10 February 2014

The wonder material that allows you to be your own industrial designer

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh. Source: sugru

Ever felt like you need to customise an item that you use really often, just a little? Perhaps it is a protective bumper for your phone, to change the shape of an object so that it is just the right size for your hands, or to strengthen a wire exactly where it tends to break?

Sugru could be your answer. Some 300,000 people around the world have already bought some, and Forbes.com calls it ‘21st Century Duct Tape’. Conceptualised by Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh and refined by a team of product designers and material scientists, sugru is named for the Irish word for 'play'.

Source: sugru
Formally, it is a patented self-setting material that bonds to most other materials, including aluminium, steel, ceramics, glass, wood, some plastics like perspex, and some rubbers like silicone. What it feels like is plasticine or Play-Doh when it comes out of the packet, so it can be formed by hand into any shape you require - in the first 30 minutes. It then cures overnight* at room temperatures to become a strong yet flexible silicone rubber that survives in a wide range of temperatures, or as its makers say 'from the dishwasher to the ocean in Antarctica'.

The makers of sugru suggest that you can protect iPhones with rubber bumpers, or customise the grips on equipment. A range of ideas for gadgets can be found on the sugru website, here.

Source: sugru
An 8 x 5g multi-colour pack of sugru retails at £11/US$18/€15 here. The mini-packs of Sugru don't seem to contain very much of the material but a single pack should be more than enough sugru for a single cable. The multi-colour packs are very brightly coloured, so you may prefer the all-black or black-and-white packs, which are slightly more expensive.

*Time for an object of 3 to 5mm in thickness.