“Sustainable design should follow the idea to create products that have a positive influence on the environment.”
Dr. Sascha Peters is the founder and owner of the agency for material and technology “HAUTE INNOVATION” in Berlin. He studied mechanical engineering at the RWTH Aachen, Germany, and product design at the ABK Maastricht, Netherlands. He wrote his doctoral thesis at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany; his focus: the complex of problems in communication between engineering and design. From 1997 to 2003 he led research projects and product developments at the Fraunhofer-Institute for production technology IPT in Aachen and subsequently became Head of the Design Zentrum Bremen.
Dr. Sascha Peters is author of various bestseller specialised books on sustainable raw materials, smart materials, innovative production techniques, and energetic technologies for renowned publishing houses, such as Birkhäuser and Springer Wissenschaftsverlag. He is one of the world’s leading material experts and trend scouts for new technologies. Since 2014, he is member of the advisory board of the funding initiative “Zwanzig20 – Partnerschaft für Innovation” (2020 – Partnership for innovation) by order of the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of Education and Research). This year the German material expert Dr. Sascha Peters was in the jury of Red Dot Design Awards in the new product category “Materials and surfaces”.
Dr. Sasha Peters was invited by Bulgarian Branch Chamber of Woodworking and
Furniture Industry to give a lecture at the Annual Branch Conference. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for DMT magazine.
DMT: What made you accept the invitation to come to Bulgaria?
S.P.: I have never come to Bulgaria, so I took the chance to see what is going on in your country, especially in the furniture industry.
DMT: What makes people think of new materials all the time?
S.P.: It`s a halfway house between the interest in materials innovation, new functionalities, new application with these materials and the question if these new materials are sustainable.
DMT: What is the process of development of revolutionary materials? Which is the first thing – the design of a particular product requires the need to create a material with certain properties or a new property is sought for in already existing materials and their application?
S.P.: In general materials are not developed for the design of products or furniture. Most of the time, new materials are used in high tech application. Designers are often the ones who create new application areas for new materials in other industries and then develop products, for example for the furniture design.
DMT: Often materials are created as an aim in itself, without much practical value. What is the path of a new material to the market? And what is the percentage of new revolutionary materials that come into real use?
S.P.: We are only working with high tech materials or materials which offer special options in terms of its sustainable used.
DMT: Eco, bio, smart, recycling – are these the modern words which are the starting point for the creation of new materials?
S.P.: Of course! On the one hand, we have the desire to work with biobased, recyclable and environment friendly materials, on the other hand, the possibility to integrate functions into material that normally are not easy to realise.
DMT: Would you highlight one direction as leading for the future of revolutionary materials – for example, smart materials? Or biomaterials etc.?
S.P.: It depends on the industry. Smart materials will have a high impact on the automotive industry. For biomaterials medical is the most interesting market. For designers biomaterials are very interesting, so we will see a lot of developments in furniture design.
DMT: Do you think that sometimes people go a bit too far in creating materials from waste products instead of using materials from renewable sources like wood, for example?
S.P.: There are a lot of ways to change the way we work now. One way to close the material cycles by recycling materials from other industries. You can call it waste! The other way is to stay in the biological circle, to only work with natural materials without processing them in a way that they could stay in the biological circle. That is a huge challenge!
DMT: Where is the new technology, such as 3D printing, in the creation of innovative materials?
S.P.: The market around 3D printing was growing by 30 % in the last years and the size of the printer is rising. It`s not far away that additive manufacturing processes will affect the furniture industry. It will start with individualized products and the production of spare parts. But why not thinking about using 3D printers in series production. There is a research project going on about Cellulose Printing which could be very interesting for the furniture industry.
DMT: What is the role of scientific research in creating new materials?
S.P.: Researchers are very important in the process of developing new materials. Normally they are funded for a couple of years by the state and have the chance to lay the fundament to transfer an idea about a new material or a production method into a marketable product.
DMT: How brave are architects and designers in their use of new materials?
S.P.: Both are interested in new materials. But for architects it`s more difficult to use them, because the producer need to scale them up for the building industry. Designers work with smaller objects. It is easier for them to use new materials in their work or develop their own materials, if as material with a certain range of properties does not exist.
DMT: What role do designers and architects have in creating and implementing new materials?
S.P.: In the last year we found a lot of new materials that were developed by designers. The main reason was that the materials on the market doesn`t follow the ideas of Circular Economy. As a result quite a high number of very interesting material developments were presented by designers in the last years using unusual resources and/or ways to close the material cycles.
DMT: How does the conservative industry (producing traditional materials which often pollute the environment and harm people’s health) react to revolutionary materials?
S.P.: They react quite slowly, but they have to do something. Otherwise they will loose their clients in the next years. That´s why almost all big brands are now working on projects using sustainable, recycling and or biobased resources.
DMT: What is the shortest definition you would give to the term „sustainable design “?
S.P.: Sustainable design should follow the idea to create products that have a positive influence on the environment.
The interview is featured in DMT issue 6/19.
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