Instructables

Smartitions: Create Lasercut Custom Partitions for Shipping!

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Let's say you want to ship a PC or a Mason jar or a 3D printed part, and being the normal human being you are, don't have large volume of packing peanuts. If you can model the object, you can make a custom cardboard lattice to protect it!

Where I work, we accumulate incredible amounts of cardboard every week. While we do have recycling, it seems terribly wasteful throwing out flattened cardboard boxes without reusing it at least once. My department, despite having a lot of powerful and shiny equipment for making things, has a laser cutter. It is by far my favorite tool to use. I started with 2D engravings, then moved to 3D boxes and enclosures using all manner of joints. Then I discovered Autodesk 123D Make. Like most folks who have downloaded it, I had a lot of fun designing stack-able objects from cut sheets I had around: soccer balls, a model of DNA, the school mascot, etc. While using all of this scrap cardboard, it really got me wondering... What about non-objects? You know, holes, gaps, voids, hollows, cavities. I could create custom cardboard lattices for shipping delicate items while reusing scrap cardboard!


This Instructable will show how you can use free tools like TinkerCAD and 123D Make to create your own custom cardboard partitions / support ribs for cardboard box interiors. Makers rejoice! You can ship like the pros do!

Mason_Smartition.mov(516x364) 15 KB
 
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Step 1: Materials

For this you will need.

1) Your object to be shipped.

2) A box to hold your object comfortably.

3) Some cardboard sheet, preferably all the same thickness.

4) Computer with 123D Make and a browser for TinkerCAD or 123D Design. You can use nearly any CAD software you want, and since 123D Design is still new, these steps are for TinkerCAD.

5) Laser cutter.

What kind of laser cutter did you use? And what kind would you recommend for a beginner?

SolamenteDoug (author)  Brutus Ultimatum2 months ago
My lab has a 60-watt Universal Laser Systems model: http://www.ulsinc.com/products/pls6150d/ or its predecessor. Its the only cutter I've ever used, so I can't offer much in the way of selling features. We use CorelDraw, Inkscape, and the venerable DrawingBoard for image creation/manipulation.

I've considered purchasing a Full Spectrum model for myself. The base unit is inexpensive but, as with everything, the extras quickly add up. That said FSL is still cheaper than nearly all the reputable manufacturers. You can buy a cheap one from overseas on eBay, but it's my understanding you really do get what you pay for.

While weighing your options, you should seriously consider the space and most importantly, the ventilation for the cutter. Wood and cardboard aren't unpleasant smelling (reminds me of BBQ), but the odor permeates. Cutting acrylic absolutely requires ventilation, so we have ours situated near a window and two stages of carbon filters. Look at power requirements also. The PC, fans, an air compressor, and the laser itself will likely not trip a breaker as long as not much else is sharing the line.

Good luck on your laser cutting journey!

This is a great idea! A great way to ship delicate things and re-use cardboard!

Thanks! I hope it pushes folks thinking about selling things online into going through with it. It's made me rethink all those gadgets I thought boderline-sellable because of the hassle of packaging.

Norro3 months ago
Nice idea but I don't think this will protect your item very well. Not only can it fall out diagonally but the bulk heads will transmit shock to the item rather than absorb it.
SolamenteDoug (author)  Norro3 months ago

Feedback! Great! Diagonal slippage would be a problem in the example above. A great feature of 123D Make is you can add as many ribs as you want. You can have two or three or tweety planar contacts with your object along several axes. I minimized the number of planes in the example for better viewing. Here's what multiple ribs (read: more stable) and with the radial axis rotated 90 degrees:

http://www.instructables.com/file/FZY1SVAHUVPUA96/

You're right on about energy transmission along the rib and into the item. Corrugated cardboard is a pretty stiff material. You can always rough up or hand crush to weaken it slightly. Single ply cardboard or thick poster stock would definitely provide a springier medium but it would sacrifice some shape. It's a trade off.

Thankfully, single ply can be laser cut too. Better yet: surround an item with a lattice of single ply and then envelop that with an outside corrugated latticework within your box! Packaging science is a serious enterprise. Each time I unbox a product, I gain a healthier respect for the designers and engineers that got it to me safely!


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