It's not just about the box. You know the box that metaphorical place that high-priced consultants love to tell people to think outside of. That place they tell everyone to avoid.
It's about more than the box. It's also about the bottle and the jar and the chair and the computer. It's about designers and resin makers and molders and even mold makers finding ways to reach outside of their comfort zones to create all-new shapes for the world. It's about challenging the ideas of how things are done.
But everyone knows change does not take place in a vacuum. A designer may have a new concept in mind, but cannot make it alone. A resin company may have a great new material, but needs someone to use it. Molders may come up with new techniques to push materials beyond their expectations, but need a winning product to use it on. Toolmakers may know how to give ideas shape, but need someone to bring them problems to solve.
Historically, though, those different groups did not all communicate with each other. Designers would come up with fantastic concepts, but they could not be manufactured or couldn't be manufactured in the same way or with the same material that they'd expected. Consumer products companies would set aside money to launch new packaging, only to find that while the parts could be made, it would cost more than they'd budgeted.
But some companies are breaking through those old barriers and coming out with real products.
Thomas Arndt came up with a new concept for ``healthy water'' for kids and teamed with designer Yves Behar to create a four-pointed bottle kids could play with only to be told by one bottle maker after another that they simply couldn't make the bottle. It was only by teaming with Eastman Chemical Co. that they found the right material, and with machinery maker Bekum America Corp. that they found a way to make their concept into a reality.
BASF AG came up with a high-speed version of its Ultradur polybutylene terephthalate resin, but wanted an application that would launch it with a real splash. It called in top designers and gave them free reign. Designer Konstantin Grcic delivered the idea an all-plastic, cantilevered chair. Molder Plank Collezioni srl worked closely with Grcic to make the Myto chair a reality.
Now in Lee's Summit, Mo., R&D Tool & Engineering, which began as a mold maker, has established an in-house industrial design group, Leverage Integrated Industrial Design, to bring multiple parts of new product development under one corporate roof. The company thinks that move will shorten the time and expenses to launch new items by avoiding some common missteps. Under its new identity, R&D Integrated Solutions in Plastics, the company is finding that changing the way things are done is not easy, but companies that do not move forward risk being left behind.
Oh, and about that box? Corwyn Strout, Leverage creative director, just smiles when he talks about the box.
``We blew the box up,'' he said.
Rhoda Miel is a Detroit-based Plastics News staff reporter who covers the design, automotive and tooling sectors.