“Paper is a ubiquitous and powerful material that we use every day. From newspaper to cardboard boxes to egg cartons, our world runs on paper, and a lot of it! However, all paper products tend to share a common characteristic: they’re flat. Paper is so often 2D, flexible, and flimsy because of how it’s manufactured. Paper is usually formed by suction, gravity, or rolling, but what if we used a different approach? What if we could mold paper, and compact it so that it has volume? We could make 3D objects that are robust and reusable, and we could make them from the tons of single-use paper thrown away every day!
In this guide, I’m going to show you how you can recycle paper and cardboard into almost any 3D object using very basic equipment: a 3D printer, a blender, and a vise.
The process for molding paper into solid 3D forms is as follows:
Blend the paper into a pulp with water
Mix the pulp with a water-soluble binder
Fill a 3D-printed mold with the pulp
Use a pressing tool to compact the pulp with a vice
Dry the molded pulp
This process of molding paper pulp can be used to create a variety of unique forms, dictated only by the geometry of the 3D-printed mold. With this guide, I am providing the designs for 7 molds:
Topographical Map of Mt. San Antonio
The .STL files for these molds can be downloaded from Thingiverse.
This guide will show pictures from the process of multiple mold designs.
This project was inspired by an experiment by Will Haude of 3D Brooklyn. I’ve been toying with this project on-and-off for about two years now, working out the fine details and exploring the practical uses of this “material”.
I believe that 3D-molded pulp has two primary benefits: it could be a replacement for plastic and it can made of end-cycle paper products that can no longer be recycled by traditional means.
Paper shredder (optional)
Cardboard, newspaper, white paper, packing material, other paper (See Step #2)
PVA glue, rice, or cornstarch (See Step #3)
3D printer filament (PLA works great)”