“From recycling to upcycling”: an interview with Dr. Sascha Peters



Upcycling and sustainable materials cycles are the topic of a special area that is being designed for the upcoming interzum 2017 by Dr. Sascha Peters. We spoke with the renowned expert in materials about the concept behind the special event, innovative uses and manufacturing technologies as well as furniture made from biomaterials.

Dr. Sascha Peters, you were responsible for the special event area “Smart Office Materials” at ORGATEC in October 2016, a role you also held two years ago. “Smart Office Materials” is a format that was initially developed for interzum. What innovations were shown at that presentation? Have your areas of focus changed since the last edition of the trade fair?

In the last few years, we have identified two fields where companies and research institutes are very active in the development of innovative materials that can play a role in modern homes and worlds of work. The number and diversity of applications for smart materials – materials that react to external influences and environmental factors – has increased significantly. Another focus in our special area was on the intelligent use of unusual resources, in most cases natural materials that are not normally used. One of the exhibits was a stool made out of antiseptic birchbark.


What do the new options in materials and processing mean for applications in office architecture and furniture?

Functional materials and the intelligent use of materials give designers and architects of modern work environments the opportunity to work much more consciously with the available resources. Smart materials react automatically to changing influences from the environment and they act to the benefit of people in areas such as shading, climate control, acoustics and lighting. With these materials, office design can really be stripped down to the basics. The use of materials and hence the weight of system components are reduced, which represents the ideal response to the requirement for adaptability in office environments and for workplace flexibility.

“Smart” materials call for innovative forms of production. What interesting approaches are there in this regard, and in which direction are they heading?

Without question, the most interesting development in innovative production methods is 3D printing, a so-called additive manufacturing technology that is not based on conventional, material-subtractive processes, as is the case with milling, turning or drilling. Instead it works by building up or “adding” the material. The biggest advantage of these manufacturing technologies is that even complex component geometries with internal cavity structures can be implemented: these are structures that cannot be produced in any other way. When 3D printing is combined with the options that digitalisation and online data transfer open up, we seem to be a step closer to individualised product manufacturing.


You presented the developments that you have just described during interzum 2015, in the ioi special event area entitled “4th Industrial Revolution: 3D Printing”. What were the main points that were brought out?

We presented some amazing projects to demonstrate the potential applications of generative production methods for interior and furniture designers and looked into different additive technologies as well as the substances and materials that can currently be processed. Live presentations of a food printer and of "BIG Rep", the largest batch-produced FLM (Fused Layer Modeling) system currently available, turned the technology area into a tangible experience.

The next edition of innovation of interior will be presented at interzum 2017. Can you give us a brief overview of what to expect?

We will be devoting the next interzum special event to the subject of “upcycling”. Over the course of the next decade, industrialised societies will be working to improve their use of available resources and make the transition in their industrial production to closed-loop material cycles. The shift away from “consumption” of a resource to its “use” is of especially high importance to material-intensive industries and is becoming a driver of innovation in view of the world’s growing population. New upcycling processes will greatly reduce the use of resources and energy on all levels. Ideally, at the end of the product lifecycle, there should be no waste produced, but instead high-quality materials that can be used as a starting point for a new product lifecycle. Recycling becomes upcycling, so waste is not produced at all and resources remain in the cycle. With the help of some outstanding examples from manufacturers, designers and architects, we will use the “innovation of interior” special event area to reveal the potential of upcycling models and illustrate the functioning of sustainable materials cycles. Special attention will be paid to the recycling of energy in the context of energy-harvesting systems. Visitors will be amazed!

Dr. Sascha Peters is the founder and owner of Haute Innovation - a materials and technology agency based in Berlin.