by Anmol AhujaDec 18, 2021
The proliferation of curbside collection bins, public awareness campaigns, recycling programs and more are making a mark on the overall reduce, reuse, recycle eco values, but there's still a long way to go. The need is for ingenious, imaginative solutions that not only turn recyclable materials into desirable products, but also into high-value, functional, almost collectible items. Novelty goes a long way in generating interest amongst consumers. Good news is that a few frontrunners are changing the landscape of product design, and in turn, creating a global drive to shift manufacturing from linear production methods to sustainable systems. The bFRIENDS desk accessories are a fantastic example.
Bene, a global brand that specialises in the design and furnishing of office accessories and environments, recently collaborated with UK-based Pearson Lloyd and 3D printing firm, Batch.Works, to create desktop items made from discarded food packaging. The collection features pen pots, trays and a stand for mobiles, made using 3D printing from 100 per cent recycled PLA—a non-oil-based corn-starch-derived bioplastic diverted from landfills. What makes these products truly green is their lifecycle—these are produced from waste, and post use, can be returned to Bene to be recycled again, creating a complete, closed-loop production cycle. The products stand for several values—characterful design, sustainability, demonstrate the benefits of 3D printing as a means of manufacturing consumer products, and finally, are a result of fruitful collaboration.
Batch.Works, who were the manufacturing partners, undertook the production as an interesting study in the flexibility of 3D printing. In 3D printing, an object is created in tiny little slices from the bottom-up, and it is these layers that are stuck together to form a solid object. The layers have a delicate horizontal ridging on the vertical surfaces, and Pearson Lloyd were keen to have this as the key design feature. For this, they chose a larger nozzle on the printer to emphasise the ridges; this in turn helped make the product stronger and more durable. “The use of recycled PLA means that from the start the product has already had a previous life. PLA is not inherently more durable, but is both biodegradable and recyclable, and in the first place has been grown. In addition, the process of 3D printing involves potentially no unsold stock; you literally make it on demand. For products that don’t require structural high-performance, PLA is a truly sustainable alternative to oil-based polymer plastics,” shares Luke Pearson, co-founder of Pearson Lloyd. Batch.Works’ manufacturing process sources raw materials from an existing waste stream, requires no tools in production, and minimises any need for storage or warehousing. “Perhaps the first advantage of 3D-printed PLA is that by not requiring any expensive hard tooling, we can afford to focus on the user experience of multiple functions, with multiple products. Conventional injection moulding is both expensive and has a huge impact in terms of embedded carbon within the process of making the tools. This means you must aim at large volumes to recoup the investment," comments Luke.
What takes this collection a few more notches up in the green meter is how it doesn't require a global, central production but can be produced via a network of local manufacturing hubs. This is because all products are of a single colour and material, require no disassembly, which makes remanufacturing them quite simple. “The collection paves the way for our future design and manufacturing processes on our continuous quest for greater sustainability. With 3D technology and innovative partners such as Pearson Lloyd and Batch.Works, we are able to develop products quickly and respond rapidly to new market needs. bFRIENDS is just the beginning of an exciting journey for Bene and will certainly influence the company’s future product and accessory development. bFRIENDS and its creation under the circular economy model has inspired us once again to act more consciously in the future," concludes Michael Fried, CEO, Bene.