Smart Ideas for Plastics Processing

Published Jul-03-12

An open innovation contest for novel ideas and concepts for plastics processing.

Reifenhauser, Germany

The Story:

Smart Ideas for Plastics Processing Idea contests have given the world many new ideas and novel concepts. They’ve helped us navigate the high seas (thanks to John Harrison’s marine chronometer) sent numerous planes and airships across oceans, continents and into the record books, and may soon get private individuals soaring high above the Earth.

Organised and sponsored by governments, private and public organisations and specialist interests they have captured the imaginations of innovators and entrepreneurs and spurred them on to ever greater achievements.

There is of course, nothing particularly new about the prize-based incentive model, but what is happening today is that they are pervasive, with companies big and small in all corners of the globe and in all sectors leveraging the power of crowd to solve business problems and come up with novel products, services and concepts.

Extrusioners Innovation Contest

One of those is Reifenhauser, a global leader in extrusion processes. It sponsored The Extrusioners Innovation Contest to seek out new and innovative ideas for plastics processing.

Once participants had joined the contest community they could submit their own ideas in any of the three categories - products, processes and machines - as well as comment and evaluate those of fellow participants.

To focus enthusiastic and bright minds the contest compiled a short list of questions about plastics processing that needed to be addressed:

What new products can be produced with extrusion?
What new processes or changes can be implemented to the extrusion process?
What new machine developments can be deployed in plastics extrusion?

There was an eight week submission period, and during that time more than 100 ideas were received from participants in more than 20 countries.

Contest Winners

There were three top prizes:

The first prize and a check for 7,000 Euros (approx. USD $8, 650) went to Freidrich for an energy recovery system during the extrusion process. According to the jury, “... the participant shows the possibility for energy recovery that exploits the great temperature differences in extrusion and thereby can be used in many areas of extrusion. That the participant falls back on already existing technologies goes to show that a completely new development is not always decisive for innovation...”

The second prize and a check for 5,000 Euros was awarded to michvdbent for an extruded flow drainage system. Called exow street it’s a new kind of street that allows water to flow through bricks into the sewer rather than stay on the road surface. This of particular benefit during periods of excessive rain where large volumes of water can be a road safety hazard.

The third prize and a check for 3,000 Euros went to Nivedita0011 for an idea to use nonwoven material instead of tape fabric as a substrate for artificial turf. This has the advantage of acting more like natural turf as it can absorb moisture and gradually release it again.

In addition to the prize money each of these winning ideas were at the time they were announced (July 2011), being put forward for possible joint further development.

As a reflection of Reifenhauser’s gratitude to participants and the lively and insightful discussions that the novel concepts provoked, everyone who entered an idea but had won no other prize received 100 Euros.

"We are surprised how much time the participants have invested in the competition and how open and intensively the ideas were discussed," said Dr Bernd Kunze, member of Reifenhäuser's corporate management.

"The sometimes unconventional approaches true to the competition motto 'Thinking outside the box' have definitively stimulated us to reflection and to discussions. It is therefore advantageous also during brainstorming to be open for new paths. Currently, we are thinking about how we can continue open innovation."

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