It would be nice to have a place where you could inspect samples of new materials. There you could hold, bend, twist and study the latest plastics, fabrics, and construction materials as they come out of the lab. Second best would be a website/book that linked to sources and descriptions of new stuff. That’s what this book and website do. Artists, inventors and makers will find it a fantastic source for information about new innovations in material science. Author Blaine Brownwell has collected, annotated and sourced as many imaginative, green, and unusual materials for sale as he could find. His collection includes metal fabrics, metal-coated plastics, paper concrete, wood-plastic hybrids, and so on. Two hundred new materials in all. You still have the problem of getting your hands on small samples, but having some photos, the specs, and the website of the manufacturer is a huge first step. (Brownwell co-edits Materials Monthly, a publication that sends out one sample per month, but the subscription price is dear at $200/year.)
Photographic bas-relief ceramic tiles
Mineral, Interfacial product
Map Tile: These tiles were created from a satellite image of a sports arena. This 8″x8″ ceramic wall tile has a semi-opaque/semi-matte glaze.
Photo-Form LLC is a tile studio that provides designers the ability to create bas-relief tiles from photographs. Utilizing their patent-pending Photo-Cast process, Photo-Form can create bas-relief ceramic tiles from any 2D image.
Photo-Cast tiles are available in sizes ranging from four inches square to eight inches square, with larger custom sizes available, and may be finished with a wide range of nontoxic glazes or bronze, brass, nickel/silver, or aluminum metal finish.
Contents: Clay, non-toxic glaze (metal powder, gypsum polymer)
Applications: Wall tiles, accents
Types/sizes: 4 x 4″ (10 x 10 cm) up to 8 x 8″ (20 x 20 cm), custom sizes available
Contact: Photo-Form LLC
15440North 71st Street, Suite 322
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Zinc-foam plates, sandwiches, and 3D parts
Metal, Ultraperforming material
Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology, Zinc Foam is a low density, low weight, and resilient manifestation of zinc. These properties make it a great material to be used in fast-moving components and/or components demanding absorption. The zinc foam can be either glued to another material or become a metallic compound with the material.
A zinc-foam sandwich, consisting of two cover sheets and a layer of zinc foam in the middle, greatly expands the field of application. The cover sheets greatly contribute stiffness, while the foam contributes cushioning. The sandwiches can be welded together just like normal sheets of metal.
Contents: Zinc and zinc alloys
Applications: Cushioning, thermal isolation, shock absorption
Types/sizes: 59 x 55″ (150 x 140 cm) maximum plate size, 3D shapes
Environmental: High strength-to-weight ratio
Limitations: Thermally unstable above 392 F (200 C)
Contact: Fraunhofer Institute
Reichenhainer Strasse 88
Recycled Compact Discs
Plastic, Repurposed material
Confiscated illicit CDs are crushed and dispersed within a pale blue, transparent polycarbonate matrix that is comprised of recycled cold-water drink containers.
Contents: Recycled compact discs, recycled polycarbonate
Applications: Work surfaces, furniture, backsplashes, shower surrounds
Types/sizes: 47 x 31.5 x .5″ (120 x 80 x 1.2 cm) thick panels
Environmental: 100% recycled content
Contact: Smile Plastics Ltd.
Mansion House, Ford
Shrewsbury, SY5 9LZ UK
Tel: +01743 850267
Translucent resin with encapsulated materials
Plastic, Recombinant products
Lumicor’s patented technology creates a new class of material by combining the beauty of natural botanicals, fine textiles, decorative papers, glass, metal, and stone within a choice of high performance resins. Lumicor provides exceptional depth and clarity and outstanding UV properties. It is a lightweight, high-strength material that is easy to fabricate and install and may be recycled.
Contents: 100% high performance resins plus interlayer
Applications: Furniture, lighting, partitions, sink bowls, vanity tops, table tops, shower enclosures, signage, displays, cabinet doors, column wraps, door inserts, ceiling panels, interior windows, acoustical panels
Types/sizes: 4 x 8′ (1.2 x 2.4 m) and 5 x 10′ (1.5 x 3 m) sheets, with thickness from 1/16″ (.2 cm) to 1″ (2.5 cm)
Tests/examinations: ASTM E84 Class B rating, suitable for interior use
1400 Monster Road Southwest
Renton, WA 98055