From waste to seating
Isomo from Heule has been producing and processing expanded polystyrene since 1956. It then also focused on other forms of thermal and acoustic insulation. The family business has always been innovative and creative, with attention for the environment. It therefore recently started looking for a way to give a certain type of waste a new function. It was guided through the 5X5® innovation process by Designregion Kortrijk and Voka West-Vlaanderen.
It was a specific question that Isomo turned to 5X5® for. "One of our products is Basotect, a very open-celled melamine foam with a low weight and good fire-resistant properties," explains CEO Thierry Vereecke. "About five years ago, we launched our Akomo 3D objects, which improve the acoustics in an office or home and in which you can integrate light. Our supplier BASF delivers that foam to us as large blocks, which we process further. But we thought it was a shame from an ecological point of view that our products, which are intended to reduce noise and heat loss, should end up as waste."
In order to convert these waste streams into a new product, Thierry and his team turned to the 5X5® innovation trajectory of Designregion Kortrijk and Voka West-Vlaanderen. "We were looking for a win-win: on the one hand we wanted to recover our waste materials, on the other hand the end result also had to have its own acoustic properties",
explains Thierry. A few discussions with designer studios followed. The click appeared to be the greatest with the people of Blackbirds. "From the first brainstorming session several ideas came up. Blackbirds elaborated some of the ideas with renders; after that phase we quickly decided to go for a seating structure as a final product. Blackbirds then came up with an elaborated, further refined model. Thus, Sowsies was born. The first prototypes are good, now we work further on the technical aspects."
It turns out to be quite a challenge. "We have a lot of experience in waste reduction for thermal insulation, but we still have to develop that expertise for acoustic insulation. Acoustic foam has an abrasive property - compare it to a magic sponge - and that makes processing not straightforward. The same applies to the adequate filling of the textile cover and the pressing of the filling."
The aim is to launch the Sowsies at Interieur 2021. Isomo is aiming at a broad target group: from interior architects to public authorities.
administrations. "So it will certainly require some work to adapt our logistics flow to that," says Thierry. He is also aware of the dangers of being too successful. "If the demand were to be too great, there could be a shortage of waste. In that case, we would have to use virgin material. That is of course not the intention, because the focus on sustainability is important. We also apply our circular thinking to the choice of textiles. We are still looking for the best solution for this," he concludes.
Article from the newspaper 'Meet creativity in your region', A publication in the framework of the recognition of the region as Kortrijk UNESCO Design Region.
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Published by Capone.
Stan is the link between the industry and the designers. Under his coordination, the innovation processes with companies and designers take shape. As coordinator of the open makerspace BUDA::lab, he keeps his finger on the pulse of the makerspace world.