The Design Innovation in Plastics Award, the longest running student plastics design competition in Europe, was won this year by Annabel Burton, a second year Product Design student at Nottingham Trent University. Ms Burton reinvented the buckle on the surcingle, or strap, that fastens round a horse's girth, coming up with a quick-release design molded in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with a tempered steel spring that perfectly fulfilled the competition brief perfectly for a product that will improve animal wellbeing.
The surcingle attaches to a horse’s rug in the same way as current designs to keep it in place, but quickly releases under stress, preventing injury if the horse's leg gets caught in the strap, and also preventing the rug from ripping. Horses can often get their leg caught in straps if they scratch or roll, and this can even cause a horse to break a leg which means that it has to be humanely destroyed.
For Burton, who is a rider herself, legs becoming trapped in surcingle straps was a particular concern. “I wanted to ease the problem,” she explained.
"My material choice of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) came about through lots of research and inspiration from other products that also require good fatigue resistance and high tensile strength. TPU has the ability to be stretched to moderate elongations and, upon removal of stress, will return to its original shape which is vital for this design as it enables the quick release of the buckle.”
According to the judges of the competition, an annual initiative of the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3) and the Worshipful Company of Horners, the material and manufacturing phase was “well considered and thought through to produce a robust product at the right market value”. In the words of Chairman of the judging panel, Richard Brown, Managing Director of RJG Technologies Ltd: “The exploration and investigation process was methodical and well-presented and left us with no doubt that this product had other markets than the one identified. Annabel was a worthy winner in a very strong field of entries."
Mike Stuart, technical service engineer from Covestro, added: "This was clearly a product market which Annabel researched very thoroughly. She spotted a need and came up with a better product than is currently available. It is cleverly designed, has other potential applications where quick release is needed and it can also be scaled to suit."
Ms Burton has won £1,000 plus a visit to the global headquarters of Covestro in Leverkusen, the competition’s main industry sponsor and one of the world's largest producers of polymers and high-performance plastics, with sponsor support from market leaders in the fields of design and innovation. She also received a placement at PriestmanGoode, a leading global design and brand experience agency specialising in aviation, transport and product design and an invitation to the annual banquet given by The Worshipful Company of Horners, a company which had its beginnings in the thirteenth century as an ancient guild for the craft of horner but which today has close links with the plastics industry, at The Mansion House in the City of London.
Second place went to Karl Martin, a third year Product Design student at Dublin Institute of Technology, with 'Petect', the first outdoor dog feeder designed to prevent dogs from catching lungworm, a parasitic infection acquired through contact with snails, slugs and their trails. Karl was awarded £500 plus a placement with Innovate Product Design, a leading invention development company.
Paige Hobday, a fourth year Product Design student at Coventry University, came in third with 'Twoof Brush Ball', a toothbrush toy for dogs. Paige won £250 and a placement with PDD, London, a worldwide provider of integrated design and innovation skills.