New Concepts for Intelligent Packaging and Transportation

Published on July 26, 2009 at 10:42 AM

New concepts for intelligent packaging and transportation of the future have emerged, following a competition initiated by Bayer MaterialScience aimed at design students. For example, two young designers impressed the panel of experts at this year's VisionWorks Award "CargoPacks 2020" with their innovative concepts and were thus awarded the first and second prize. The first tackled the combined challenges of increasing space constraints and supply of fresh agricultural produce in urban environments. The second concept aimed at fast delivery of goods by leveraging existing sewer networks in cities.

Bayer MaterialScience, a leading supplier of innovative materials and system solutions, is the driving force behind this second VisionWorks Award, which has been set up to honor creative and environmentally-friendly ideas. In cooperation with the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the logistics company Deutsche Post DHL and Hettich, a manufacturer of furniture fittings, the Leverkusen-based company invited students from European design colleges to develop solutions for the logistics of the future. The most intelligent models will be exhibited in Hamburg on July 24, 2009 and rewarded with up to EUR 5,000. Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Engels, Head of Research at Bayer MaterialScience, explains: "In cooperation with our partners, we are looking for sustainable answers to megatrends such as urbanization and globalization. The showcased projects provide us with the impetus required to demonstrate the development requirements for our materials and new applications."

Close to 50 students from five selected European colleges took up the challenge of the VisionWorks Award competition, which is being held for the second time. The materials they used included innovative products from Bayer MaterialScience. The task was to design visionary applications on the themes of packaging, transportation and service logistics for the year 2020. At a kick-off meeting in October 2008, the participants were given insights into the material and application developments of all the project partners and provided with inspiration to get their creative juices flowing. After this meeting, the contestants had four months to design individual concepts that were not only based on robotics and chip technology but also enabled the sustainable use of raw materials. From around 150 initial conceptual designs, the panel of eight experts selected 42 ideas to be further developed. The panel assessed the intelligent use of material, the level of innovation, functionality and the quality of the models.

The results are impressive, representing a successful mix of creativity and optimum use of a variety of materials. First prize this year goes to Manuel Dreesmann from the University of Arts Bremen for his "Green" project, a paternoster system for creating new areas of vegetation and promoting the on-site cultivation of agricultural products in urban environments. A water mill is used to power the paternoster on a steel cable so that units containing fruit and vegetable plants climb slowly up office and high-rise buildings. Although the winning model does not solve a traditional packaging problem, it impressed the experts on a number of points. "The concept solves difficulties with transportation and distribution by producing the desired products directly on-site, thus dispensing with the need for elaborate packaging," explains Dr. Christopher Stillings, project manager for the VisionWorks Award at Bayer MaterialScience. "What's more, it provides for a healthy atmosphere at the workplace and enhances the quality of life."

Second prize went to the "Urban Mole" design from Philipp Hermes, of the Folkwang University in Essen. This is another solution for overcoming the "last mile" on the way to the consumer. Using RFID chips and robot technology, the transportation unit, which is the size of a shoe box, navigates independently along the ceilings of existing sewer system networks, which function as an underground courier and supply system. This would also enable fast delivery in the event of congestion and traffic jams - even in major cities such as New York and Berlin.

Joint third place went to Mareike Frensemeier ("Bacs", University of Arts Bremen) and Matthias Rauch ("Water Ahead", Folkwang University, Essen). The student from Bremen designed 100 percent ecological protective packaging made of cellulose, which is produced using the bacterium acetobacter xylinum and "grows around" the surface of different products to create an individual protective shell. The other third prize was awarded to Essen-based student Matthias Rauch for his model of an automatic rescue capsule system that locates flood victims independently and uses an integrated filter system to supply them with fresh drinking water while they wait to be rescued.

The logistics sector is an important area of innovation and a promising growth market for the raw materials and systems supplier Bayer MaterialScience. Increasing globalization and urbanization, dwindling resources and increasingly exacting requirements in the area of environmental and climate protection offer great potential for high-tech materials.

The VisionWorks Award helps to promote intelligent ideas and, in conjunction with partner companies and universities, pool expertise in open innovation projects. Dr. Stillings said: "In this way, we find out which new materials can be made available to the logistics industry in the future. This interdisciplinary cooperation provides us with application concepts from a market perspective, allowing us to reflect them in our material developments in order to create the basis for new products."

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