The cardboard box is ubiquitous in our society. We all know what makes up a cardboard box: corrugated paper products, glue, and some work. Of course cardboard boxes didn’t just show up one day, delivered out of nowhere by an overworked and underpaid driver. In the video below the break, [New Mind] does a deep dive into the history of the cardboard box and much more.
Starting back in the 19th century, advancements in the bulk processing of wood into pulp made paper inexpensive. From there, cardboard started to take its corrugated shape. Numerous advancements around Europe and the US happened somewhat independently of each other, and by 1906 a conglomerate was formed to get the railroads to approve cardboard for use on cargo trains.
By then though, cardboard was still in its infancy. Further advancements in design, manufacturing, and efficiency have turned the seemingly low tech cardboard box into a high tech industry that’s heavy on automation and quality control. It’ll certainly be difficult to think of cardboard boxes the same.
There also numerous ways for a hacker to re-use cardboard, be it in template making, prototyping, model making, and more. Of course, corrugation isn’t just for paper. If corrugated plastic floats your boat, you might be interested in this boat that floats due to corrugated plastic.
You probably already know that cardboard is versatile, but that goes far beyond the corrugated stuff. There are many types of cardboard out there, some of which you may not even be aware of. In the video after the break, [Eric Strebel] goes through them all and pits each one against his 50 W water-cooled laser with air assist, making a nice reference for himself in the process.
The point of this shootout is to find the optimum speed and power settings for each of these materials using a free power versus speed file. [Eric] almost always runs the thing somewhere between 10% and 50% power, so that’s the range represented here. He’s looking for two things: the settings that leave the least amount of kerf (make the thinnest cut line) and make the cleanest cuts without producing a lot of residue.
[Eric] divided his contestants into three weight classes, the heavyweights being butter board, chip board, mat board, and illustration board All of these are thicker than 1mm. On the middleweight roster, you have railroad board, 4-ply Bristol board, and stencil board, and all of these are under 1mm thickness. Finally, we have the lightweights — yupo paper and 300 series Bristol board, both of which are less than ½ mm thick.
To test their model-making capabilities, [Eric] made a cube out of each material. Once the glue is dry, he peels off the painter’s tape and goes through the various pros and cons of them all. Be sure to check it out after the break.
[Kryzer Channel] takes making a DIY RC car to a whole new level with this prop-driven electric car that is made almost entirely out of cardboard (YouTube video, also embedded below.) By attaching an electric motor with a push prop to the back of the car, [Kryzer] avoids the need for any kind of drive system or gearing. Steering works normally thanks to some scratch-built linkages, but the brake solution is especially clever.
Braking is done by having a stocky servo push a reinforced stub downward, out of a hole in the center of the car. This provides friction against the road surface. After all, on an RC car a functional brake is simply not optional. Cutting the throttle and coasting to a stop works for a plane, but just won’t do for a car.
Layers of corrugated cardboard and hot glue make up the bulk of the car body, and some of the assembly techniques shown off are really slick and make the video really worth a watch. For example, the construction of the wheels (starting around 2:24) demonstrates making them almost entirely out of cardboard, saturated with CA glue for reinforcement, with a power drill acting as a makeshift lathe for trimming everything down. A section of rubber inner tube provides the tire surface and a piece of hard plastic makes a durable hub. Wraps of thread saturated in CA glue, shown here, is another technique that shows up in several places and is used in lieu of any sort of fasteners.
If you collect trading cards of any kind, you know that storage quickly becomes an issue. Just ask [theguymasamato]. He used to be really into trading cards, and got back into it when his kids caught the bug. Now he’s sitting on 10,000+ cards that are largely unorganized except for a few that made it into sleeve pages. They tried to go through them by hand, but only ended up frustrated and overwhelmed. Then he found out about [Michael Portera]’s Pi-powered LEGO card sorter and got all fired up to build a three-part system that feeds cards in one by one, scans them, and sorts them into one of 22 meticulously-constructed cardboard boxes.
[theguymasamato]’s card sorter is the last stop for a card after the feeder has fed it in from the pile and the scanner has scanned it. The sorter lazy Susans around on a thrust bearing, which is driven by a 3D printed drive wheel attached to a stepper. The stepper is controlled with an Arduino.
Here’s where it gets crazy: the drive wheel and timing belt are made from the flutes of corrugated cardboard. As in, he used that wavy bit in the middle as gear teeth. Every one of those cardboard teeth is fortified with wood glue, a time-consuming process he vows to never repeat. Instead, [theguymasamato] recommends using shims to shore them up as he did in the card feeder. The whole thing was originally going to be made from cardboard. It proved to be too mushy to support the thrust bearing, so [theguymasamato] switched to MDF.
Right now, the sorter is homed via button press, but future plans for the device include an IR break beam switch. We’re excited for the scanner and can’t wait to see the whole system put together. While [theguymasamato] works on that, position yourself past the break to watch the build video.
It has never been easier to put a microcontroller and other electronics into a simple project, and that has tremendous learning potential. But when it comes to mechanical build elements like enclosures, frames, and connectors, things haven’t quite kept the same pace. It’s easier to source economical servos, motors, and microcontroller boards than it is to arrange for other robot parts that allow for cheap and accessible customization and experimentation.
That’s where [Andy Forest] comes in with the Laser Cut Cardboard Robot Construction Kit, which started at STEAMLabs, a non-profit community makerspace in Toronto. The design makes modular frames, enclosures, and basic hardware out of laser-cut corrugated cardboard. It’s an economical and effective method of creating the mechanical elements needed for creating robots and animatronics while still allowing easy customizing. The sheets have punch-out sections for plastic straws, chopstick axles, SG90 servo motors, and of course, anything that’s missing can be easily added with hot glue or cut out with a knife. In addition to the designs being open sourced, there is also an activity guide for educators that gives visual examples of different ways to use everything.
Cardboard makes a great prototyping material, but what makes the whole project sing is the way the designs allow for easy modification and play while being easy to source and produce.
This project by [blackfish] shows off a cardboard lookalike of an MP5 that loads from a working magazine, has a functional charging handle, and flings paper projectiles with at least enough accuracy to plink some red party cups. It was made entirely from corrugated cardboard, paper, rubber bands, and toothpicks.
In the video (embedded below) you can see some clever construction techniques. For example, using a cyanoacrylate adhesive to saturate areas of wood, cardboard, or paper to give them added strength and rigidity. The video is well-edited and worth a watch to see the whole process; [blackfish] even uses a peeled piece of cardboard — exposing the corrugated part — as a set of detents (6:56) to retain the magazine.
Last November, after [HomoFaciens]’ garbage-can CNC build, we laid down the gauntlet – build a working CNC from cardboard and paperclips. And now, not only does OP deliver with a working CNC plotter, he also plans to develop it into a self-replicating machine.
To be honest, we made the challenge with tongue firmly planted in cheek. After all, how could corrugated cardboard ever make a sufficiently stiff structure for the frame of a CNC machine? [HomoFaciens] worked around this by using the much less compliant chipboard – probably closest to what we’d call matboard here in the States. His templates for the machine are extremely well thought-out; the main frame is a torsion box design, and the ways and slides are intricate affairs. Non-cardboard parts include threaded rod for the lead screws, servos modified for continuous rotation, an Arduino, and the aforementioned paperclips, which find use in the user interface, limit switches, and in the extremely clever encoders for each axis. The video below shows highlights of the build and the results.
True, the machine can only move a pen about, and the precision is nothing to brag about. But it works, and it’s perfectly capable of teaching all the basics of CNC builds to a beginner, which is a key design goal. And it’s well-positioned to move to the next level and become a machine that can replicate itself. We’ll be watching this one very closely.