Cork Molding

Words by |

Chris

Cork molding is a fascinatingly simple process that has dramatically expanded the potential viable applications for cork.

We stumbled across this process by chance while were developing our original packaging 10 years ago and it has become a central element to our design both aesthetically and functionally ever since. With our recent packaging evolution, we returned to Porto in the north of Portugal to oversee our new products and see for ourselves how far the process has come since our initial explorations.

For our visit, we met with Sara, the custodian and director, of the cork molding factory who guided us through the process and accompanied us as we reviewed the first production pieces from our new tooling. 


How 3D cork molding works:

  • Cork waste is gathered from wine stopper production facility. 
  • The cork is separated and graded depending on the grain size and quality.
  • Once graded the cork is sent to the molding factory.
  • 3D designs are refined and approved and a two-part aluminium mold is produced.
  • The mould is checked and tested and stored ready for production use.
  • When an order is approved the mold is loaded onto a specially adapted press.
  • Cork granules are mixed with a natural binding agent and poured into trays.
  • The cork is then scooped into a measuring jug.
  • The negative mold cavities are filled with a predetermined level of cork granules. 
  • Once all the cavities are filled the excess cork is brushed away and the tool is pushed placed into the hydraulic press.
  • Using a combination of heat and pressure the two parts of the mold are compressed together and held in position. 
  • After a few seconds, the press is released and the mold is parted.
  • The pieces are then removed from the mold by hand and inspected.
  • Once this first inspection is complete the finished product is either packaged for shipment or is passed to a second-hand operation to remove burrs or overflow from the molding process. 
  • The parts are finally inspected and then packaged ready for shipping to the customer. 


After we finished our quality checks and captured some short  videos and a few photographs we joined Sara in the R&D showroom. Exploring the various samples we learned from Sara about the new developments and techniques that have become possible since our last visit. It is without a doubt that this is the very beginning of reconnection and revolution for working with highly sustainable materials in a scalable way that offers a true alternative to 20th-century petrochemical-based materials.


It’s an honour to not only have the opportunity to work with this incredible material but also to be part of the story of promoting the use of this sustainable resource. We hope you find some inspiration in this process and have a renewed respect for the thought and care that has gone into producing our AJOTO packaging.


We would like to take this opportunity to say a personal thank you to Sara and her team for all these years and effort in developing our products and for sharing their story.

You can read more about our packaging design process and the cork harvest here and here






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