Moldable in Any Shape

Children love to play with modeling compounds. However, some conventional brands tend to dry out after they have been used just once. The company Delta of Sweden has launched a fluffy-light kneadable compound, composed of tiny glass beads and coated with a thin layer of silicone, that can be used over and over again.

In his series of letters entitled “On the Aesthetic Education of Man,” Friedrich Schiller, a German poet, wrote that “man is only completely human when he plays.” Playing is not just about having fun. It is also about learning, touching, feeling, experimenting and grasping – it is the mechanism by which our brain assimilates new experiences and new knowledge. “Grasping” or “getting to grips with” something is the best way for children and adults alike to subconsciously train their bodies and minds.

The Bubber brand of modeling compound: this soft material is 95 per cent hollow hard glass beads. What makes the product so light-weight is that the beads are hollow. Its kneading properties, on the other hand, stem from a very thin silicone coating.

Moldable compounds, such as a combination of sand and water, are ideal for stirring the imagination: a visit to the beach brings out the child in all of us – whether it's building mighty sand castles or sculpting bizarre drip mountains. The only problem is that, once the sand has dried out or as soon as the next wave comes rolling in, even the finest sand sculpture gets washed away.

It was this observation that inspired Jonas Modell and Staffan Thuresson, Swedish inventors, to find a solution to this natural phenomenon. “The original idea was to make moldable sand for use in children’s rooms,” says Modell, one of the managing directors of the company Delta of Sweden. The duo struck gold with their very first product – Moon Sand. This multicolored artificial sand feels like real, wet sand, but it never dries out because it is coated with polyolefins. So it can be used repeatedly to create new castles and moonscapes.

“Silicones offer a very interesting range of properties. They are flexible, weatherable, permeable and heat-resistant.”

Jonas Modell (toy developer)

Low-Density Glass Beads

The company has since followed up Moon Sand with other kneadable and moldable products, such as Bubber, a silky-soft, fluffy-light kneadable compound that can be molded, cut or carved as desired. These properties come as a surprise when you consider that some 95 percent of Bubber is hard glass beads. What makes the product so light-weight is that the beads are hollow. Its kneading properties, on the other hand, stem from a silicone coating. “Every single glass bead is coated with a layer of high-quality WACKER silicones,” says Dr. Christian Peschko from Application Technology at WACKER SILICONES. The nature of the layer largely determines the properties of the end product. The production line set up by the two inventors is capable of making Moon Sand and Bubber by applying all kinds of layers to all kinds of particles.