Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:33 posted by James

    There is a fuse at the back of the socket where the red bit is clearly says it on the side

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  • Comment Link Mark Tweddle Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:18 posted by Mark Tweddle

    I like the aesthetic and the endeavour to improve.
    I'm guessing the red dot is covering where the fuse goes?
    From a design rather than safety point of view, moving parts will always fail and so a standard design is still ultimately better as it will be more reliable.
    In the US the system has much more scope for improvement. The pins are thin, bendy blades, the voltage is lower, and there isn't fuse requirement for the plug.

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  • Comment Link Sarah Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:17 posted by Sarah

    Or we could always change to EU plug and plug sockets! That would be more innovative imo.

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  • Comment Link Aed Thursday, 24 September 2015 19:08 posted by Aed

    I'm sure a future iteration could retract/rotate the pins out of alignment to ensure the flaps have to come out before you plug it in. Incorporating a fuse can't be that hard either and spacers to isolate each plug/protect the pins in the 3 way.

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  • Comment Link Anthony Er Thursday, 24 September 2015 18:43 posted by Anthony Er

    Brilliant concept. Am concerned about the integrity of the live and neutral wires being "twisted" for this plug to function the way it should. Has it been tested for breaking point? Again, it must be noted that multiple plugging may be acceptable for low wattage accessories, but am concerned about loading when used as a replacement plug for vacuum cleaners, iron, and other high wattage appliances and power tools. A brilliant concept nonetheless.

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