Material samples as a source of inspiration

Material samples as a source of inspiration

Guest post by Erik Haastrup Müller of
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Many designers and engineers rely on material samples to get a better understanding of material properties. This is especially true for designers of consumer products where the look and feel has a great influence on the reception in the market. Product manufacturers, design studios, and educational institutions therefore collect material samples to build up their own in-house material collections.

It is a resource intensive task to source material samples from manufacturers and to write the necessary documentation for the samples. Therefore many material collections within companies end up as neglected pile of random samples with little value to the product developers.

In 2013 was launched with the goal of giving product developers much easier access to materials samples and small quantities of a broad range of materials. MaterialSampleShop offers around 100 different material samples and new samples are added regularly. The samples are selected to support and inspire product developers and they all come with attached information cards with general information about the material, its current applications, and contact information for the manufacturer.

Information cards from MaterialSampleShop

Here are a couple of material samples found in MaterialSampleShop:

TimeStripTimeIndicatorTimestrip labels show for how long a product has been open or has been in use. The label is activated by pushing an ink-filled blister on the label, which causes the ink to slowly migrate through a micro-porous material via capillary action at a constant rate. Timestrips are available in variants that can measure elapsed time from minutes up to a year or more.

The labels are used to indicate the freshness of perishable food or they are attached to appliances, such as air conditioners and water filters, to remind users to change filters. It has been integrated in a lip gloss to provide a clear visual indication of when it should be discarded.
Here is a toothbrush with a Timestrip build into the handle.TimestripToothbrush
You can read more about Timestrips and order a sample here.

Water-Activated Graphics

WaterActivatedGraphicsText and graphics are printed on paper with a transparent hydrophobic (water-repellent) ink. The printed areas will not absorb liquids and will therefore keep the paper’s colour, while the non-printed areas will turn opaque and reveal the dark base colour when wetted. The colour change is reversed when the paper dries; the paper can therefore be activated multiple times.

Water-activated graphics are used to convey marketing messages on beverage coasters and labels. It is also used for greeting cards, ads in magazines, and lottery tickets.
You can read more about water-activated graphics and order a sample here.

PLA Foam

PLA FoamLightweight foam that is made from expanded Poly-Lactid Acid (PLA) polymer, which is derived from renewable sources such as starch or sugar. The foam’s properties are similar to that of expanded polystyrene (EPS aka Styrofoam®), including excellent heat insulation and impact resistance. The foam can be processed using standard EPS shape-moulding equipment.

The foam is used as a substitute for expanded polystyrene for packaging to reduce the carbon footprint. The unbonded PLA beads are used for cavity-fill insulation and as fill in beanbag furniture.
You can read more about PLA foam and order a sample here.

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Collector of material samples, materials consultant, and supplier of material libraries for curious designers and engineers. Owner of and Futation.

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