In an earlier blog I wrote about a hybrid bottle which was aimed at reducing plastic, with a flexible plastic liner inside a paper outer assembly, created by a company called EcologicTM. This was a great start, but not a complete solution.
Coca-Cola have recently spoken about an even greater goal – challenging themselves to make a bottle made entirely of paper and partnering with Danish startup Paboco (short for The Paper Bottle Company), to do so. At this stage their design is not unlike Ecologic’sTM, with a plastic liner and cap (although granted they are 100% recyclable), inside their “paper” bottle, but their aim is to get to a point where neither of these are required. The vision is to create a paper bottle that can be recycled like any other type of paper.
To watch the start of their journey visit: https://www.coca-colacompany.com/news/coca-cola-unveils-paper-bottle-prototype
Let's keep an eye on this space to see if they finally succeed.
In cardiac arrest AEDs are key to saving lives. But who can carry around a bulky or even small portable AED?
Well now you can. RRR's AED (a truly interesting and innovative project which I had the privilege of working on) has redefined what a defibrillator should be.
Ease of use, cost and size are key drivers in this product. Meticulous attention and standards conformance always with a focus on simplicity and ongoing product development are part of the company's passion to deliver this ground breaking device.
The design is so compact it can fit in the glove-box of your car, hang on the fridge or take up no space in your backpack. It is affordable compared to traditional AEDs, making the idea of personal AEDs a reality.
To see more about this ground breaking product visit https://rapidresponserevival.co.nz.
Always on the lookout for innovative approaches to lessen our packaging footprint, especially for single use plastic bottles, I stumbled upon this really interesting approach from Ecologic™.
They have created a hybrid bottle consisting of a moulded “box” with a plastic liner using up to 60% less plastic than a rigid bottle equivalent.
It reduces plastic content used and is fully recyclable, but I don’t think it would fulfill big business requirements for efficiency and mass production.
The bottle would initially win sales for being innovative and aesthetically different, but I'm not sure on the long term return usage, so not the perfect solution, but the idea is interesting.
Check it out for yourself at https://ecologicbrands.com/eco-bottle/ and post your thoughts below.
Bortz Product Design has been involved in designing 100s of plastic bottles over the past 20+ years, some of which are produced in the millions per annum. The thought that so many are produced for single use, then discarded – hopefully for recycling, but most likely landing up in landfill has constantly played on our conscience.
There has to be a way forward that reduces the amount of plastic in this cycle. Well it turns out there are and very slowly companies and consumers are making the effort to try and stem this Tsunami of waste.
We are all in this together and the following few paragraphs will share some insights on processes and products that have been successful around the world as well as identify some of the issues or loopholes that are being exploited and what you as the consumer or creator can do to help us all look out for the planet.
The most obvious is through recycling. However this process is struggling to deliver. There are not enough processing plants and the process is still difficult to do really efficiently. At the moment the use of recycled material is still more expensive and their properties inferior to that of using virgin material. To improve the process designers and manufacturers need to be really careful to specify the correct inks and reduce labeling or make them of the same material as the bottle and consumers must not contaminate the items they are recycling.
To use recycled material, technologies that use multi layered (co-extruded) materials that “hide” the recycled material in a sandwich of virgin material are being used as well as blends using varying percentages of recycled material mixed into virgin material. Hopefully as processes are improved and more recycled material is used, the price will come down and it will become more main stream.
Light weighting bottles to reduce the amount of plastic in their production is another avenue, but this seems to be effective mainly in bottles with a very short life span, that I,s once opened they are quickly consumed and discarded as they usually lack structural integrity. Examples are like those used for bottled water. In the case of bottled water, don’t even get me started. This is a crime in which most consumers are complicit. I believe a better outcome would be to reduce consumption thereby drastically reducing the need for the packaging in the first place.
Another option is to use plant-based materials like those derived from sugar cane or corn waste. The problem with this is that the material only needs to use 20% organic materials to be termed plant based and so will not be totally biodegradable or fully compostable. Determining whether the bottle is compostable, and if so, if it could it be composted at home, or must it go to an industrial composting facility needs to be obvious. A bigger problem is these landing in the regular recycling system and contaminating it. So to make this work, more consumer education on labeling is required and fully biodegradable bottles produced.
Planet Ark’s new campaign of “Check it! Before you Chuck it” and info graphics are an attempt to help clear up confusion and improve on our waste and recycling management, but perhaps to really ingrain this understanding and culture it should also be taught at schools, with a refresher course every year!
A better way to reduce the amount of plastic is to re-use. This not only reduces our reliance on getting the recycling right or the bottles out of landfill, but reduces the pressure on producing the resource in the first place.
I laud the companies that are trailing or implementing this practice. In Chile, Algramo (https://algramo.com/en/home/) is offering a service to refill laundry detergent bottles and are even looking at way to have mobile vendors taking the refill stations to the public. Beiersdorf is also trailing refill stations in chemists for Nivea shower gel (https://www.beiersdorf.com/beiersdorf-live/career-blog/blog-overview/2020/08/12-refill-instead-of-throwing-away), where consumers can bring their bottles to be refilled.
This re-use of bottles is not new, companies with strong environmental values have been doing this for ages, and in the good old days this is how things were done. Now once again it is time that it became main stream and our consumer culture changed.
My final take away message is for us all to look for opportunities that we could re-use packaging and products, to become more sensitive to our impact on the planet and wherever possible do the right thing by it.
Small industrial design consultancies can provide really good value and punch way above their weight.
This blog looks at why this is, how it possible and what to look for, to ensure if you choose this option for your next project, you will not be disappointed.
Why use a consultant or small consultancy (1 – 3 staff)?
From my 30 years plus experience providing industrial design services I would say the biggest advantages an experienced consultancy can deliver are the following:
Obviously a lot of these advantages depend on the quality of staff at these consultancies, but from our clients feedback (see “What they say about us”) Bortz Product Design believes that we provide all of the above.
How is this possible?
So how is this possible, how can few people or even a single person deliver so much?
Years ago, an industrial design studio needed to have draftsmen, artists, model makers, admin staff and all level of industrial designers spending hours getting large and small tasks done. As tools improved and here I refer to the computers and its plethora of software options, the tasks of drafting were sped up by CAD packages, rendering packages cut out the many hours needed by a skilled artist and then 3D printing sped up and replaced the need for skilled in-house model-makers. Mobile phones, messaging, video conferencing other apps have replaced the need for support admin staff. These tools basically distilled these many departments into one multi-disciplinary one.
While all these tools are good, and save a lot of time, all can improved upon by customization or through designers’ ongoing training. Short cut keys, macros and taking advantage of the software’s full potential can squeeze even more into a day. Then there is admin or repetitive tasks like copy, saving exporting, emailing and data management. If these are handled well, or automated more time can be freed up leading to either more productivity.
It should be noted that just because these software packages have got easier to use, have become democratized and almost everyone has access to them, it does not mean that the results being produced are equal. Tools are just tools and it is the user that creates the result.
An experienced designer is such a user. With years of design projects under their belt, an ability to understanding their client’s real needs, with links in industry, good time management and ongoing professional development of keeping abreast with the latest tools, customizing and refining their own tools gives them the edge to punch well above their weight.
What to look for.
Knowledge and experience: How long has the consultancy or designer been around – true knowledge usually comes with experience? What type of projects and how many have they worked on? The more varied the projects the better as one of the skills of a good designer is the ability to cross pollinate ideas from totally different projects creating novel solutions. Review their portfolio of projects, do they display quality, variety and technical know how.
Personality: Make sure that you have a good rapport with the designer so that you will be able to communicate effectively and enjoy the process. Are they professional in the way they work, do they have integrity and what is the quality of the work. What is their motivation or drive, their ability and affinity for the process of design, business and its allied skills. If they outwardly enjoy the whole spectrum of business not just design but also client and supplier interactions, project management and administration then you have a winner.
Service: This is almost an extension of personality. Can the designer meet deadlines, make the process run smoothly, provide good feedback and deliver on time.
Design fee: Although a small consultancy has lower overheads and you will not be paying for a “design team” to provide the service, there is still the issue of intellectual property which is being sold. This is very difficult to put a figure too and where there are new or novel solutions being generated (that could be protected by law) expect the price to be higher than just having a simple design drafted up.
Use the advantage
With the current Covid-19 situation still in full swing it is a good time to be developing your next project. Now you know small consultancies with all the other advantages they offer that are used to working remotely and independently, it would be a good time to make use of one.
Boost you design solutions using the small consultancy advantage.
There are silver linings in every situation and as harsh, disruptive and challenging as COVID-19 is, it can still hand companies a great advantage.
Production, shipping and sales have all been severely curtailed, cash flow is tight and most staff have hopefully been put in hibernation or working from home rather than being retrenched.
If listening to our government’s message then we may believe we could come out of this crisis in a strong position.
Keep your new product development out of hibernation. In good times, product development is constantly under time pressure. Hibernation has given us time and we should use it wisely to push forward new development.
The design process and creativity never really sleeps, in fact is does its best work away from the office.
(See blog – Problem Solving – the ‘ride’ approach).
Based on this and building on tested business models of a digitally connected world that many companies have already embraced before COVID-19 and now with the new norm of remote offices (at home or wherever) design departments, engineering and management can quite easily continue with new product development and be ahead of the curve in better times.
This type of remote working is not new and Bortz Product Design and many other companies which have been doing it for years. We have worked for clients we have never met in person. Clients in Europe, Asia, the US and in other states of Australia.
Social media and tools such as Teams, Zoom and Skype allow business to continue and for communities struggling in a time of crisis to work together. Working from home should not be a deterrent from creativity.
Many of our suppliers for moulds and prototypes are not in the same city we are and now as Australia is locked down, our Chinese suppliers are in demand for work. Connecting across borders, building national and international communities for goods and intellectual supply can streamline your processes. This is an opportunity.
Get your ideas out there and start the design process. Get ahead and be in front of the pack.
In fact this is one of the most productive and useful strategies your company could take right now.
Good luck, stay well and get ahead.
The big question is can we design new products while still facilitating an environmentally sustainable future?
At Bortz product design we would like to think so.
I was recently sent by one of my clients, a guide to recyclability of plastic packaging by the design decisions we make. I applaud and thank my client for bringing this to my attention as it is an important and pressing issue. The brochure is a good piece of literature and interestingly titled “Recyclability by Design”.
While it is very important that designers keep all these principles in mind, it is vitally important that all stake holders such as marketing and purchasing departments also be aware of this guide and follow its principles.
The summary guide follows 5 main principles and then provides some useful tables for best practices with mixing and matching materials for bottles, caps and labels to make them easier to sort and recycle.
The main 5 principles are:
Worldwide companies produce so many single use plastic packaging items. People with their good intentions are doing their best at recycling. Now with this valuable information we can facilitate making the process of recycling easier. With this, we can close the loop and use the recycled material as a more valuable asset, which is easier to reclaim and easier to use.
The summary guide and its full version are available from the RECOUP website at http://www.recoup.org/p/173/download-centre and I would recommend that all stakeholders take a read, at least of the guide summary, if not the full document.
Moving forwards we will endeavour to stay on top of environmental issues, advise and recommend to all clients environmentally sustainable options for their designs and products while continuing to respect each client’s values and choices.
When developing new products, one of the critical tasks a designer has is getting the client to understand what the proposed concept would really look like.
Shown a static 2D image some people struggle to interpret what it may look like in 3D. This is not surprising as there are many interpretations as to what could be happening in an image. We have all seen “optical illusions” in which we are tricked thinking what is out is in, up is down, and curved is flat. If designers are also so easily tricked, how can they expect people not trained to think in 3D to visualise the new concept? At that how could we expect anyone to interpret what the hidden sides of a 2D image looks like?
In a recent project we worked on this issue was really evident on a number of levels. First off, the graphic design company, whom the marketing department worked closely with, was commissioned to provide the initial visual direction. This company is amazing in producing product graphics, labels and branding, but unfortunately all their work is in 2D. They provided front view “realistic” 2D images that were approved by marketing and send on to me to “make real”.
Our first task was to interpret what had been presented, and after mulling it over for a while, we had to call the graphics company to confirm our interpretation was correct. We then had to bring some reality into the picture, as in creating a shaded 2D dwg you can fool yourself into designing shapes that aren’t possible, or cannot be manufactured.
We then modeled up the proposal in 3D CAD and using a 3D file format (in which the object can be rotated and viewed from multiple angles) sent it back to the graphics company to see if their “static” realistic 2D and words had actually conveyed their intent. We were close, but even using their image as an underlay for my 3D, proved to be a bit inaccurate.
The project continued and we were getting great feedback from the graphics and marketing department that we were on the right track. We had got almost to the sign off stage when it happened. Marketing finally discovered that the files we had been sending could be rotated and viewed from any angle, not just the default “static view” it was saved at! What we interpreted and the graphic guys had intended as flattish panels, marketing had interpreted as generous curves! We were back to the beginning, but now thanks to “3D” were all able to see the same thing!
But seeing on screen and making the mental leap to how big or small the part really is, or what it would feel like in your hand is an even more difficult feat. Leveraging the same CAD data used to produce the 3D files, we were able to commission rapid prototypes that were almost true to life and confirmed that what the team has imagined.
From this project quite a few lessons can be learnt;
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, but a 3D files speaks millions
Graphic courtesy of clipartxtras.com
I’ve been using rapid prototyping or 3D printing, as it is now referred to, since the late 80s, and it is a fantastic and valuable tool. With Stratasys’s patents expiring and everyone jumping on the bandwagon to make them, there are literally hundreds of cheap 3D printers available. Since the 3D fad has become mainstream I have been asked numerous times “where is your machine”?
I’ve always been of the view that these machines, the cheaper ones which are affordable to small business and home users, do not provide a print quality I would be happy to supply to a client, as well as being extremely slow. Additionally, speaking to 3D printing enthusiasts, it also seems that using these printers is a bit of a black art and to want to use them you really had to be an enthusiast. So quite happily I have been leaving 3D printing to the specialist bureaus and focused on what I do best, which is design.
However recently at the National Manufacturing Week, I came across a couple of relatively in-expensive printers for under $10k. These provided a quality model of a bottle (a product I regularly design) that I would be happy to show clients. What excited me more was that some of these printers could produce a fairly large part quite fast. It was nearing the end of the financial year. I had the fund’s. Was now the time to buy?
For the first time in 30 years I was serious about owning a printer of my own. So this was the first time that I really started doing homework about the finer details of these machines. I was getting into the nitty-gritty of speed, materials, ease of operation, remote control, maintenance et cetera. I had requested two vendors to supply me with sample prints. I was excited. I put the proposal to my partner whose first question was “Is this healthy?”
Now there’s a question I had never thought to ask. We design, mould and use these materials every day. Obviously it’s healthy, what could not be? So I started to do a little homework and lo and behold printing in some materials is not healthy. There are vapours and ultrafine particles that are released in the print process and none of these machines, as far as I can find, adequately address this issue. Some have cabinets. Some have filters. However, speaking to the suppliers of these machines, none of the machine designs provide a complete solution yet. Even the HEPA filter fitted in one of the machines only filters a little over 90%.
None of the many suppliers I assessed raise these issues as part of their sales pitch - quite obviously, and possibly some are not even aware of these issues. The supposed solution on the web appears to be to work in adequately ventilated areas and not to use the filaments that give off the most toxins (ABS, HIPS). Is this an adequate solution?
This seems to me to be an unresolved situation and incomplete product design. So until someone can come up with an office or home 3D printer solution that provides adequate safety features, so they are not detrimental to the health of my co-workers and family, I will continue to tell people “My machine is at The Bureau”.
I just bought a mountain e-bike. It would be good if the tax office could realize that my new purchase should be a tax deduction. This is because now more than ever you will probably not find me in my office trying to solve tricky design challenges, but out in the bush, soaking up nature’s bounty, riding my new bike. This is I believe, integral to my design process.
If you don’t already know me, you may be thinking “Slacker. Are you nuts? What kind of designer are you?”.
My response is “an open minded one”. In the last year I have heard the term mindfulness a great deal. It seems to be the latest popular approach to life, but a little like 3D printing it has been around for years, only now becoming mainstream.
I was first exposed to the idea of opening yourself and allowing solutions to come to you when I was studying design, over 30 years ago. With this approach we were encouraged to take our design brief and dissect it to its essence; to understand the real issue needing to be solved; brainstorm all solutions, not excluding any and feeding one’s mind with possibilities. We were then encouraged to take a break, perhaps go to the movies, let the ideas percolate and let the universe deliver the answer.
Seems a ‘hokey’ idea, but it works. “Mindfulness” some may say.
For me, giving my subconscious or ‘the universe’ time to do the heavy lifting, means taking a ride, and I am so fortunate that the bush is almost at the studio’s backdoor. Not a ride where I still ponder the answer, but one where all my conscious brain power is focused on keeping me upright, enjoying the surrounds and having fun. In essence, for me, it is a kind of meditation – an experience of being totally in the moment. Then, afterwards, with my mind clear, the answers seem to come to me - The ”Universe” delivering the answer.
The poem “Clearing” by Martha Postlethwaite encapsulates this concept well. I believe the essence of this poem is not to try solve the whole puzzle by actively dwelling or thinking about the solution, but to free a clearing in one’s mind and wait for the answer to be delivered into one’s “cupped hands”.
I am not sure that the Tax Office has yet adopted a mindful approach or would accept that my bicycle should be a tax deduction, but I would suggest that the next time you have a particular tricky challenge, that you adopt a mindful approach, take time out from trying doggedly to solve it, and rather take the ‘ride’ approach.