RCA student radically improves the UK plug 01.07.09

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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.




Anna Bates



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  • Comment Link Chris Thursday, 24 September 2015 14:56 posted by Chris

    I'm guessing that the fuse (that everyone is quite rightly concerned about) is slotted in where the red spot on the plug's body is located. As for the other concerns, they appear to be easily overcome, even to a non electrical engineer like me. (The overload risk on the multi adaptor could be overcome by fusing the adaptor, and the flaps could easily have some kind of switching built into them. After all, we're only talking 230V and 13Amps here. This design gives advantages, without requiring the sockets to be changed, unlike the change from the old round pin 15Amp and 2Amp system. I moved out of a flat in an old manor house only 6 years ago that still had both of those sets of sockets (still connected and working) alongside the 'modern' 13Amp square pin. I even used the 2Amp sockets for lighting, Hi Fi and other low draw items with two core wiring. (There was a shop near me that still stocked the old round pin plugs in both sizes.)

  • Comment Link Steve Thursday, 24 September 2015 14:33 posted by Steve

    I love the design and obviously the safety features need to be worked out before it is actually market ready. Perhaps new thinking should be encouraged not attacked.
    BTW, I believe that South Africa has the largest plugs, have you seen those massive pins, based on the UK standard from the 50's

  • Comment Link Mick Thursday, 24 September 2015 14:15 posted by Mick

    The earth pin is longer than the power pins, so will push down the gate in the socket. The red plastic looks to be a cover for the fuse. True, you can't change the plug, but then you can't with a moulded plug anyway.

  • Comment Link Neil Thursday, 24 September 2015 14:04 posted by Neil

    About time we changed our completely over engineered plugs. The rest of the planet can manage with neat little little two pin plugs and they're not getting electrocuted. With modern RCD and overload protection is there even a need for a fuse in the plug. There should be a new EU standard something similar to what is used on the continent.

  • Comment Link Rob Struthers Thursday, 24 September 2015 13:58 posted by Rob Struthers

    The shutter could be a simple button on the inside face, meaning the side plugs would only go in when the whole thing was unplugged. The shutters would then close when the plug was put back into the wall and the button on the inside face depressed. Wouldn't take much to fix.

  • Comment Link Chris Thursday, 24 September 2015 13:46 posted by Chris

    Fuse I'd imagine would be the red insert at the Base of the plug, spring load the collar and it'd be safer or simply ensure no bare metal shows outside the socket on the pins.

    A good engineer would appreciate the design and make it work, not complain about it.

  • Comment Link Bron Thursday, 24 September 2015 04:44 posted by Bron

    Absolute bloody genius

  • Comment Link Barry Young Wednesday, 23 September 2015 23:29 posted by Barry Young

    It may look better than what we have at present, but 3 plugs in a socket will always be a fire hazard, worse still there appears to be no fuses within the plugs.

  • Comment Link Julie Walker Wednesday, 23 September 2015 23:28 posted by Julie Walker

    Very clever. I love this and hope it gets adopted. Brilliant

  • Comment Link ThatAlastair Wednesday, 23 September 2015 21:57 posted by ThatAlastair

    Nice idea, but this design obviously fails the BS safety standard for dimensions - there's nothing to stop you plugging it in while the side flaps are still folded, and the live pins are exposed while you do that.


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