Optically clear, 3D-printed pendants made from recycled materials

May 14, 2024
Manufactured with molecularly recycled materials, the optically clear pendants are constructed so the fixtures can be fully recycled at the end of their useful life.

An optically clear, additively manufactured pendant debuted today from LightArt. According to the company, the Clear Coil collection represents the first optically clear, 3D-printed pendants.

LightArt is not new to recycled-material luminaires, having produced its Coil, a solid-color pendant made from recycled material using 3D printing technology, and Coil Ocean, a fixture made with 100% reclaimed ocean-bound plastic. The company says it has been integrating 3D technology into its manufacturing process for five years.

Its success with earlier luminaires in the Coil family as well as a fresh challenge for the company were among the drivers for the Clear Coil collection. “The inspiration for Clear Coil Collection came from a desire to merge innovative materials and design into the commercial lighting space,” said Edwin Vice, LightArt's director of research and development. The aesthetics of an optically clear shade would create a versatile and unique product, he noted.

Using recycled materials was integral to the product development from the first Coil fixture. With Clear Coil, the company set a goal to work with molecular recycled materials to create 100% recycled shades.

“Historically, ‘made with recycled content’ refers to materials and products made from mechanical or traditional recycling. Mechanical recycling typically processes two types of widely recycled plastics: PET and HDPE. These are the plastics marked with Resin Identification Code (RIC) 1 or 2 — products like clear, single-use water bottles and clear gallon milk jugs,” Vice said.

Mechanical recycling is what most consumers imagine when thinking about recycled materials. Plastic waste is collected from recycling bins, delivered to a recycling center, cleaned and reduced to smaller pieces before being remelted and formed into plastic pellets that are then used to make other products, Vice noted. Mechanical recycling methods generally cannot be used to process the other five types of plastic, materials such as PVC, polystyrene and polypropylene. Those plastics typically are used to manufacture items like fast food containers, colored plastic bottles and plastic eyeglass frames.

“Through molecular recycling, it’s possible to transform these hard-to-recycle plastics into raw materials that provide high quality feedstock for new plastics or other products. In molecular recycling, plastics are sorted, and various techniques such as depolymerization and pyrolysis are employed to break down complex polymers into simpler molecules used to create new material,” Vice explained. “Because molecular recycling transforms materials back to their original molecules, these materials can continue to be used in other products infinitely without degradation, which means eliminating waste.”

Molecular recycling also makes it possible to manufacture products from recaptured plastics rather than plastics made from fossil fuels — also known as virgin materials, he added. For the Clear Coil collection, materials such as clothing and carpet fibers, dense plastic containers, and packaging are transformed into long-lasting, clear light fixtures.

LightArt works with a specialty materials company based in the United States to perform the molecular recycling process.

A closer look at the Clear Coil collection

Known as the M series, with M symbolizing molecular, the collection includes six pendant designs that encompass several geometric and organic forms. The M1, M2 and M3 pendants draw inspiration from the compact dimensions of the original Coil Collection, says Vice, focusing on specific angles and shapes that optimize the clarity of the material and its internal light refraction. The M4, M5, and M6 pendants are offered in two different sizes. The M4 pendant resembles a cylindrical shape reminiscent of a classic ceramic bottle. The M5 pendant has a hexagonal shape with six faceted sides. Drawing inspiration from organic, natural forms such as raindrops and beehives, the M6 pendant has an elongated silhouette.

“The final look is subtle yet artful, particularly with how the light refracts within the pendant to give the illusion of a long filament of light,” Vice said. When asked about where he envisions the fixtures being used, Vice suggested applications in commercial, hospitality and healthcare settings. “The collection’s six pendant shapes range from geometric to organic in form, and the clear material is sleek and adaptable, complementing many design aesthetics.”

Sustainable reuse

LightArt’s focus on sustainability and the pursuit of zero-waste manufacturing does not end when the luminaire is shipped to the end user. To coincide with the launch of the Clear Coil collection, LightArt introduced a recyling program for its Coil fixtures.

With this line, the whole fixture can be recycled or repurposed for use in new fixtures,  including the drivers, electronics, aluminum and shades, Vice noted. The new initiative promotes a closed-loop system where customers are encouraged to return the Coil fixtures at the end of their lifecycles for repurposing by LightArt. The company will provide packaging and cover shipping costs to encourage participation.

“Instructions on how to participate in the Coil Collection Take Back Program will be included in the packaging of each Coil fixture, and email support will be available for all participants. In the future, LightArt hopes to establish education opportunities for specifiers, designers, architects and contractors,” Vice said.

LightArt is currently pursuing Declare certification, which the company anticipates will be official in the next few weeks, according to Vice.

About the Author

Linda Becker

Linda Becker is editor-in-chief of LightSPEC (formerly Architectural SSL). She has more than 20 years of experience in B2B publishing, primarily focused on manufacturing and process applications. Since joining LightSPEC, she spends a lot of time appreciating lighting and the essential role it plays in how each of us experiences the world. 

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