Over a period of six weeks, 189 specialists and amateurs entered the plastics competition "Tell us your dreams" sponsored by BASF and sent their dreams to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Upon the occasion of the K 2004 plastics trade fair, BASF had issued a call for people to submit their ideas and wishes in the realm of plastics.
Global and in all disciplines
BASF received a total of 210 “wishes in plastic” from 21 countries; about half of these wishes came through the Internet, another quarter was made directly at the trade fair and the remaining quarter came by mail. Although almost 75 percent of the respondents hailed from Germany (46 percent), the Netherlands (14 percent) or Great Britain (13 percent), there were still quite a few ideas that originated from India, Turkey, Mexico, New Zealand and Pakistan.
“We had not expected so many good ideas. There was a bit of everything, ranging from technically sophisticated concepts with business potential, to socially beneficial suggestions, all the way to out-of-the-ordinary flights of fancy,” explains Thomas Fritzsche, head of sales for electric applications in engineering plastics and mentor of the campaign. A respectable 12 percent of entrants dreamt of plastics that would exhibit special properties, such as crash-resistant polyamide, polyurethane that is even easier to process or ABS with a self-healing surface. Many of the ideas had to do with the building of houses. Numerous entries proposed applications in the environmental or medical sectors. Eye-catching examples here were protein-resistant contact lenses as well as the injection of a plastic solution that hardens in the body during the healing process and that can be dissolved once again when necessary.
The members of the jury started off by scrutinizing five criteria on which to base their assessment: is the topic visionary or does it have a high societal and enduring value? Has the proposal been well thought through? Can the concept be technically realized with the means at BASF’s disposal or does it constitute a new marketing idea for already existing materials?
The top prizes
The first prize went to Carolin Tappe and Nathalie Köhler from Bremen and Hannover, respectively, for their portable food warmer made of several types of plastic and of a reuseable recrystallization heating module. “Well thought out and formulated, can be realized with various types of plastic,” were the decisive criteria here. The second prize was given to Andreas Kalweit from Bochum, likewise in Germany. He was on a quest for a plastic that functions as a reactive sponge and that, depending on its composition, picks up pollutants from the air and water, at the same time binding them chemically. The jury found this concept to be of an enduring and visionary nature. Ludger Wüller from Warendorf came in third for his corrosion-proof exhaust system made entirely of plastic. Ahead of its time but feasible in the not-too-distant future through the use of engineering plastics. The fourth prize went to Luke Hogan from Littleover (Derbyshire), England, who submitted a total of five innovative and interesting ideas. He not only dreams of plastic cutlery that is both functional and approved for use in airplanes, but he also yearns for an all-season plastic jacket with air cushions that can be inflated in the winter and deflated in the summer. And to provide the jacket with yet another function, it could be made with fibers containing sensors that would assist in locating missing mountain climbers or skiers.
Prizes five to twenty
Flood protection made of polyurethane for houses, clothing specially designed to assist senior citizens in standing and walking, emergency shelters made of plastic waste and granules with built-in processing instructions can all be found in this second category of prizes. Also plastics that can still be shaped locally for a brief time after undergoing injection molding. The jury also awarded some of the prizes 11 to 20 to particularly creative ideas in the construction sector which showcased the fact that plastic always has to do with flexibility. Among the most ingenious suggestions were movable room walls that allow flexible interior design as well as wall coverings that change shape or color as a function of the temperature or of the mood of the inhabitants.
What to do with the good ideas?
For a few months now, BASF has been channeling its new ideas into a system that allows early recognition and promotion of projects that hold out good prospects of success. This is why the “jury of dreams” decided to evaluate some of the submissions from this vantage point, either in the form of projects in plastics research or else already in the business units closer to the application.
The seven-person jury consisted of Ingolf Büthe, Kurt Höfli and Juan Ximenez, who are the heads of the units Applications Development, Marketing and Sales for Engineering Plastics, Klaus Mühlbach of Strategic Business Development for Styrenic Plastics and Bernhard Rosenau, representing research and polyurethane chemistry on this panel. Wrapping up the team were Dorit Baucke as the representative of the project team for Innovation Chain and Opportunity Recognition as well as Thomas Fritzsche, the mentor of this competition.
The award ceremony
The first four prize winners will be receiving vouchers in the amounts of 5,000, 3,000, 2,000 and 1,000 euros from Raimar Jahn, head of the Performance Polymers Operating Division, upon the occasion of a small commemoration in early March. The participants ranked five through ten will each receive a voucher for 1000 euros while those who came in 11th to 20th will each get 300-euro vouchers. More details about the winners and their ideas can soon be found at www.basf.de/plasticdreams.