5 minute read

What does Make-Unmake™ mean?

Make-Unmake™ is our name for all the designs and techniques that collectively mean Factorylux lighting can be assembled from, and disassembled into, mono-material components only (*excluding electronics, which is the next part of our mission). Make-Unmake™ is the super power that makes a closed-loop possible.

Our aim is not to recycle or refurbish end-of-life product, or repurpose it for a 'second user' market, these are all interesting ideas (and easier to achieve) but they're not the basis of a truly efficient or sustainable Circular Economy. Getting back to mono-material components means we can reprocess them alongside our regular manufacturing workflow, in ways that make them indistinguishable compared to new material components. 

Make-Unmake™ has been the main focus of our work to date. Achieving it presented absolutely the most difficult set of challenges we ever faced 🥵. It required multiple years of research and development - work that lead directly to GB2107349.9, our first ever Circular Economy patent, which is a simpler, better way to non-permanently fix mono-material components within a mono-material tube.

Non-permanent mono-material fixings inside a sustainable architectural spotlight

What does it mean in the real world?

It means, for example, that a Factorylux Ninety-Nine™ spotlight can easily revert back to a pure aluminium tube (efficient for making a new spotlight), not complex multi-materials (paint, glue and things like steel rivets that need expertly drilling out) which are useless for making new products.

The distinctive Factorylux aesthetic is a by-product of these new capabilities - our light fittings and lighting track look fundamentally different, because they are fundamentally different, this is not window dressing.

We had to develop a family of alternative materials and processes to those that are normally used in architectural lighting. Externally we had to bypass the use of paint and powder coating. Internally, we had to find ways to avoid permanent fixings like adhesives, resins, welds and so on.

As well as the smallest possible environmental footprint, Make-Unmake™ brings other important benefits, including affordability and repairability - it’s the antithesis of planned obsolescence 💪

 Non-permanent mono-material fixings inside sustainable lighting track

How does it add value to your specifications?

When our products are no longer required, 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. Our processes mean they become 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

 Zoom in to see a typical open-loop flow


In open-loops, 3rd party companies (often from a small pool of waste corporations that you might already be familiar with) collect any waste originating from any manufacturer of any product and together with other 3rd party companies, try to convert what they can back to raw mono-materials (steel, glass, etc). 

The amount of actual waste converted into raw mono-materials is excruciatingly low because, as you can probably imagine, the process is, fundamentally, very inefficient. ‘Open loops’ share a lot in common with traditional (ie. linear) waste processing and favour a small number of high value materials which are easy to separate - such as steel and copper. 

Unfortunately, it's the many low-value, chemically complex materials, which are difficult to separate, like paints, plastics and adhesives that cause the most harm to humans and the environment. Predictably, these materials also form a high percentage of many architectural light fittings and lighting track materials 🤦‍♀️.

A circular economy closed loop reuse and recycling - explainer

Zoom in to see a typical closed-loop flow


Closed-loops on the other hand, are efficient and effective. 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 a very well-known example.

Closed-loops are so powerful because they take something that is 'used' but maintain all the value - or even increase it - compared to new. Any QC failures are efficiently removed (to be reprocessed) and replaced with remade product. End users trust the system and have no perception or care whether a bottle is first, second, third user or more (50 uses is common).

The product manufacturers are, by definition, best placed to reprocess the returned containers. They have the tools, machinery and know-how, concentrated right where they can make the most difference.

Returnable bottle schemes have been around since 1799 when A & R Thwaites & Co in Dublin began offering 2 shillings a dozen for returned bottles.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

The basic idea is a simple one, the buyer receives ‘new’ product (beer, milk etc) inside a ‘used’ container that was cleaned and prepared using industrial processes that make new and used indistinguishable. The processes are more cost effective 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 landfill.

As well as the outbound work of milking cows or brewing beer and getting product to market, the maker has a smaller but opposite job in dealing with the inbound waste product 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 but the intrinsic value of what's returned is greater - lighting components are way more costly to make than drink containers.

The future

Closed-loops are a the only viable solution to a waste problem that afflicts every modern industrial economy. Make-Unmake™ methodology is the backbone of the solution. We urgently need to scale this approach. We need a new Industrial Revolution. The makers must become the 'unmakers'.


Our stories:


1 - About us 

  • How we got started.

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!)

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

5 - Magic-Packaging™

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

6 - Magic-Paintm™

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

7 - Factorylux Mission

  • Why we exist. Where we are going.