How to Build Giant Structures Using Soda Bottles and a 3D Printer

By Andrew Liszewski on at

Reduce, re-use, and recycle are words to live by as we try to minimise humanity’s demand for our planet’s natural resources. But instead of sending your empty soda bottles off to be recycled, scientists from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany want you to build everything from chairs, to boats, to outdoor shelters with them.

But building things with oddly-shaped plastic bottles isn’t as easy as making things with lumber, bricks, or even plastic toys, and the last thing you’d want to do is set sail in a soda bottle boat held together by tape. So to turn plastic bottles into a genuinely useful building material, the scientists from the Hasso Plattner Institute developed a piece of software called TrussFab, detailed in a paper here, that allows 3D models and designs to be automatically converted into pop bottle structures.

Photo courtesy Hasso Plattner Institute

Not only does the TrussFab software automatically calculate how many empty soda bottles you’ll need to build something real, it’s able to calculate the stresses and loads your structure will be subjected to, intelligently engineering and reinforcing the design so that a soda bottle chair, for example, can actually support a 180-pound human sitting on it.

STILL: YouTube

Instead of tape or glue, the TrussFab software’s creations are held together with custom plastic connectors that are small enough to be produced on a desktop 3D printer. Each connector even features unique identifiers so it’s easier to follow the assembly instructions, and bottles can be attached by simply screwing or jamming them onto the connectors. In the case where two bottles have to be connected at the bottom, a simple screw or bolt holds them together.

There’s no word on if or when the TrussFab software will be made available to the public, but from the demos, it looks like the hardest part of designing and building your soda bottle dream house is collecting all of the bottles you’ll need to put it together. [Hasso Plattner Institute]

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