As a freelancer I’m involved in a variety of projects for different companies, which means I get to do different types of work. In this case it’s an industrial project, an injection molded bird feeder for Singing Friend. But this is not just a bird feeder. It’s made from a highly innovative material; a material that is usually regarded as “garbage” and “worthless”.
But first let me just show you the end result:
The SAM bird feeder introduction at Interzoo 2018
Now why is this bird feeder so special?
Besides the distinctive product design compared to other bird feeders, this bird feeder is made from the plastics used in beverage cartons. Beverage cartons contain paper, polyethylene and aluminium. After use, the beverage carton is returned to a paper mill where the paper fibres are recovered. What is left, is a mix (reject) that usually ends up in the waste incinerator for energy recovery or on a landfill. By using a unique recycling process, the leftover plastics can be processed into granulate that is ready for injection moulding.
The main advantage of this material is, of course, that it doesn’t end up on a landfill and/or incinerator. This normally costs money, meaning the material goes from a negative economic value to a positive economic value. So besides the positive impact on the environment, this also results in a very cost-effective material.
To go even further, each SAM bird feeder can be recycled using the same production process and turned into a new bird feeder (or another product), making it a fully circular process.
The technical challenge
Please keep in mind that this is no ordinary process. It has been in the making for almost 10 years and we’re still scratching the surface of the possibilites. Even though the material is suitable for injection moulding, that doesn’t mean it’s the same as virgin plastics. Because the material is made from used beverage cartons, it is certain to be contaminated to a certain degree with other materials after the recycling process, such as aluminium. This impacts the material properties and must be taken into account.
Together with Studio OSO, a product was developed specifically from this material under a new company called Shapeforce. With Shapeforce, our goal is to develop custom engineered products made from recycled materials (from the process above, specifically).
The development process
The main focus during the development of the SAM bird feeder was testing the possiblities of the material. We had to get hands-on experience with the strength, stiffness and tolerances of the material to experience how snap fits and other joints will turn out in practice. The final product consists of 2 identical parts, which eases both the assembly and production.
Design sketch of the SAM bird feeder by Studio OSO
A photo taken during the injection mould production
- Product strategy: as founder of Shapeforce
- Product development: as a member of the development team
- Image courtesy: all images by Singing Friend