The bright side of waste..

The TETRACTORY COLLECTION is a lighting system based on the idea that Tetra Pak as composite material has in its layered structure of plastic, aluminum and cardboard conducting and insulating qualities similar to a circuit board. Thus the material is understood as a large conductive surface – by the proper division into a positive and a negative pole a flexible circuit board is generated. The Tetra Pak functions simultaneously as the supporting as well as the conductive material for the LEDs. There is no extra wiring involved. 

Composites are often considered as problematic since there is a lot of energy required 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 thickness combined with high robustness – make it possible to fold, to laser, to hang and to shape it. The polygon structures lasered into the printed side of the  Tetra Pak generate playful reflections and amazing light and shadow edges.














For the designs Tetra Tile and Tetra Clip I used factory leftovers – big pieces 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 – the two outermost layers on the silver side of the Tetra Pak – have to get detached in a narrow trace. Thus on this trace only the cardboard layer remains of the compound. This track is not only essential for the technical implementation, but it also 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 are flexible to install on walls, ceilings or freely suspended in space. The engagement of the ball magnet of the cables into grommets attached to the Tetra Pak cause electrical contact and transfer electricity from tile to tile. Thus only one tile needs to be connected to the socket, light can be distributed flexibly also in large areas without multiple cables dangling in the air. This makes the system very attractive on a larger scale, such as for trade shows or galleries. For Tetra Tile I developed special LEDs. Each has a built-in limiting resistor which insures the distribution of the LEDs anywhere on the track just by plunging them directly inside the material. Through this application of single LEDs, the natural flexibility of the Tetra Pak gets supported. 


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 the generous donation, information and will for collaboration.