is perhaps what this blog should be called.


The past two days have been very frustrating.

Decided to just go the packaging as pot plant route, even though its not favoured.

Bought some plastic pot plants. Made plaster casts of the inside to give me something to vacuumform over. First attempt cracked when removing from mould. Second attempt delayed due to lack of school plaster supplies.

Buy plaster. Try again. Second attempt, after leaving for a whole day to harden, works.

Started vacuumforming with the thickest grade of PLA on the large vacuumformer. Cut many pieces to size. Doesn’t cut well. Need to score then bend.

Almost all vacuum forms disasters. Trying with circle cutouts around the positive to help squash the material down. Had Harry helping me, still couldn’t get it right after around ten attempts.

Decided perhaps the potplant positive was too tall, so went and bought smaller ceramic (no need to cast plaster again!) pots as positives. Same problems. Repeat times five. Eventually switched to thinner material and the medium size vacuumformer. First couple didn’t work but then eventually got these right. Medium size vaccuum former just works better. So finally have some very basic looking pots and lids. What a performance to recreate something so goddamn simple.

Thanks to Olly and Jane for helping with the vaccuum forming experiments and cutting the PLA. Think they were both getting very nervous for their own projects watching mine failing…

So yeah. I’ve got some pots with lids, and the lids are also (woohoo go second life go) the saucers/water collectors at the bottom.

Feeling very dissapointed with my whole project and my lack of 3d innovation at this point in time. Bit of a shitty way to end the year. Ah well. Think my sticking to PLA probably hamstrung me in the end.

But at least there are a few other people in the class that know what it is now.

Small world…


As a last final gasp for inspiration I’ve just googled “packaging second use”.

Ninth on the list was this blog…

Some interesting ideas there…



On Sunday I had what I mistook for a flash of inspiration:

 Make the form of the object portray the second use, not the first. It seems daft to stick with the form traditionally associated with the packaging (punnet style, shoebox, beerbox etc) and then go through an elaborate system of folds and tabs to make it into the second form. Why not rather start at your end point and work backwards?

So for organic fruit packaging where I’d like to raise awareness of PLA and the cycle of life, make the packaging in the shape of a typical pot plant, with a seed and soil in a separate part of the base so that consumers are encouraged to grow their own organic fruit. That shape will hold fruit just as well, and my thinking is that the novel appearance would be potentially eye catching from a consumers perspective, especially in a supermarket setting.

Not sure Nick saw my “brilliance” on this one though.

The other completely random idea I had was around fireworks. Given they are always so unsafe, and prone to misfiring, it would be good if the box that they came in could be folded to act as a support structure.

But it seems a wee bit late to change direction now.

In an ideal world, I’d pursue the fruit basket that turns into an organics disposal unit, but two things concern me about that. One, it seems like a bit of a wasteful approach to material (even though after composting it is re-used as fertiliser to promote the growth of more food), and two, I don’t have time. I should really take an extra week to do this, but I’m full up with three different part-time jobs as of Monday 19th.

Ah well.

Perhaps I’ve just lost my way on this one. I’ve become increasingly convinced that an arbitrary second use isn’t the way to go with packaging. It looks like shit, (like packaging folded into something else), and it just delays its ultimate trip to the landfill. As I mentioned in a much earlier post, the way that I see it there are only two ways to go: for things like single use food packaging, make it biodegradable (second use compost – particularly where the useful lifespan is less than 20 minutes in most foodcourts), or otherwise make it last forever. Recycling is, supposedly for the most part downcycling, so there’s no real point in being anywhere between those two points on the spectrum of possible second lives.


Ties usually come in a cardboard sleeve. This could double as a tie rack of sorts. Perforated slots with tabs that can fold in to make a little ladder style tie-rack. From what I recall they’re always a pain to travel with. This could make that easier.

(It must be noted that this device will unfortunately not work with cartoon character ties. Yes, all you engineers and IT techies will be dissapointed, but that’s life I’m afraid. My advice to you is burn your cartoon character ties. It’ll help make the world a better place. You can always get Mum to buy you something decent as a replacement…)

PLA is difficult to cut and fold. It tends to crack when you cut it, (quite brittle) and doesn’t fold well. Its well suited to vacuum forming and injection moulding, but not folding.

 This is going to cause me problems with my idea of assembling a fruit bowl from clip out pieces that slot together or fit together with tabs. I might have to go 2D and do the puzzle idea (sorry Nick – you can mark me down, but I’m running out of time and its still the idea I like best), or change material (which I am loathe to do after all the effort I have gone to in obtaining it, waiting for it to arrive, constantly hassling the company to deliver it, waiting some more, waiting, waiting…)

Anyhow, I guess I have still accomplished my personal objective for this project of doing the messiah bit and spreading the word about bioplastics. Natureworks PLA is just ONE option, and its not perfect. But there are a large range of other formulations available that have different properties (are pliable, heatproof – even microwaveable etc.) but I can’t get hold of them in NZ.

All good things in time. I do still think that’s it where the future is at. (And that thought is supported very strongly by the bioplastics patent application history and current adoption by large retailers.)

Met with the CEO of an organic fruit export company today (Wednesday 7th) to discuss opportunities for PLA, packaging produce at source, and ways to differentiate product through packaging.

As mentioned in a previous entry, NZ has a real need to differentiate its product to allow it to play in the premium product space overseas. Its geographic isolation and high cost of production prevent it from competing on cost on a commodity style basis. Apart from investing in new varieties and the intellectual property associated with those (which many companies are already doing, ENZA, HortResearch, Blackcurrants NZ etc.), the only other possible means of differentiation lies in the packaging and presentation, and associated advertising and branding.

With this in mind, I thought perhaps that there might be some opportunity to work on the packaging and presentation of some NZ fruit. It was an interesting discussion, but as per my prior commercial experience, people in industry can’t seem to see further than what they currently have. If it works don’t touch it. And even though the current packaging and branding certainly doesn’t differentiate the product, they are unwilling to invest in or explore ways of doing this. (Or perhaps just can’t see them with an operations hat on.)

Russel was interested in packaging for organic Blueberries.  We discussed potential changes to shape and size to differentiate and/or add value to product but it seems that concerns of packing space (little square boxes fit well into bigger square boxes), stacking, and cost were the main issues.

The clamshell style square punnet is pretty entrenched. He mentioned that there was room to work on the label. Mmmm. That should really differentiate it and have consumers ooh-ing and aah-ing.

(Mental note for next time. Have a fully functional proposed product.)

 So, whilst there is a real-life opportunity here, a second-life definately is not the focus, and it’ll take more work than I have time for in this brief.

Into the “deal to when I have time and mental capacity” basket you go…