WDE Spotlight: Lio Huntjens

In WDE Spotlight, we give the floor to several designers from the Embassies. This time we speak with Lio Huntjes, part of the Embassy of Rethinking Plastic in 2021. What is her background? What inspires her? What does she hope to achieve with her work? You’ll read about it in this Q&A!

Type Update
Published on 7 April 2022
Part of Embassy of Rethinking Plastic
WDE Spotlight: Lio Huntjens
Part of Embassy of Rethinking Plastic

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and your design practice?

Hi, I’m Lio Huntjens. I am currently a first-year master’s student of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), where I also completed my bachelor Industrial Design. For my projects, I prefer to work with the topics aesthetics of design, tangibility, sustainability and working with innovative technology (from 3D printing to the use of Artificial Intelligence). Furthermore, this year I had the opportunity to join the Young Talent Team of Yksi Expo, where we offer a platform for designers and companies involved in sustainability and circularity projects.

Your project was part of the Embassy of Rethinking Plastic during Dutch Design Week 2021. What can you tell us about this project and what stage is it in now?

The Food for Packaging project, my bachelor’s graduation project at TU/e, investigates the possibilities of bioplastics based on agar (a substance made from algae, ed.) in combination with food waste for more sustainable packaging design. In addition, new possibilities are created for communicating brand identity through innovative technologies such as 3D printing and sublimation printing. I completed this project, supervised by Prof. Loe Feijs and Chetram Bangaru, last year. It is in the early stages of exploring the production possibilities of the various agar-based materials.

Can you explain how the project relates to the narrative of this Embassy?

It looks at the possibilities of using more sustainable materials that can be used as alternative options for packaging design to current plastic packaging designs. Furthermore, this project investigates the possibilities for circularity through the use of food waste for the mate0000rials. The use of alternative materials and circularity are two of many topics where the Embassy of Rethinking Plastic sees an opportunity to think about and deal with the use of plastic differently.

In this project, you investigated the possibilities of bioplastic based on agar (a substance made from algae) in combination with food waste. What prompted you to research this and develop food packaging with it?

During my exchange period at ELISAVA in Barcelona 2020, a professor said during his course on packaging design, “When you design for packaging design, you are designing trash”. As a newcomer to the field of packaging design (although this obviously applies to several design fields), this made a big impression on me. I have been trying to be more aware of what happens to the design after the use phase ever since. After finishing that course, I wanted to know more about the possibilities of potential alternative materials for packaging design. I also came into contact with the topic of circularity here, which is how I ended up using food waste. Projects such as KUORI, Bio’C, Agro and Upprinting Food have inspired me a lot during my project and/or the designers have given me advice on this.

You printed the different packaging in 3D; why did you choose this production method?

Initially, I looked at other options for turning the materials into a packaging design; examples of this are the bowl with a lid and the bag made from residual strawberry waste. Later on, the 3D print shape explorations were added. Just after the start of my Bachelor’s graduation project, the TU/e had purchased a new 3D printer that could print with ceramics. The structure of the agar starch (the white coloured material in the photos) made it seem like a potential candidate for this method, and it turned out to be! I wanted to explore the possibilities and made a lot of samples. So it is still a work in progress, but it is an accessible method, and you can do a lot with it in terms of design, which is very promising.

Food for packaging is your final bachelor’s project. Do you plan to further research and develop this after graduation?

At the moment, I’m busy with my master’s. I’m leaving the project to rest for a while to come back to it with a fresh perspective. Maybe I’ll come back to it during one of my master projects, because I really enjoyed figuring out how sustainable materials can be used in combination with innovative technology, such as the 3D ceramic printer. Hopefully, that will make the use of these types of alternative materials much more interesting.

You have already stated that the Food for packaging project is not directly problem-solving. Do you think it could be in the future?

Yes, there is still a lot to discover about the best production method(s) for these types of bioplastics. In addition, there are some hurdles to overcome regarding the material itself that cannot yet compete with the material properties of plastic and the accuracy of 3D printing. Furthermore, unfortunately, there are no favourable regulations regarding biodegradable bioplastics concerning waste processing, which also makes the use of these types of bioplastics less attractive for stakeholders.

What kind of design/project would you like to realize in the future and why?

Of course, it seems very interesting to me to look further into the possibilities of 3D printing technologies and sustainable materials. However, at the moment, I also find haptic design very interesting, and I would like to be more involved with the topic aesthetics of intelligence. Combining some of these subjects in a project would be great, but that is something I will discover in the second year of my master’s.

Can you name another interesting designer dealing with the same theme, and why is their work so strong in your eyes?

I can name so many! But one of the projects that is similar in subject matter and that has inspired me a lot during my own project is Sarah Harbarth’s KUORI project. She uses banana peels as a basis for a more sustainable material with which she currently makes shoe soles. She was also able to make a filament of the material for 3D printing, which I think is super cool!

How do you think you can make an impact with your work?

With my project, I hope to show that the use of bioplastics with innovative technology (and not only with standard production methods or 3D printers) offers interesting possibilities, especially in design. Furthermore, it is a call to change the regulations surrounding waste processing of bioplastics to make it more attractive and accessible to use these types of alternative materials in our daily lives.

If you could choose one person to work with (a scientist, artist, philosopher, biologist, designer, politician, anyone), who would you choose and why?

I really like Philipp Hainke’s projects at the moment. His projects are very diverse, but the subjects that I also find interesting. From 3D printed shoes to a water-resistant biological coating. I would like to work with him on a project.

For or with which company would you like to do a project? And what kind of project would that be?

Neri Oxman’s team is exploring the possibilities of water-based digital fabrication. Here they are looking at possibilities for developing the 3D printing of biomaterials. I think it would be super interesting to know more about this and contribute to the process’s development.

Lio Huntjens
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