Ed van Hinte is an industrial designer who specialises in lightweight structures. Around 20 years ago he wrote a book on the subject, Light-ness, and has another in preparation to cover the many developments in this field since.
By Kim Hollamby: METSTRADE Online Community reporter
In his presentation at the METSTRADE InnovationLAB today Ed explained that:
"There are energy gains to be made from making any product lighter. One very obvious example being on an airliner where a 100kg weight saving can translate into 19,000lt of fuel savings annually. This explains the move to carbon fibre with airliners like the Airbus A350."
He showed how lightweight buildings made from foam and textiles hang key features such as stairways from carefully designed structures. They can save substantial material and transportation cost compared to conventional designs made from stacked bricks.
Another example shown of how sustainability is achieved from lightweight structures is a bridge made of fibrecore that saves 95 per cent weight over its concrete equivalent. It is also designed as an integrated structure so that, in the event of a flood, it floats away as a unit and can be retrieved and re-used.
More inspirational again was a design he showed for a giant fabric sail, 1cm thick, with a float on its front edge designed to absorb a 20m wave from a tsunami.
Turning to the marine industry Ed acknowledged that designing for lightness was already commonplace, citing the example of textile shackles that have come in to use as replacements for metal ones.
He emphasised that achieving lightness was not so much about the material choices and pointed out that concrete is actually lighter than aluminium – it is not the material density that counts but how it is used.
Ed closed by saying that he could see much good work was happening in the marine industry on an individual product basis, but for a perfectly optimised lightweight product, from a boat to even a travel hoist, the supply chain needs to take a fully integrated approach. That in his view is the next step required to see more improvements.