Portugal Part 4: 3D Cork Manufacture

Saying farewell to Armnio we started the long drive to Porto to see the first production prototypes for the cork packaging.

Arriving at Amorim HQ, we were met by Emília who took us to 3D cork, the company who are molding our cork component. 3D cork are the main producer of a new kind of moulded cork product, using an innovative technique to reuse the waste cork from other areas of cork production, they create forms which were not previously possible. When we arrived we got introduced to Sara who runs the company along with her father, and talked through the challenges of producing the part we commissioned. Working with a natural material such as cork is no easy feat as natural materials move and adjust depending on a range of conditions. After discussing the current prototype we were given a tour of the factory to see how everything works.

The process is surprisingly straightforward, after mixing the cork granules through a special process the cork is poured into moulds and under a combination of heat and pressure they expand and fuse together to create a solid 3D shape. The molded parts are then lightly sanded to remove any excess burrs, tested and then packed ready for shipping. It's a super-simple process and currently used for a range of products from shoe insoles to bowls and tableware.

Seeing the production process from start to finish opened our eyes to not only the potential of using cork for other ideas, but the how important the industry is to Portugal. The trip was amazing and at every stage of the process we met passionate people who's experience and knowledge of the process was totally inspiring.