Based around an independent and continuously growing collection of over 2,000 innovative materials, Materia aims to connect professionals through various media such as exhibitions and conferences. Today marks the first day of one such exhibition at Rotterdam with the theme “The Smart Environment”, presenting a wide range of cutting-edge materials accompanied by a select number of seminars.
Products are becoming ever more complex in their functionality, yet are not becoming more complex to operate. On the contrary: products are increasingly easier to interact with and operate as the human-machine interaction is more closely moulded to our needs and our limitations. This advancement is made possible due to a high level of integration of all the various disciplines involved in product development. All aspects of a product, from PCB to ABS housing and active to passive, synergise to fulfil a common goal.
Of course, the above is from the perspective of a product developer working for an OEM’er. The real beauty is: the above does not only apply to products in the conventional sense, it applies to all things created artificially. New technologies with regards to materials and surface treatment make it so that anything that previously fulfilled its function in an exclusively passive manner (e.g. roads, walls, fabric) is now able to fulfil additional active functions. And that opens up a whole new world of marvellous possibilities.
Materia aims to stimulate the development of new applications for these innovative materials. Recurring topics of today’s exhibition are related to 3D printing and biomimicry; the latter is why I was most interested in attending, especially due to seminars by David Oakey and Michael Pawlyn.
It is interesting to hear first-hand experiences regarding successful large scale commercial implementations of biomimicry influenced products. Michael Pawlyn’s seminar was particularly inspiring: he has a hands-on approach to support the paradigm shift to move from an industrial society to an ecological based one. And that approach is quite refreshing to see in action: while there is a consensus that we need to be more sustainable, all means seem to focus on reducing severity of the problem (downcycling) rather than addressing the real issue (enabling cradle-to-cradle).
Pawlyn’s seminar addressed three crucial changes that we need to bring about the paradigm shift described above. These three vital transformations are, firstly, radical increases in resource efficiency. Shifting from a linear, and wasteful or polluting way of using resources, towards a completely closed-loop model is the next. The third, and perhaps the most challenging, is moving from a fossil fuel economy to a solar economy. Illustrated with a number of recent projects he shared his view on how biomimicry can be used to develop ideas that go beyond standard approaches to sustainability. Of course we still have a long way to go towards creating a sustainable society, but every step taken is one step closer to that ambition.
Due to an unfortunate simultaneous laptop and external hard drive malfunction I will not be able to add any photos of the event for the time being, but I will do so as soon as my data is recovered.