water polo guys Bayer unveils hot plastics line
What should they wear to the Manhattan event during which they will unveil a line of bold and fashionable plastic colors and textures to a hip audience of product designers, including Sony, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kenneth Cole?
The consensus was black. But definitely not business suits.
That’s because the technology, known as Fantasia, is a huge step beyond anything that conservative Bayer has previously done with its plastics business.
With it, manufacturers of plastic consumer items ranging from coffee pots to lipstick cases to computer monitors have the capability to customize their products with more than 100 colors and special effects. Think of a cell phone skin that looks and feels like denim; a compact disc in a bright shade of purple called “cranberry charge”; or a construction hard hat adorned with red, white and blue stars and stripes.
The colors and special effects are obtained by adding them to resin pellets either before or after the plastics molding process.
“This is a leap for Bayer,” acknowledged Azita Owlia, the Bayer Plastics consumer markets vice president who came up with the Fantasia name for the line. “We had to take a nontraditional way of marketing and still be respectful of the company’s image.”
To get the message out to the design community, Bayer will let key members see and feel Fantasia products Wednesday at Manhattan’s Material Connexion, a center for new materials and processes.
After a briefing on the technology, the designers will be able to see it exhibited in gallery style displays, inspect a mannequin dressed in items that use the colorful effects and munch on hors d’oeuvres served on colored dishware made with Fantasia. In the background, a New York disc jockey will spin pulsating dance tunes.
“It’s really funky for a conventional company that usually uses a string quartet for background music,” said Bryan Iams, a Bayer spokesman.
Attendees also will be able to linger in a “spoon room,” described by Iams as a spaceship type environment that will feature all the various Fantasia colors and effects produced in plastic tablespoons. The guests will be invited to eat ice cream with the spoons and take them home.
The idea for dramatically spicing up consumer plastics started about a year ago at Bayer. headquarters. One line of color coatings for Fantasia was developed in cooperation with crosstown paint producer PPG Industries.
Bayer, which generates $10 billion in annual sales in the United States, declined to disclose development costs or how much it expects to reap in sales of the new technology.
Among the manufacturers already using Fantasia in their product lines are Sun Microsystems, which makes high end workstations; Carlisle, which makes food containers for restaurants; and In House, a Los Angeles furniture designer which picked up a national design award for a translucent plastic chair being marketed for homes and restaurants that features Fantasia technology.
Other consumer items Bayer expects could be ripe for the technology which includes special effects and graphics that make products sparkle, glow and look metallic include lawn furniture, cosmetics packaging, CDs, DVDs and automotive parts.
“It’s a breakthrough because now there’s a look that doesn’t look like plastic,” said Owlia. She declined to speculate on retail pricing but said it shouldn’t make products “unreachable” for consumers.
A local product design expert, William Kolano, said the technology was “probably the biggest thing that’s happened to the plastics industry in the past 50 years.”
Kolano, whose East Liberty business specializes in products, packaging and signage and has designed wine glasses for upscale housewares retailer Williams Sonoma, said plastics were becoming a preferred material for many consumer items. With Bayer’s technology, “Now we will be able to do the same effects on plastics that we could do before only on glass,” Kolano said.
“It’s a huge leap forward. This has the capability to lift plastic from being a second class substitute to being a really featured primary selection.”
Kolano expects a huge application of the technology in such housewares as food containers.
The fact that the technology sprung out of Bayer is probably going to shock a few people, Kolano said. Consumers know the company best for its health brands, such as Bayer aspirin and One A Day and Flintstones vitamins. Its plastics products are largely known only among industrial customers.