Giving it Gears: The art of steampunk

‘Steampunk’ – the adventurous art, fashion and culture movement inspired by the industrial revolution in the ‘70s, was a source of inspiration behind a recent NPD project brought to life by the IPL Design team.

“As part of our investigations into new manufacturing processes and materials our design team wished to test out several methods and materials that would allow for design intricacy, yet also prove both robust and eye-catching,” explains LB Odendaal, Head of IPL Design.

Steampunk box created by IPL Packaging

“We ultimately settled on the quirky ‘steampunk’ aesthetic – a retro-oriented design concept typically depicting machine parts like cogs and rivets, clockwork and laboratory equipment and combines these with Victorian art and design and futuristic concepts, such as robotics and AI,” he says. “We believed the gears, levers and mechanisms associated with the design genre would provide the perfect framework with which to work.“

“As the base of the packaging solution, we constructed a box manufactured from ‘burnt wood’, complete with a veneered MDF finish and intended for use in the coin or numismatic market.”

Steampunk mint box created by IPL Packaging

Using wax to create the steampunk box

“We that set about exploring several different methods in the creation of a 3D centerpiece mechanically fastened to the top of the box,” says Odendaal. “Our main focus lay in the creation of small detail items in metal – and so we explored processes such as sand casting and die casting and finally settled on the ‘lost-wax’ casting method popular in jewelry manufacture,” he explains. “In this way, we introduced 3D-printed wax templates (eventually burning the wax away – hence the term ‘lost wax) that we then used to make a mould which was subsequently cast in bronze,” he says.

“A second element – ‘chemical etching’ – was used to obtain the finer, more intricate details of the cogs and wheels, with a 3D effect on the centerpiece and then low-relief etching and a matte, brushed brash finish on the cover of the box. The result is a striking example of what can be achieved via the implementation of new mechanisms for packaging design,” states Odendaal. 

Steampunk coin box created by IPL Packaging

“Apart from the prevalent recycling and closed-loop methods and mechanisms we’re investigating in order keep up with the demands of sustainable packaging, we’re also steadily increasing our exploration and development of innovative materials and methods that may ultimately prove more practical and more exciting alternatives to conventional materials used in packaging,” he concludes.


IPL Packaging is a global luxury packaging supplier with offices in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Africa. Approved manufacturing is available in several Asian countries, as well as sites in Eastern Europe. We create bespoke, tailored and exclusive packaging for any premium or luxury brand and manage the entire process, from conceptualisation and design to production and delivery.

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