Introduction: Connect PET Bottles, Make TrussFab Structures

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Hi, this is guide for preparing bottle pairs for constructing TrussFab structures.

TrussFab is a plugin for SketchUp that allows you to fabricate large scale structures that are sturdy enough to carry human weight. TrussFab achieves the large scale by complementing 3D print with plastic bottles. TrussFab considers bottles not as “bricks”, but as beams that form structurally sound node link structures also known as trusses.

Find more about the project:

Here we describe three different techniques to form truss members from PET bottles:

1) Inflating (with dry ice or liquid nitrogen) - thanks PETMAT for the idea

2) screwing

3) taping

If you are interested in tryingout our TrussFab plugin for SketchUp (research prototype for non commercial use), just drop us an email!
contact author:

You can also download our demo models from Thingiverse.

IMPORTANT: before you start your design, make sure that you have tested your bottles, adjusted the bottle lengths in the software to match the actual lengths, and test the print the connectors to see if everything fits well together.

Step 1: Connecting Bottles Using Dry Ice

Take tree bottles of the same type, possibly with a long cylindrical bottom part.

Step 2:

Cut one of them open and preserve the long cylindrical part. Make it as long as possible.

Step 3:

Crease the other two bottles and insert them into the previously cut cylinder. Don't worry if they are getting crumpled, we will inflate them.

Step 4:

Put a small spoon of dry ice into the bottles, close them and shake them until they blow up.

Take care: if you put too much dry ice, the bottle can explode. Make some experiments before you do this step. If the pressure is to high, open the lid for a second.

Alternatively you can also use liquid nitrogen for this step.

Step 5:

If you choose the right type of bottles, they will fit inside so well that they won't come apart easily.

Maybe you'll need to try out different bottle types for this method. Also it might help if you place a bit of double-sticky tape on the inside of the cut cylinder. This will secure them even more.

Step 6: Connecting Using Wood Screw (you Can't Inflate)

Alternatively you can choose this technique:

(1) You can use regular wood screws and an extra long screw driver. Drill small holes in the bottoms before screwing.

(2) Use dowel screws (double sided screw) and simply screw them into each other.

For this technique choose bottles which fit well together with their bottoms (they are not wobbling). Also try to use stiffer bottles, because you cant inflate these ones to increase stability.

Step 7: Use Any Kind of Wide Tape or Shrinking Tube

This method is probably less strong or long lasting, but very easy to do and you can achieve additional strength by inflating the bottles using dry ice.

For this technique choose bottles which fit well together with their bottoms (they are not wobbling).

Step 8: Now, Use TrussFab to Design Your Structure, Generate the 3D Printed Hubs and Build Your Thing:)

Step 9: Special Thanks to Everyone Who Contributed to This Project

Robert Kovacs, Anna Seufert, Ludwig Wall, Hsiang-Ting Chen, Florian Meinel, Willi Müller, Si-jing You, Maximilian Brehm, Jonathan Striebel, Yannis Kommana, Alexander Popiak, Thomas Bläsius, Tim Oesterreich, Dominik Meier, Melvin Witte, Tobias Arndt, Nico Ring, Lukas Fritsche, Thijs Roumen, Alexandra Ion, Oliver Schneider, Perdo Lopes, Mirela Alistar, Lung-Pan Cheng, Sebastian Marwecki, Arthur Silber, and Patrick Baudisch

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