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Designing with elephant grass based bioplastic

  • Zwetsloot, Romy (author)
Publication Date
Jul 09, 2020
TU Delft Repository
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The company Vibers makes bioplastic from elephant grass, which has a positive effect on the environment. The crop grows perfectly on the Dutch soils, so the material is locally attuned. There are low fertilizer and pesticide requirements, which makes the crop relatively environmentally friendly (Lewandowski, Clifton-Brown, Scurlock & Huisman, 2000). The elephant grass has a high absorption of CO2. This material sounds promising, and therefore, research is done on the unique qualities of this material: what fitting application areas of the material are, and what questions arise when designing with this material. The project definition is as follows: exploring the possibilities of designing with elephant grass based bioplastic. During the first phase of this research the unique qualities of this bioplastic are explored and they are connected to application areas that fit the material. While doing this analysis, a method is designed that can be used for exploring the unique qualities of a new material. The Vibers bioplastic has the unique quality that it is bio-based and biodegradable, and due to its look and feel, users link it directly to a sustainable material. The elephant grass fibres have captured a large amount of CO2 from the air. Also they add stiffness to the material. With this unique quality, a structured way of opportunity finding is used in order to identify the right fit for the material.In the second phase of the report the method ‘research through design’ is used to explore the material further while designing two concepts of a veranda bench. The veranda bench is chosen to continue the project with since the unique qualities of the material add value to the product. Also this application has multiple conflicting requirements, which can lead to interesting design questions. The goal of this exploration is not to design the best veranda bench, but to get to know the material better, and to set up design guidelines for designing with Vibers bioplastic. During the design process several design questions arose that needed to be answered in order to design with this material. Answering those questions gave insights in the strength, production, UV resistance and end-of-life scenarios of the material. In the conclusion of this research, the findings are converted to design guidelines and recommendations. The design guidelines are meant to help designers that want to use this material. They explain the following: (1) The material should add value to the product. (2) The material has environmental benefits. (3) The material has a sustainable look and feel that should be used. (4) How production depends on the desired end-of-life scenario of the product. (5) What plastic the material is comparable to. (6) What the end-of-life possibilities are with this material. (7) That the material does not change colour in UV exposure. (8) How different percentages of elephant grass can change the material. (9) That the material is fit for durable and timeless design. (10) That the material is fit for modular design.The recommendations are meant to help Vibers develop their material. Firstly, a method is explained that they can use for exploring new materials. Secondly, a recommendation is given on what application areas are fit for their material. Thirdly, a to-do list is made, which explains what questions have not been answered in this thesis and thus need follow-up research. Lastly, the writer gives advice on how transparency is key to a more sustainable world. / Integrated Product Design

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