South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has built a reputation as an innovative design leader, with a strong global position in digital televisions and mobile phones, among other products. At this fall's Industrial Designers Society of America conference in Miami, for example, the firm continued to garner honors, taking home eight International Design Excellence Awards, including three golds.
That prompted Geehong Yoon, senior vice president of the design strategy team at Samsung Electronics' Corporate Design Center in Seoul, to attend. While there, he shared some thoughts with Plastics News about the company's efforts to leverage its design advantage to become more environmentally friendly.
This past July, the Seoul-based firm announced a midterm plan called Eco-Management 2013 that establishes a set of goals to make Samsung a leading eco-friendly company by 2013. The plan aims to develop new, environmentally friendly products while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their production.
This is no small task, given the breadth of the corporation: Samsung Electronics employs roughly 164,600 in 179 offices across 61 countries and reported 2008 consolidated sales of $96 billion.
Yoon, meanwhile, oversaw a major transformation in Samsung's mobile phone division from 1995-2008, a period during which the firm became a global leader in that category. Earlier this year he was promoted to his current post, where he oversees the design teams involved with all the company's products. Samsung has about 700 design employees in South Korea and more than 150 in six other countries, including Samsung Design America in Rancho Dominguez, Calif.
With Samsung Design America director Sang Yeon Lee serving as interpreter, Yoon explained that Samsung plans to increase its use of recycled materials significantly. At the same time, the firm will assess all its product designs and processes in an effort to lessen harmful emissions as well as the amount of energy needed to manufacture its TVs, cell phones and home appliances.
For its new, gold-award-winning LED flat-screen TV (the Luxia LED 7000 series), for example, Yoon said Samsung opted to use an ABS resin, And just last month, the company rolled out the Samsung Blue Earth, a touch-screen mobile phone that it touts as being environmentally friendly. In a news release, Samsung noted that, previously, eco-friendly mobiles meant lower-energy-consuming mobile phones with very limited features. But it claims this new model combines the latest multimedia features and stylish design, while achieving lower-energy consumption and incorporating eco-friendly materials.
The Blue Earth launching initially in Europe and Asia is made from post-consumer resin from water bottles, which Samsung said helps to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions during manufacturing. The company noted that the device is free from brominated flame retardants and PVC.
In addition to various energy-saving features, Blue Earth also comes in a compact package made from recyclable paper and printed in soy ink. The company also suggests reusing the package as a photo frame or a pencil box.
Yoon said Samsung is using coinjection to mold plastic components for its new line of high-end LED TVs, and that it has simplified the design of those parts to minimize the amount of energy needed to make them. The company also is working to produce an acceptable high-gloss finish right out of the mold, to eliminate the need for post-production painting.
Additionally, the Korean giant is working closely with an affiliate company, Cheil Industries, to develop new materials. Cheil produces polycarbonate and ABS resins as well as textiles.
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