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July 2, 2009 – 10:59 pm

Comments OffCoffee to go

- Posted in Art & Sculpture, Extended Portfolio, Marketing related, Polystyrene Uses by Fran

Giant sized coffee cup table

Giant sized coffee cup table

This is going to be a caffeine fuelled post and it’s not because I’ve been drinking espresso’s all afternoon. I am going to try and write about three coffee related items and show how they are linked to polystyrene.
That would be enough to drive anyone to coffee, so we might as well make it a large one… and we have.
Well, it’s more of a coffee table, shaped to replicate a disposable cup, I could never drink that much coffee in one go. The table is designed for use in a variety of retail locations including coffee bars and deli outlets. Using printed vinyl, it can be customised or branded to match the coffee supplier or the store decor. It is made from polystyrene foam, but it has a fibre-glass coating to make it durable and easy to clean. We even have a half a cup option, this allows the semi circular table to be fitted against a wall in areas where floorspace is at a premium.
However, we always prefer full cups for our coffee but definitely not cracked or chipped.

Custom mug packaging with difference. Image via

Custom mug packaging with a difference. Image via

That’s not a problem with disposable cups but if you have to ship ceramic or china mugs it can be a major issue.
Our friends at Blacknight Solutions asked us to create packaging for some promotional mugs they wanted to distribute. This is usually a simple task of creating a box shape and cutting a circle in the centre.
Having created their horses head logo previously, we thought it would be interesting to incorporate it into the packaging design. The shape was cut from a block of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) using one of our computer controlled hot-wire cutting machines. We used black  polystyrene foam for most of this project, we had to with a name like Blacknight. The result was a custom packaging solution that protects the mug and promotes their brand in one simple step. It seems that Blacknight also liked our idea too.
It good to be able to offer a creative solution to a problem, but this next item is where a young computer animator had a problem and he solved it creatively.

Styrofoam cups used to create unique art item

Styrofoam cups used to create unique art items

Waiting for friends and killing time in a coffee shop, Cheeming Boey started to doodle on the only item close by, a styrofoam coffee cup. “When you’re bored, you tend to experiment.” he said. Using a sharpie, a brand of felt tip marker pen, he produces amazing images using dots and lines. He has develop a growing number of differents styles as his cups have become increasingly popular. His work is displayed in galleries and exhibitions with his creations selling from $120 – $220.
Not a bad price for a unique piece of art but it’s certainly pricey if it’s for a coffee to go!

June 28, 2009 – 9:01 pm

Comments OffMac book packaging creates design highlight

- Posted in Art & Sculpture, Polystyrene Uses, Recycling by Fran

Styrolight a chandelier created from Mac Book packaging

Styrolight a chandelier created from Mac Book packaging by Eric Lawrence

Many people would agree, I think, that Apple creates products that are both functional and easy on the eye, whether it be the Iphone, Ipod or the latest aluminium chassis Mac Book.
It’s not difficult to see as they pay attention to every detail, this extends as far as the packaging that the products comes in.

However, the product design gurus at Cupertino, Apples home town, could never imagine that the styrofoam protecting their laptops could be re-used in such a way as to produce another striking and practical design.

A rather unusual light shade made from molded polystyrene packaging.

A rather unusual light shade made from molded polystyrene packaging.

Eric Lawrence, had that vision, he has made this chandelier using dimmable low energy CFL bulbs, aluminium bar and slow-set hot glue. He assembled the molded styrofoam packing pieces and won the Sustainable prize in Design Within Reach Austin’s M+D+F competition. The modular layout allows the design to be modified whilst maintaining a common style in this smaller light shade.

Recycling packaging materials with such purpose and style makes for a bright future, I applaud those people who can see potential in them.

- Posted in Art & Sculpture, Polystyrene Uses, Recycling, Videos by Fran

Transformer logos using black and white polystyrene foam

Transformer logos using black and white polystyrene foam

The launch of the second Transformers film ‘Revenge of the fallen’ is upon us, starring Shia Lebeouf (Sam Witwicky) and Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes) and featuring a cast of computer-generated Autobots and Decepticons, which are giant transforming robots / machines.
The Decepticons did attempt, in the original film, to take control of the earth but the valiant efforts of  Sam and Mikaela, with the help of the Autobots, prevented them from doing so. We presume that the Decepticons have come back for a second try, having seen some of the film trailers.

Well, all I can say is that they are too late.

The Styrobots are HERE !

Giant polystyrene robot sculpture by Michael Salter.

Giant polystyrene robot sculpture by Michael Salter.

So who are these Styrobots and what are their intentions: World domination, political upheaval or do they seek an artistic haven?

The tyrant artist behind these creations is Michael A. Salter, an associate professor of digital arts at the University of Oregon since 2005, who has been building these fabulous sculptures for over 5 years, each one growing in size to suit the available exhibition space. Using discarded packaging from household electrical items and glue, the Styrobots have certainly grabbed people’s attention from San Francisco to Brussels. Not really world domination, but more like world appreciation for this unusual art form. Sadly though, Salter’s unique creations are usually destroyed because no one has bought one yet or figured out how to get one through a gallery door, even if they wanted to make a purchase. Then again, they could be waiting, waiting for the moment when they attack, housed in galleries around the world waiting for the signal. Transformers beware.

(additional info via komonews)

We have 5 Transformer signs to give away to people who leave a comment giving a reason why a Styrobot might be better than a Transformer.

The signs are the same as the top black on white sign in the top image, they are 1.2m long (4′) x 0.2m (8″). Good luck.

May 22, 2009 – 8:58 pm

6Going ape for Styrofoam bananas ??

- Posted in Marketing related, Polystyrene Uses, Videos by Fran

The recession must be hitting hard in America as people are turning to desperate measures to make ends meet. But we can’t understand the logic behind this gorilla-suited woman stealing display bananas made from Styrofoam.
No, it’s not an April fool prank but something very weird and unusual. (Via Fox11 online)

So why would you dress in a gorilla suit and steal a foam banana?
The best explanation in a comment wins a banana in foam, or your name in foam.

One tastes nicer than the other.

One tastes nicer than the other.

One option we have considered is that the famous Cadbury’s Gorilla has been made redundant, has scoffed all his allowance of Dairy Milk and has been driven to the desperate measure of having to survive on Styrofoam bananas. And we all thought he had a future playing drums, but not a Phil Collins cover version. The gorilla is supposedly blaming those pesky, eyebrow-wiggling kids.

May 19, 2009 – 3:45 pm

1Polystyrene protection at 180mph

- Posted in Polystyrene Uses, Sport related, Videos by Fran

Polystyrene or Styrofoam is often most recognisable when it is used as a packaging material, whether it be for fast food containers or moulded protective pieces around DVD players and other electrical goods. It is widely-used because it is lightweight, inexpensive and can act as a shock absorber and insulator.

Some of these properties may have appealed to Dr. Dean Sicking and his team at The Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, which is part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They have designed and developed the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reducing) barrier, which has been installed on oval racetracks in America.
It is a series of rectangular steel tubes which are welded together and placed a few feet away from the concrete outer wall. The space between both walls is partially filled with a series of bundled sheets of polystyrene foam to help absorb the force of any impact to the tube wall. It has also been called a “Soft Wall” as it deforms and absorbs the energy when car hits it. It is hoped that with continued research and testing that it could be used on public motorways and roads, It has certainly proved to be a success on the race tracks with both NASCAR and Indy Car endorsing its use.

In this first video, you can see some high-speed racing where the cars are travelling at 180 mph, just millimetres apart from each other and the outer barrier. They inevitably touch and one of the cars hits the barrier. In the later part of the video, you can see how the SAFER barrier deforms on impact.

This second video shows a more extreme crash showing both the advantage of the barrier system and how car improvements have increased driver safety. The polystyrene foam in the barrier compresses, absorbing some of the impact energy. This accident would have been far more severe if the previous concrete wall barrier had been used. Most drivers and teams agree the SAFER barrier has made the fast and furious world of oval track racing a safer place. Polystyrene foam is also doing its bit too.

- Posted in Polystyrene Uses, Recycling by Fran

From the film Back to the Future with the Doc refuelling the Delorean with waste items.

From the film Back to the Future with the Doc refuelling the Delorean with bits of refuse.

Humankind: an amazing species that has evolved over millions of years from simple and humble beginnings into highly developed mammals.

So how did we do it? Well one way is by using our senses to discover new foods, places, using tools and implements. Evolution, however, isn’t problem free e.g. poisonous mushrooms; how did we know that they were poisonous?
We deduced that when Fred, Mike, Mary and Jane died after eating a meal of them, we learned not to eat that variety, or that Janet was a very bad cook.

The same applies today when we push the envelope to make new discoveries, we test, analyse and observe. This is how Song-Charng Kong, and his team at Iowa state University work: researching and developing new fuels for diesel engines.
Now, you might have heard of using cooking oil and, possibly, biodiesel as new fuels for powering a diesel engine, but they have discovered that “a polystyrene cup will dissolve almost instantly in biodiesel, like a snowflake in water” and that this mixture will increase the power output of an engine at certain concentrations. It would seem a little weird that they should try a styrofoam cup, but it is not unusual in science to discover something they weren’t initially expecting. It does, however, have some big implications as polystyrene food packaging can be difficult to recycle as it is inefficient to ship to recycling plants due to it being so lightweight.
It would be fantastic if this technology could be developed to a point when we could use these waste materials to power our vehicles. Yes, it sounds very futuristic, but if Doc Brown & Marty McFly, from Back to the Future , can make it work on a Delorean, there is always hope.

- Posted in Polystyrene Uses, Videos by Fran

In an earlier post, many readers commented that they would like to see a video on how polystyrene is produced. Here we have insight into the whole process.

I welcome any comments you may have after seeing the video.
One of my first impressions, years ago, was surprise by the size of the moulded blocks and the space the factory needed to store them. What is your impression?

- Posted in Polystyrene Uses, Sport related by Fran

This post has just a tenuous link to polystyrene and more to do with the interest I have in motorsport.
So why include it then? Well, beside the small polystyrene connection, there are a couple of international good news stories and we have had very few of them recently.

Irishman Eugene Laverty on his way to victory. (photo

Irishman Eugene Laverty on his way to victory in Assen. (photo

I think it would be safe to say that Ireland wouldn’t be instantly recognised as a hotbed of world class motor racing talent, but we have two areas where Irish stars are making an impact on the world stage. To start with, a motorcycle racer, Eugene Laverty, won a round of the World Supersport Championship, at Assen in Holland. In a thrilling race, Eugene took the lead at the very last chicane after an exciting, wheel-to-wheel battle with three other riders, to win by a tenth of a second. This leaves him 2nd place and well in contention after four rounds of the fourteen-round Championship. Hopefully, Eugene, and his Parkalgar Honda racing machine will remain competitive for the remainder of the season.

Team Ireland A1GP car at the Maxroam launch in Dublin

Team Ireland A1GP car at the Maxroam launch in Dublin

Our second motor racing hopeful is Adam Carroll who drives for Team Ireland in the A1GP Championship. Drivers from more than 20 nations compete on a level playing field, with no financial or technological advantage over each other. With two rounds of the championship to go, at Brands Hatch and Mexico city, Team Ireland is also 2nd in their championship and have shown consistent good form this season. With the Brands Hatch round this coming weekend, hopes are high that Adam can maintain this good form and win the championship, also known as the “World Cup of Motorsport”.

So where’s the polystyrene connection?
is a mobile phone SIMcard that enables low cost voice and data connections when travelling & roaming overseas. They are now sponsors of A1GP Team Ireland, so we created some unique 3D signs for the official press launch which was held at the Mansion House, in Dublin city.

We would like to wish A1GP Team Ireland, Adam Carroll and Eugene Laverty every success, we hope that they can continue their winning ways, which will be good news.


Team Ireland principle Mark Gallagher helps driver Adam Carroll hoist the Championship trophy aloft.

Team Ireland principle Mark Gallagher helps driver Adam Carroll hoist the Championship trophy aloft.

The final round of the A1GP Championship, scheduled for Mexico, was cancelled due the the outbreak of Swine Flu. The Brands Hatch event became the series finale held on the May bank holiday weekend.
Adam Carroll and Team Ireland, dominated the weekend. They were on the pace from the start and qualified in pole position for the Sprint and Feature races, this form carried over to race day, where they won both races and clinched the closely contested  Championship. There was no Irish luck involved, just a determination to achieve what they had set out to do at the beginning of season and they completed it with a fairytale ending.

We wish to congratulate the team on their success and hope that they are not alone in winning a world championship for Ireland.

With thanks to Pat Phelan, from Maxroam for the image.

April 8, 2009 – 10:15 pm

Comments OffInflation and running a muck

- Posted in Extended Portfolio, Polystyrene Uses, Videos by Fran

A supersized styrofoam Samsung mobile phone.

A super-sized Styrofoam Samsung mobile phone.

We are not economic commentators or political pundits, as there are plenty of them around at the moment, but what we do know is that we need inflation – and large scale inflation at that. Well, we did for this particular project.

Dena, from Kick Communications, approached us to create a giant phone for their client, Samsung, and for the launch of their new Tocco Ultra touch screen mobile phone. The inflation rate was 2300%. Thankfully, this only applied to the phone’s dimensions, which basically meant that it was much much larger than the original.  Even Tommy Bowe, a member of Ireland’s Six Nations Championship winning team, is 6′ 3″ tall and is dwarfed by the supersized phone.
The cellphone replica was 11′ (3.3m) tall and was created from three blocks of foam. Timber batons were run through the centre to give it additional strength. The surface was then treated, and a printed vinyl wrap was applied to the entire phone.
Unfortunately, we were not at the event, so we don’t know exactly why there are so many people running a muck, clad in red spandex, on a sunny day in Dublin (possibly some government protesters on the way to the Dail to complain about their overdraft situation?). The only clue we have is that they were part of a teaser campaign, from looking at this video. With thanks to Dublin Metblogs.

It’s good to know that there can be a good outcome when inflation runs a muck. It doesn’t happen often, but it did in this case.

March 24, 2009 – 8:44 pm

8The Berlin Wall, Dominos, and Styrofoam.

- Posted in Art & Sculpture, Polystyrene Uses by Fran

Styrofoam blocks decorated at the Brandenburg Gate

Launch of the 'Domino Aktion' event in Berlin

These aren’t the words that you have include in a sentence to win a holiday competition, although it could be a very worthwhile idea for travel companies providing city breaks to Berlin.

The ‘Festival of Freedom‘ was recently launched to celebrate the 20th anniversary year of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Events are planned throughout the year, one of these being ‘Domino Aktion’. Thousands of young people across Germany will paint and decorate approximately 1,000 blocks of Styrofoam to act as dominos, which will then be brought to Berlin. The dominos are to be set up in a row following the course of the former Wall through the city centre, and then knocked over in a domino-effect. This event is scheduled for November 9 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and to symbolize the domino-like fall of communist powers across Eastern Europe in 1989.

So, why are they using  blocks of Styrofoam?
The ‘Domino specification’, included in the press release, gives us a clue:

  • Domino size   1 m wide x 2.50 m high x 0.40 cm thick
  • Material   Medium-density polystyrene foam
  • Weight   Approx. 20 kg
  • Fastening   Metal base plate for fastening
  • Shell   Approx. 75 g/m2 of sheer muslin as a protective edge and painting surface
Polystyrene block & art

Styrofoam blocks being decorated at the Brandenburg Gate

The size of the dominos is going to create a fabulous visual impact, especially when they are decorated and placed on the path of the original Berlin Wall.
Polystyrene or Styrofoam is a relatively inexpensive material, particularly when they are using around one thousand blocks.
Given the size of the blocks, they will still be lightweight. This will also leave them easier to handle and transport from schools across Germany.
The fastening plate is to prevent the blocks from being removed or accidentally knocked over before the event…that would be unfortunate and potentially embarrassing.
They are being wrapped in sheer muslin for two reasons:
(1) to prevent foam pieces breaking off and creating a litter nuisance, especially when they are to be pushed over at the climax of the event, and
(2) the muslin can be removed so that the foam blocks will be able to be recycled.

Here is a video showing them testing the distances between the polystyrene blocks to make sure that they will fall, they used a 100 blocks for this test.

This is an excellent example showing how versatile Styrofoam is and how it can be used in many unique ways. We will look forward to the event and hope to enter any competition if a travel agent wants to take up the challenge.