Recycle Your Own Cardboard Box



Introduction: Recycle Your Own Cardboard Box

About: I am an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Colorado Mesa University, I recently lead a DARPA DRC Team, and I am one of Americas Greatest Makers (a competitor on the TV show that was on TBS)

This was a by-product of our Americas Greatest Makers project called Transfiguration Bustle. We needed a box to show our kits. At the time of the show our laser system at the GJMakerspace was not running, but it is running now and we wanted to show how an small startup might get some custom boxes with very little work or cost.

The purpose of this instructable is to introduce the concept of local recycling of materials. Specifically cardboard. It does require use of a laser cutter, but if you have one available you can very quickly convert a set of recycle boxes from a cardboard recycle bin into useful containers.

This project was done with help from the GJMakerspace which has a 60W 24" by 48" laser cutter. Of course be sure to make appropriate material choices when using a laser cutter.

Step 1: Measure the Dimensions of Your "Stock"

Measure the length and width of an area of the box that can be used in your new, littler, recycled box. This will be important when you set the final dimensions in Inkscape or the laser cutters edit mode. We happen to have a set of Ice Cream trucks that operate out of the same location as the GJMakerspace.

Step 2: Customize Your Box Design

We have setup two different ways for you to customize the size of your box. The OpenSCAD file is configured to run in the customizer app on Thingiverse here. If you have a Thingiverse account you can clicking the customizer app and set the dimensions and enable or disable the design of the dividers. I wish Customizer had a feature to render the image and export the SVG file. But currently your customized object will have to be passed through OpenSCAD to get an SVG file for Inkscape.

You can customize by installing OpenSCAD and changing the dimensions at the top of the file. The parameters have a light blue coloring followed on the next line by a variable being set to a value for example.

//Length of bottom of box (inches)

L=5.5; //[0.25:0.25:24]

Which sets the length of the bottom of the box in inches.

In this case I disabled the dividers to make things a bit simpler.

You can then render (F6) the box. It will not look like a normal OpenSCAD object because it is a flat 2D object. Once you have rendered it you can export and SVG file which is needed for the next step. Use the File -> Export as SVG. As always remember where you saved the file exported file.

Next we will use Inkscape to set the file so it will be ready for the laser cutter.

Step 3: Getting the Image Ready for Cutting

Using Inkscape to make a file suitable for cutting.

Now we are going to tweak the dimensions, and the color and drawing "stroke" so it will be cut on the laser cutter. For our laser you need to have no fill color, .001 inch lines, and you want to make the document just the size you want. Let's tackle the dimensions first.

To quickly measure your design you can use the File->Document Properties and expand the "Resize page to content" and then press the "Resize page to selection", change the units to match how you measured. Inches in my case. If that is bigger or smaller than the measurement from the stock cardboard you can set the size in the same dialog and then stretch the box layout to fit that dimension.

Now we need to turn off the fill, unless you want the laser cutter to etch the surface. More about that later. Right Click the box shape and choose "Fill and Stroke". On the fill tab that pops up click the black x to turn off the fill.

Next click on the "Stroke paint" tab and choose the color for cutting. On our laser the color does not matter but for yours it may be important to set the color to red.

Next click on the "Stroke style" tab and set the width to .001 and change the unit to inches.

If your laser does not support directly cutting from Inkscape you can usually export a pdf by choosing FIle->Save As and set the extension to .pdf.


Step 4: Cutting the Box

Our laser system allows you to jog the cutter to a particular spot, and set that spot as the corner of your design. It may take a few attempts but once you understand how to setup the laser cutter you can just drop in a box. Run the laser cutting. Watch your cutting to make sure you don't start a sustained fire. Little blasts of flame will probably go out.

Now pull that box out pop it out of the "stock" and put a blank "stock" piece in, cut the next box.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Box.

To make a lid you need only make a custom box that is shallower and a bit bigger than the first box you made.

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