Materials as “happy accidents” – SCIN’s new exhibition at CDW – Vulcanised Rubber

by Eve Hollands on

Since prehistoric times, man has evolved and defined itself by the use of materials: the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age…Our attempts to transform and recreate materials found in the natural world have shaped civilisation and society. And many of these successful outcomes are due to Serendipity.

The SCIN exhibition at The Serendipity Studio will be a walk through history, presenting materials that have come to fruition as a “happy accident” and how they have evolved and transformed the world of Design.

This week we will be posting on some of these amazing materials and presenting some of the artists that will have their work in our exhibition. Be ready to be wowed!!


Here’s our fifth material:

Vulcanised Rubber

In the early 1830s, natural rubber was an exciting material but quite problematic. Rubber would freeze and crack during the winter or melt into sticky, smelly goo during the summer. Due to its sensitivity to temperature, it lost its popularity. It was by mistake that Charles Goodyear found a way to overcome rubber’s problems. It took him a series of expensive experiments, even prison and heavy debt, for him to reach his goal. He was considered a mad man but he was undeterred. The story told buy Reader’s Digest is that while he was showing off his rubber products at a general store, he accidentally threw a piece of rubber into a hot stove. These samples had been treated with sulphur, to act as a drying agent. On closer look, Goodyear noticed that the rubber instead of melting it charred black. When he inspected this sample, although burnt, it was still elastic and springy. Goodyear had made rubber weatherproof.


Little did Goodyear imagine that rubber was going to become such a basic material in our lives, or how far it was going to evolve. Much less that it would be combined with the traditional Japanese technique of origami or that chewing gum was could be turned into rubber!


And this is what Trexlab does, blending the art of origami with a new industrial process to form an innovative elastomer based technical material. Mads Hansen founded this research lab after he graduated from Pratt Institute, focusing his thesis work on a collection of experimental studies with crease pattern coating and molding.


The process, which is named OriMetric, is a computational method of digitalizing the folded patterns associated with origami and casting them into thin polymer structures. The material produced has inherent functional qualities such as shock absorption, as well as the capacity to expand and collapse, while always returning to its original shape. Other technical qualities include sound absorption, and its ability to bend into round shapes. While some patterns are more intelligent, others are purely decorative. Its aesthetics makes it ideal for visual concepts and communication. Each pattern has unique characteristics and qualities that can be scaled depending on the application. OriMetric is currently being used within protective wear for its shock adsorbing and cushioning qualities and in architecture and interior design for its sound absorbing and visual effects.

While origami in light metals and in textiles has been explored widely as a lightweight structural material, rubber origami is an interesting novelty that suggests a new way to think about the technology and aesthetics of material development.



It costs councils £150 million pounds a year to remove chewing gum litter from the streets in the UK. Anna Bullus founded Gumdrop Ltd in 2009 to tackle the problem of gum litter. Gumdrop Ltd is the first company in the world to recycle and process chewing gum into a range of new compounds that can be used in the rubber and plastics industry.

Gum-tec® is a sustainable material with very similar in properties to Thermo plastic Elastomers and Thermo Plastics. They can be soft and rubbery or hard and rigid. The material can cover a whole spectrum of properties depending on the grade developed. Gum-tec® can be used in many different processing applications, from injection moulding, blow moulding and extrusion. This material has been used to manufacture a range of objects, from mobile phone covers to wellington boots as well as the actual receptacles designed specifically for the disposal of waste chewing gum. Once the Gumdrop receptacle is full, the whole thing along with its contents of waste gum is recycled and processed to manufacture new Gumdrops. And the cycle starts again. Gum-tec is 100% recyclable so it can be used over and over to produce new objects. The waste is sourced from chewing gum manufacturers wishing to lower or eliminate their waste gum output as well as from Gumdrop containers.


Gumdrops are bright pink and look like strawberry flavoured bubble gum bubbles, a fun, colourful replacement for the common blank eyesore of the splodges found all over streets, parks, schools, trains, and under tables.