Established in 1985, the Design Innovation In Plastics competition is now the longest running student plastics design award in Europe. The competition, which asks university students to design new products made from plastics, is sponsored by Covestro and organized by the Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining, and the Worshipful Company of Horners. As part of their prize, therefore, two of its most recent winners - Annabel Burton and Alex Bordino, who won the competition in 2015 and 2016 - spent a week with Covestro, which, next to visiting the Covestro’s headquarters in Leverkusen, included attending K 2016, which was also in progress that week.
Both Alex and Annabel invented brand new products as a result of their participation in the Design Innovation in Plastics competition, and those products are now patent pending.
Alex redesigned the stainless steel internal pump in the commercial ice cream machine, making a new plastic alternative which is more hygienic, has fewer parts, is lighter, and cheaper to produce. He is currently in talks with manufacturers with an aim of bringing the product to market.
Annabel invented a quick release buckle on the surcingle, or strap attached to a horse’s rug, that fastens round a horse's girth, coming up with a quick-release design molded in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with a tempered steel spring used to fasten rugs on horses. Its clever release mechanism means horses are less likely to break a leg – and be subsequently put down - if their leg gets caught in the rug when scratching or rolling. Options for commercializing the product are being explored.
Both students were extremely impressed by the sheer scale of the K show and the scope of the plastics industry. As Alex, currently in his fourth year of study Nottingham Trent university in the UK, said: “I didn’t realise quite how big the plastics industry is!”
Inspired by the people she met and talked to, Annabel said that it was clear “there are so many opportunities and directions young people such as ourselves can pursue”.
Just as for the students, it was also the first K for sponsor company Covestro. The company made its debut with a stand featuring differently colored, curved, polycarbonate walls that towered over the visitors. The colors reflected those of the Covestro logo; the audacious design served as an underpinning of the company’s claim to being ‘curious, courageous and colorful’.
As Alex said: “The stand truly demonstrated their innovative culture, and opened my eyes as to what more is possible in the development of plastics.”