Mould breakers

Structural packaging

Design Bridge Structure was set up four years ago as a sister company to branding specialist Design Bridge to specialise in structural packaging. Nowadays, as well as having clients such as McVitie’s and Bass Breweries on its books, it claims to be the largest dedicated structural packaging design company in Europe.

“Because we’re 3D designers, it’s important to get into three dimensions early on,” says

creative director Peter Kay. A typical Design Bridge Structure project will involve models at almost every stage from idea to completion.

“The first models are produced very quickly in Plasticine, plaster and rigid foams. We produce a wide range of designs to start with and at each progressive step we narrow that range down to arrive at a final solution,” says Kay. The designs pass through various media as they get resolved: models are captured on digital cameras and worked on-screen.

For on-screen projects Design Bridge Structure uses Alias, a surface modelling environment running on Silicon Graphics workstations. As Kay points out: “The earlier you can input digital data, the more time you save later. The advantages of creating 3D objects on-screen is that you can stretch and squeeze in a way you can’t with a hard model, and you can look at many more iterations. The computer also tells you how changes in shape are affecting volume. From the digital data you can produce an accurate machined model and 2D images of how the project will work with the surface graphics, which is great for presentations.”

Consumer and research groups are used extensively in testing out ideas in any particular design, and being able to produce high-quality prototypes for them is invaluable, says Kay.

“Research plays a big part in what we do – we’re talking high volumes and high expenditure because nobody wants to make a mistake. You get the best quality feedback from the best

stimulus – in this case an accurate model.”

The trophies for the Intertoto Cup produced last year for UEFA’s summer European football tournament highlights the branding aspect of Design Bridge’s work alongside the 3D design. The original plans were drawn in 2D using Alias. From this a model, mixing old and new technology, was produced. The upper sphere was made using a recent process called stereo lithography. Using data from the on-screen model, lasers are guided through a bath of liquid resin. The resin cures at the points where the beams cross, producing an accurate hard resin model. The detailing on this is so fine that even the threads of a screw could be reproduced. The smoother base of the stand was machine-carved, and because the model was produced from digital data all the components of the trophy fitted together perfectly. A range of 2D on-screen models was completed in various colour schemes and finishes, allowing the client freedom of choice before the trophies were finally cast. The project was completed in less than three months from start to finish.

As Kay sums it up: “The thing about the technology we have now is that you can quickly try things out that would have taken months before.”

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