The InspirON Sustainability Online Video Series: Technical Tools

Relevant Technical Tools And Knowledge Are Key To Achieving Sustainability In Design : But It Must Be Freely Available.

23 Aug, 2021

author avatar
The InspirON Sustainability Online Video Series: Technical Tools

Wevolver recently partnered with Protolabs in the creation of the InspirON Sustainability Series: a tour de force in knowledge sharing and a resource that helps fast-forward design engineers through the growing urgency of climate change mitigation.

By Bram Geenen, CEO, Wevolver

Manufacturers around the world are increasingly realising the true value of sustainability. Corporate investment is increasing in this area through ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) and wider business attention is focusing due to the many practical short- and long-term financial benefits of ‘going green’.

In addition to this the requirements of legislation are ramping up with governments in the UK, the EU and around the world already acting on their sustainability ambitions. Governments will lean heavily on manufacturers so there’s an inevitability to substantial legislative change, but the advantages and opportunities will lie with those who are moving quickly.

This is why we feel it’s important that design engineers have access to the technical tools required to support the move to a more sustainable norm. The InspirON Sustainability Training Hackathon from Protolabs – a knowledge sharing initiative that we’re proud to be a part of – serves as the framework needed to support design engineers in this way. It is a comprehensive resource of global knowledge for design engineers to become more sustainable in their work.

As on-demand sessions that make up the series, broken into four themes and a fifth group of round table discussions, this article looks at the sessions under the theme ‘Technical Tools’ – recorded presentations delivered by global experts providing technical knowledge and important practical tools for sustainability. Let me introduce you to the experts and their presentations.

Note: To watch the full videos you'll be asked to sign up to the Wista platform. 


Dane is the Creative Director at Burgopak, an award-winning packaging design company that effectively combines ingenuity with sustainability. Dane has worked with many of the world’s biggest brands including Google, Samsung, Unilever, and Sony, and has helped some of the most innovative start-ups to launch new products. Dane is also a visiting lecturer at Ravensbourne College and the RCA in London and speaks internationally on the subject of packaging design.

Dane’s presentation looks at many of the issues and solutions around packaging in relation to sustainability. He looks at resourcing, research implementation and design; sharing some great examples of packaging that are both jaw dropping and ethical.

Dane begins by describing sustainability as being synonymous with good design, or how this is increasingly becoming the case. He talks about packaging needing to protect in transit, help sell the product inside, but also help provide a brand experience – the packaging sometimes even being a piece of industrial design in itself. But with bad press around packaging and many problems to solve, Dane examines how to achieve success in this area.

Access the talk here.

Simon is a leading sustainability and design innovation researcher and entrepreneur. His work often focuses on life cycle assessment (LCA), co-design, design innovation, resource efficiency, sustainability strategy, tool development, and food waste. As a result he has helped create global impact through policy change and commercial innovations, along with publishing multiple academic papers.

Simon’s presentation focuses on life cycle assessment, specifically how it’s applied in packaging, food systems and the more generic area of sustainable products and services. He talks about why sustainability and LCAs matter, and demonstrates this through a simple coffee cup example. A fascinating part of Simon’s presentation looks at how design decisions matter – and how LCA can help you understand which decisions lead to positive or negative outcomes. He uses Nestlé as a case study to demonstrate where LCA is being integrated well and not so well, before using his own experience as a case study – describing his own ‘war stories’, failures in sustainability and the transformation he has gone through in his work and career.

Access the talk here.

As an Associate Professor at University of Warwick - the base for the National Polymer Processing Centre and the WMG Centre High Volume Manufacturing Catapult – Vannessa combines plastics materials and manufacturing research with environmental considerations. Helena Simmonds – Innovation Manager with the SME team at WMG, University of Warwick – focuses on helping local manufacturing companies adopt sustainable manufacturing practices.

In the presentation, Vannessa looks at plastics and how they are not the villain! Rather, they are the hero! She talks about the background of plastics, some of the design rules when using plastics, describing how plastics can be used in circular economy, as well as the future of plastics – bioplastics and other materials.

Then Helena introduces a case study where they’ve helped a business reduce its plastic waste using the ‘GROW’ model – Goal, Reality, Options and Will – a useful method for achieving sustainability.

The presentation is a whistle-stop tour of plastic materials and recycling. Vannessa and Helena present commercially available options for using greener plastics: mechanically recycled, chemically recycled and biomaterials set in the context of current industrial use. Some great knowledge and methodology for your toolbox!

Access the talk here.

As an internationally recognised authority in materials and their application in design, Chris’s work has been pivotal in changing the way designers and the materials industry consider materials. Daniel, currently a member of Chris’s team, is a designer with a passion for materials and has more than ten years’ experience of working for global brands such as Nokia and Lenovo.

Chris and Daniel’s presentation kicks off with them describing the area of materials and design which their work occupies. They describe the working process as beginning with the materials themselves and establishing what a material essentially ‘wants’ to be, or what application it is best suited to. This is an important starting point – it helps designers determine whether a material wants to be recycled, recovered, or be broken into smaller parts that can be more easily managed – and it helps avoid problems downstream. Their working process highlights why materials should be brought into the beginning phase of design.

After describing case studies of consumer products, regarding their ‘materials experience’ for the consumer, Chris and Daniel talk about the issue with composites in sustainability and how to manage materials in the design process to achieve efficiency in recycling. It’s a fantastic conclusion to the Technical Tools theme and serves as a really useful resource for making decisions about plastics and wider material options.

The ‘Technical Tools’ theme is just one of four themes that, along with round table discussions, form the InspirON Sustainability Series. I urge you to take a look at the content, browse the various themes, learn from the experts and decide how you will achieve your own sustainability goals. As design engineers we are key to solving many of the world’s environmental crises, and this is potentially an important first step along the road.

Access the talk here.


The ‘Inspire to Change’ theme is just one of four themes that, along with round table discussions, form the InspirON Sustainability Series. 

Working with Protolabs on this project has been a fascinating experience that has inspired us here to focus more on our own sustainability challenges. 

And I think it will inspire you too, so I urge you to take a look at the content, learn from the experts and plot your journey to sustainability. As design engineers we are key to solving many of the world’s environmental crises, but it’s collaboration and knowledge sharing that will help get us there.

Access all the talks here.

23 Aug, 2021

More about Protolabs

author avatar

Protolabs is the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. We use advanced injection moulding, CNC machining and 3D printing technologies to produce parts within days. The result is an unprecedented speed-to-market value for product designers... learn more

Stay Informed, Be Inspired

Wevolver’s free newsletter delivers the highlights of our award winning articles weekly to your inbox.