The Latest Recipient Of The Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, VOTO, Uses Fuel Cell Technology To Transform Heat Into Electricity That Can Be Used For Cell Phone Charging Or LED Lighting. (Photo: Business Wire)

The latest recipient of the Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) Cool Idea! Award, VOTO, uses fuel cell technology to transform heat into electricity that can be used for cell phone charging or LED lighting. This handheld device is helping bring affordable electricity to developing countries.
The latest recipient of the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, VOTO, uses fuel cell technology to transfor ...

The latest recipient of the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, VOTO, uses fuel cell technology to transform heat into electricity that can be used for cell phone charging or LED lighting. (Photo: Business Wire)

The VOTO consists of a fuel cell box, fuel cards, a plastic handle that houses a NiMH battery, a white LED and electronic circuitry. Users insert the supplied fuel cards, wood, charcoal, food waste, or even cow dung into the fuel cell box, which is then placed into the middle of a cook stove. Once the stove is lit and the fuel cell box heats up, electricity is captured and stored in the NiMH battery. After the fire cools, the VOTO is disconnected and is ready to charge a phone or power its built-in LED light.

According to Point Source Power, the company behind VOTO, Africa alone has more than 650 million mobile phone subscribers, most of which do not have electricity in their homes, and must travel to charge them. Additionally, kerosene lamps are the current standard for home lighting. “We intend to displace dirty, toxic and expensive kerosene lamps with an intuitive LED lighting and phone-charging product that people enjoy using, and which is affordable to the billions of people living without access to modern electricity,” says Craig Jacobson, Point Source Power CEO.

“The VOTO solves an ever-present problem facing residents of developing nations through practical means. By incorporating a device that’s already used in daily life – a cook stove – this product brings increased quality of life to residents of those countries,” says Larry Lukis, Founder and Chairman of Proto Labs.

Before applying to the Cool Idea! Award, Point Source Power produced nearly 100 prototypes built of parts sourced from big box home repair stores to those made with 3D printers. “We turned to Proto Labs because we needed a professional-looking product that would allow us to move forward with broader sales and distribution,” Jacobson says. As part of the Cool Idea! Award, Proto Labs produced molds and subsequent production of the parts that make up the VOTO handle.

Launched in 2011, the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award grants a total of $250,000 each year to entrepreneurs developing new products in the United States and Europe. Unlike other product awards that recognize products after they’re in mass production and on store shelves, the Cool Idea! Award is meant to help cool ideas come to life in the form of real products. For more information about the Cool Idea! Award and how to apply visit

About Proto LabsProto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) is a leading online and technology-enabled quick-turn manufacturer of low-volume CNC-machined and injection molded custom parts for prototyping and short-run production. The company provides “Real Parts, Really Fast” to product developers worldwide and has two quick-turn services in North America, Europe and Japan: Firstcut ( CNC machining and Protomold ( injection molding. Both are capable of providing parts in as fast as one business day. Product developers who use Proto Labs for prototypes and short-run production can upload a 3D CAD file at any one of Proto Labs online sites, get an interactive quote and place an order for Proto Labs services directly online. For more information, go to

About Point Source PowerPoint Source Power makes fuel cell systems that generate electricity from renewable biomass for people without access to an electric grid. The company works with families in developing countries to ensure its products are culturally relevant, intuitive to use and financially accessible. For more information on Point Source Power, the VOTO and its capabilities, check out

Copyright Business Wire 2010