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GLOBAL WATCH MISSION REPORT

Biomimetics: strategies
for product design inspired
by nature a mission to the
Netherlands and Germany
JANUARY 2007
Printed in the UK on recycled paper with 75% de-inked post-consumer waste content
First published in March 2007 by Pera on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry
Crown copyright 2007
URN 07/504
Global Watch Missions
DTI Global Watch Missions have enabled small
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This report represents the findings of a mission
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Packaging Partnership (FPP) with the support of DTI.
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Cover image: Glass sponge (Euplectella) skeleton, formed by silica
spicules that unite into complex geometric structures
(Ken M Highfill/Science Photo Library)
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1
Biomimetics: strategies
for product design
inspired by nature
a mission to the Netherlands
and Germany
REPORT OF A DTI GLOBAL WATCH MISSION
JANUARY 2007
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CONTENTS
2
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 4
1 INTRODUCTION 5
1.1 Background 5
1.2 Mission aims 5
1.3 Objectives 6
1.4 Coordinating body 6
1.5 Mission location 6
1.6 Mission participants 7
2 BACKGROUND TO BIOMIMETICS 8
2.1 Introduction 8
2.2 Flight 9
2.3 Architecture 10
2.4 Textiles 11
2.5 Typical topics 11
2.6 Information retrieval 11
3 EXAMPLES OF BIOMIMETIC 13
APPLICATIONS: BIOLOGICALLY
INSPIRED PACKAGING
3.1 Introduction 13
3.2 Objective 13
3.3 Biomimetics in packaging 13
3.4 Industrial mission delegates and 13
biomimetics
3.4.1 ColepCCL, Laupheim, 13
Germany
3.4.2 COSi Creative Outsourcing 13
Solutions International, UK
3.4.3 Procter & Gamble/Gillette, 14
Reading, UK
3.5 Applications and opportunities in 14
biomimetic packaging encountered
during the mission
3.5.1 Philips, Eindhoven, the 14
Netherlands
3.5.2 DEAM University of Delft, 14
the Netherlands
3.5.3 University of Groningen, 14
the Netherlands University
of Cambridge, UK
3.5.4 Institute for Textile 15
Technology and Process
Engineering (ITV Denkendorf),
Germany
3.5.5 DaimlerChrysler Research 16
and Technology, Ulm, Germany
3.5.6 Max Planck Institute for 16
Metals Research, Evolutionary
Biomaterials Group, Stuttgart,
Germany
3.5.7 University of Freiburg, 17
Plant Biomechanics Group,
Germany
3.5.8 Max Planck Institute of 17
Colloids and Interfaces,
Potsdam, Berlin, Germany
3.5.9 BIOKON/EvoLogics GmbH, 18
F&E Labor Bionik, Berlin,
Germany
3.5.10 University of Applied 18
Sciences, Magdeburg-
Stendal, Germany
3.5.11 Dr Mirtsch GmbH, Teltow, 19
Berlin, Germany
3.5.12 INPRO, Berlin, Germany 19
3.6 Summary 19
3.7 Conclusions 20
4 APPLICATION OF BIOMIMETICS 21
IN OTHER INDUSTRIES
4.1 Introduction 21
4.2 Architecture 21
4.3 Automotive 21
4.4 Healthcare 23
4.5 Dry adhesives 23
4.6 Discussion 24
4.7 Samples of biomimetics related 24
to industry
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
4.7.1 Steerable endoscope 25
4.7.2 Adaptive braided bag filter 26
4.7.3 Fin ray 26
4.7.4 Acoustic camera 27
4.7.5 Bionic propeller 28
4.7.6 Plants as concept generators 28
4.7.7 Self-healing structures 29
5 COMMERCIAL VALUE OF 30
BIOMIMETICS
5.1 Commercial case for biomimetic 30
solutions
5.1.1 Devices 30
5.1.2 Optimisation 31
5.1.3 Functional surfaces 31
5.2 Role of funding 31
5.3 Incubators and consortia 33
5.4 Discussion and conclusions 33
6 BIOMIMETICS AND PRODUCT 35
DESIGN
6.1 Introduction 35
6.2 A technique, not a style 35
6.3 What product designers should 35
know
6.3.1 Who does what? 36
6.4 What is the appeal to designers? 36
6.5 The commercial case 37
6.6 Conclusions 37
7 INTEGRATING BIOMIMETICS 38
INTO PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
7.1 Introduction 38
7.2 Processes 38
7.2.1 Top-down process 38
7.2.2 Bottom-up process 39
7.3 Tools 40
7.4 Conclusions and recommendations 40
8 CONCLUSIONS AND 42
RECOMMENDATIONS
8.1 Conclusions 42
8.2 Recommendations 42
APPENDICES 44
A Suggestions for further reading 44
B Host organisations 45
C Mission participants 47
D List of exhibits 56
E Glossary 58
F Acknowledgments 60
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This DTI Global Watch Mission to Germany
and the Netherlands during 15-19 January
2007 was coordinated by Thoughtcrew Ltd
1
an associate member of the Faraday
Packaging Partnership (FPP).
2
The vision for
the mission came from Professor Julian
Vincent
3
of the University of Bath who has
been actively involved in the study of
biomimetics for the last 15 years. Having
reached 64 during the mission week it
seemed time to formally recognise the
potential contribution of biomimetics to
industry in the UK.
Globally there are four key centres of
research in biomimetics: the UK, Germany,
the Netherlands and the USA. Germany leads
the way in terms of taking an integrated
approach that embraces research and
commercial application. Over 30 million
(~20 million) has been invested by the
German Government in the development of a
network of competence.
The mission team discovered that in the
Netherlands the situation was similar to that
found in the UK. There were a number of
leading research institutes and commercial
organisations applying biomimetic concepts
to developing product and design ideas.
However, these efforts were isolated and,
unlike BIONIS
4
in the UK, the Netherlands
does not have a network to share ideas.
In Germany the BIOKON
5
network has a
much bigger footprint in terms of marketing
efforts, organisation and knowledge transfer.
However, they do not seem to be significantly
further forward in terms of real products on
the shelf although there was a better link
between fundamental research and the
creation of prototypes.
There is a real opportunity to create a critical
mass of thinking, research and commercial
acumen at the European level, driven by
the UK.
The future
This mission was a milestone in the evolution
of biomimetics in the UK. Whilst there have
been a significant number of research
endeavours in centres such as Bath and
Reading the UK has struggled to achieve
critical mass to get ideas from the lab onto
the shelves.
The mission provided the catalyst to create a
European initiative to deliver the benefits of
biomimetics. The intention of the mission
team is to start with the packaging and
product development opportunity under the
umbrella of the FPP. The team has already
secured enthusiastic support from the
organisations met on the mission and intend
offering this as a channel of knowledge to UK
businesses that wish to use biomimetics to
help them think, design and produce profit.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1 Thoughtcrew Ltd: www.thoughtcrew.net
2 Faraday Packaging Partnership (FPP): www.faradaypackaging.com
3 Professor Julian Vincent, University of Bath: www.bath.ac.uk/mediaexpertise/julianvincent.htm
4 BIONIS (Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability): www.extra.rdg.ac.uk/eng/BIONIS
5 BIOKON (Bionik-Kompetenz-Netz Bionics Competence Network): www.biokon.net
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1.1 Background
1.2 Mission aims
1.3 Objectives
1.4 Coordinating body
1.5 Mission location
1.6 Mission participants
1.1 Background
The mission studied the development and
application of biomimetics
6
by industry and
commerce in Germany and the Netherlands
and explored the development and value of
generic design rules and procedures which
can be drawn from nature.
Good design is fundamental to the success
of consumer products in todays marketplace.
Significant competitive advantage can be
gained from focusing on introducing
strategies for innovation in the new product
development process. Influencing the design
of the packaging for this type of product is
also important as it frequently acts as a key
marketing tool at the point of sale.
However, packaging has many functions which
must be considered during the design process:
Containing the product to allow transport
to point of sale
Protecting products from external
contamination to ensure freshness and
prevent unwanted tampering
Informing the consumer regarding the
contents and their impacts
Marketing the product at point of sale
The changing landscape of consumer
expectations means that packaging must be
easy to open, convenient, attractive and often
should offer additional functionality such as
extra shelf life. Sustainability is also becoming
a key driver both through legislative
requirements and consumer demand.
Biomimetics is sold on the promise of
innovations with a shorter development time.
The novelty is due to the different ways in
which biology implements various physical
and chemical principles and the different
routes it uses to solve the problems we also
see in our technology. The mission therefore
concentrated on the ease with which
technical and design advances can be made
using biology as a paradigm.
1.2 Mission aims
This mission aimed to explore a range of
technological, design and commercial issues
relating to the application of biomimetic
design principles and concepts:
Increase awareness in the UK FMCG (fast-
moving consumer goods) and related
industry about the commercial benefits of
biomimetics and hence support growth in
UK supply chains from product concept
through to final product
Promote application of biomimetics to
consumer products and their packaging, in
particular in relation to food, household,
personal care and pharmaceuticals
The benchmarks gathered during the mission
are both technical and commercial. The
technical benchmarks relate to the ability of
the technologies to deliver competitive
advantage in terms of cost or performance in
the targeted applications. The commercial
benchmarks look at the process by which
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
1 INTRODUCTION
6 The term bionics is used in Germany this is synonymous with the UK term biomimetics
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companies have developed the technology
from concept to commercial production. The
role of academic research, government
funding and private-sector partnerships and
finance are included.
1.3 Objectives
The objectives of the mission were to:
Gain awareness of the state of
development in biomimetics research in
leading European countries eg who is
driving this research, how effectively is it
translated into commercial benefits?
Identify mechanisms of networking or
information access to improve industry
awareness, and links between academia
and industry/end users
Mine key successful case studies such as
the DaimlerChrysler bionic car and
assess the level of commercial benefits
derived from applying biomimetic
principles, and identify the mechanisms and
routes by which benefits have occurred
Gauge the general level of awareness
among national industry
Assess the importance placed on
biomimetics and the extent to which other
countries have raised awareness of it
among industrial designers
Benchmark the UK biomimetics activity
with other countries
Explore the ways in which the countries
are stimulating the development of
new products that utilise biomimetic
concepts and understand the roles of
public sector (national and regional) and
private-sector investors
Explore and brainstorm the ways in
which biomimetics can add value to the
supply chain for FMCG and other high-
volume products
1.4 Coordinating body
Faraday Packaging Partnership (FPP) was the
coordinating body for the mission. FPP was
formed in 1997 as one of the original Faraday
Partnerships funded by the Engineering and
Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
and DTI. Since then it has established a strong
fee-paying membership base made up
primarily of international brand owners in the
consumer products arena and packaging
producers, along with world-leading specialist
suppliers. Confident of its immediate future,
FPP has recently embarked on an expansion
programme as a specialist application node to
the newly formed Materials Knowledge
Transfer Network (KTN) managed on behalf of
DTI by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and
Mining (IOM3).
The wide-ranging membership base provided
FPP with a unique platform from which to
draw members of the mission and more
importantly to ensure dissemination and
uptake of the outcome. In particular the full
portfolio of dissemination mechanisms
established by FPP will be used to generate
interest and engagement and provide core
participation for the dissemination event.
The research leading to the mission, and day-
to-day coordination, was through an SME
associate of FPP Thoughtcrew Ltd
subcontracted to provide resources for
project management and planning.
Specifically, Phil Richardson Managing
Director of Thoughtcrew Ltd was mission
leader. He has a background in life sciences,
is a chartered biologist, and holds an MBA
from the Open University (where he also
lectures on strategy and business operations).
He is an experienced project manager with a
track record of working at board level, whilst
currently researching a PhD in biomimetics.
1.5 Mission location
The central focus on Germany is due to its
world-leading position in biomimetics at both
academic and industrial level, with several
high-profile operations being formed or
acquired by companies.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
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Germany is probably the world leader in
practical biomimetics, partly because the
scientific base has always been strong, due
mainly to the activity of a few academics.
German industry is also very open to new
technologies, and the relationship between
the universities, Max Planck Institutes and
Fraunhofer Institutes is particularly significant
in ensuring effective transfer of technology.
BIOKON (Bionik-Kompetenz-Netz Bionics
Competence Network) has been very
effective in supporting the research and
creating a clear route for technology
translation to industry.
Many of the worlds leading biomimetic
operations are based in Germany, including
the bionic car from DaimlerChrysler.
In the Netherlands the European Space Agency
(ESA) is actively applying ideas from nature in a
wide range of areas of biomimetics reported in
an extensive web site with applications in
space exploration. It has a rudimentary
database and a collection of interesting and
relevant reports, all fully referenced.
1.6 Mission participants
The mission participants came from a broad
span of industry, including FMCG
manufacturers, designers, packaging,
materials and consulting:
Dr Cathy Barnes
Faraday Packaging Partnership
Geoff Hollington
Hollington Associates
Dr Matthias Gester
Procter & Gamble
Professor Julian Vincent
University of Bath
Patrick Poitevin
COSi Ltd
Dr Martin Kemp
DTI Global Watch Service
Johannes Schampel
ColepCCL
Brian Knott
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
Phil Richardson
Thoughtcrew Ltd
7
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 1.1 Mission team at the Radisson Hotel, Berlin; L-R: Matthias Gester, Geoff Hollington, Martin Kemp,
Julian Vincent, Cathy Barnes, Patrick Poitevin (front), Johannes Schampel (behind), Brian Knott, Phil Richardson
10735 Text.qxd 15/3/07 08:33 Page 7
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Flight
2.3 Architecture
2.4 Textiles
2.5 Typical topics
2.6 Information retrieval
2.1 Introduction
Can innovation be managed? The history of
advancement shows that we depend on the
vision and efforts of people going beyond
what is considered rational or possible and
seeing what happens. This is an orderly way
of doing things in that it gives a framework.
Think the unthinkable, then rationalise it and
bring it into the common ambit.
This is also what happens with biomimetics.
The underlying assumption is that nature
performs a function with the least amount of
energy, uses the commonest materials, and is
the most reliable (though it may rely heavily on
feedback control). Speed is rarely important,
mostly because it would take too much energy
or would involve dangerous chemistry. Some
critical processes (escape responses, decision
making) can happen very quickly. However,
growth can take its time the emphasis being
on having viable offspring before we die.
By doing everything in water and using
diffusion gradients, nature produces a
production line with few moving parts and, by
virtue of the cell membrane, a highly controlled
chemical environment. The problems of getting
synthesised material across the membrane are
solved by a packaging system whereby
products are labelled then wrapped in a globe
of membrane which establishes its interior as
destined to be outside. The globe fuses with
the cell membrane and the topological
prediction is fulfilled. The spare membrane
which inevitably accumulates on the cell
surface is tucked away and recycled in a sort of
cellular face-lift.
Biomimetics
7
which we here mean to be
synonymous with biomimesis, biomimicry,
bionics, biognosis, biologically inspired
design and similar words and phrases
implying copying or adaptation or derivation
from biology is a relatively young study
embracing the practical use of mechanisms
and functions of biological science in
engineering, design, chemistry, electronics
and so on. The word was first coined by Otto
Schmitt, a polymath, whose doctoral research
was an attempt to produce a physical device
that mimicked the electrical action of a nerve.
By 1957 he had come to perceive what he
would later label biomimetics as a
disregarded but highly significant
converse of the standard view of biophysics.
He said: Biophysics is not so much a subject
matter as it is a point of view. It is an
approach to problems of biological science
utilising the theory and technology of the
physical sciences. Conversely, biophysics is
also a biologists approach to problems of
physical science and engineering, although
this aspect has largely been neglected.
The related word bionics was coined by Jack
Steele of the US Air Force in 1960 at a
meeting at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in
Dayton, Ohio. He defined it as the science of
systems which have some function copied
from nature, or which represent characteristics
of natural systems or their analogues.
8
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
2 BACKGROUND TO BIOMIMETICS
Julian Vincent
7 Julian F V Vincent et al, Biomimetics: its practice and theory, J R Soc Interface (2006) 3:471-482; www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/media/mgat4etrtl2tpnk2up67/
contributions/k/0/4/8/k048171720104k70.pdf
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At another meeting at Dayton in 1963,
Schmitt said: Let us consider what bionics
has come to mean operationally and what it
or some word like it (I prefer biomimetics)
ought to mean in order to make good use of
the technical skills of scientists specialising,
or rather, I should say, despecialising into this
area of research. Presumably our common
interest is in examining biological
phenomenology in the hope of gaining insight
and inspiration for developing physical or
composite biophysical systems in the image
of life.
The word made its first public appearance in
Websters Dictionary in 1974, accompanied by
the following definition: The study of the
formation, structure or function of biologically
produced substances and materials (as
enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms
and processes (as protein synthesis or
photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of
synthesising similar products by artificial
mechanisms which mimic natural ones.
However, people have looked to nature for
inspiration for more than 3,000 years, since
the Chinese first tried to make an artificial silk.
2.2 Flight
Leonardo da Vinci studied birds flying and
designed some machines, but never made any.
Clement Ader designed and made a flying
wing aircraft designed by copying bats
wings, to the extent that they folded and
were supported and shaped in exactly the
same way. The first aircraft, the Eole, had a
single steam engine with a four-bladed
bamboo propeller made in the form of bird
feathers. Each wing could be swung forward
and aft separately by a hand-operated crank,
thus changing the position of the centre of
pressure and consequently the pitch of the
airplane. Wings could be flexed up and down
by foot pedal; wing area and camber could
also be changed by crank action. However,
with so many degrees of freedom in the
design, and the difficulty the pilot had in
varying these controls in flight, stability was
compromised. On 9 October 1890 Ader flew
about 50 m but the flight was not considered
to have been controlled or sustained. Ader
completed another aircraft, the Avion III, in
1897. It was generally similar in concept and
appearance to Eole, but had two engines and
simplified wings. Two tests of the Avion III
were conducted on a circular track but it did
not fly although Ader claimed to have flown a
distance of 300 m.
Flying seeds inspired serious investigations
into the theory of flight; one of these was the
seed of the liana Alsomitra macrocarpa,
which could glide great distances with
inherent stability. Several of the early
experimenters with tailless aircraft, including
Igo Etrich, adapted these principles to the
design of powered, sustained flight in heavier-
than-air machines. In 1904 Etrich built a
graceful tailless glider in the shape of the
Alsomitra seed made of bamboo, canvas and
wire. By 1906, practice glides with sandbags
for passengers had been successfully
conducted, and the glider made what was
perhaps the first successful flight of an
inherently stable, manned aircraft. In 1907
Etrich installed a 40 hp engine into a second
design, and on 29 November 1909 flew his
first sustained powered flight. It then became
obvious that simply adding a power plant to
the wing was not the way to advance, so
once again he turned to nature for the
solution. To the Alsomitra wing he added the
tail of a bird. The aircraft that evolved was the
Taube (dove), a class of aircraft that was
produced in a bewildering number of versions
for both civil and military use. Between 1910
and 1914, 54 manufacturers produced over
500 of these aircraft, in 137 different
configurations. The Taube was easily
recognised by the distinctive Alsomitra-
shaped wings and dove-like tail, and
possessed such inherent stability that it could
fly itself.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
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2.3 Architecture
Architects commonly use biology as a library
of shapes. As decoration (Art Nouveau,
Jungendstil and the like) this is obviously
acceptable, but the client still has to be able to
afford it. Unfortunately biology is also used
ineptly as a structural rationale. In Swifts
satire of the Royal Society in Gullivers
Travels, There was a most ingenious architect
who had contrived a new method for building
houses, by beginning at the roof, and working
downwards to the foundation; which he
justified to me by the like practice of those
two prudent insects the bee and the spider.
It is uncertain whether Joseph Paxton got
his ideas for the Crystal Palace from the
leaves of a giant water lily: he used a leaf as
an illustration during a talk at the Royal
Society of the Arts in London, showing how
to support a roof-like structure, and the myth
may have grown out of overenthusiastic
reportage. Certainly there is little similarity
between the design of the water lily leaf
(which uses support of radial tapering beams)
and the design of the roof of the Crystal
Palace (which, with its corrugations, more
resembles other types of leaf such as beech
or hornbeam). The original impetus for the
corrugated roof occurred about 20 years
earlier, when Paxton copied an idea to ensure
that sunlight could go through the glass
unimpeded during the morning and evening,
but with a longer light path at midday,
perhaps giving a little protection at the hottest
part of the day.
There are stories that Eiffels tower was
based on the structure of trabecular struts in
the head of the human femur, or the taper of
a tulip stem. In fact it was constructed to
resist wind loading, a topic in which Eiffel was
an early expert. In the construction of the
tower, the curve of the base pylons was
calculated so that the wind loads were
resisted related to their force and the
moment exerted with height. Thus even in
the strongest winds the top of the tower
moves no more than 12 cm.
Antonio Gaud was fascinated by nature
from childhood. He studied natures angles
and curves and incorporated them into his
designs. Instead of relying on geometric
shapes, he mimicked the way trees grow and
stand upright. The hyperboloids and
paraboloids he borrowed from nature were
easily reinforced by steel rods and allowed his
designs to resemble elements from the
environment. This was enhanced by his
experimental approach to design, such that
he established the lines of force in his
buildings then arranged the supporting stone
around them, thus producing authentic tree-
like structures.
For many years Frei Otto worked on
lightweight structures in the University of
Stuttgart. He leaves a legacy of examining
nature, especially spiders webs, as a source
of inspiration for tent-like tension structures,
exemplified by the Munich Olympic Stadium.
The roof of Stuttgart Airport is supported by
his tree-like structures. Not all his ideas were
as successful, for example his notorious
pneu studies, where he claimed that all
biology is the product of inflatable structures,
totally missing the point that the shape of a
soap bubble is necessitated by the inability of
the liquid soap film to resist shear; therefore
the skin of an object shaped like a soap
bubble will also be shear-free and thus lighter
and more efficient.
Richard Rogers in his Reith Lectures on the
built environment leant heavily on nature as a
source of inspiration and on the possibilities
of an intelligent building which, like an
organism, could sense the external
environment and alter its outer covering in
such a way as to keep the internal
environment ideal.
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2.4 Textiles
In the early 1940s George de Mestral, a
Swiss inventor, went for a walk in the forest
with his dog. Upon his return home he
noticed that the dogs coat and his trousers
were covered in cockleburs. His inventors
curiosity led him to study the burs under the
microscope, where he discovered the hooked
ends of the bristles that stick out from the
seeds. This became the basis for a zip, later
developed into a two-sided fastener. One side
has stiff hooks like the burs; the other has
loops like the fabric of his trousers. The result
was Velcro, named for the French words
velour (velvet) and crochet (hook). The
challenge was then to make machinery that
could produce textured fabrics that would
work reliably. After considerable
experimentation, de Mestral developed
special looms and hook-cutting machinery.
Currently Velcro Industries is (as its
advertising literature assures us) a technically
driven global organisation and the industry
leader. It offers hundreds of different hook-
and-loop products and fastening systems. It
makes fastening tapes of woven and knitted
construction and custom-designed speciality
fasteners made of various materials in
different shapes and sizes.
2.5 Typical topics
The mission was shown developments in
some of the subject areas listed below. This
list is by no means exhaustive; it should cover
the whole of biology.
Behaviour
Bumpy surfaces
Camouflage
Chemistry
Chemosense
Composite materials
Computing
Creative design
Deployable structures
Drag reduction
Growth
Hairy and feathery surfaces
Haptics
Joining and adhesion
Lubrication
Material properties
Mechanical mechanisms
Navigation and control
Pumps
Responsive materials and structures
Self-repair
Self-replication
Social interactions
Surface protection/hardness
Sustainability
Swimming
Vision
Walking/running
2.6 Information retrieval
Biomimetics is nothing unless engineers and
designers can retrieve information from
biology which will lead to improved design,
strength, efficiency etc. There are several
ways in which this can be achieved, but the
general thrust must be towards de-skilling the
area so that the information is more readily
available to all.
The most obvious way is to ask a biologist to
identify the animals and plants in which a
certain function is available. This requires a
biologist with a broad base in natural history,
ecology, molecular biology, behaviour... such
people are rare.
A second approach is to develop a hypertext
database of research papers. This approach is
being taken by the Biomimicry Guild
8
in the
USA. This still requires interpretation and
understanding of biological information, and
does not allow for the complexity of biological
systems. It may be important to strip away
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
8 www.biomimicryguild.com
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the biological processes from the main
function which is required from the biological
paradigm. This is not a trivial process.
Both these methods are subjective and
require knowledge and skill in biology.
Still with the concept of discovering biological
analogues, lexical search of a biological
database has proved useful. The main
difficulty is translating between the words
used for a concept in biology and in
engineering. For instance the function clean
in an engineering context was rated as similar
to defend in a biological context, where an
organism defends itself against pathogens by
cleansing or isolation. This is a powerful
method since there are many large and
complete biological texts available which can
be used as source material. Web search
engines can also be incorporated.
Another approach is to adapt an existing
method from engineering and introduce a
biological component. The Theory of Inventive
Problem Solving known by its Russian
acronym TRIZ seems particularly suitable but
requires the production of a large database
from biology. Advantages are that such a
system incorporates creative definitions and
solutions and so is pre-adapted for dynamic
transfer of concepts and functions between
disciplines. This system probably requires the
least skill and knowledge in biology but the
most effort in setting it up. It is the most
amenable to computation and can incorporate
web search engines.
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3.1 Introduction
3.2 Objective
3.3 Biomimetics in packaging
3.4 Industrial mission delegates and
biomimetics
3.5 Applications and opportunities in
biomimetic packaging encountered
during the mission
3.6 Summary
3.7 Conclusions
3.1 Introduction
Packaging should be taken in the widest
sense possible. It is a vehicle to transport and
protect the product, but quite often is part of
the product or is the product itself. Packaging
has a design, a shape, a structure, a concept,
a finish and a decoration or print.
Natures designs, materials, processes and
structures have always inspired packaging.
Numerous examples could be listed,
including Velcro and lotus leaf, tongs and
tweezers. The examples in this chapter are
drawn from the case studies encountered
during the mission.
3.2 Objective
Packaging is alongside the product, the driver
to attract consumers. It is the first item the
consumer sees, feels, smells, touches and
(maybe) tastes. It is important that the
packaging industry is up to date on changes,
on newness, on innovation constantly
enquiring How can we stand out? looking
into other industries and learning from cross-
industry technologies. Nature is one of those
other industries. We can learn enormously
from nature. Why reinvent the wheel when
nature has it all? People are used to natural
structures. Natures solutions have stood the
test of time.
3.3 Biomimetics in packaging
Biomimetics in packaging covers many
different areas:
Energy
Functions
Environment
Light weight
Materials
Process
Structure
Surfaces
Transport
The mission came across all these different
areas not only in packaging but also in other
applications mentioned in this report.
3.4 Industrial mission delegates and
biomimetics
3.4.1 ColepCCL, Laupheim, Germany
Does not apply biomimetics yet but is
looking for opportunities.
3.4.2 COSi Creative Outsourcing
Solutions International, UK
Applies biomimetics in fingerprint-free
coatings on highly shiny metallised and
anodised personal care components. The
additives in the coatings are based on the
lotus leaf repellent effect. See Exhibit 3.1.
13
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
3 EXAMPLES OF BIOMIMETIC APPLICATIONS: BIOLOGICALLY INSPIRED
PACKAGING
Patrick Poitevin
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3.4.3 Procter & Gamble/Gillette,
Reading, UK
Does not apply biomimetics yet but is
looking for opportunities.
3.5 Applications and opportunities in
biomimetic packaging
encountered during the mission
3.5.1 Philips, Eindhoven, the
Netherlands
Applications
Microfluidics which can manipulate the
spray on a small scale transporting,
mixing, sorting and collecting. Can be used
for ink-jet application and cooling
electronics. See Exhibit 3.2.
Microfluidic mixer based on stimulus, for
example temperature, humidity.
Opportunities
Manipulate spray patterns and transport
liquids with unlimited viscosities such as
personal care formulations.
Use microfluidic system for mixing dual
chamber dosage and mix active
ingredients in stimulus with designated
purpose.
3.5.2 DEAM University of Delft, the
Netherlands
Applications
Endoscope in micro scale and rolling
doughnuts.
Opportunities
Rolling doughnut moves itself in and out
through a colon. Can be used for packaging
inspection.
3.5.3 University of Groningen, the
Netherlands University of
Cambridge, UK
Applications
Dynamic wetting of porous Teflon surfaces
based on lotus leaf. Concept already
applied at COSi for fingerprint-free coating
on highly shiny metallised and anodised
components. See Exhibit 3.3.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 3.1 Fingerprint-free coatings on highly shiny
metallised and anodised personal care components
(courtesy COSi)
Exhibit 3.2 Ink-jet printing for displays and biomedical
applications (courtesy Philips)
Exhibit 3.3 Dynamic wetting of porous Teflon surfaces
based on lotus leaf (courtesy University of Cambridge)
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Opportunities
Use of coating to keep packaging dry.
Coating can be used inside bottles for easy
pouring of sticky product.
3.5.4 Institute for Textile Technology
and Process Engineering
(ITV Denkendorf), Germany
Applications
Applies lotus effect on and in textiles.
Textile repels water or stays dry in water
and is self-cleaning. See Exhibit 3.4.
Coating containing electrostatic particles.
See Exhibit 3.5.
Reinforced fibres.
Release of air bubbles to create speed and
reduction of frictional drift. Used for boats.
Plant stems as role models for composite
profiles. Creates light weight and
enhanced stiffness. Used in ski poles,
cables, tubes and bicycle frames. See
Exhibit 3.6.
Transparent light transfer inspired by polar
bear hair as supposed light guides. Dark
skin absorbs IR but blocks harmful UV
radiations. See Exhibit 3.7.
Opportunities
Handbags and other textile parts, used in
packaging or gift industry, can be kept dry
and clean. Water sports gifts and toys or
packaging which should be kept dry.
Heat insulation, can be applied for self-
heating or thermostatic packaging.
Use in hydrophobic chemistry for water-
resistant products such as waterproof
mascara.
Plant stem construction for light weight
but high stiffness for rods and parts which
needs strength and rigidity.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 3.4 Lotus effect on textiles (courtesy ITV)
Exhibit 3.5 Coating containing electrostatic particles
(courtesy ITV)
Exhibit 3.6 Composite profiles modelled on plant
stems (courtesy ITV)
Exhibit 3.7 Transparent light transfer inspired by polar
bear hair (courtesy ITV/P Poitevin)
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3.5.5 DaimlerChrysler Research and
Technology, Ulm, Germany
Applications
Aerodynamics. See Exhibit 3.8.
Tree fork construction to maximise strength.
Notch stresses with hollow structures.
Opportunities
Lightweight construction in metal gift
packaging with hollow structures.
3.5.6 Max Planck Institute for Metals
Research, Evolutionary
Biomaterials Group, Stuttgart,
Germany
Applications
Dry adhesives such as gecko, beetle, robot
like, suction cups. See Exhibits 3.9 and
3.10.
Head-arresting system in dragonflies tells
contact or no contact. Mechanical
coupling. See Exhibit 3.11.
Opportunities
Apply products in dry condition to skis for
easy release.
Soft-touch applications and surfaces.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 3.8 Aerodynamics application by
DaimlerChrysler (courtesy BIOKON, Germany)
Exhibit 3.9 Dry adhesive (courtesy Max Planck
Institute for Metals Research, Stuttgart)
Exhibit 3.10 Dry adhesive applications (courtesy Max
Planck Institute for Metals Research, Stuttgart)
Exhibit 3.11 Head-arresting system in dragonflies
(courtesy Max Planck Institute for Metals Research,
Stuttgart)
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3.5.7 University of Freiburg, Plant
Biomechanics Group, Germany
Applications
Models from trees, bamboos and vines
used for construction in aircraft, cars, roofs
and bridges. See Exhibit 3.12.
Self-repair vine and coat membrane
with foam.
Opportunities
Use models and constructions in
packaging and make light but solid.
Self-repair packaging in future?
3.5.8 Max Planck Institute of Colloids
and Interfaces, Potsdam, Berlin,
Germany
Applications
Synthetic motors or active transport. Active
biomimetic systems.
Glass fibre construction. Tough material
and light. See Exhibit 3.13.
Cell wall constructions for wood.
See Exhibit 3.14.
Self-assembly hierarchical order in water.
Lamellar structure based on collagen fibrils,
stiff and tough.
Microcapsules with nano-scale wall
thickness with controlled mechanical
properties.
Self-repairing coatings where inhibitor
releases on command.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 3.12 Models from trees, bamboos and vines
used for construction in aircraft, cars, roofs and bridges
(courtesy University of Freiburg)
Exhibit 3.13 Glass fibre construction (courtesy Max
Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Berlin)
Exhibit 3.14 Cell wall constructions for wood
(courtesy Max Planck Institute of Colloids and
Interfaces, Berlin)
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Opportunities
Focused transport of polymers for
activations and functional packaging.
Use of glass fibres in packaging.
Self-repair coatings for scratch and scuff
defects.
3.5.9 BIOKON/EvoLogics GmbH, F&E
Labor Bionik, Berlin, Germany
Applications
Acoustic camera. See Exhibit 3.15.
Surface applications inspired by penguins,
lotus leaves, dolphins, sharks, geckos and
sandfish. See Exhibit 3.16.
Bionic propellers, friction coefficients,
sonar techniques.
Opportunities
Analyses of packaging with acoustic
cameras to improve handling, noise and
acoustic properties, such as lubricating,
swivel and torque in packaging.
Fin ray effect used for ergonomic chairs
can be used in the packaging printing
industry, such as glass, where tolerances
are too large for proper jig printing. See
Exhibits 3.17 and 3.18.
3.5.10 University of Applied Sciences,
Magdeburg-Stendal, Germany
Applications
Modular walking robots, dismantling
robots. See Exhibit 3.19.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 3.15 Acoustic camera (courtesy Gesellschaft
zur Frderung angewandter Informatik GFaI, Berlin)
Exhibit 3.16 Surface applications inspired by
penguins, lotus leaves, dolphins, sharks, geckos and
sandfish (courtesy BIOKON, Germany)
Exhibit 3.17 Fin ray effect used for ergonomic chair
(courtesy BIOKON, Germany/P Poitevin)
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Opportunities
Robots can be used for rather difficult-to-
access areas for research and applying
packaging decoration.
3.5.11 Dr Mirtsch GmbH, Teltow, Berlin,
Germany
Applications
Reduction of materials conception.
Material can be reduced 24% in weight by
hexagonal or honeycomb shaped buckling.
See Exhibit 3.20.
Opportunities
Use in lightweight bottles, jars, aerosols
and cans in general. Opportunity to find
solutions for printing or decoration.
3.5.12 INPRO, Berlin, Germany
Applications
Detection and inspection instruments
for surfaces and defects in materials
and surfaces such as plasma treatment,
laser welding.
Opportunities
Use in materials science and surface
investigations.
3.6 Summary
Each university, institute or company met
during this mission had an application or at
least an opportunity in packaging or
packaging-related topics. No-one wants to
repeat or copy what someone else has done.
Biologically inspired products or mimicking
nature? No problem in doing so. Invisible
solutions may contribute to visible
innovations. Think outside the shell!
19
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 3.18 Fin ray effect can also be used in the
packaging printing industry, such as glass, where
tolerances are too large for proper jig printing (courtesy
BIOKON, Germany/P Poitevin)
Exhibit 3.19 Modular walking robots (courtesy
University of Applied Sciences, Magdeburg-Stendal)
Exhibit 3.20 Reduction of materials conception
(courtesy Dr Mirtsch/P Poitevin)
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The biomimetic developments encountered
on the mission are only a fraction of what is
happening in the world. There is a goldmine
in biomimetics related to packaging.
Industrialists have to know what opportunities
there are. Institutes and universities have to
know the needs. Collaboration is key. Nature
has so many opportunities.
3.7 Conclusions
Biomimetics is a key driver. Sustainability and
innovation are the current topics in packaging.
Biomimetics supplies and covers both.
Although biomimetics does not have all short-
term solutions, it certainly covers mid- and
long-term opportunities and is definitely the
solution to sustainability and innovation in
packaging. Industries will soon be converted to
the new (biomimetic) religion. Collaboration
with those universities and institutes working
on biomimetics is crucial. Innovation requires
inspiration and relies on creativity. Nature does!
Currently, UK industry has BIONIS in
Reading/Bath and other biomimetic packaging
liaisons abroad though needs a good
database, a central UK-based full-time
biomimetic support with regular newsletters,
conferences and meetings and information on
applications, opportunities and worldwide
latest news.
The challenge is to move forward, fast. It took
the lotus concept over 20 years and Velcro eight
years. If the UK wants to be on top of
biomimetics, being innovative, creative and
sustainable, it needs the proper infrastructure
and base to help industry move in that direction.
Quite often, institutes and universities
communicate to the industry: Tell us what
the needs are. Meanwhile, the industry is
communicating to those bodies: Tell us what
your research is, what you are working on.
We need two-way communication.
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4.1 Introduction
4.2 Architecture
4.3 Automotive
4.4 Healthcare
4.5 Dry adhesives
4.6 Discussion
4.7 Samples of biomimetics related to
industry
4.1 Introduction
In the same way that the term biomimetics
can be used to encompass a range of
biological/engineering related concepts
including bionics and bio-inspired, so the term
product design, in its widest interpretation
could encompass most if not all of the
applications seen and described during this
mission. However, for the purposes of this
report, other industries are interpreted as
those where the application is either more
generalised than a specific product, or the
application forms part of the overall product.
The design of part of the body shell of a car
forms an example of the latter.
4.2 Architecture
Although the subject was not covered in any
of the presentations given at the various
establishments, one highly visible and
immediately apparent area of the application
of biomimetics was architecture, with the
roof of Stuttgart Airport. This essentially flat
roof has the appearance of being supported
by metal trees, in that each discrete area,
which could be considered as a giant leaf, is
affixed to small metallic twigs, which in turn
are affixed to metal branches. As the eye
moves down to the ground so the branches
combine to form boughs, which in turn
combine to form the trunk of a tree. The final
impression is of a wood of metal trees,
where each trunk, bough, branch and twig
plays a synergistic role in supporting the
weight of the roof. See Exhibit 4.1.
4.3 Automotive
A striking example of significant benefits
which could be realised by applying the
principles of biomimetics was the statement
by Dr Gtz of DaimlerChrysler that an 80%
reduction in the weight of the shell of a car
could be achieved if it could be designed in
the same way as the structure of bone, with
all the consequential benefits that this would
have on fuel efficiency. The front shell of a
vehicle comprises many members which are
joined together, often at right angles, with
their associated generation of potential
failure-inducing notch stresses when under
load. In contrast, no notch stresses are to be
21
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
4 APPLICATION OF BIOMIMETICS IN OTHER INDUSTRIES
Brian Knott and Johannes Schampel
Exhibit 4.1 Metal trees supporting the roof of Stuttgart
Airport (courtesy www.stuttgart-airport.com)
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found within the inner surfaces where a
single trunk of a tree divides into two. The
faster growth of wood at regions where the
structure is highly stressed, combined with
slower growth at regions of low stress,
eliminates notch stresses and results in a
fully uniform stress loading.
Bone structures, however, can grow or shrink
depending on their load-bearing requirements.
This has been modelled in a soft kill option
(SKO) computer program developed by
Professor Claus Mattheck where, during a
number of iterations, material is eliminated in
low-stress regions, leaving only those areas
which provide load-bearing capability to the
structure. An example of the optimum structure
for a centrally loaded beam after only ten
iterations of the program is given in Exhibit 4.2.
Application of this principle of biomimetic
design to the front element of a Mercedes C
class vehicle produced a structure that
eliminated areas of excessive stress
concentration associated with generation of
notches at joints between structural members.
Unfortunately the structure required can not be
manufactured on a mass production basis.
Nevertheless the principle of this approach
was adopted by DaimlerChrysler and although
it did not result in a weight saving, the removal
of material from regions where it served no
function permitted improved local access to
enable a greater number of spot welds to be
used to join the various component members
of the front element.
The bionic car, again developed by
DaimlerChrysler, took the concept of using
solutions from nature and applying these to car
design. The exterior form of the car is
substantially based on the boxfish. This tropical
fish despite its boxy, cube-shaped body is
somewhat surprisingly extremely streamlined
with a very low coefficient of drag, a feature
reproduced in the concept car (Exhibit 4.3).
SKO techniques were also employed in the
construction of the shell, resulting in a highly
fuel-efficient vehicle. In the end, only 40% of
the biomimetic ideas originally considered for
inclusion in the original design of the vehicle
could be employed. For example, the self-
cleaning features associated with the lotus
effect had to be discarded as the surface
produced does not have the desired high gloss.
Although the concept car demonstrated
successful collaboration between academia
and industry, resulting in the promotion of the
subject of biomimetics within the German
Government with increased funding, it was
surprising to hear Konrad Gtz comment that
at present no further biomimetic-based
projects were under way within
DaimlerChrysler. The search does, however,
continue for an animal that has the same
boundary constraints associated with engine
power transmission, with the aim of improving
the tribofilm characteristics of this unit.
22
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.2 Optimum structure for a centrally loaded
beam after 10 iterations (courtesy Prof Claus Mattheck)
Exhibit 4.3 Bionic car concept by DaimlerChrysler
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4.4 Healthcare
In healthcare the idea of using a lab-on-a-chip
device to test human blood, for example, is
one that is drawing ever increasing attention.
A particular challenge with the development
of such a device is the need to guide
amounts of an already small sample of blood
(typically 1 L) to various reaction chambers
on the chip.
Philips, after initial consideration of a number
of options including capillary pumping,
surface tension and electro-osmosis, was
inspired by nature and selected the
biomimetic route of utilising cilia (which look
like very small hairs) to move the blood in a
controlled manner. In humans it is the cilia,
working in unison to produce a wave-like
movement, that sweep mucus from the lining
of the lungs; in sessile organisms exemplified
by filter-feeding molluscs the cilia play an
important role in feeding; whilst in
microorganisms they are often the
mechanism of propulsion.
Philips approach was to create cilium-like
plates comprising a polymer layer with a
conductive backing material bonded to the
base of the device normally silica. In the
free condition, the single cilium adopts the
form shown in Exhibit 4.4 (a), but on
application of an electrostatic charge the
cilium lays flat Exhibit 4.4 (b).
The advantages of this approach included
realisation of large amounts of movement of
individual cilia, the individual cilia were
robust, and multiple cilia could be
incorporated in a microchannel (as shown in
Exhibit 4.5) which in turn could be locally
addressed using patterned electrodes to
induce movement of a fluid.
The technique has been successfully
employed to both transport liquid and also to
give mixing of two liquid streams. The
concept is at a very early stage of
development but has considerable potential
both for lab-on-a-chip devices and also in the
development and screening of drugs.
4.5 Dry adhesives
The remit of the Max Planck Institutes (MPIs)
in Germany is the study of basic science. At
MPI Stuttgart considerable effort is being
directed towards the understanding of surface-
related effects in biology, looking at the ability
of flies and geckos to attach to glass walls and
ceilings. A number of the key structural
features of the feet of the two species have
been identified and reproduced on the
surfaces of a number of differing materials.
23
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.4 Cilium-like plate created by Philips
(a)
(b)
Exhibit 4.5 Multiple cilia incorporated in a
microchannel by Philips
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In the insect kingdom there are two principal
mechanisms of attachment, either smooth or
hairy pads, with both systems having the
ability to adapt and adhere to smooth and
structured substrata. For example, the basal
hairs of the pads of a hoverfly (Eristalis
pertinax) are in turn covered in a very fine
close-packed structure of high aspect ratio
columns with a lip structure that makes
contact with the surface. A similar structure,
the essential features and associated
characteristics of which are illustrated in Exhibit
4.6, has been reproduced on sheet material in
square metre sizes to give a material which is
adhesive solely as a consequence of its
surface topography with no related chemical
bonding. This dry-adhesive material is tolerant
to contamination and can be cleaned by
washing without much degradation of its
adhesive properties.
MPI Stuttgart is in active collaboration with a
number of industrial partners developing the
concept for applications such as adhesive
tapes, grippers for manipulation of silicon
wafers and solar batteries, paper feeding
mechanisms and also prevention of polymer
squeaking by promoting smooth sliding rather
than stick-slip.
4.6 Discussion
This has been only a selection of the cases
where biomimetics has found application in
areas other than packaging. It does, however,
highlight the potential for adoption of
biomimetic solutions to problems that nature
has already invested millions of years of effort
to solve why reinvent the wheel when it
may not be the best answer to movement?
The challenge would appear to be joining the
specific requirements of industry with the
myriad of solutions awaiting an application,
offered by biologists.
For many of the above, the biomimetic
solution has originated either from engineers
discussions with biologists, or biologists
offering natures solutions to engineers.
Chance would appear to have played a
significant role in the process, and a prime
requirement for identifying the optimum
solution to an engineering challenge would
appear to lie in the development and adoption
of a structured method of contact between the
two communities. The initial work on the
problem-identifying TRIZ database and on
compilation of a database of biological
materials and components could be
considered to be the first steps in this process.
4.7 Samples of biomimetics related to
industry
Depending on the scale of scope we use to
look at nature, we can find a multiple choice
of diversified structures. Nature seems to
have the master plan to develop a broad
range of structures, all with totally different
properties, built on the same material base.
According to Julian Vincent, Professor of
Biomimetics at the University of Bath, nature
uses only two basic polymers to equip all
polymer-based structures.
24
BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.6 Dry adhesives
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Depending on the functions and systems we
regard, it seems nature knows how to change
material properties by changing the inner
structure and therefore constructs objects
very efficiently on a sustainable base.
4.7.1 Steerable endoscope
Steerable endoscope for laparoscopic surgery
by Paul Breedveld, Jules S Scheltes, Esther M
Blom and Johanna E I Verheij, Department of
Biomechanical Engineering, University of Delft
The function of this new endoscope was
inspired by the tentacles of a squid (Exhibit 4.7).
Currently being commercialised, the
endoscope follows the same principle as the
tentacles and consists only of standard parts
such as coil springs, cables, rings and tubes.
Compared to the current systems, which are
very expensive, the new bionic endoscope
works very efficiently and can easily be
miniaturised to a very small diameter, making
it suitable for low-cost mass production of
steerable endoscopes, instruments and
catheters.
Technical developments during the last 20
years have resulted in a decreasing average
diameter of endoscopes down to 12 mm
5 mm and a strong improvement in image
quality. The big difference between the
conservative constructed endoscopes and the
new developed bionic endoscope is that
conservative systems do have a limited space
of observation: the incision acts like a
fulcrum, giving only four degrees of freedom
(DOFs). Therefore it is impossible to take a
look behind objects by getting around them.
In order to find dangerous metastases and
cavities, it is necessary to have a more
flexible endoscope which is not limited by
those restrictions.
To increase manoeuvrability of the
endoscopic camera, the new endoscope, the
Endo-Periscope (Exhibit 4.8), has been
developed at Delft University of Technology in
close cooperation with the Tokyo Institute of
Technology. The Endo-Periscope has a rigid
shaft and a 2-DOF steerable tip with a
miniature camera, enabling the surgeon to
observe organs from the side and to look
behind anatomic structures. The steerable tip
is controlled via a spatial parallelogram
mechanism; the camera follows the handgrip
movements exactly and the handgrip is
always parallel to the cameras line of sight.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.7 Schematic cross section of the tentacle of
the loliginid squid. The tentacle is surrounded by
longitudinal and helical muscle layers (LML and HML).
The cross section contains a ring of longitudinal
muscle bundles (LMB) which are enclosed by
transverse and circular muscle fibres (TMF and CMF)
Exhibit 4.8 Endo-Periscope developed by University of
Delft in cooperation with Tokyo Institute of Technology
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This provides intuitive control of the tip,
showing how the camera is oriented in the
abdominal cavity.
4.7.2 Adaptive braided bag filter
Adaptive braided bag filter for microfiltration
in solid-liquid separation processes
by Dr Jamal Sarsour, Michael Linke, Dr
Markus Milwich and Dr Thomas Stegmaier,
ITV Denkendorf
This project was inspired by the sea sponge
which in nature works as a highly energy-
efficient filtration pump. This sponge is able to
filter a remarkable amount of water for food
particles and oxygen by using its collar cells.
The idea coming from that source of
inspiration is to build a highly effective cross-
flow microfiltration system.
Basic requirements for this system are:
High selectivity with particle separation
Chemical and thermal resistance
Little tendency to fouling
Constant operation conditions
High mechanical strength
Reasonable price
The team at ITV developed a braided bag
filter based on the shape of a hose or a tube.
This tube can be vertically installed in the
filter tube system as shown in Exhibit 4.9.
Due to its flexible construction, the filter tube
can be stretched and released (Exhibit 4.10).
When the filter tube is in relaxed state, the
pore size is much smaller then in stretched
state. Due to the variable pore size and the
good cleaning performance, the application of
the developed adaptive tube filters can offer
new microfiltration methods in the fields of
waste water, food and chemical technology.
4.7.3 Fin ray
Leif Kniese, Department of Bionic and
Evolution Technology, Technical University
of Berlin
The tail fin of a fish reacts to a mechanical
stimulation in an unexpected way. When we
apply an orthogonal force to the right side of
the tail fin, we would expect the fin to yield.
But the fin bends into the direction of the
force. When pressure is applied to the right
hand side, the fins end turns right in a
significant manner.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.9 ITVs filter system equipment with the
filter tube in the pipe on the right side
Exhibit 4.10 ITVs braided bag filter (a) stretched,
(b) relaxed
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This behaviour woke the interest of Leif
Kniese of the Technical University of Berlin.
He became interested in the fins morphology
and started to do research work. He then
developed a mechanical device which reacts
in a very similar way when it is facing external
force (Exhibit 4.11).
Further development stages then led to a
device which has unique gripper tool
properties. Like an intelligent shaping tool,
which shapes around an object, this tool
adapts to the shape of an object. Other areas
of application can be in the aviation industry
(wings and fins), ergonomic parts, such as
chairs, carrier systems for backpacks, beds
and many more.
4.7.4 Acoustic camera
Acoustic camera listening with your eyes by
Dr Ing Olaf Jaeckel, GFaI, Berlin
The acoustic camera is a lightweight, modular
and flexible system for positioning and
analysing noise sources. Similar to a thermal
imaging camera, this system is able to make
noise sources visible by spectral evaluation
and colour-coding loud areas red and quiet
areas blue.
The system consists of an array of
microphones connected to a personal
computer (PC) via a data-recording device.
The array can have either a circular, linear or
spherical pattern. Spherical patterns for
example would be used to capture noise
which is disturbing the driver of a car. The
microphones are therefore installed at the
height of the drivers head and capture
surrounding noises (all-round measurement).
See Exhibit 4.12.
Independent from each array, all systems
have a video capturing device in the centre of
the pattern. This enables the operation
system afterwards to overlay visual and audio
signals layer by layer. Instead of using a video
image as positioning layer, one could also use
the computer-aided design (CAD) file of the
checked object.
This system could be used for the automotive
industry, in internal and external sound
design, quality management and for
environmental tasks.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.11 Fin ray
Exhibit 4.12 Spherical array, 32-channel acoustic
camera system for interior use
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4.7.5 Bionic propeller
EvoLogics GmbH, Berlin
Inspired by the fanned wing tips of an eagle,
scientists of the Bionics Department at the
Technical University of Berlin asked
themselves how the widespread, flexible outer
wing changes the flight and drag performance.
Regarding the turbulence caused by aircraft
wings, a significant amount of energy is
wasted and not used to create upforce.
Combining those facts, the team at
EvoLogics started to work on a new wing
system inspired by nature. The idea was to
use drag forces as efficiently as possible and
therefore save energy. The principle is to split
up vortices at the wing tip, known as
winglets in airplanes.
Following up this idea, a bionic propeller
(Exhibit 4.13) has been developed. The new
propeller is designed such that its blades
meet each other to form a circular outer
wing. This highly efficient and noise-avoiding
propeller has been adopted for new aviation
design. Further areas of application are fans,
ship propellers and chopper blades.
4.7.6 Plants as concept generators
Plants as concept generators for innovative
biomimetic structures and materials by
Thomas Speck and Tom Masselter, Botanic
Garden of the University of Freiburg and
BIOKON
Different biological models such as mammut
trees, giant bamboos and vines are the base
for biomimetic products for many different
industries, including aviation, automotive
and architecture.
Gradient materials with optimised structure
and weight properties are more often the
focus of industrial collaboration. Those
materials are built to resist specific forces. The
team at the Botanic Garden of the University
of Freiburg chose the giant reed as a biological
model to learn about gradient materials.
The giant reed is bionically interesting
because of its optimised fibre orientation and
distribution. Its gradual transition between
fibre and matrixes gives inspiration to build
lightweight structures with high stiffness and
strength. Comparing the diameter of the
stem to its height, the flexibility of the plant
is enormous.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.13 Bionic propeller from EvoLogics GmbH
Exhibit 4.14 Model of stem structure
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Based on this model the team from Freiburg
developed a technical plant stem (Exhibit
4.15) in collaboration with ITV Denkendorf.
The stem is made of a bionically optimised
fibre-reinforced compound material. This
material gives high vibration damping, long-
lasting high dynamic load capacity and benign
fracture behaviour.
To manufacture this material, high-end
pultrusion and 3D-single-braiding techniques
were used.
4.7.7 Self-healing structures
Together with various industrial partners, a
team from Thomas Speck developed a plant-
inspired self-healing system for pneumatic
systems such as aircraft, bridges or
architectural elements. The idea is to prevent
damage through air leakage.
The plant Aristolochia macrophylla is known
for its self-repairing capability in the vine.
Plants have developed an enormous capacity
to seal and mend internal fissures. Based on
this, the team worked on developing a self-
repairing foam with some promising results.
With the bionically optimised foam,
polymerised under pressure, air leakage
caused by holes up to 5 mm diameter can be
delayed by two to three orders of magnitude.
In a second phase, not only sealing but real
repair should be achieved, ie re-establishment
of the mechanical properties of the membrane.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 4.15 Technical plant stem developed by
University of Freiburg in collaboration with ITV
Denkendorf
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5.1 Commercial case for biomimetic
solutions
5.2 Role of funding
5.3 Incubators and consortia
5.4 Discussion and conclusions
5.1 Commercial case for biomimetic
solutions
Consideration of the ubiquitous hook and
loop product Velcro illustrates that biologically
inspired products can result in significant
commercial potential. However, since it was
invented in 1941, the time to develop a
significant market even for this new
paradigm product has been considerable. In
view of its success, it begs the question why
there are not more killer applications, since
the source of natural inspiration is virtually
endless.
This chapter will assess the role of funding
on commercialisation of biomimetics
research. A selection of biomimetics case
studies will first be compared.
5.1.1 Devices
The steerable endoscope developed by
DEAM uses biomimetic principles to achieve
an improved product compared to existing
products. The benefits of the device were
well defined: to give a better image of the
target area, especially depth perception,
which would allow more precise surgery cut
depth. A secondary benefit would be realised
if the endoscope diameter could be
minimised, resulting in reduced tissue
damage, and hence reduced hospital
treatment costs. Having successfully
achieved both of these aims, the product
received commercial interest from a
manufacturer of such devices. Cost of the
device was not so much of an issue, even if
higher than standard instruments, due to
performance benefits resulting in less patient
trauma and damage ensuring large cost
savings in post-operative patient care.
A noise measurement and visualisation tool
based on a bat radar analogue was
presented by Dr Jaeckel of GFaI, Berlin. The
methodology behind this device is well
known, so the innovation has been in
developing an improved overall system. This
tool shows great potential for transportation
design and noise optimisation and
environmental monitoring. With Porsche as
the launch customer, industry has identified
the usefulness of this tool. An interesting
feature of this case study is the way it has
developed in an incubator ie GFaI
(discussed in Section 5.3 below).
A microfluidics pump development funded
by Philips featured cost as a significant, but
not overriding, factor. Again, the market was
medical (diagnostics) and a premium product
(at least initially) was envisaged. The
biomimetics fluid transport system would be
more expensive than a micropump but
offered added functionality in terms of fluid
mixing, a crucial factor for accurate diagnosis.
The product also had an additional high-
added-value application in drug testing, which
strengthened the justification of research
cost. However, it was made clear that Philips
was very aware of cost and was looking at
four different actuator options, and cost
might be a deciding factor in the final choice
of technique. In general terms, the simpler
system would probably be preferred due to
reduced cost (complexity costs money). If
Philips successfully develops this product, it
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5 COMMERCIAL VALUE OF BIOMIMETICS
Martin Kemp
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could have huge commercial potential in
future microfluidics devices.
5.1.2 Optimisation
The DaimlerChrysler bionic car explores
aerodynamic and structural/weight benefits of
biomimetic principles, including the SKO
modelling approach of Professor Mattheck.
This can be realised and used by engineers
using finite element (FE) stress analysis
software, and hence promises a powerful and
accessible tool. However, DaimlerChrysler
indicated no follow-on activity, even though
real car components had been optimised. The
barrier to full exploitation in the car industry
appears to be that the optimised structures
are too expensive to manufacture. However,
in another industry this method might provide
significant benefits.
The evolutionary approach to process or
design optimisation was presented by
INPRO, a software package using neural
network processing techniques. The diversity
of applications, from coffee blending to
optical lens optimisation, was impressive and
indicated that it could be used in a wide
range of markets.
Tubular elements are widely used in industry,
and the work at ITV Denkendorf simulated
hollow plant-stem structures. ITV has taken
this design idea forward by developing a
braiding technique coupled with pultrusion to
enable rapid net shape manufacture. As a
case study, this overcomes several barriers to
commercialisation, since it has been taken
through proof-of-concept stage to prototyping.
This immediately allows industry the
opportunity to rapidly assess the potential, as
evidenced by applications in prostheses
(Springlite), train body outer skins (Bekaert);
Airbus curved stringers (Fiber Innovations),
and for a bicycle frame tube (Vyatek).
5.1.3 Functional surfaces
Surface-to-surface contact properties are
involved in the way we touch, grip and feel
everyday objects. For joining, the strength of
interfaces is crucial. These properties have
been investigated by MPI Stuttgart, resulting
in a synthetic gecko foot structure using a
textured soft polymer. The company Binder is
interested in developing an adhesive tape
version (it has patented the finest scale
Velcro with 40 m features); Satisloh is
investigating use in processing lenses; Shunk
is interested in developing grippers for silicon
wafers and solar batteries; Voith in a paper
feeding system; Reticel of Belgium to prevent
polymer surfaces squeaking, giving soft-touch
feel for car interiors (joint patent); and OVD
Kinegram of Switzerland is investigating soft-
touch metal strips on euro banknotes for
authenticity and anticounterfeiting (this could
be in the form of frictional anisotropy). A
number of companies (including automotive)
are interested in novel attachment devices.
As with Velcro, such a product has a diverse
marketing potential.
These case studies, which are so different in
every way, illustrate the diversity of products
that can be derived from biomimetic
research, from specific devices to generic
products with wide potential application. To
describe the latter inventions, Dr Bannasch of
TU Berlin compared the normal exploitation
of research ideas to the exploitation of
biomimetic ideas. In the former case, he
argued that starting a significant number of
ideas deriving from biomimetics had multiple
applications, ie greater possibilities for
commercial exploitation (Exhibit 5.1).
5.2 Role of funding
Two main research funding models were
seen on this mission: funding by large
companies (eg Philips, DaimlerChrysler), and
funding by State or Regional Government as
in Germany:
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The German Federal Ministry of Education
and Research (BMBF)
Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU)
German Environment Foundation
The state of Baden-Wrttemberg
An increasing number of university sponsors
In Germany, the BIOKON network was set up
in 2001 with six members and now comprises
52 members in 28 locations. The first round of
funding for BIOKON from BMBF was 2.4
million (~1.6 million) from June 2001 to June
2004. The success of BIOKON I led to a
second round of funding for July 2004 to July
2007 (BIOKON II) in which BMBF awarded 20
research groups a total of 6 million (~4.1
million), with the objective that the network
becomes self-funding in 2007. BIOKON
appears to have made good progress towards
this objective by engaging German industry
and setting up international links.
BIOKON members include universities, Max
Planck Institutes and Fraunhofer research
groups. The network provides internal
networking infrastructure, as well as a
platform for international collaboration.
International links have been set up with
groups in the USA, Canada, UK, Norway,
Netherlands, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy,
Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand,
Japan, China and Singapore.
Now employing a director and run as a
commercial entity Forschungsgemeinschaft
Bionik-Kompetenznetz eV BIOKON has also
been active in promoting biomimetics to
German industry. In addition to a website and
newsletter, BIOKON has coordinated a major
exhibition stand at the Hannover Messe
engineering fair in 2005. This display was
funded jointly by BIOKON and the nine
industry sponsors who exhibited. It allowed
direct promotion of biomimetics to end-user
engineering industries by a variety of eye-
catching demonstrators and exhibits. BIOKON
also provides an access mechanism for
German industry to the research community.
It has run workshops for different market
sectors (eg automotive and marine).
At an international level, BIOKON provided
exhibits for the German pavilion at Japan
Expo 2005, indicating the high regard with
which this work is regarded by the German
Government as a promotional topic.
Another networking opportunity in Germany has
been the creation of a bionics (biomimetics)
working group within the Association of
German Engineers (VDI). It has been noted by
the BIOKON network that publications involving
industry sponsors are few, due to the
requirement to retain confidentiality.
One conclusion of the mission is that UK
industry might fund significant research
projects if they were more aware that the
approach existed, and understood the
potential benefits. The key to removing this
barrier appears to be the need to
communicate and raise industry awareness.
A secondary funding initiative under the
BMBF framework programme has been a
funding competition primarily for young
researchers, Biotechnology Using and
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 5.1 Business development for biomimetic
compared to normal ideas (after Bannasch)
Normal
Biomimetic
Ideas Projects Start-ups Products
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Shaping its Opportunities, which was
launched in December 2003. The total
funding of 1 million (~680,000) was for
around 20 demonstrator projects with the aim
of early commercialisation.
5.3 Incubators and consortia
GFaI is an interesting incubator model.
Founded in 1990 as a not-for-profit
organisation, it now has 100 employees all
developing computer science based
businesses. GFaI receives 70% state (ie
Berlin) funding each year to which it must
match 30% from sales or industry income.
Since GFaI is able to assign the government
income as it wishes, and also agglomerates
commercial income, then projects which may
not produce commercial income can survive
the early stage of commercialisation by being
supported by the more commercially
developed projects.
The INPRO organisation is a joint-ownership
development company owned by BASF
Coatings AG, DaimlerChrysler AG, IWKA AG,
ThyssenKrupp Automotive AG, Volkswagen AG
and the city-state of Berlin. INPRO
investigates and develops concepts and
products of interest to its owners, which were
not generally biomimetics but solved industrial
problems. This unusual model has potential if
a number of noncompetitive companies see
benefit in sharing access to developments.
5.4 Discussion and conclusions
Engaging industry and generating wealth is an
important factor in biomimetics as in all
innovation. Biomimetics has a credibility
barrier with industry end users, due to lack of
awareness, or wrong preconceptions. In
Germany, the setting up of a network
(BIOKON) has facilitated access by industry,
networked the solution providers, and given
critical mass for actively promoting the subject
and its products (eg at Hannover Messe).
From the research perspective, there are two
major barriers which need to be addressed:
Biomimetics is research-intensive and
funding is therefore required from
government or industry. Raising awareness
of the importance of the subject to
decision-makers in government is
important, as is also targeting potential
industry sponsors. The network approach
can assist in this.
Biomimetics is interdisciplinary, and needs
input from a range of disciplines. This
mission witnessed involvement by
biologists, mathematicians, engineers,
chemists and physicists to name but a few.
Research funding therefore needs more
effort to overcome traditional funding
down single-discipline streams (eg BBSRC
and EPSRC in the UK).
A significant number of commercial products
were observed with apparently different
exploitation models. The fast track
commercialisation route appeared to be those
products deriving from research funded by, or
licensed to, large companies (eg Festo
actuators, STO paint). Small spin-out
companies marketing a single product or
concept (eg EvoLogics fin ray effect) were
making inroads, but it seems that those
based in a univeristy department derive
benefit from the incubator environment, but
not the immediate market access a host
company can provide. An alternative model
worthy of examination is the not-for-profit
incubator cooperative (eg GFaI acoustic
camera, which receives Berlin-state funding
but must match this from its overall sales
income). The INPRO model is another
unusual model, based on a joint-ownership
development company owned by BASF
Coatings AG, DaimlerChrysler AG, IWKA AG,
ThyssenKrupp Automotive AG, Volkswagen
AG and the city-state of Berlin.
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The large and well-organised BIOKON
network in Germany reflects the large
amount of government research funding
received by these institutions. Equivalents to
Max Planck and Fraunhofer establishments
with their government or industry funding
models hardly exist in the UK. It is therefore
important that the UK funding bodies
consider the most appropriate way to
increase funding to this topic to the benefit of
UK industry.
The BIOKON network has had a major effect
in promoting and organising German
biomimetics research, and lessons from this
should be applied to the UK situation. The
size of this network (one of the German
Kompetenznetze)
9
is equivalent to a KTN in
the UK. A European network concept was
discussed during the mission, and received a
generally favourable acceptance.
Biomimetic solutions derived for specific
industry problems appeared to be easier to
market than generic solutions (eg dry
adhesive), although the latter might have
much larger commercial potential.
The only real similarity between the
commercialisation examples examined here
is the diversity of the end products and the
natural analogues from which inspiration was
derived. This diversity embodies the power
of the biomimetics approach, and indicates
that as a problem-solving or innovation tool it
can be used by any industry for any problem.
A significant number of the biomimetic
solutions examined during the mission have
clear end uses and markets. Some have been
technology-driven solutions which, because of
their effectiveness, have found industrial
interest. Others have been funded by
industry to solve a specific problem, and
hence are market driven. A common feature
was that they were all relatively young in
terms of development, and the potential
commercial success in five or 10 years is
impossible to estimate. However, many
certainly have the potential to succeed, and
developments such as the dry adhesive
based on the gecko foot could be as
significant as Velcro.
An incubator model appears to work well in
biomimetics, in which a university provides
researchers with support for commercialising
products, and provides industry with a facilitated
route to prototyping and development.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
9 www.kompetenznetze.de
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6.1 Introduction
6.2 A technique, not a style
6.3 What product designers should
know
6.4 What is the appeal to designers?
6.5 The commercial case
6.6 Conclusions
6.1 Introduction
When a product designer says that a particular
design is influenced by nature, he or she is
most likely talking about its appearance: it has
an organic shape. Nature is a good teacher in
this regard, but imitating or being inspired by
natural-looking forms, textures and colours
alone is not biomimetics; to quote mission
member Dr Julian Vincent: ... biomimetics has
to have some biology in it. By which he
means that, to be truly biomimetic, a design
should in some way be informed by natures
science, not just its look.
Although many designers are aware of some
individual achievements of biomimetic
science and technology non-wetting surface
treatments for example the subject does
not have a high profile in the design
community. The awareness, then, is
anecdotal rather than systematic; designers
simply are not exposed to the breadth of
activity and achievement in biomimetics, or to
the opportunities it promises. Put simply,
biomimetics should be a standard part of the
product designers toolkit, but it is not.
6.2 A technique, not a style
Product design, like any other design field, is
a child of fashion. The things we make evolve
along both technological and visual pathways
and we tend to see the former as a one-way,
incremental path of improvement, whereas
the latter visual taste and style follows a
more complex trajectory. Visual fashion, be it
in clothes, products or buildings, has a
progressive trend a gradual one-way change
influenced mainly by technology and
intertwined cyclical trends where preferences
come and go, often returning to revisit certain
forms, details and colours again and again.
In product design the fashion a decade ago
was for so-called organic shapes, with
vehicles and consumer products encased in
smoothly flowing forms and curvy details.
Bio-inspired perhaps, but not as we have
seen biomimetic. At present (2007) the
fashion is for a kind of post-Bauhaus
minimalism, as exemplified in the work of
British-born design chief Jonathan Ive at
Apple. This design language is hard-edged
and machine-like but succeeds in being
humane and friendly through its simplicity
and careful use of materials.
This discussion of fashion and style is
worthwhile because it is important to
understand that biomimetics has nothing to
do with appearance. A biomimetic product
could easily be designed to look zoomorphic,
but it need not. A hard-edged and minimal
phone (for example) could be packed with
biomimetic innovations. So it is important for
designers to understand that biomimetics
does not necessarily influence the
appearance and style of a product. It could,
but it does not have to.
6.3 What product designers should
know
No matter what your level of focus from
metres down to nanometres biology does
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6 BIOMIMETICS AND PRODUCT DESIGN
Geoff Hollington
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things differently to human technology
(Exhibit 6.1).
Just to be aware of these differences is a
source of enlightenment to any product
designer, as they suggest routes for improving
the ways we design and make things. At a
deeper level of engagement these insights
can lead to new design strategies.
6.3.1 Who does what?
Product designers can seek to imitate these
advantageous strategies in two ways:
As clients for biomimetic materials,
components and techniques generated by
technical R&D coming from either research
or industry labs
By employing biomimetic design
processes themselves
As technology clients, designers can utilise
(and support the development of) biomimetic
materials, processes and components. More
proactively, they can employ biomimetics
themselves, for example, by:
Reducing the number of different
materials in a product assembly, making
recycling much easier (biology employs
very few materials, but combines them in
complex composites)
Making a reduced materials repertoire
function in diverse ways by structuring
surfaces
Learning from the designs of
macrostructures in nature (eg squid
tentacle, penguin fluid dynamics, bamboo
stem etc)
Developing product self-repair techniques
Employing evolutionary design processes
Informing man-machine interaction design
through observation of animal behaviour
6.4 What is the appeal to designers?
Inventors, engineers and product designers
have always taken inspiration from nature,
which is not surprising as we are animals
ourselves, immersed in the diversity of
biology. But whereas until quite recently such
biomimetic design was unpredictable, even
accidental, it is now well advanced in the
process of becoming a stand-alone branch of
technology. But branch is hardly sufficient to
describe a technology with access to such a
wealth of source material and with such
breadth and depth of application. For all
intents and purposes the scope of
biomimetics is limitless; its lessons close to
infinite in number.
So designers who choose to embrace
biomimetics will find it inspiring and liberating.
It offers, in some ways, an alternative lens
through which to contemplate any design
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Human technology Biology Natures advantage
Creation by fabrication Creation by growth No assembly constraints, no screws!
Survival by repetition Survival by variation Faults quickly eliminated, no product recalls!
Improvement through design Improvement through evolution Continuous improvement, automatic design
optimisation
High-temperature processes Low-temperature processes Low energy, recyclable compounds
Many materials Few materials Easier materials sourcing, easy recycling
External repair Self repair Low-cost and fast repairs, minimum downtime,
no call centres!
Exhibit 6.1 Biology does things differently to human technology
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challenge. It also offers a vast inventory of
sources and catalysts for invention and
innovation. In comparison, the source book
of schemes and models from human
technology is a thin volume.
6.5 The commercial case
Product design (alternatively called industrial
design) is a youngish profession no more
than 70 years old. But its maturity is much
more recent, just a decade or two. Prior to
that, it would not have been possible to say
that product designers initiate a high
proportion of the innovation and creativity in
product development or that they represent a
broad conduit for the introduction of new
materials and processes, as is now the case.
Designers operate in a competitive
environment where early adoption and
innovation are the most useful survival
strategies. They also have a direct influence
on technology adoption and material and
component specification. Finally, product
designers have a self-appointed duty to track
and investigate what they, or we, might call
cool new stuff.
Biomimetics offers competitive advantages to
suppliers of materials, processes and
components, and to the makers and brand
owners of finished products. Product
designers represent one important and well-
defined channel for dissemination.
6.6 Conclusions
Every product designer, whether in
consultancy or employed in-house, should
be aware of biomimetics and its innovation
potential; biomimetics should therefore be
part of every designers standard toolkit
UK product design will be strengthened
and made more competitive through the
increased awareness of biomimetics
A long-term education strategy should be
developed and properly funded to create
awareness of biomimetics amongst UK
product designers in practice and in
education
Networks, workshops and events could
help forge links and transfer knowledge
between the design and technical
communities
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7.1 Introduction
7.2 Processes
7.3 Tools
7.4 Conclusions and recommendations
7.1 Introduction
This chapter examines the biomimetic
processes used to date to generate the
successful engineering solutions and
opportunities inspired by biological systems,
and how these processes can be formalised
so they become more readily available to
both biologists and engineers.
7.2 Processes
As previous examples show, an engineering
material or a technical device can be designed
through inspiration by nature in two ways:
A technical problem is identified by an
engineer who then looks to nature for a
solution this biomimetic process is often
referred to as top-down
A natural phenomenon is researched and
understood by a biologist who then seeks
for an application in the technical world
this biomimetic process is often referred to
as bottom-up
7.2.1 Top-down process
As illustrated in Exhibit 7.1, the top-down
process comprises the following steps:
Formulate the technical problem
Seek for analogies in biology
Identify corresponding principles
Abstract from the biological model
Implement technology through prototyping
and testing
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
7 INTEGRATING BIOMIMETICS INTO PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
Matthias Gester
Exhibit 7.1 Top-down process of biomimetics (courtesy University of Freiburg)
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The top-down approach was used by
DaimlerChrysler to reduce the drag of a car,
which could still carry four passengers and
luggage. Studies of the shape of the boxfish
led to the development of the bionic car. In
another example, BEAM, a spin-out from Delft
University in the Netherlands, wanted to
develop a flexible endoscope. A mechanism for
bending the outer tube of an endoscope was
designed in analogy of the squids tentacles.
In the case of the DaimlerChrysler bionic car,
an engineer was aware of the biomimetic
process through training. In general, however,
biomimetics is not an established process
which an engineer would consider when
embarking on the design of a new product. To
become a standard process, biomimetics
needs to be included in the education of the
modern engineer. In addition, information
needs to be available which relates the
biological structure and function of a multitude
of natural organisms so that analogues with
technical systems can be drawn.
By considering biomimetics as a process to
solve only an existing technical problem
another aspect is completely lost:
biomimetics also offers opportunities for
completely new materials and devices. This is
achieved by the bottom-up process,
considered next.
7.2.2 Bottom-up process
As illustrated in Exhibit 7.2, the bottom-up
process comprises the following steps:
Identify a biological system
Analyse biomechanics, functional
morphology and anatomy
Understand the principles
Abstract from the biological model
Implement technology through prototyping
and testing
The bottom-up approach led to the discovery
and exploitation of the lotus effect. It had
been observed a long time ago that the
leaves of the lotus plant not only repel water
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit 7.2 Bottom-up process of biomimetics (courtesy University of Freiburg)
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but also have the tendency to clean
themselves. Study of the microstructure at
the Institute for Materials Research at the
University of Karlsruhe, and later
understanding of its function, led to the
development of superhydrophobic coatings.
Another example is the development of dry
adhesives based on the analysis of the micro-
and nanostructure of the geckos foot at the
Centre for Tribology of Biological and Bio-
inspired Surfaces at the Max Planck Institute
for Metals Research in Stuttgart.
It is often difficult for a biological expert, who
has studied an organism and identified that
natures design offers a valuable technical
opportunity, to find an engineering partner to
implement the concept.
Regardless whether biology or technology is
the starting point for the biomimetic process,
both cases rely on an intimate
interdisciplinary collaboration to generate a
successful new material or device. This is
obvious from all the examples given in
previous chapters. For instance, ITV
Denkendorf was able to use detailed
biological studies from the University of
Freiburg and combine these with its expertise
in textile manufacturing and an understanding
of industrial requirements to generate new
materials, such as the lotus coated textiles
and plant stem structures.
7.3 Tools
If a solution for an existing problem or a new
business opportunity is sought or found
through inspiration from nature, the need
arises for a more systematic biomimetic
process. For this purpose, three different
tools are currently being developed.
A TRIZ-based system to transfer functions,
mechanisms and principles from biology to
engineering has been pioneered at the
Engineering Department of the University of
Bath. TRIZ was developed in Russia for
solving technical problems assuming that a
solution can be derived from the analysis of
existing solutions to problems which share
common characteristics. For this purpose the
ideal result and its constraints are first
defined and then used to look up solution
principles from a matrix. To make this system
useful as a bionic engineering tool, the
existing data have to be assembled in a
database and a larger number of biological
systems need to be analysed and added to
this database.
A complementary database system is being
developed at the Centre for Tribology of
Biological and Bio-inspired Surfaces at the
Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in
Stuttgart by Dr Wegst. This system is based
on the Cambridge Materials Selector and lists
about 1,000 biological materials with
attributes. The database is searched and used
in the same way as the materials selector
and so can suggest suitable materials for
particular applications. Dr Wegst is
introducing elements of the TRIZ system to
suggest improvements.
Finally, it is possible to use a lexical search
method in which biological texts are searched
for keywords corresponding to the terminology
in which an engineering problem can be
described. This method is fairly quick and
simple but relies on finding a suitable
translation of engineering terminology into
biology, and its outcome depends on the
availability and quality of the biological literature.
7.4 Conclusion and recommendations
There are two processes to generate
technical solutions and opportunities inspired
by nature, both of which rely on the close
collaboration of biologists and engineers.
Increased awareness of these processes is
required to fully lever the benefits of
biomimetics as a valuable complementary
approach to engineering. Universities may
contribute through teaching bionics as part of
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
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engineering degrees. However, more
importantly, network formation of parties
active or interested in biomimetics is
necessary, in particular since ultimately only
the collaborative work of biologists and
engineers will generate successful results.
Systematic tools, which still require more
resources to be developed into useful
engineering aids, cannot replace the
interdisciplinary biomimetics process.
In Germany, partners can be found through
contacting the BIOKON network, which with
270 academic and industrial members in its
fifth year is a model for bringing partners
together. However, the UK BIONIS network
so far lacks proper funding and administrative
support, which leaves individuals in the
universities of Reading and Bath as the key
points of contact.
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8.1 Conclusions
8.2 Recommendations
8.1 Conclusions
The mission team found a rich and diverse
biomimetics research community in Germany
and the Netherlands whose key strengths
were the size of the community as supported
by public research funding and the
coordination of the work as exemplified by
the BIOKON network. Despite this, there
were still few examples of true technology
transfer into real commercial applications.
Empirical evidence from the discussions
indicates that this discipline is reaching a new
stage of maturity and commercial successes
may not be far away. The steerable
endoscopes for laparoscopic surgery from the
University of Delft are a good example of this.
The BIOKON network appears to work
extremely successfully. It provides a single
point of contact for industry to access all the
exciting work on biomimetics in Germany and
provides a seamless process to link the
commercial world and academic research.
The support and coordination of the BIOKON
organisation has allowed German
biomimetics research to generate significant
exposure and momentum which has in turn
increased funding and awareness of the topic
as a route to product innovation. Biomimetics
research in the UK has coalesced into the
BIONIS network but the small amount of
allocated funding has meant little progress in
raising awareness and exposure.
The team observed two opposite approaches
to the application of biomimetic principles.
Many research institutes were studying nature
with the intent of finding a new technology
that could be applied to industrial problems.
Perhaps more commercially viable opportunities
are to be found from research which focuses
from the opposite standpoint. This means that a
problem is technologically defined and then
appropriate biological solutions are searched.
This method has its own issues as biology is an
extremely large search space that is not fully
mapped or understood.
However, perhaps the key to understanding
the role of biomimetics in product design is
the fact that the reason for the success of any
product is not that it can trace its roots back to
a natural principle but that it is an example of
good design! Biomimetics is a philosophical
approach that can lead to novel ideas and
innovative solutions that have many potential
advantages, for example from functional,
sustainability or weight perspectives.
8.2 Recommendations
The UK requires a networked resource to
bring together the work in this area and thus
support the industrial application of this
exciting topic. This should encompass:
The creation of a biological consultancy
group to advise industry on how to apply
techniques and to advise on novel solutions
A formal link to the research covered by
the BIOKON group and other centres of
excellence in the European Union (EU) to
ensure leverage is gained from the
knowledge generated in other countries
the EU could possibly look to fund this
as part of a Seventh Framework
Programme initiative
Activities to raise awareness of this issue
to both industry and potential funders
(DTI, research councils etc)
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
8 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Cathy Barnes
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Education is key to the expansion of
biomimetics. It should be included in the
education syllabus of engineers and
designers to make them aware of the
potential of the approach. The biological
sciences should be made aware of the
commercial applications of their knowledge.
Benefits of awareness and exposure will be
evidenced when the cohorts of these
disciplines enter the commercial domain.
Funding should be made available to support
the training of the next generation of experts
in this area to ensure succession of this
important topic in the UK.
However, research is still needed to identify a
process for integrating biomimetics within the
product development cycle and to ensure the
designers of tomorrow are fully aware of the
significant opportunities nature can offer to
improving product success.
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Ball P (2001). Lifes lessons in design. Nature 409, 413-416
Benyus J M (1997). Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature. William Morrow
Beukers A and Hinte E v (1998). Lightness: the inevitable renaissance of minimum energy
structures. Rotterdam: 010 Press
Gibson L J and Ashby M F (1997). Cellular solids, structure and properties. Cambridge:
University Press.
Godfaurd J, Clements-Croome D and Jeronimidis G (2005). Sustainable building solutions: a
review of lessons from the natural world. Building and Environment 40, 319-328
Gorb S (2001). Attachment devices of insect cuticle. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer
Gordon J E (1987). The science of structures and materials. New York: Freeman
Kaplan D L (1998). Mollusc shell structures: novel design strategies for synthetic materials.
Current Opinion in Solid State & Materials Science 3, 232-236
Mann S (1996). Biomimetic materials chemistry. VCH
Mattheck C (1998). Design in nature learning from trees. Heidelberg: Springer
Milwich M, Speck T, Speck O, Stegmaier T and Planck H (2006). Biomimetics and technical
textiles: solving engineering problems with the help of natures wisdom. American Journal of
Botany 93, 1455-1465
Sanchez C, Arribart H and Giraud Guille M M (2005). Biomimetism and bioinspiration as tools
for the design of innovative materials and systems. Nature Materials 4, 277-288
Shu L H and Chiu I (2004). Natural language analysis for biomimetic design. In ASME Design
Engineering Technical Conference, pp DETC2004-57250, 1-9
Vincent J F V, Bogatyreva O A, Bogatyrev N R, Bowyer A and Pahl A-K (2006). Biomimetics
its practice and theory. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 3, 471-482
Wainwright S A, Biggs W D, Currey J D and Gosline J M (1976). The mechanical design of
organisms. London: Arnold
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Appendix A
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
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B.1 Organisations met
Philips, Eindhoven
DaimlerChrysler, Ulm
University of Delft
University of Groningen
DEAM, Delft
Institute for Textile Technology and Process
Engineering (ITV Denkendorf)
University of Freiburg: Plant Biomechanics
Group
Max Planck Institute for Metals Research:
Evolutionary Biomaterials Group, Stuttgart
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and
Interfaces, Potsdam
Technical University of Berlin
EvoLogics GmbH, Berlin
INPRO, Berlin
Institute for Industrial Design, Magdeburg
Hexagon
Society for the Promotion of Applied
Computer Science (GFaI), Berlin
University of Potsdam
B.2 Locations visited
British Embassy
Lange Voorhout 10
2514 ED The Hague
The Netherlands
Institut fr Textil- und Verfahrenstechnik (ITV)
(Institute for Textile Technology and Process
Engineering)
Koerschtalstrae 26
D-73770 Denkendorf
Germany
Evolutionary Biomaterials Group
Max-Planck-Institut fr Metallforschung
(Max Planck Institute for Metals Research)
Heisenbergstrae 03
D-70569 Stuttgart
Germany
Max-Planck-Institut fr Kolloid- und
Grenzflchenforschung (Max Planck Institute
of Colloids and Interfaces)
Department of Biomaterials
Wissenschaftspark Golm
D-14424 Potsdam
Germany
EvoLogics GmbH, F&E Labor Bionik
Ackerstrasse 76
D-13355 Berlin
Germany
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Appendix B
HOST ORGANISATIONS
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B.3 BIOKON network
The Bionics Competence Network (BIOKON)
hosts the 28 major players in the field of
bionics and biomimetics in Germany. It is a
federally funded project under the auspices of
the Federal Ministry of Education and
Research (BMBF). The aim of BIOKON is to
demonstrate the possibilities of bionics to
business and industry, science and the general
public, and subsequently tap its full potential.
Founded in 2001, BIOKON entered its second
stage in June 2004. The group of six founding
centres has since been expanded by 28
additional institutes and research facilities with
outstanding competences in the field of bionics.
This nationwide network thus encompasses
the most important research groups in
bionics and provides an ideal forum for
scientific exchange, the development of
curricula for primary, secondary and tertiary
education as well as providing qualified
contacts for inquiries from the industry.
(Source: www.biokon.net accessed 24
January 2007)
Exhibit B.1 Map of BIOKON network (courtesy
BIOKON)
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Dr Cathy Barnes
Network Manager Human Sciences and
Design
Faraday Packaging Partnership
3320 Century Way
Thorpe Park
Leeds
LS15 8ZB
UK
T +44 (0)113 284 0217
F +44 (0)113 284 0211
info@faradaypackaging.com
www.faradaypackaging.com
Dr Cathy Barnes is a lecturer in Design and
Manufacture Integration in the School of
Mechanical Engineering at the University of
Leeds and Human Sciences and Design
Network Manager at Faraday Packaging
Partnership.
Her research interests focus on the human
interface of design and manufacturing and
include affective design, emotional tribology
and decision-based concurrent engineering
and she has published extensively in these
areas. She is leading the development of
affective engineering tools in a funded
collaboration with nine major consumer
goods companies and has particular
experience of experimental design, textural
analysis and self-report elicitation of user
feelings about products.
Appendix C
MISSION PARTICIPANTS
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Professor Julian Vincent
Professor of Biomimetics
University of Bath
Centre for Biomimetic and Natural
Technologies
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Bath
BA2 7AY
UK
T +44 (0)1225 826 933
F +44 (0)1225 826 928
biomimetics@bath.ac.uk
www.bath.ac.uk/mech-eng/biomimetics
Julian Vincent is a biologist. Commitment to
the study of insects (age six) led him to a first
degree in zoology (age 22), a PhD in insect
hormones (age 25) and a DSc in mechanical
properties of insect cuticle (age 37).
As a lecturer in Zoology at the University of
Reading, becoming ever more interested in the
interplay between biology and technology, he
established, with George Jeronimidis, the
Centre for Biomimetics at Reading. He was
then invited to join the Department of
Mechanical Engineering and Design at the
University of Bath, where he established the
Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies.
He is married to Elizabeth, a botanist. They
have a daughter, Helen, who works for
BioRegional establishing protocols for
sustainable living.
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Geoff Hollington
Hollington Associates
T +44 (0)7770 567 669
geoff.h@hollington.co.uk
www.hollington.co.uk
Geoff is a product designer, innovator and
commentator on design. He studied Industrial
Design at the Central School (now the
University of the Arts) in London, followed by
a postgraduate degree in environmental
design at Londons Royal College of Art.
Through most of his career Geoff has run his
own London-based consulting firm, creating
products for big international brands. He has
always been an innovator, combining
technical and aesthetic invention in products
that often advance the state of the art.
His Relay office furniture group for US giant
Herman Miller was the first product to
anticipate the modern organisations need for
instant flexibility and mobility in the
workplace: it won an IDEA/Business Week
gold award.
Geoff also designed Sonnet the classic,
best-selling Parker pen.
In 2003 he formed a high-tech start-up
company to develop and market an advanced,
digital massager. The product, launched in
spring 2006, took Geoff to China where he
spent much of 2005 learning the hard way
how to develop and manufacture high-tech
products there.
Geoff is author of many technical patents. His
work has won international awards and is
held in museum collections. He has written
about design in newspapers and magazines
and is a regular columnist on the topic of
automotive design. He has also given talks to
audiences around the world, particularly in
the USA.
In education Geoff has taught at Kingston
University, Ravensbourne College of Art and
the Royal College of Art in the UK, and has
moderated PhDs and been external examiner
for postgraduate degrees, particularly at the
Royal College.
In January 2007 Geoff became a Design
Mentor to the Materials and Design
Exchange, a node of the Materials KTN.
Geoff is married to Liz, has four children and
lives in Lewes on the English coast, 50 miles
south of London.
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Dr Matthias Gester
Senior Scientist
Procter & Gamble
Gillette Advanced Technology Centre
460 Basingstoke Road
Reading
RG2 0QE
UK
T +44 (0)118 923 1713
F +44 (0)118 975 2822
matthias_gester@gillette.com
www.pg.com
Matthias Gester works for Procter & Gamble
(P&G) in the Future Technologies group at the
Gillette Advanced Technology Centre in
Reading. His responsibilities include the
identification, evaluation and implementation
of new technologies to generate concepts for
hair removal devices with enhanced
consumer benefits. Previously he worked in
the aerospace industry and in technology
consulting. Matthias read physics at the
Technical University in Munich and obtained a
PhD from Cambridge University.
P&G (founded in 1837, HQ in Cincinnati, Ohio,
USA) produces world-renowned brands of
consumer products for household care,
beauty and healthcare and family and baby
care. In 2005, P&G had 140,000 employees
worldwide and generated total net sales of
$68 billion (~35 billion). The company
invested approximately $1.8 billion (~930
million) into R&D carried out in 25 centres
across the globe. Gillette joined P&G in
October 2005.
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Dr Martin Kemp
International Technology Promoter
DTI Global Watch Service
Pera
Pera Innovation Park
Nottingham Road
Melton Mowbray
Leicestershire
LE13 0PB
UK
T +44 (0)1664 501 551
M +44 (0)7736 447 876
F +44 (0)1664 501 261
martin.kemp@pera.com
www.globalwatchservice.com
Martin Kemp has nearly five years
experience assisting UK organisations find
technology partners across Western Europe.
Formerly a Materials Scientist with
experience of biomimetics research at
QinetiQ (formerly DERA), he has 10 years
experience of marketing and selling
innovation to UK and overseas markets.
He specialises in advanced materials and
nanotechnology, and has overseen five
overseas technology missions.
Organisations wishing to discuss overseas
technology and partnering opportunities are
invited to make contact.
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Patrick Poitevin
Packaging Development & Innovation
Manager
COSi Ltd
Watersmead Business Park
Littlehampton
West Sussex
BN17 6LS
UK
T +44 (0)1903 278 000
F +44 (0)1903 278 004
patrick.poitevin@cosiworld.com
www.cosiworld.com
Patrick Poitevin is of Belgian origin. He
worked for Este Lauder Companies for
nearly two decades. Thereafter he worked as
Packaging Technologist at the Nestl Group,
Campina, Coty Inc and Marks & Spencer.
In October 2005 he took up his present post
as Packaging Development & Innovation
Manager at COSi Ltd.
His passion for packaging leads to innovation
in any aspect.There is nothing such as an
innovation. Somewhere there is a duplicate,
an idea, or a copy we can use in our industry.
There are no barriers, nature supplies it all.
COSi (Creative Outsourcing Solutions
International) develops and manufactures
colour cosmetics, fragrances and personal
care products for brand owners all over the
world. Imagination and innovation is at the
core of everything COSi does, from the
design studio to the factory floor, from the
development of an individual to the strategic
direction of the company. It is embedded in
COSis culture.
COSi was founded in 1992 and now employs
over 1,200 people within R&D and at its two
plants in the UK. A third beauty plant, in
Shanghai, China, is due to commence
operations in 2007. Sales and sourcing offices
are located in Shanghai, New York, Paris,
Florence and Dallas. A state-of-the-art R&D
laboratory in West Sussex houses four
individual R&D teams (colour cosmetics, skin
care, hair care and bath & body) that work
closely with a highly innovative packaging
development team headed up by Patrick
Poitevin. Trend prediction and overall direction
for product development is led by COSis
product marketing team who have completely
embraced the global marketplace.
COSi has won numerous awards for
innovation, manufacturing and employee
development.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Johannes Schampel
Packaging Specialist
ColepCCL UK Ltd
Atkinson Way
Foxhills Industrial Park
Scunthorpe
DN15 8QJ
UK
T +49 173 945 9850
johannes.schampel@colepccl.com
www.colepccl.com
Johannes joined ColepCCL in March 2006, as
the Innovation Centre was launched, as a
graduate of Packaging Engineering from the
University of Applied Sciences, Stuttgart. As part
of his studies, he worked in collaboration with
several partners in the FMCG, pharmaceutical,
food and automation industries.
He is the packaging specialist of the innovation
team and brings to the table a fresh approach
and a sound technical knowledge. His fields of
interest are new packaging materials,
packaging design and logistics.
Outside work Johannes spends time playing
in his rock band and snow boarding.
The Innovation Centre, with a focus on
creativity in problem solving, intelligent
research capabilities and knowledge
management, offers an unprecedented
service to ColepCCLs customers. Working as
a central network hub of knowledge, the
Innovation Centre also draws on expertise
from suppliers, academic institutions and
industries outside ColepCCLs normal sphere
of operation, to bring to customers the most
attractive ideas and solutions. This dynamic
approach, and the use of an innovation
process management system tailored to
customer needs, supports the vision to
reshape the packaging industry.
With a multinational and multidisciplinary
group of trained people, ColepCCLs Innovation
Centre enhances the strategy to deliver a full
package solution to the customer, including
rapid prototyping and product formulation in
high-end state-of-the-art facilities (European
Centre of Application Technology).
ColepCCL is Europes largest contract
manufacturer of personal care, cosmetic, over-
the-counter pharmaceutical and household
products. The company was founded in 2004
by the merger of Colep, the Portuguese
producer of steel aerosol and general line
cans and an aerosol filler, and CCL Europe,
contract manufacturer of various products and
a subsidiary of CCL Industries in Canada.
ColepCCL is a pan-European group in
Germany, Portugal, Spain, Poland and the UK.
The group has a turnover of around 300
million (~200 million) and employs 2,100
people throughout Europe.
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Brian Knott
Materials Advisor
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
(IOM3)
1 Carlton House Terrace
London
SW1Y 5DB
UK
T +44 (0)1494 528 718
brian.knott@iom3.org
www.iom3.org
Brian Knott is a Materials Advisor working for
the Institute of Materials, Minerals and
Mining (IOM3). With a background in failure
analysis his major role is to provide help and
guidance to industrial companies on selection
of the appropriate material and manufacturing
process for a given requirement. In addition
he has been actively engaged in IOM3s
efforts to link the materials and the design
community through the Materials and Design
Exchange (MADE), the new design node of
the DTIs Materials KTN.
One of his major responsibilities under MADE
has been the organisation of a series of
workshops that address technology
awareness needs for the design community
both in London and the regions. The workshop
topics include nanotechnology, new materials,
medical devices and green polymers.
He is also aiding the development of a physical
resource centre which will eventually have over
600 separate material samples suitably
catalogued with supporting information.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Phil Richardson
Director of Consulting
Thoughtcrew Ltd
Mill House
Carlingcott
Bath
BA2 8AP
UK
T +44 (0)208 133 4728
F +44 (0)870 133 6532
www.thoughtcrew.net
Phil Richardson, a strategy and process
consultant, runs the consulting division of
Thoughtcrew Ltd. He is responsible for
managing a range of business transformation
programmes for leading blue-chip organisations
and local government. In this role he provides
challenge and leadership in combined consulting
and client teams aimed at significantly
improving the clients business condition.
Phil is researching a PhD in biomimetics at
the University of Bath; he is also an associate
lecturer for the Open University Business
School MBA and a Chartered Biologist.
Thoughtcrew Ltd was formed in 2000 to
provide a peer-level support service to busy
executives needing to define and deliver
significant change. It specialises in process
thinking, strategic challenge and a clear focus
on the customer. Projects are delivered
collaboratively with clients. In most cases,
Thoughtcrew gets involved in the How do I
sell this idea to my executive colleagues
stage of thinking, then works through until the
problem is solved and the results are realised.
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit Page Caption
1.1 7 Mission team at the Radisson Hotel, Berlin; L-R: Matthias Gester, Geoff
Hollington, Martin Kemp, Julian Vincent, Cathy Barnes, Patrick Poitevin (front),
Johannes Schampel (behind), Brian Knott, Phil Richardson
3.1 14 Fingerprint-free coatings on highly shiny metallised and anodised personal
care components (courtesy COSi)
3.2 14 Ink-jet printing for displays and biomedical applications (courtesy Philips)
3.3 14 Dynamic wetting of porous Teflon surfaces based on lotus leaf (courtesy
University of Cambridge)
3.4 15 Lotus effect on textiles (courtesy ITV)
3.5 15 Coating containing electrostatic particles (courtesy ITV)
3.6 15 Composite profiles modelled on plant stems (courtesy ITV)
3.7 15 Transparent light transfer inspired by polar bear hair (courtesy ITV/P Poitevin)
3.8 16 Aerodynamics application by DaimlerChrysler (courtesy BIOKON, Germany)
3.9 16 Dry adhesive (courtesy Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, Stuttgart)
3.10 16 Dry adhesive applications (courtesy Max Planck Institute for Metals Research,
Stuttgart)
3.11 16 Head-arresting system in dragonflies (courtesy Max Planck Institute for
Metals Research, Stuttgart)
3.12 17 Models from trees, bamboos and vines used for construction in aircraft, cars,
roofs and bridges (courtesy University of Freiburg)
3.13 17 Glass fibre construction (courtesy Max Planck Institute of Colloids and
Interfaces, Berlin)
3.14 17 Cell wall constructions for wood (courtesy Max Planck Institute of Colloids
and Interfaces, Berlin)
3.15 18 Acoustic camera (courtesy Gesellschaft zur Frderung angewandter Informatik
GFaI, Berlin)
3.16 18 Surface applications inspired by penguins, lotus leaves, dolphins, sharks,
geckos and sandfish (courtesy BIOKON, Germany)
3.17 18 Fin ray effect used for ergonomic chair (courtesy BIOKON, Germany/
P Poitevin)
3.18 19 Fin ray effect can also be used in the packaging printing industry, such as
glass, where tolerances are too large for proper jig printing (courtesy BIOKON,
Germany/P Poitevin)
3.19 19 Modular walking robots (courtesy University of Applied Sciences, Magdeburg-
Stendal)
3.20 19 Reduction of materials conception (courtesy Dr Mirtsch/P Poitevin)
Appendix D
LIST OF EXHIBITS
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
Exhibit Page Caption
4.1 21 Metal trees supporting the roof of Stuttgart Airport
(courtesy www.stuttgart-airport.com)
4.2 22 Optimum structure for a centrally loaded beam after 10 iterations
(courtesy Prof Claus Mattheck)
4.3 22 Bionic car concept by DaimlerChrysler
4.4 23 Cilium-like plate created by Philips
4.5 23 Multiple cilia incorporated in a microchannel by Philips
4.6 24 Dry adhesives
4.7 25 Schematic cross section of the tentacle of the loliginid squid. The tentacle is
surrounded by longitudinal and helical muscle layers (LML and HML). The
cross section contains a ring of longitudinal muscle bundles (LMB) which are
enclosed by transverse and circular muscle fibres (TMF and CMF)
4.8 25 Endo-Periscope developed by University of Delft in cooperation with Tokyo
Institute of Technology
4.9 26 ITVs filter system equipment with the filter tube in the pipe on the right side
4.10 26 ITVs braided bag filter (a) stretched, (b) relaxed
4.11 27 Fin ray
4.12 27 Spherical array, 32-channel acoustic camera system for interior use
4.13 28 Bionic propeller from EvoLogics GmbH
4.14 28 Model of stem structure
4.15 29 Technical plant stem developed by University of Freiburg in collaboration with
ITV Denkendorf
5.1 32 Business development for biomimetic compared to normal ideas
(after Bannasch)
6.1 36 Biology does things differently to human technology
7.1 38 Top-down process of biomimetics (courtesy University of Freiburg)
7.2 39 Bottom-up process of biomimetics (courtesy University of Freiburg)
B.1 46 Map of BIOKON network (courtesy BIOKON)
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
~ approximately
approximately equal to
% per cent
euro (1 0.681 $1.31, Mar 07)
pound sterling (1 1.47 $1.93, Mar 07)
$ US dollar ($1 0.519 0.762, Mar 07)
V voltage difference
L microlitre = 10
-6
L = 10
-9
m
3
m micrometre = 10
-6
m
3D three-dimensional
AG Aktiengesellschaft shareholding company
ASME American Society of Mechanical Engineers (USA)
BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK)
BIOKON Bionik-Kompetenz-Netz Bionics Competence Network (Germany)
BIONIS Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability (UK)
BMBF Bundesministerium fr Bildung und Forschung Federal Ministry of Education
and Research (Germany)
CAD computer-aided design
cm centimetre = 0.01 m
CMF circular muscle fibre
COSi Creative Outsourcing Solutions International
Cr chromium
DBU Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt German Environment Foundation
DERA Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (MOD, UK)
DOF degree of freedom
Dr Doctor
DSc Doctor of Science
DTI Department of Trade and Industry (UK)
EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK)
ESA European Space Agency
EU European Union
F fax
FE finite element
FMCG fast-moving consumer good(s)
FPP Faraday Packaging Partnership a specialist applications node of the Materials
Knowledge Transfer Network (UK)
GFaI Gesellschaft zur Frderung angewandter Informatik Society for the Promotion
of Applied Computer Science (Berlin, Germany)
GmbH Gesellschaft mit beschrnkter Haftung limited company
HML helical muscle layer
hp horsepower = 745.7 W
HQ headquarters
Appendix E
GLOSSARY
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
IDEA Industrial Design Excellence Award
IOM3 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (UK)
IR infrared
ITV Institut fr Textil- und Verfahrenstechnik Institute for Textile Technology and
Process Engineering (Denkendorf, Germany)
J joule unit of work or energy = 1 N m = 1 W s
kg kilogram
KTN Knowledge Transfer Network (UK)
L (1) left
(2) litre = 0.001 m
3
LMB longitudinal muscle bundle
LML longitudinal muscle layer
Ltd Limited (company)
m metre
m
3
cubic metre
M mobile (telephone)
MADE Materials and Design Exchange (design node of the Materials KTN, UK)
MBA Master of Business Administration
mm millimetre = 0.001 m
MOD Ministry of Defence (UK)
MPI Max Planck Institute (Germany)
N newton unit of force = 1 kg m/s
2
nm nanometre = 10
-9
m
P&G Procter & Gamble
PC personal computer
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
R right
R&D research and development
s second
SiO
2
silicon dioxide
SKO soft kill option
SME small or medium-sized enterprise
T telephone
TMF transverse muscle fibre
TRIZ Teorija Reshenija Izobretatelskih Zadach Theory of Inventive Problem Solving
TU Technical University
UK United Kingdom
US(A) United States (of America)
UV ultraviolet
V voltage
VDI Verein Deutscher Ingenieure Association of German Engineers
W watt unit of power = 1 J/s
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We would like to thank the following for their
help in making this mission such a success:
His Excellency the British Ambassador to
the Netherlands, Lyn Parker
Professor Rudolf Bannasch
Dr Ingo Klein
Professor Jaap den Toonder
Professor Peter Fratzl
Professor Stanislav Gorb
Dr Ulrike G K Wegst
Dr Dagmar Voigt
Mr Leo Zonneveld
Dr Konrad Gtz
Professor Dr C M Jonker
Dr Jules S Scheltes
Dr Thomas Stegmaier
Dr Tom Masselter
And a special mention for helping behind
the scenes:
Robert Dugon, DTI
Sarah Woodman, FCM Travel
Charlotte Leiper, Pera
Sarah Fenn, FPP
Appendix F
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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BIOMIMETICS: STRATEGIES FOR PRODUCT DESIGN INSPIRED BY NATURE
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Global Watch Missions
DTI Global Watch Missions have enabled small
groups of UK experts to visit leading overseas
technology organisations to learn vital lessons about
innovation and its implementation, of benefit to entire
industries and individual organisations.
By stimulating debate and informing industrial
thinking and action, missions have offered unique
opportunities for fast-tracking technology transfer,
sharing deployment know-how, explaining new
industry infrastructures and policies, and developing
relationships and collaborations.
Disclaimer
This report represents the findings of a mission
organised by Thoughtcrew Ltd on behalf of Faraday
Packaging Partnership (FPP) with the support of DTI.
Views expressed reflect a consensus reached by the
members of the mission team and do not necessarily
reflect those of the organisations to which the
mission members belong, Thoughtcrew Ltd, FPP,
Pera or DTI.
Comments attributed to organisations visited during
this mission were those expressed by personnel
interviewed and should not be taken as those of the
organisation as a whole.
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the
information provided in this report is accurate and up
to date, DTI accepts no responsibility whatsoever in
relation to this information. DTI shall not be liable for
any loss of profits or contracts or any direct, indirect,
special or consequential loss or damages whether in
contract, tort or otherwise, arising out of or in
connection with your use of this information. This
disclaimer shall apply to the maximum extent
permissible by law.
Cover image: Glass sponge (Euplectella) skeleton, formed by silica
spicules that unite into complex geometric structures
(Ken M Highfill/Science Photo Library)
Grant for Research and Development
is available through the nine English Regional
Development Agencies. The Grant for Research
and Development provides funds for individuals
and SMEs to research and develop technologically
innovative products and processes. The grant is
only available in England (the Devolved
Administrations have their own initiatives).
www.dti.gov.uk/r-d/
The Small Firms Loan Guarantee is a UK-
wide, Government-backed scheme that provides
guarantees on loans for start-ups and young
businesses with viable business propositions.
www.dti.gov.uk/sflg/pdfs/sflg_booklet.pdf
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships enable
private and public sector research organisations
to apply their research knowledge to important
business problems. Specific technology transfer
projects are managed, over a period of one to
three years, in partnership with a university,
college or research organisation that has
expertise relevant to your business.
www.ktponline.org.uk/
Knowledge Transfer Networks aim to improve
the UKs innovation performance through a single
national over-arching network in a specific field of
technology or business application. A KTN aims
to encourage active participation of all networks
currently operating in the field and to establish
connections with networks in other fields that
have common interest.
www.dti.gov.uk/ktn/
Collaborative Research and Development
helps industry and research communities work
together on R&D projects in strategically
important areas of science, engineering and
technology, from which successful new products,
processes and services can emerge.
www.dti.gov.uk/crd/
Access to Best Business Practice is available
through the Business Link network. This initiative
aims to ensure UK business has access to best
business practice information for improved
performance.
www.dti.gov.uk/bestpractice/
Support to Implement Best Business Practice
offers practical, tailored support for small and
medium-sized businesses to implement best
practice business improvements.
www.dti.gov.uk/implementbestpractice/
Finance to Encourage Investment in Selected
Areas of England is designed to support
businesses looking at the possibility of investing
in a designated Assisted Area but needing
financial help to realise their plans, normally in
the form of a grant or occasionally a loan.
www.dti.gov.uk/regionalinvestment/
Other DTI products that help UK businesses acquire and
exploit new technologies
GLOBAL WATCH MISSION REPORT
Biomimetics: strategies
for product design inspired
by nature a mission to the
Netherlands and Germany
JANUARY 2007
Printed in the UK on recycled paper with 75% de-inked post-consumer waste content
First published in March 2007 by Pera on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry
Crown copyright 2007
URN 07/504