Plastic bottles are everywhere we go. They’re in supermarkets, refrigerators, and you’ve probably used one today. After all, they’re our go-to packaging option for almost any form of liquid that needs to be contained. However, they also end up in places they shouldn’t be in, like in landfills, oceans, and the streets. Thankfully, recycling these bottles are a common practice and these bottles can usually be melted to form new things, like 3D printing filament.
However, you don’t have melt plastic bottles into a shapeless form for them to be useful.
Researchers from Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute have taken the recycling game one step further: by creating a program that turns plastic bottles into large, interconnected structures.
The software, called TrussFab, can automatically generate bottle based-structures from simple 3D designs using a bunch of algorithms, and the possibilities of what you can do with it seem almost limitless. Need to make a new chair? Sketch out a diagram in TrussFab and it’ll show you how to build one out of plastic bottles. How about something more daring, like a bridge that can carry a human’s weight? Well, it’s the same process, and the software is up for the task.
Described as “an integrated end-to-end system that allows users to fabricate large-scale structures that are sturdy enough to carry human weight,” TrussFab is more than just a sketching tool, it’s also a 3D printing tool that’ll model the things needed to connect the bottles together.
Bottles aren’t meant to be used as building blocks by themselves, so the researchers created the software in a way that it could use 3D printing technology to create these structure-specific connectors that’ll link the plastic bottles in a secure manner. The software also generates the files to have the things 3D printed automatically, saving you some time.
“Truss structures essentially consist of triangles,” explains the researchers. “In such an arrangement, it is the structure that prevents de-formation, not the individual bottle. Bottles are weak when pushed from the side, but are very strong when pushed or pulled along their main axis.”
TrussFab is also sort of a physics-simulator, using its algorithms to let you know whether the structure you sketched is actually viable. “TrussFab’s integrated structural analysis calculates the internal forces in the structure and warns users if it would break”
Here’s a video demonstrating the use of TrustFab and just how strong the structures it builds are:
Source: Youtube, HassoPlattnerInstitute HCI
“TrussFab embodies the required engineering knowledge, allowing non-engineers to design such structures and allows users to validate their designs using integrated structural analysis,” says the researchers.
TrustFab isn’t available for public use yet, but when it does, it’d be pretty exciting to get our hands on it to see what cool stuff we can build.