Introduction: E-waste Ring

About: Royal Academy of Arts The Hague - Master Industrial Design

During a small project carried out at Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, I used some old electronic waste (cables and headphones) to create a piece of jewellery, rings in particular. I got my inspiration for doing this after trying sand casting (see the last instructable) in my school's workshop and decided to try again maybe melting some other pieces of waste metal that I could find around. After I started looking for material, I shortly realized how much electronic waste I had lying around the house and decided to use it to turn it into something else using the facilities of my school and digital fabrication tools. So this is how it started.

Step 1: Collecting E-waste

Originally, I wanted to use old electronic devices such as an old ipod and a very old broken Iphone 3, dismantling the different components apart and reusing them to make jewellery. But because I have very little knowledge of electronics, and also because I had no clue how I was going to make the jewellery, I decided to first try with some smaller, easier pieces such as a pair of old headphones and a charging cable that no longer work. I also found a piece of an old television connector cable. So after collecting my material, I started breaking it down in smaller pieces with a cutter and a hammer, obtaining in the end very small pieces of metal, plastic and other stuff.

Step 2: First Trial - Pressing (failed)

Since my supply of e-waste consisted of different materials such as plastic and copper and metal and fabric cables I could not melt them and use the casting technique. I therefore started to think of possible alternative solutions. The first idea I came up with is to compress the different components into a mould using a negative and a positive shape and a lot of pressure. So I went to the metal workshop of my school and looked in the metal supply for small tubes that would fit in one another, for making the mould. After I found them (a round one and a squared one), I cut some small sections and welded them onto a different piece of metal and decided to use a hydraulic press to squeeze the different pieces into a nice little cube (or cylinder). Unfortunately, and quite obviously, the material did get squeezed but did not stick to itself, leaving me with a bunch of pressed, even smaller, little pieces.

Step 3: Second Trial - Resin!

After the first failed attempt I decided to use a bonding agent to hold the different pieces together, so I went to the shop and bought resin. Since I still wanted to obtain very small shapes to make my rings I tried different approaches:

- using the same negative metal moulds I made before (applying a lot of vaseline to the surface so it would not get stuck) and manually pressing the positive part in.

- 3D printing some small moulds (you can find the model I used above)

- using silicone baking moulds

In the picture below you can see all the necessary equipment you need to do this, such as resin with hardener (remember to read the instruction carefully before using it, especially regarding the percentage of hardener you have to add to your resin solution), a measuring cup and syringe for precision, vaseline, a stick to mix and gloves (please use gloves).

Step 4: Casting the Resin

So after printing the mould and setting up everything, I went on with the resin casting. I filled up all my moulds with the e-waste components and in case of the metal ones, manually pressed them with a hammer. Then, I poured the resin in and let to rest for 24 hours.

Step 5: Results

After 24 hours, I removed the pieces from the different moulds. In the case of the metal moulds, although I used resin, the pressed material got stuck into the tube and had to be hammered out manually, but it eventually came out. The silicon mould worked out great instead, but gave me flat pieces which looked quite nice but were not useful for making rings. They could be turned into earrings or necklaces though! When it comes to the printed moulds, I was not able to remove the pieces. I think I did not apply enough vaseline and the resin slipped in between the different layers of the prints.

Step 6: Final Outcome

So after all the trials, I was left with the two pieces I cast and pressed in the metal mould. After removing them from the tube I sanded the edges where I could and polished them a bit. In the final phase, I attached them with hot glues to a golden ring which I bought in a craft shop. So this is the final result!. Although I am not 100 % satisfied with the results It was very nice trying it and gave me a good starting point for trying again later with other e-waste pieces such as my old broken iPod. I do like the rocky look of the piece that almost looks like a precious stone. Maybe one-day aglomerates of plastic and metal will come to be seen as precious stones or fossils of the Anthropocene age, who knows!