Make-Unmake™


5-10 minute read


Make-Unmake ™ is our name for all the different ideas and techniques that collectively mean Factorylux lights and lighting track can be assembled and disassembled so quickly and efficiently, down to single material components (*excluding electronics).

This super power is a big part of what makes our closed-loop possible. It’s also what’s behind the distinctive Factorylux aesthetic. 

Make-Unmake™ means, for example, that a Ninety-Nine™ spotlight can be reverse-manufactured back to the pure aluminium tube it began life as (very efficient for making a new spotlight), not a composite aluminium tube with paint, glue and some steel rivets that need expertly drilling out (very inefficient, probably impossible for making a new spotlight).

Achieving this objective was a multi-year journey that required us to develop alternatives to the materials and processes that are a normal part of modern architectural lighting. 

On the external surfaces of light fittings, we had to overcome challenges, such as how to avoid the use of regular coatings like paint and powder coat. Internally, we had to find ways to avoid permanent fixings like adhesives, resins, welds and so on. This work lead directly to our first ever patent: GB2107349.9, which is a simpler, better way to non-permanently attach components to the inside of a tube.

As well as the smallest possible environmental footprint, Make-Unmake™ brings other important  benefits, including repairability (it’s the nemesis of planned obsolescence) and affordability. Factorylux products look disassemblable (it’s a word!) because they are disassemblable. 

This is Make-Unmake™.

 

How did we get here?

Our Circular Economy approach to manufacturing is built on the concept of closed-loop reuse. It means that when the products we make are no longer wanted, they can (and should) be returned to us directly (not any 3rd party waste scheme) to be efficiently reprocessed into new components within our own factory.

Instead of reprocessing the components all the way back to raw materials, such as aluminium or steel (which is time, energy and pollution intensive) we can renew them using special processes which make them indistinguishable from the components we make from new materials.

‘Closed-loops’ are incredibly more efficient and sustainable than 'open-loop' waste schemes such as 'WEEE', which are often misrepresented as 'Circular Economy'.

  A circular economy open loop such as WEEE reuse and recycling - explainer

 

In open loops, 3rd party companies (generally from a small pool of global waste corporations) collect any waste originating from any manufacturer and together with other 3rd party companies, try to convert what they can back to raw materials (steel, glass, etc). 

The amount of actual waste converted into raw material is excruciatingly low because the process is fundamentally inefficient.

‘Open loops’ share much in common with traditional (ie. linear) waste processing and function more or less as a branch of the same industry. It’s an approach that’s commercially rigged in favour of high value materials which are easy to separate - such as steel and copper. 

The low-value, chemically complex materials that are difficult to separate, like paints, plastics and adhesives are what cause the most harm to humans and the environment. Predictably, they're also what’s in many regular architectural light fittings and lighting track. 

 

A circular economy closed loop reuse and recycling - explainer

Closed-loops are incredibly more efficient and effective than an ‘open loops’. Depending on where you’re located, you might  be familiar with closed-loops through refillable glass bottles for milk, beer, soda or even (if you’re lucky) all three of them. The ‘mehrweg’ (multiple-use) element of the ‘Pfand’ deposit return scheme in Germany is one of the biggest and most well  examples.

Closed-loops are so powerful because they take something that is 'used' but maintain all the value - or even increase it - compared to new. In the refillable bottles example, end users trust the system and have no care if a bottle is new or renewed. The 'renewed' bottles don’t create anxiety, rather they create the opposite. End users are happy to see manufacturers take responsibility for the waste they produced.

The product manufacturers are undeniably best placed to 'renew' the used containers into usable components. They have the tools, machinery and know-how that are highly relevant and concentrated right where they can make the most difference. Any QC failures are efficiently removed (to be reprocessed back to raw materials) and supplemented with new containers on an ongoing basis.

The basic idea is a simple one and has been a feature of ‘returnable’ bottle schemes since 1799 when A & R Thwaites & Co in Dublin began offering 2 shillings a dozen for returned bottles. 

The buyer receives ‘new’ product (beer, milk etc) inside a ‘used’ container that was cleaned (using industrial processes that make new and used indistinguishable) more cost effectively than making new containers. In the Thwaites example, the saving was due to the then high cost of bottle manufacturing. In modern day Germany, the ‘pfand’ gain is due to government regulations and incentives that are designed to reduce waste.

Bottle closed loops are more logistically complex than one-way packaging. As well as the outbound work of milking cows or brewing beer and getting the product to market, the maker has a smaller but opposite job in dealing with the inbound waste in the form of used containers. The maker is also the 'unmaker'.

Getting the same outcome with light fittings and lighting track is more logistically complex - the returned products are assemblies, not a single material, but on the flip side, the intrinsic value of what's returned is greater - lighting components are way more costly to make than glass bottles.

To make it possible, we had to develop various new manufacturing concepts. In particular, how the bodies are designed and made (we currently have no design control over the electronics inside - this work is the next phase of our mission). this is why Factorylux lighting is visually different to the regular architectural lighting you’re used to. 

Waste is a giant, unsexy problem of modern industrial economies, but one that we must fix if we are to thrive as a species. Closed-loops are not an easy option, but they are the only proven 'long term' solution. The private sector respond brilliantly when clear financial consequences are in place, especially in the form of government regulation when necessary.  

Make-Unmake™: Recap

1 - Disassembly:
  • Our products can be unmanufactured quickly and efficiently
    (no glues, permanent fixings or requirement for proprietary tools)

2 - Single Material:

  • Into ‘single material’ components that are easy / safe to work with
    (no composites, paint, powdercoat, pollution)


3 - Reprocess:

  • Into ‘new’ components
    (that are indistinguishable from those we make from raw materials)

 



The essays:

 

1 - Introduction 

  • What's it all about

2 - Closed-loop Circular Economy 

  • The how and why of our manufacturing methodology.

3 - Stone-Rumbled™ 

  • The most sustainable surface finish ever - explained.

4 - Make-Unmake™ (you are here!)

  • Single-materials are what make a closed-loop possible.

5 - Magic-Packaging™

  • Measure everything that leaves a factory, not just the product.

6 - Magic-Paint™

  • Don't read this if you want to continue using regular paint.

7 - Factorylux Mission

  • Why we exist. Where we are going.