The 12 Best Designs From 2009's International Plastics Design Competition

The 2009 International Plastics Design Competition (IPDC) took place in Chicago in June and the 12 winners are absolutely awesome products, innovators in their respective fields as well as in plastics engineering. And they were all designed to be sustainable, cost effective, and to reduce our carbon footprint.

The event, sponsored by the Alliance of Plastic Processors, awarded 12 product designs in categories such as Recreation and Leisure, Furniture, Packaging and Materials, and Retail... but first the People's Choice Award!



1.  People's Choice Award: Excelec & CIA Prepaid Energy Meter




This innovative device was designed by the Research Institute for Plastics and Rubber at EAFIT University in Columbia, South America.  The device is intended for poor people in rural Columbia who can't afford to pay for a constant supply of energy to power their homes. The Prepaid Energy Meters work a lot like prepaid cell phones.  You contract for a specific amount of power for a specific amount of time, and when you are ready for some light, just dial it in. Once US dollar can buy about 2 hours of light.

Not only impressive in concept and ecological design, the product was commended for the ecological choice of materials and technical features.  For example, the Prepaid Energy Meter is made from post-consumer recycled PET from soda and water bottles and the batteries are lead-free.


2.  Best Recreation & Leisure Award: Durham Boat Competition Aero Oar



Designed by Michael Dreher, the Aero Oar shaft and blade are aerodynamically designed for maximum air resistance.  Stiff and lightweight, the Competition Oar is made of high modulus carbon and syntactic foam.  The handle is adjustable and removable with a fit under the sleeve of the oar.


3.  Best Furniture Award: The Embody® Chair By Herman Miller



The ultimate in ergonomic sitting, Herman Miller's latest biomechanical desk chair, the Embody, had input from healthcare, ergonomics, and material science professionals, but the design was by Jeff Weber and the late Bill Stumpf.  The innovation of the Embody Chair is freedom of movement; that is, both the seat and the back of the chair move with you while while they support you.  So lean over, lean back, get comfortable; the Embody's going with you.



4.  Best Packaging & Materials Handling Award:  Sosa Tech-Advisors' High Impact Plastic Pallet



They said it couldn't be done, but industrial engineer Sergio Sosa did the previously impossible: he made a high impact pallet that was stronger and cheaper in price than those that were already in use.  If at first he didn't succeed, he was persistent, and he achieved his goal by inventing a  new hybrid manufacturing process: inside injection foaming (iif).  Foam is injected into the a part while it is being molded, giving greater strength, higher impact performance, and rigidity to the part.  The processing time of the part was decreased by 50 seconds as a result, the cost of materials was reduced, and the pallet can resist the weight of a bundle dropped by a forklift!


5.  Best Sustainable Consumer Product:  KOR ONE Hydration Vessel 



The Kor One water bottle does much more than meets the eye.  First, of course, it's sustainable.  You'll note it's clear as glass (this design has a nice sea blue tint), and it is made a new copolyester plastic, Tritan by Eastman, which marries the heat resistant properties of copolyester with the clarity of polycarbonate.  Not only is it perfectly safe to drink from, it is also very high impact, machine washable, and it looks great!

The Kor One cap is designed for one-handed operation with a cap you can flip open with your thumb and that stays open until you close it.  The bottle is easy to refill from a sink, refrigerator, or water cooler.


6. Best Single Part Award:  The Rotomolded Plastic School Desk




Aren't these inviting enough to make you wish you were in sixth grade again?   The designer, Investigación y Desarrollo C.A., was commissioned by the Venezuelan government to create a comfortable, colorful one-piece desk for Venezuelan schools.  Several innovations were created in the design and rotational molding process to create a plastic chair as sturdy as a wood chair, and a four part mold needed to be built to accommodate those needs as well as the very strict dimensions required for final delivery of the chairs.  But done now, all you can say is "Cool!"

7.  Best Lawn & Garden Agriculture Award: John Deere Seed Tube



The John Deere Seed Tube is deceptively simple looking, but apparently there were many creative and innovative mold making and molding steps that had to be taken to make it work.  If you are a mold maker or an injection molder, the details should interest you.


8.  Best Retail Award: Target All Plastic Shopping Cart



It looks familiar but it's not the same, is it?  Target substituted the metal handle and rims with plastic, and achieved a distinctive look with better handling, lighter weight, and less destructive corners. The casters even look like they were moved back so perhaps they won't run over one's toes. The plastic shopping carts require less maintenance, are lighter to ship, and expected to last longer.  There's a safer, more durable safety seat too, for kids.


9.  Judges' Best Award:  Thermoset Food Service Platter



There are many things which can be learned only by working or living in a specific environment; otherwise there may not be a motivation to learn.  "Fajita problems" are one of those things.  If you don't work in a restaurant that serves fajitas in the traditional Mexican fashion, à la hot iron skillet with plywood under-liner, then you would not know about the problems with this method of service: plywood does not protect the underlying table from the heat, it does nothing to retain the heat of the skillet, and it can even burn the server. 

Keith Nybakke of Nuhill Technologies Inc. designed Hot Solutions as a service food tray to eliminate fajita problems. Using a thermoset plastic, actually two different BMC materials molded simultaneously, Hot Solutions keeps server and patron safely away from the skillet, looses less heat, and prevents damage to table surfaces.  I'd say that is a hot solution!


10.  Best Automotive/Transportation Award: BMW Twin Sheet Blow Molded Automotive Fuel System



BMW of North American developed the twin sheet mold to minimize the problem of evaporated fuel loss, thereby reducing fuel emissions from 180mg hydrocarbon/day to just 36mg/day for the complete system in one automobile.  Designed by Inergy Automotive, the innovative details make my eyes cross, so for you molders out there, here you go.


11.  Best Sustainable Industrial/Military Award: Waterbrick



FPM Tooling & Automation patented this plastic container which is capable of carrying water, food, and medical supplies to developing countries.  The plastic is extremely durable, as they must be capable of being dropped in pallets from airplanes or helicopters. 

Now, why are these sustainable you may ask... The interlocking Waterbricks can be assembled to build safe and durable housing, schools, medical facilities or defense positions!


12.  Best Innovative Plastics Design/Medical Award: The Hospira iSecure Syringe



The iSecure Syringe has four non-bonding parts which require three different plastics to manufacture.  Additionally, the individual parts need to meet exact specifications in order to fit together and to do its job.   Production is not difficult, but costly, with four injection molds running separately.  But  John Domkowski / Robert Oshgan, who designed the syringe took a different route, developing one mold to run the four parts in their different materials at one time -- with a cycle time of 10 seconds!  Molders, go for it!



Jul 6, 2009
by Anonymous

Love Enbody Chair

All Unique, love the pallet,must for ALL shipping & storage Distrib companies alone

But that Enbody Chair I like.

Jul 6, 2009
by Anonymous

Say no to plastic

Plastic is poison to all living things.

Jul 8, 2009
by Anonymous

Kor One Hydration Vessel

According to, Tritan is a new BPA-free material that excludes the toxin BPA that is found in polycarbonate. This material is a copolyester - not a polycarbonate.

Jul 8, 2009
by Myra Per-Lee

Kor One Hydration Vessel

Yes, you are correct.  Thank you for pointing that out!

Jul 11, 2009
by Myra Per-Lee

Thanks Joe Brown!

I saw your link and appreciate the notice!  I have a sincere respect for those in the plastics industry from tool and dye to materials to processing. It's a very exciting field. (I have to confess that I work with them regularly on my product designs!)

Jul 16, 2009
by Anonymous

Great Design and it helps -Prepaid energy Meter-

Is amazing the prepaid energy meter!!!! I hope it helps to many people in south america. Great design.