Superglue pen

Current superglue packaging aims at being practical and cost effective. Though it is average in these regards, the design does not consider the environment at all. The Superglue Pen aims to improve the usability and sustainability of superglue packaging through an elegant mechanical pen designed to dispense glue for quick fixes. The completely recyclable aluminium pen, manufactured by green methods, reduces the product’s carbon footprint by more than two thirds at a similar cost.

The correctly portioned capsules are a defining feature of this design. Stored in the barrel of the pen, these capsules are the key to reducing product wastage. The unique surface design is based on the Yoshimura Pattern which allows the capsules to be evenly compressed to extrude the glue during use.

The pen’s cap serves a dual purpose, not only does it act as a cover to keep the contents of the pen from falling out, but it also has a concealed piercing tool for the glue capsules (just visible in the image to the left). The mechanism behind the use of the capsules as well as the relevance of this tool is explained below.

The final more complex part of the pen  are the spring pads. The two pads are connected by an expanding telescopic mechanism with springs in between pushing the pads apart. These interact with the other pen components to control the flow of glue during use.

The two pads can be locked in place on the barrel of the pen so one can pierce the capsule.

Releasing the lower pad allows the spring to exert a force on the capsule to extruding the glue.

Releasing the upper spring pad relaxes the spring stopping the glue from dispensing.

Context

Today, the words “Throw-away Culture” are often used to describe society’s attitude towards consumer products. Even as one of the most developed countries in the world, the UK still produces more than 170 million tonnes of waste a year. What’s more, this figure is only expected to increase – predictions say that our waste production will triple in the coming century. In recent years packaging has contributed to more than 5% of this total waste. Although this may seem like small figure, packaging is mostly composed of lower density materials such as paper and plastic; therefore, by volume, packaging constitutes a significant proportion of the garbage we produce. In an effort to solve this problem, I chose to redesign superglue packaging for sustainability. Over the course of two terms, I researched the product and the industry, designed and built a demonstrative prototype, and presented my concept: the Superglue Pen.

Team

I had the opportunity to work on this project individually which gave me the chance to develop a deeper understanding of the design tools used in research and concept generation. Although I have valued working in a team for other projects throughout the year, working alone really helped me understand my own style, strengths, and design process. It also helped me understand the value of working within a group. One thing I really struggled with on my own was brainstorming ideas. I found that I am better at idea generation when I have someone I can bounce ideas off of. In this project, I looked to my tutors for guidance and conversation; down the line, this insight has proved invaluable to me for projects I have worked on later in the year. I now always take the initiative to discuss my ideas or projects with other people – especially those who work in dissimilar fields as a way of refreshing my perspective.

Process

The design process I followed for this project was extremely research intensive. This approach helped me learn what types of questions to ask when creating a product design specification and the variety of ways in which you can gain information regarding  your project – both directly and indirectly. My research into superglue and its packaging helped me find key issues which I wanted to tackle in my final design. I learned that the issues with the sustainability of superglue are two-fold. Not only are the combinations of materials making the packaging unsustainable, but also the design itself leads to a lot of product wastage. I also found from my later stages of research that the superglue packaging doesn’t provide a clean or simple user experience. My goal was to solve both the sustainability problems and, for a more complete solution, improve the usability of superglue packaging.

Journey

I first thought of a simple design solution, very similar to the existing packaging design. I had learned that superglue usage is often in small amounts, so the key to reducing product wastage for such a low shelf-life product would be to ensure that the glue is packaged in small portions. The problem with this first solution was that the packaging was now more challenging to use due to the size of each tube. Moreover, the material selection didn’t provide a significant increase in sustainability – I had only tackled one aspect of the problem. Inspired by the very thing I was using to write down all my notes on this product’s design, I decided to create a pen. One with replaceable capsules and an elegant mechanism for extruding the glue. My design was inspired reverse engineering exiting pens but given that there was nothing on the market with exact specifications I needed, I ultimately decided to invent my own design.

Appraisal

I received an honourable mention for the innovative design I created, but realised there was still a lot to add to my design to make the product feasible. This project taught me that when designing an ideal solution, it is easy to get carried away in features and components. To design for commercial viability, it is vital to bear in mind the manufacturing and cost for any product. Although I had done research regarding potential manufacturing methods, as I was asked questions about my final product from my peers and mentors, it became clear that there may have been a few gaps in my reasoning. As a result, I learned that when it comes to design, we are dealing with more than just aesthetics and usability - we are looking to validate every decision we make from a holistic viewpoint. Our arguments must always be airtight because even the smallest weakness, if in the wrong place, can make a design impractical.