This summer, the combined efforts of LINDAR, Avantech and Tri-Ven brought a futuristic sleep solution to life—and changed the lives of children around the world in the process.
zPods, fully-enclosed capsule beds featuring environmental controls designed to help children with autism and other special needs relax at bedtime, hit the market as an entirely USA-made product thanks to a partnership with LINDAR that engaged all three companies.
A Partnership Built on Problem-Solving
The partnership began after soaring shipping costs and supply chain woes forced the zPods team to reimagine the design and manufacturing of their beds, which were originally made of heavy steel and sourced from China.
As the promising start-up looked to onshore their operations and find solutions to their manufacturing roadblocks, zPods co-founder Gary Kellmann was introduced to LINDAR, Avantech and Tri-Ven owner Tom Haglin through industry veteran Scott Saxman. The pair quickly hit it off and brought Haglin’s comprehensive rotomolding and thermoforming resources to bear for a new and improved zPods design.
The capsule bed’s frame would be converted from costly steel with plastic siding to an entirely plastic structure, reducing the overall weight by roughly 50% and allowing the new design to be far more modular than the original.
The project was unique not only in its innovative design and impact on the special needs community, but in its incorporation of design and engineering, CNC tool manufacturing, thermoforming, and rotomolding capabilities in one product.
All three of Haglin’s companies played integral roles in the manufacturing of the second-generation zPods. LINDAR, a thermoforming company, designed and developed the beds in-house and provided the thermoforming for the pods’ doors. Tri-Ven then rotomolded and assembled the final product, using tools designed and manufactured by Avantech.
The ABC’s of zPods: Autism, Bedtime + Comfort
The three companies continue to work together to fulfill orders for the rapidly-growing, autism-centered sleep solution. Sleep disorders can be incredibly debilitating and disruptive to any child and their families, but even more so for those living with autism and other special needs. In a world where up to 80% of children with autism have a chronic sleep disorder and up to 90% have a concurrent sensory processing disorder, zPods offer a safe haven away from overwhelming sensory stimuli that may interrupt much-needed sleep.
Sleep experts for families affected by autism recommend creating an ideal sleep environment that is cool, dark, void of distractions and as quiet as possible—a tall order for many households, especially those living in close quarters or with other children. zPods were designed to meet all these requirements and to adapt over time with the child’s evolving needs.
zPods has conducted over 70 case studies with families affected by autism, and many have reported marked improvements in their child’s sleep quality and length, in addition to improvements in their overall comfort and quality of life, after introducing the zPods bed to their sleep routine.
A Dream Project
Haglin remarked that all three companies “[are] excited to show people what we’re doing.”
Many members of the LINDAR, Avantech and Tri-Ven teams have shared anecdotes from their lives and from friends, family and acquaintances regarding their enthusiasm for a product that addresses a difficult and emotional issue in the special needs community.
Jayme Laughton, project manager at LINDAR, has friends with an 18-year-old autistic son. As the zPods project took off, Laughton spoke with the couple about their experiences with their son’s sleep habits growing up.
“He likes to be close to his parents and sleep in close quarters, like a pillow fort,” Laughton said. “His parents thought the zPods idea was great and are excited to see the product. I am personally excited to be a part of this project to help provide comfort to those who are autistic and their families, to give them a better life. It is also great to bring a product stateside, especially to our community.”
Randy Georges, design engineer and model maker at Avantech, said that when he told his wife, a teacher at a Baxter, MN-area institution focused on educating children with special needs, about the zPods concept, he was bowled over by her positive response.
“I was overwhelmed with the amount of information and enthusiasm that my wife and her colleagues had to share with me,” Georges said. “Teachers see firsthand what a good night of sleep can do for a student. My wife shared that, many times, students are heavily medicated … lack of sleep being one (reason), and a zPod could help with this. I am very fortunate to be a part of something that has such a worthwhile purpose.”