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Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association

Innovation in Plastics Design: ‘What it Takes to Win the Horner’s Award’

John McLoughlin demonstrating the impact resistance of Durakerb


The prestigious Horners’ Award is run jointly with the British Plastics Federation (BPF) and the Worshipful Company of Horners (an ancient guild and livery company of the City of London) and is awarded for innovation in plastics design and manufacture or in the processing of plastics. The award is believed to be the longest established Design Award for Plastics in the world and is a cornerstone of the Horners’ many activities supporting Design and Education in the Plastics Industry. The first competition was held in 1947, attracting some 14 entries. Since that point the award has gone from strength to strength.
In 2008, the Durakerb® system was the winner of the award, whose judges were greatly impressed by the overall design concept of the Durakerb system, which is manufactured from a blend of recycled polyethylene and polypropylene and aims to help specifiers and contractors comply with Government requirements for sustainable construction. Durakerb is a revolutionary, lightweight and environmentally friendly kerbstone system that complies with health and safety guidelines for manual handling.

John Mcloughlin's Background

John McLoughlin, POLYnnovation consultancy
John McLoughlin has extensive experience of the polymer design process, having spent the last thirty-eight years in the polymer industry in a variety of roles, from design and rapid prototyping to quality control and training. In addition, John has also been very active professionally, as a former member of the (now defunct) Polymer Design Group of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), a member of the working party for the Design Innovation in Plastics Award, regular judging panel member for the annual Plastics Industry Awards and formerly Chairman of the Manchester Polymer Group.

In his introduction, John described his deep involvement with the re-launch of the iconic JCB back hoe loader, which has many plastic components manufactured using a variety of processes, such as rotomoulding and RIM. He showed examples of other products he has been involved with over his career, such as a range of tumblers, an olive oil bottle and a seed tray.

The Durakerb Story

Before and after impact test on conventional concrete kerbstone
John firstly set up a dramatic live demonstration of Durakerb, by enlisting the help of four strong members of the audience to help lift a 67 kg concrete kerbstone onto a table. Having first set up a safety screen and wearing safety goggles, he then proceeded to hit the kerbstone with a sledge hammer, easily cracking it in half. By comparison, he lifted the 5.4 kg Durakerb onto the table by himself then enthusiastically hit it several times with the sledge hammer, causing it to bounce but not break or dent. John then took out his penknife and proceeded to cut the Durakerb producing chips but could make little impression on the concrete, apart from producing some dust.

This demonstration highlighted several advantages of the Durakerb over the concrete kerbstone:
• Low weight, reducing musculoskeletal injuries from lifting
• Exceptional impact resistance, leading to longer kerb life
• No dust from cutting, totally eliminating exposure to crystalline silica
• Low noise from cutting

Other advantages of the Durakerb over concrete are:
• dramatically reduced transportation costs, despite the higher unit cost (more than twice that of concrete), because 1248 units can be carried per lorry load, compared to only 360 concrete kerbstones
• no mechanical handling equipment is required to load and unload and limb trap accidents are eliminated
• it is four to six times faster to lay, due to its extremely light weight and the patented interlock feature

Durakerb design for radiused kerb, showing internal ribbing and patented interlock feature
Durakerb is made from a blend of HDPE and PP recyclate with chalk filler, rendering it fully recyclable and carbon-negative. The key development stages in design started with a prototype moulding which had long process times and a very heavy cross-section, so the wall section thickness was reduced, improving the quality of the moulding and also reducing the process times. Extra internal ribbing was introduced to give the shape stability and increased strength. Infra-red temperature sensing of the prototype when it was demoulded was used to identify the regions liable to distortion, leading to further tooling development, in particular the mould cooling system. Analysis of the moulding using Moldflow and Moldcool led to further improvements in tooling design.
top: Moldflow mould filling simulation; bottom: thermal image of demoulded Durakerb

Having developed the product, it then required certification and, in the absence of a British Standard, fitness-for-purpose testing was required for BBA (British Board of Agrément) Approval and to satisfy HAPAS (Highways Authority Product Approval Scheme) requirements. This testing covered standard mechanical tests such as the Charpy Impact Test, compressive and bending strength, plus some less well known tests, such as slip-skid resistance.

With all the positive comparisons with the concrete kerbstone, it was no surprise to learn that the concrete lobby had some objections to the introduction of Durakerb, in much the same way that cast iron bath manufacturers objected to the introduction of plastic baths.
However, the following environmental considerations have helped Durakerb to find a place in the kerbstone market:

• Huge reduction in carbon emissions, compared with concrete units in manufacture
• Manufactured using a polymer blend of 100% recycled material, the rest being calcium carbonate (i.e., chalk, or recycled sea shells)
• Extremely durable, offering a substantial reduction in spalling, minimising remedial and maintenance costs
• Resistance to typical chemicals and road salts used in highway construction and maintenance
• Proven durability, as it has been used in the UK since 2006

In 2009, the range of Durakerb products has expanded to include low kerbs for entranceways and a range of radii. Secondary heat shaping is used to produce the radius variants, because numbers do not justify the high cost of injection moulds…yet! Over 200,000 units have been installed so far and a 2011 Northern Ireland Directive plans to phase out concrete kerbs entirely, opening up a great opportunity for Durakerb.

John was keen to stress that there is no such thing as a “green” product, material, or process: it’s not a destination but a journey to becoming “greener”, which requires clever action, not just clever talk. To make the journey successful, design, materials, processes, energy consumption, embedded energy and reclaimable energy must all be considered. He stressed that persistence pays off and that environmentally driven projects are more likely to bear fruit if other benefits can be achieved in parallel.

Health and Safety benefits of Durakerb
In addition to the Horners’ Award, Durakerb has received the Building Magazine Awards 2006 for a significant contribution to the industry's health and efficiency, Highway Magazine’s Excellence Awards 2007, runner-up Best Health and Safety Product and the Institution of Highways and Transportation 2008 Health & Safety at Work Award for being “Particularly innovative in both functional and environmental terms”.

The meeting was well attended, with numbers boosted by the attendance of eighteen delegates from the Polymer Study Tour: mainly teachers and trainee teachers from Scotland with two from England, one from Belgium and another from Germany.

Report by Sheila Patrick, SPRA Member, July 2011

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