The bright side of waste..
The TETRACTORY COLLECTION is a lighting system made from Tetra Pak containers making use of their (overlooked) property of being able to conduct electricity. More precisely, the material has been unpacked as a large conductive surface – This is achieved by physically separating the surface into a positive and a negative pole a flexible circuit board is generated. Within this setup, the milk carton material fulfills two functions in parallel: one is to offer support to the general structure, the other is to operate as a conductive material for the LEDs. There is no extra wiring involved.
Composite materials are often considered problematic since they require large amounts of energy in order to put various materials together to eventually – if possible at all – separate them later again in a complex recycling process. Beverage cartons have a short life span and accrue in large quantities as waste. Through the TETRACTORY COLLECTION they got a second life. The 'natural characteristics' of the material – light weight and thinness combined with high robustness – enables folding, lasering, hanging and shaping it. The polygon structures are lasered into the printed side of the Tetra Pak and generate playful reflections, unexpected light patterns and shadowy silhouettes.
For the designs Tetra Tile and Tetra Clip I used factory leftovers – large chunks of the Tetra Pak parent role. The Tetractory Collection won the first price of the Materialica Design + Technology Student Award 2013, the Design + Award of the German Design Council, as well as the Green Product Award 2014 .
How does it work?
To obtain the two independent electric poles aluminum and polyethylene, constituting the two outermost layers on the silver side of the Tetra Pak – they have to peeled off in a narrow trace. In turn, on this trace only the cardboard layer remains. This track is not only essential for the technical implementation, but it gives the design its distinctive aesthetics. Form and function are perfectly connected. By using laser technology, the insulating PE layer gets in a last step partially removed in order to expose the conductive aluminum layer. The metal pins of the LEDs for Tetra Tile and the metal spring contacts of the clips for Tetra Clip can now be docked onto the surface. An electrical contact is established – let there be light!
Tetra Tile is a modular lighting system. The single tiles can be flexibly installed on walls, ceilings or freely suspended in space. The blue connection cables incorporate a ball magnet at the end. Once this magnet is engaged with the metal grommets attached to the Tetra Pak, electricity can flow from one tile to the next. Therefore only one tile needs to be connected to the socket which allows for light to be distributed flexibly in large areas without multiple cables dangling in the air. This makes the system very attractive on a larger scale, such as trade shows or galleries. For Tetra Tile, I developed special LEDs. Each one has a built-in limiting resistor which ensures the distribution of the LEDs anywhere on the track just by plunging them directly into the material. This way of applying single LEDs supports the natural flexibility of the milk carton material.
Through magnetic cables the electricity gets transferred seamlessly from tile to tile.
With the same technique on each tile a third - neutral - pole gets created. The cardboard trace cuts off the current between the metal grommet – where the cables plug – and the LEDs. By pushing on a simple paper clip a bridge gets generated, the current flows and the lights turn on. This simple switch makes it possible to turn every tile on and off separately.
Tetra Clip is the other design of the Tetractory Collection. In this design the LEDs are integrated in 3D printed clips. As soon as the clips get plugged into the Tetra Pak circuit board, the LEDs illuminate. Tetra Clip invites the user to playfully interact. The clips are flexibly to arrange and thus give the option to customize the placement of the LED's and therefore the light. Furthermore the clips can be used to arrange the Tetra Pak into three dimensional shapes by tightening the material over the lasered structure and fixing it with the clips. I designed the clips On both sides of the separating brown cardboard trace are holes with bared circles around. By putting the 'noses' of the clips through the wholes, a metal spring contact pushes against the blank aluminum. An electric contact is created and the LEDs light up.
Thanks to 'Tetra Pak' for their donations as well as the interest, time and will to collaborate.