With A Little 3-D Printing Magic, Old Containers Become Anything

Everyone has some empty cans and bottles around the house. With 3-D printing they can become so much more.

Student designer and upcycling devotee Sam Bernier couldn’t bring himself to throw away all the empty containers he was accumulating, but he couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with them, either. Soon they were piling up. “I quickly realised that I had almost no opportunities to actually reuse them unless I decided to turn my kitchen into a canning manufacture,” he says.


And so was born Project RE_, an experiment that combines custom 3-D-printed objects with old mason jars, soup cans and empty glass bottles to make entirely new objects. Take an old tin can, print two plastic pieces designed by Bernier with your 3-D printer–he designed them so that they could be made on low-cost machines like the Makerbot or a UP PP3DP–and with a few quick attachments you’ve got an elegant little bird house. Grab a glass jar with a 66cm diameter–Bernier says most spaghetti sauce containers do the trick–print one of his plastic pieces, and the jar becomes a juicer. “Just print and screw! This baby will rip your oranges in seconds,” Bernier writes proudly on his Instructables page. The first Project RE_ collection, which earned Bernier the distinction of DIY runner-up in this year’s Core77 Design Awards, is comprised of 14 objects: a watering can, an hour glass, a pasta container, a mug, a rain catcher, a maple syrup bottle, a piggy bank (Bernier’s personal favorite), a snow globe, a paint brush cleaner, a dumbbell, and a lamp, in addition to the bird house and juicer previously mentioned.

The Montreal native says he has salt and pepper shakers and some storage systems in the works, but he hinted at an even more ambitious direction for Project RE_ with two words: “Ikea hacking.” Having seen the power of 3-D printing to turn a soup can into a bird house, it’s easy to imagine how the same techniques could be used to jazz up some of Ikea’s more spartan designs.

Bernier reports that other DIYers are already busy tweaking his designs and adding projects of their own, and the Instructables page for the project has already seen some 30,000 visits. It’s hardly a surprise that there are so many people who are eager to give new life to their old bottles, and Project RE_ shows how upcycling and 3-D printing can be unexpectedly fruitful bedfellows.

“Junk makes such cheap and original raw material,” Bernier told me. “When mixed with digital manufacturing, you get surprising results. What is great with glass jars is that they replace a lot of volume that otherwise would have to be printed.”

“Also, you can’t print clear glass…yet.”

[Hat tip Core77]