A 3D printed stand for reusing soda bottles as seed starters and planters.
Step 1: START WITH AN IDEA
I had started some seeds the other day and as they started to grow I was wondering what I would transplant them into before they finally found their ultimate home in the garden.
Oh sure, I could by some planting pots but what kind of solution would THAT be? Easy? Probably. Cheap? Maybe. Would it take up a lot of my time to down to my LHS and grab some? Probably not. Heresy I say!
We tend to have a lot of plastic soda bottles and it hit me that they are the perfect size to make into seed starters and planters. They would allow for deep roots and are a nice shape to slide out when ready for transplanting.
I grabbed a bottle and my micrometer and started making some notes and measurements. I had a general idea of what I wanted and after the first print I went back to the drawing board and came up with a COMPLETELY different design. We shant discuss the first prototype further! ;-)
My second-first idea was to make a stand that would hold the bottle, cap and all, in an upright position and before I spent any time drawing that out it had occurred to me that it would make more sense to screw the bottle into the holder instead of a friction lock and that's when I got down to laying down a real design.
Step 2: PROTOTYPES, PROTOTYPES EVERYWHERE!
And this is where the rubber (or PLA in this case) meets the road. I now knew what I wanted so I quickly threw something together.
Flat base, screw attachment, drain holes and some kind of angle supports BAHM, done!
Let's just say that I'm still working out the differences between my mental image of what it should be and what it looks like in the real world. Did it do what I wanted from it? Absolutely! Could you drive a tank over it? You betchya! Did it take forever to print and use a lot of PLA - oh, most assuredly!
The second prototype was the same as the first, just with some slimmed down dimensions. Thinner base, thinner angled supports and thinner walled screw attachment. Still too thick, too long to print and used too much PLA.
I ended up with the third design. I slimmed everything down even further and even cut out some areas that where not needed. The final design used about 1/3 of the material, prints in about 1/3 of the time and is just as strong and stable as the original.
It took a few days to finally get to a design I was actually happy with but non of the other prototypes went to waste as I continue to use them all. NO, not that first prototype, that first one, ahhh, ran way. Yeah, ran away, that's the ticket!
Step 3: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Here's all I needed to put together a single planter...
- 3D printed stand
- Soda Bottle (clean)
- Scissors or utility knife
- Lighter (optional)
- Cotton Ball
- Planting Soil (screened)
- Water (bottled if you have bad tap water)
You can cut the bottle short or tall, depending on how much of a starter you want/need, but I would suggest using a bottle that is not ribbed. I would also suggest notcutting it after it starts curving back inwards. You want a root plug that can pop right out of the planter when you're ready to replant and not have to cut the bottle to get everything out.
Use a good pair of scissors or a utility blade to cut your bottle. Roughly cut it first and then it's easier to make the final, even, and smother cut.
Once the bottle is cut, if the edge is ragged, carefully use a lighter around the cut-edge to help round over and smooth the edges. CAREFUL, the plastic will melt very quickly!
Screw the bottle top into your stand, drop in a cotton ball to help keep the drain-holes from clogging and you're now ready for some soil and your plantings!
- HINT: If your house water contains a lot of chlorine or if you have well water heavy in minerals you might want to use bottled or filtered water.
Step 4: PRINT AND REPEAT!
As you can see by the pictures, I am using ever single prototype I printed. (Shhhh, yes, EVERY prototype - wink). They work great and will support all different sizes of bottles from the very small to a 2 liter and are amazingly steady. Water bottles tend to use a different thread but so far every soda bottle I've come across appears to have the same thread. I've used may different brands without issue.
Some of you might be looking at the one picture and think, "Gee, some of those don't look like they're centered". And you would absolutely correct!
- Helpful hint of the day, never leave a web camera, unsecured, near the print plate of your printer. It may fall and jam the plate, causing everything being printed to shift about half an inch. Fun, huh? Still stable, still usable! Waste nothing.
Step 5: GO PRINT SOMETHING!
Here's the STL file. Go print something today!