I had only just joined the Aluminium Federation – and the aluminium industry come to that – when I was invited to the Alu D&T Challenge celebration event at Thinktank last March. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and creativity of the finalists – in fact, so impressed was I with the standard of the competition that I immediately volunteered to be a judge for the 2017 Awards. I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s entries, but in the meantime here are a few personal thoughts that may be useful for those taking part in the Challenge.
Background research is vital. The resources pack contains some great material, and there are also some excellent videos online that cover both aluminium products and how they are made. And do have a look at past finalists for inspiration, and to see how they have incorporated the ‘6 Rs’ of sustainability in their designs.
I’d also urge you to ‘get physical’ and investigate for yourself existing products in everyday use that use aluminium, and consider why this material has been chosen and how the product may have been made. Your school may have aluminium window frames, and aluminium may feature elsewhere in its construction (a small magnet will help here!)
At home, you’ll find aluminium being used all around you. Take a look in the kitchen, in the bathroom (and hopefully in the recycling), and see how aluminium bas been pressed to form food and drink containers and health and beauty products, and what a versatile packaging product aluminium (it’s not tin or silver…) foil is. While you’re there, take a look at that marvel of packaging, the aluminium can. How do you think it is made to be so light? If you compare the weights of an empty and a full drinks can, you will see just how efficient aluminium packaging can be.
Stepladders are often made using extruded aluminium, so are both light and strong, and can be carried to where they are needed with ease. Could these be useful properties in your design? Many bikes use aluminium, in the frame and wheels. What’s your bike made of?
When out shopping, look out for products made wholly or partly from aluminium. Suitcases, water bottles, rucksack frames, laptops, smartphones, cooking utensils…the list is endless. And much of the shopping centre itself may be aluminium, though it may at first appear to be another material – again a magnet will come in handy.
On the subject of ‘getting physical’, I was pleased to see that some of last years’ finalists had made models of their designs, although this isn’t a requirement of the Challenge. They don’t have to be detailed, or made from aluminium – although aluminium foil is a useful material for this. But a simple model made from cardboard and other materials can both help you in the design process, and help others to ‘get’ your design more quickly.
Have a great time working on your designs, and I hope to see you at ThinkTank next year. Good Luck!
Jan is Technical Manager at the Aluminium Federation