Projects Social Narratives

Neutra: A tool for a better future

Our project stemmed from a personal interest in gender, particularly the way it’s communicated and perceived through language. Language is one of the most powerful vehicles through which gender discrimination is reproduced. Gender stereotypes dictating that women should display communal/warm traits while men should agentic/competent traits trickle through to society through the lexical influences of everyday communication. Consequently, language also produces and reflects the societal asymmetries of power in the favour of men and their attached societal roles. Gendered language is so common that it’s difficult for some people to even notice it. From job postings to laws, the omnipresence of gendered language can affect a wide range of behaviors and lead to indoctrinated biases. The gender stereotyping and discrimination perpetuated by the English language is unnecessary. Our mission is to dismantle these stereotypes and combat the discrimination.

The most common practice for dismantling stereotypes is the reversal of the binary: taking the inferior side having it supercede it’s opposition. This technique highlights how harmful and unnecessary these implemented structures can be to the non-marginalised. However, our project is too subtle and our binary too complex to simply reverse. Pronouns can’t just be flipped, they needed to be neutralised in order to create a truly equal society. We achieved this by creating Neutra, a web browser extension that neutralized all gender pronouns on the internet pages our users visited.


Neutra provides users with a unique opportunity to engage with genuine cultural change. As an interface, Neutra is easily accessible to a wide demographic of internet-users. Furthermore, it is one of the most relevant ways to spread the concept of gender neutral language, as the internet is by far the most efficient way to spread information in our day and age.

Neutra’s focus on natural language allows for cohesion and a seamless reading experience. The subtlety of the extension is one of its strongest points: its a non-disruptive and simple solution to a pervasive cultural problem. In the same way that we don’t notice the bias and sexism inherent to the english language, people won’t notice when that language is removed.

Another important benefit of Neutra is it’s message; allowing people to see the world from a different perspective, separate from the confines of gender. We hope Neutra will provide our society with an illuminating view on the way language interacts with gender.

Despite it’s subtlety, Neutra has given us a unique opportunity to enact genuine cultural change. As women, we were both hyper-aware of the impact gender has historically and institutionally had on females. Working on this project has been an empowering experience that has further deepened our understanding of not only the english language, but also of the roots of feminism. More so than our own experience, this project has also allowed us to research and explore the male perspective more thoroughly. While our understanding will never be as comprehensive as that of a man, we made particular effort to ensure our product was inclusive and relevant to their own experience. Despite the fact that our entire intention was to remove gender from mainstream media, we have both vastly expanded our knowledge and understanding of the constraints gender inflicts on men, women and everyone in between.

Please view our final product and video here:

Social Narratives Project – Ladina Brunner and Natalia Gulbransen-Diaz

New Making Projects

Repurposing disposed Laptop

According to a study by the EU, as of 2015 only 35% of Europe’s e-waste is disposed of legally. The rest is treated as regular rubbish or exported to less-economically developed countries such as Nigeria, where recycling methods such as burning cables to extract the copper raises concerns over environmental impact, social justice and appropriate land use.  Resulting in the accumulation of deadly toxins (e.g. cadmium & lead) in the environment, food supply, water supply and ultimately people’s bodies.

In contrast a circular economy calls for is reducing consumption, reusing functional products or components and recycling materials of discarded products, as well as creating value in a sustainable supply chain. Thereby minimizing and recovering materials and energy from the supply chain. To explore designing towards a circular economy we started with a visit to the Edinburgh Remarkery. Whose mission is to create a substitute to a disposable society by making repair education accessible to all, and to build a stronger, waste-free community.

There I picked up a 2007 17″ Macbook Pro (click here for the teardown video), and soon learnt that existing options for broken laptops are often limited to disposal or recycling, with little opportunity for reuse. This is due to the fact that unlike the standardised components of desktop computers (people often save money by buying used CPUs, RAM sticks, power supplies… etc), laptop components on the other hand are often bespoke designed specifically for a limited range of models. While standardized component such as hard drives are often too old and unreliable to be reused. Moreover, as designers strive to make their laptops ever slimmer, options for reuse is further diminished (all RAM in modern Macbooks are soldered on).

The discarding and recycling of perfectly functional components such as the display panel and chassis therefore presents a hindrance towards the goal of a circular economy. Something the Edinburgh Remakery is already trying to change by refurbishing laptops with used hard drives, RAM sticks and display panels.

With that in mind I set out to try to revive the laptop into a usable computer using my smartphone. The idea behind this is smartphones are becoming increasingly powerful (the Snapdragon 835 in my Pixel 2 is being put in some laptops) and capable (more and more programs like slides and docs are web-based). At the same time smartphones are becoming increasingly affordable and ubiquitous with an estimated 2.53 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2018. This is projected to grow even further as large emerging markets like India begin to grow it’s middle class. Therefore it only seems like a  logical step to use the smartphones we already have into reviving broken laptops. Thereby extending the functionality of our smartphones and reducing waste.

The idea of integrating a smartphone into a laptop is not new in itself. The Lenovo Lifebook Concept and Razer’s Project Linda have both explored this idea, although neither has left the concept state. However, I would like to differentiate my design from Lenovo’s or Razer’s not only by using e-waste, but also by making mine open-source. Giving people the information to make, modify and improve on the design both in hardware and software.

When it comes to open source questions may be raised concerning the accessibility of the project given the high bar of DIY electronics skills required. Will people make it? If they do, will it make a difference? There is no definitive answer to that yet. However, one can point to numerous precedents where niche, and complex hardware projects have grown to influence the world through the open-source platform. These include: Arduino, Sparkfun, Adafruit, Ultimaker, Cmoy and more.

The first thing I did in terms of design was studying the feasibility. When I first started I was quite skeptical over whether it was possible at all. After a quick search through the Play Store I found software solutions which turned one’s phone into a desktop, but unlike it’s intended audience I was not plugging it in a TV or monitor but the LCD panel itself. Without the motherboard how was I going to connect these strange looking wires into HDMI? I started by searching up the panel’s model number. After some digging I discovered that I needed a LCD controller. This was the greenlight for my project.

However, early on in the project I encountered an issue which nearly derailed the entire design. I found that my phone did not support USB Alternative Modes such as DisplayPort over USB-C, which allowed phones like the Samsung Galaxy s9 or LG V30 to mirror onto another display natively. Thankfully, I found that I could replicate that functionality with a Displaylink adapter which outputs display data over USB using a virtual graphics card.

For the design I initially explored the idea of making the whole laptop chassis from scratch using scrap materials such as wood. However I decided against it. Not only would I not have time to do that, but in terms of the message of sustainability nothing quite says ‘reuse, reduce, recycle’ than reviving an old Mac. The point isn’t to make a nice polished product but to make something than contributes to the circular economy.


Here comes how I actually made it. Head over to my instructables for the precise process.

Here are the results:





To fulfill the criteria of being an open source project I made an instructable for everyone else to follow (as mentioned before). I tried to make it as easy to follow as possible while offering choice and variation.

Moreever, in the tech community the forums are everything so I posted about my project in the LinusTechTips forum and the diyelectronics subreddit . The response was overwhelmingly positive. However, only time will tell if this project will actually take off. I hope that even if it does not, it can be an inspiration for others to live a more sustainable conscious life.

Ok I need to go to submit this and go to sleep now.


Social Narratives

Breathe Respirator V1. ‘The New Pay as You Go Home Healthcare’

Breathe Respirator V1 is a speculative product from Ben Manders and Christian Hardman that comments on the morals and ethics related to the privatisation of the NHS. It tells a story of how multinational healthcare companies can take advantage of those least fortunate. Through the use of an ECG controlled by the user’s bank balance, we’ve explicity linked money to health to create a disconcerting undertone.



With the promenenant nature of debate surrounding  the privatisation the NHS it’s difficult not to become passionate about the subject. The NHS is being systematically failed as an attempt to make money out of the the public’s health. This led us to highlight the immoral nature of using in individual’s misfortune to make money for the multinational cooperations.

March calling for universal healthcare in New York, October 26, 2011. Physicians, nurses, community groups and supporters of healthcare marched to call for an end of corporate greed in the health insurance industry.





We feel healthcare is a human right and not something that can be monetised. By monetising someone’s health  it’s monetising their life.







Breathe Respirator V1 is a Pay as You Go home healthcare product for people with asthma, asbestosis, and other lung diseases where additional oxygen would be beneficial. The piece comments on the monetisation of a person’s health through the use of a bank card combined with the ECG. As the user increases the levels of oxygen they find it easier to breathe, but for an additional cost.

New Making

Recycling keyboard plastics in an interesting, somewhat performative way


Upon visiting the remakery, I discovered a large number of old keyboards, more or less all made of off-white ABS plastic. They were testimony to the times changing; more and more people are using laptops with built in keyboards, and keyboards have improved enough that there are a massive amount of older model keyboards lying unused and derelict in random deposits around the world. Many of them are made of ABS, which is a thermoplastic and can be reheated and reformed. Though keyboards and the plastic they are made of aren’t the most “e” of all “e-waste,” they are still part of the massive problem of e-waste going unsalvaged. As computer technology continues to improve, these older keyboards will continue to pile up and up, their plastic unreclaimed.

According to a study by Science Advances, the first global analysis of all plastics ever made—and their fate, of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills. That amount is 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building. 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year in the UK. That is around 15 million bottles per day which are classed as ‘single use’. According to David Palmer-Jones, CEO for Suez recycling and recovery in the UK, “The UK is at a tipping point and without radical change to improve England’s household recycling rates the UK will not meet its EU agreed target of 50% recycling rates by 2020,”

     E-waste has been identified as the fastest growing waste stream in the world at present, according to a study in the Journal of Health and Pollution. The increasing ‘market penetration’ in the developing countries, ‘replacement market’ in the developed countries and ‘high obsolescence rate’ make e-waste one of the fastest waste streams, according to the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Major types of polymers (plastics) in the e-plastics stream include acrylonitrile, butadiene styrene (ABS), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polycarbonate (PC), polyvinylchloride (PVC), high impact polystyrene (HIPS), or blends of these thermoplastics.

I’m focusing on the plastics associated with e-waste, specifically those used in keyboards. Most older genereation keyboards of the 90s and 2000s were made out of injection-molded ABS. Two of the major barriers to e-plastics’ reuse or recycling are the mixed plastic content and the presence in the e-plastics of flame retardants (FR), of which two classes in particular, the brominated flame retardants (BFR) and organo-phosphorus flame retardants (OPFR), have associated health concerns, according to a paper by William Mills and Robert A. Tatara. These health concerns limit how easy or simple it is to  directly reuse these plastics in compression molding, as well as the expected air bubbles and imperfections of the process.

However on a smaller scale, or in a design arena where small structural flaws don’t matter, there is great opportunity for re-use of these plastics. In combination with digital fabrication techniques and other reclaimed materials such as scrap wood and other computer parts, these plastics can be harvested and reheated/molded into complex shapes, shells, or bodies for new products. Currys PC world offers a free recycling service for any unwanted electronic object, and most countries and states have program for the same. However, most of these specify e-waste, and keyboards, though they do contain at least a small circuit board, are mostly plastic and sheets of mylar, etc. There is very little precious metal to be retrieved from them. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) is the European Community Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) which, together with the RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC, became European Law in February 2003.

There are now over 800 registered IT recycling companies in the UK, the majority of which were established after the introduction of the WEEE Directive in 2007. What is of most concern is that an alarming number of these companies are not providing a bonafide service, which could leave you liable. With that being said, perhaps keyboards and similar items should not just be recycled, but given second life. The thermoplastic most are made out of can be used as a sort of sculpting material, and upon a quick search for computer parts being repurposed artistically reveals a large number of precedents. In fact, there are many people that have discovered many ways of repurposing many different parts of modern keyboards, including the conductive mylar sheets.


Much of my early ideation related to the silver-traced mylar sleeves under the keys of the keyboards I dissected, which were conductive. I was fascinated with turning them into something useful but found it very difficult to realize, and that the concept of flat conductivity was interesting but tough to harness effectively in this form.


Reheating and molding the keyboards wasn’t too hard after cutting them into smaller pieces. I found that if I used a heat gun and some pliers, the pieces could be stretched and hand-formed, although I’m sure the hot air coming off of the plastic wasn’t the healthiest. I was sure to do this in a well-ventilated area. That being said, it was remarkably easy to reform the plastic and I began imagining what form I could use these technique for. I decided to make the body for a lamp out of these warped, decidedly unappealing pieces of plastic as a sort of statement piece about what we can do with the plastics in keyboards worldwide that are either lying dormant or unrecycled.

I used a store-bought lamps wiring and light socket (after getting to them with a hammer) inside the body I molded out of plastic. As I continued I realized that the shape I’d chosen didn’t make the lamp any prettier, and a symmetrical volume might have looked better.

The final artefact is not a good-looking thing by any means, but is definitely striking and different.

The point is this: we waste a lot of plastic, and a lot of our electronic appliances seem unaproachable after they fall into disrepair or become out of fashion. This lamp proves that anybody with the will can take their unused thermoplastics, of which there are plenty, and easily and safely reuse them. There are a massive amount of these plastics out there, just waiting to become something new. Maybe not pretty, but new.

New Making

Weaving Second Lives

Introduced to the Edinburgh Remakery from the beginning, the project’s course inherently adopted their principles of repair as well as the realm of materials within which they operate. Given the chance to explore their Granton storage unit, I began brainstorming creative ways to build newness with the forsaken goods. Piles of chairs began shaping themselves into public sculptures and old laptop screens arranged themselves into mosaics reflecting the sun. These wishful installation ideas were driven from a place of whimsy and followed precedents such as Yvonne Fehling and Jennie Peiz Stuhlhockerbank or Ai Weiwei’s Bang. But these first ideas only offered bleak commentary on the waste problem before they, themselves, hit a landfill.


A deeper understanding of issues and debates surrounding circular design moved me away from aesthetic installations towards functionality. I began seeing objects around me in terms of how many lives they had lived: a jacket from a charity shop may be headed onto its second or third life with a new owner compared to the fledgling coat bought clean and fresh off the rack of a department store. I realized I wanted to give second lives to objects and items too quickly dubbed as waste. How possible would it be to redefine the roles of materials for purposes they were never originally intended? And not simply doing so by morphing them into an aesthetic sculpture, but by changing their use altogether and reassessing the value in new functional roles.

A precedent that greatly influenced my perception of a material and its value was Precious Plastic: a group, led by Dave Hakkens, that wants to create obtainable solutions to problems of plastic waste. Part of their mission includes re-framing how society values plastic. They ask us to question our quick, cheap, and disposable mindsets to see plastic as both valuable and precious; a material that is not effortlessly obtained, nor easily destroyed. Their work influenced me to see plastic in new ways, and my project began to parallel its mission as I wanted to give new functional lives to plastics that had already lived out their intended purpose.


Investigations into the vast body of recycled plastic projects led me to everything from durable building cladding to delicate pieces of jewelry to re-imagined household goods. The research also introduced me to methods of weaving with various forms of plastics. A marriage of traditional technique and unexpected materials, the process gave new functional life to objects that would otherwise be tossed aside. The majority of these projects led to mats and rugs, or baskets and tote bags. My interests however led me to wonder how similar weaving techniques could result in pieces of functional, beautiful furniture. Knowing that one of the Remakery’s focuses is furniture repair; I wanted to explore the ways in which practices that weave new life into plastic could also breathe unique life into their refurbished furniture. A quick search for furniture woven from recycled materials provided precedents such as the Haldane Martin’s Zulu Mama Chair and KaCaMa Studio’s Crown Stool.

Working with the Remakery, I obtained a chair frame and outdated computer cables. On my own, I found two other chairs discarded on the street, and I collected plastic grocery bags and empty plastic bottles. Cutting the plastic grocery bags into loops, I could knot them together to form a strong, flexible strand that could be wound into a ball of plastic string. Using the strand in place of rush or rattan, the grocery bags could be tightly woven through the chair frames to form a flexible seat or back. Slicing the plastic bottles into long, curly spiral strips, I was also able to make another material that could replace and repair damage done to vintage cane seat chairs. The computer cables could be dissected into stretchy, outer plastic coatings and thin, inner wires. The two woven together formed a system of taut wire ribs spanned by looping plastic cushion that gives way upon sitting – creating the feeling of a hammock or net. The explorations of these materials within the project demonstrate their versatility and the new lives they could take on when their first ones have run their course.



The project itself is a very personal, small-scale intervention. It’s not anticipated to intercept vast amounts of plastic waste, but it does offer an alternative that gives value and craft to the re-used materials as well as the furniture it’s fixing. The extended, hands-on process of a repair such as this alters the meaning of the final product — it re-values the cultural intentions of the piece. No longer are the cables acting in the digital age, or the plastic bags as accomplices to a consumer society, but both are broken down into something tactile and weight-bearing; something concerned with something more timeless. They are stripped of their original meaning and woven back together, intertwined with a new aim and a second life that is separate from their first.


New Making

A diamond from a broken screen.

It is now abundantly clear that we have a waste problem. Living in what is described as the ‘Anthropocene’, our consumption is now vastly outstripping our resources (Simms and Potts, 2012:13). And as our numbers continue to grow exponentially so does the destruction to the planet caused by our waste.

Our consumerist behaviour is main cause of all this waste, we live in a society where people’s goals are dictated through the acquisition of goods which are unnecessary. Perpetuated by the overabundance of labour forces and a growing use of plastic post World War II, lead to an overabundance which demanded a need for new products to be manufactured (Simms and Potts, 2012: 3). Similarly our mentalities changed; with past generations, if something broke then it would be mended, but now the mentality is often to simply throw it away and replace it. Often enough, due to the lack of skills and time, this proves to be the cheaper option. Similarly, products are no longer built to last, with planned obsolescence now designed into almost any product; so it could be argued that ultimately, it is the Designers that are responsible for forming this throw away society (Fry, 2009: 7).

Unfortunately, there is now abundant evidence to demonstrate the damage caused by our adoption of consumerism. The Great Pacific Garbage patch is a very large area (three times the size of France) situated in the North Pacific Ocean, which holds an inordinate amount of plastic debris.


However it’s not only plastic which is wreaking havoc to the planet; there’s also e-waste.

Around 20 million tons of e-waste are produced every year (, 2017). The average Briton throws away between 44lbs and 55lbs each year, most of which ends up in landfills, gets incinerated or simply collects in people’s homes remaining unused (Knapton, 2017).

Of all the e-waste produced, only around 20-40%of it is recycled (depending on the sources), with the rest going to landfills or shipped overseas to be burned for scraps, where toxic metals leach into the environment. Of that which is recycled, around 30% of the electronic material simply cannot be recovered (, n.d.).

Electronics are becoming cheaper every year and their lifespans are shortening. Advancement in technology often means devices become obsolescent quickly if the items don’t stop functioning after some time anyway, so often he households and businesses are left to figure out what to do with old computers, broken televisions, and obsolete electronics. These items are often stored and forgotten about or simply thrown in the trash. Both of these scenarios are less than ideal.

The awful implications of our consumerist society were noted by Victor Papanek, who stated “”… by creating whole species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breath, designers have become a dangerous breed” (1972: ix). He believed it to be the designers responsibility to create a more sustainable future and their duty to encourage mindful design.


There are organisations who are attempting to tackle this problem, such as the Edinburgh Remakery.

The Remakery, part of Remade, is an organisation who describe their vision as such: “We’re not content with teaching repair skills in the community – we want to generate a repair revolution. This means changing the way people use and dispose of resources, encouraging manufacturers to build things to last and to be fixable, and making sure the facilities are in place to allow people to repair and reuse.” (, 2017)

We visited their warehouse in Granton where Sotiris, the man in charge of the technology at the Remakery, explained their operations. The warehouse was filled with shelves worth of monitors and computers, bins full of cables sat around and various broken components were around the place. The warehouse also held a lot of furniture, part of which gets repaired and up cycled to then be sold in their shop on Leith Walk.

He explained how the majority of their hardware comes from offices and institutions, such as the University of Edinburgh, who every few years decide to freshen up their computer suits and throw out hoards of perfectly good computers and electronics – it becomes easy to see how so much e-waste ends up building up. These are then inspected and repaired if necessary to then be sold on, but as far as we could see, they mostly sat in the warehouse collecting dust.

At the warehouse I decided to take some broken laptop monitors as I believed they held some potential – particularly I was interested in seeing whether I would be able to recycle the possible LEDs held within.

I wanted to create an ornamental/sculptural light feature utilising almost nothing but the materials already found within the broken screen. I was keen to use the different films, with their unique properties, especially such as the polarising film and ideally the LCD. My aim was to take something broken from the Remakery, which many might have at home, abandoned and unused, in order to make something completely new.  

My aim was to make something which didn’t look like some hacked piece of up cycling, but something entirely unique.

After experimenting with the materials, I decided to use the clear plastic sheet, along with the polarising film and opaque film to create a lamp. These were the most accessible to the user and had very appealing aesthetic qualities. The form was chosen for it’s simplicity and the ability to procure them all from a single sheet of plastic. The shape is also reminiscent to a shard of broken glass – a nod to it’s previous form, and also because of the similarity to a diamond when the light plays on the polarising film.

A key feature of the design is the ability to make it easily at home – the main stipulation for the simplicity of the design. Therefore I created an Instructable which talks you through step by step. A minimal amount of tools are needed, mostly just a scalpel, glue and pliers. The electronics will be trickier; requiring a degree of knowhow, however I’ve suggested an alternative, at the risk of the user, which doesn’t require as much tinkering and investigation.


The Instructable can be found at the following address:

New Making

Turtle in Edinburgh

In order to raise awareness of the permanent damages of filling waste into the ocean, the project sought to create a series of speculative artefacts(speculative design is a theory proposed by Dunne and Raby, who used design to stress contemporary issues around the world.) The pieces for this project contain wastes from different locations and shares an abstract form of a deformed turtle whose body and shell changed their shapes due to stuck by a plastic ring for 6-pack cans in the ocean.  The project was designed to bring viewers the emotional shock through linking waste created and the unfortunate story of the turtle. From the secondary research, comparing to the works from studio swine, who designed a sculpture in a normal turtle shell shape used the plastic waste collected from the ocean , differently, I designed the shells in a abstract form to leave them open to the viewers who may remember the story of the turtle when they met some similar shapes. Because my project aims to push the image of the turtle into the viewers’ life, and I found the abstraction of the shell looks like a lot of things people appreciate in their daily life, for example, timepieces. Meanwhile, inspired by Ice sculpture from Andrew McGibbon, whose work used ice to join things in a form, similarly, through mixing the non-recyclable materials collected locally, each piece(the turtle-shell artefacts) from the series is indicating waste from a specific location in Edinburgh, because my project aims to build direct links between waste from a specific place to the end story of the turtles. The purpose is to encourage people in different areas generating less waste locally and individually. 

In this project, the sources of materials and applications of materials lead the design process. There are 3 final models indicating ECA studios, student residences, and Edinburgh Remakery, they were made out of recycled plastics and resin, through the application of 3d printing, vacuum forming and casting. The collection of waste mainly conducted through donation and found waste. Signs are posted to collect unwanted waste from residences and ECA studios. Meanwhile, I habituated to seek for interesting waste that could represent different places and people. The collection lasts 2 weeks, and the material is collected such as brims from 3d printing, blue form waste, MDF waste, plastic bags and many plastic bottles. Other than that, under the collaboration with Edinburgh Remarkery, unwanted electrical parts from broken computers and other devices are collected. 

The idea of using recycled plastics leads to explore many materials or processes generally including fusing or joining recycled plastics together. For instance, the products from Ecobirdy are made through grounding and fusing recycled plastics, which was aiming to create a new product with new characters. However, to illustrate the context clearly, joining collected waste is a better method in this project because melting and fusing plastics as processes complex the shapes of the waste, potentially mislead the message behind it. With the help of a casting specialist—Jessamy Kelly, who suggested using resin to be the medium. Surprisingly, the test outcome has the effect of floating waste over the water due to the special transparent quality of resin and different densities of the contents within the mold. In order to reproduce the abstract image of the turtle shell, the final shape is realised through CAD and 3d printing techniques. Then using vacuum form to produce reusable molds for resin. Finally, mixing resin with the selection of collected waste and hand-finished models after they came out molds. 

New Making

New Making: Plastic Bottle Marble Run

The project started with a site visit to the Edinburgh Remakery’s warehouse, where one of their repair technicians gave us an introduction to their business, and its activities. Based in leith, the Remakery repairs and up-cycles products, and sells them back at affordable prices. Additionally, they provide classes, teaching people repair skills, and offer free repair workshops during the week.

Having visited their warehouse, and having seen their inventory of broken items, it became apparent that although there were plenty of possible avenues for re-purposing, these were not products that the average consumer would have access to in bulk. Instead, i intended for the design to be more relatable and accessible to people, in the hope of encouraging and inspiring them.

Every minute, one million plastic bottles are bought around the world. The accrescent ubiquity of plastic bottles in our lives has dire consequences on our environment. As major Asian markets such as India, Indonesia, and China dramatically increase their consumption of bottled water, the production of single-use bottles has quickly surpassed our recycling capabilities. With less than half of plastic bottles being collected for recycling, the proper disposal of bottles still remains the main issue we must tackle.

Inspired by what Ernesto Oroza calls “technologically disobedient” objects, the design set about to re-purpose standardised PET bottles, as they are commonly found, into a toy. Borrowing from Cuban hacktivists and the broader DIY culture,  the design sought to critique the transience of mass produced plastics through its materiality and language. The design also sought to visually highlight the ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness involved in re-purposing. 

Prior research into sustainable toys shows a majority of items produced from recycled or retrieved wood. One company, Green Toys, uses milk jugs as materials for their designs, and incorporates existing elements of the package such as handles into their designs. Marble runs are also incredibly popular online, but apart from commercial alternatives, home-made marble runs tend to be quiet wasteful and environmentally unsustainable; especially when made from paper. As a thermoplastic, PET bottles shrink back to their original parison form when heated. A tube like structure, it provided the perfect medium through which marbles could roll, while also retaining a desired degree of malleability and transparency. Very little heat is actually required to shrink or reshape bottles, and a powerful hair dryer or heat gun will work.

Heat gun and bent pieces

While the bottles would shrink differently depending on their size and manufacturer, evenly heating them provided the same parison like form to work from. By stressing certain areas under heat, the parison forms can subsequently be bent or curved. This is a lot more efficient then trying to bend the bottles before shrinking, as they tend to fold over and not curve smoothly.

Curved bottle

By cutting the bottom ends off and slotting the bottles into each other, strong joints can be achieved as the outer bottles are shrunk onto the inner ones; a process similar to using heat shrink tubing. The only issue with heating PET bottles is that, under too intense heat, it can melt/burn, releasing toxic fumes. While melted, parts of the bottle may be “welded” together. 

Heat shrunk joint

Building around a frame facilitated the material exploration, providing a scale for the design and a support around which it could be made. Some of the bottle pieces were built around the frame, using hot glue to stick them down. Others were attached together through heat-shrunk joints, or by using melted portions as adhesives. The design of the marble courses themselves was fluid in that it was largely led by trial and testing. After each bottle or section was put in place, the run would be tested, determining the best position for the following piece. Once assembled, sections can be re-heated, correcting any folds or flaws obstructing the path of the marbles.

Easily upgradable, flexible in design, and easily recycled, the design articulates an alternative to the consumption of commercial plastic toys. One where freely and abundantly sourced materials can easily be recycled and re-purposed into more sustainable products. Part of it’s aesthetic, the materiality of the design and the unpolished visual language serves as a reminder of the social and environmental context, while also embodying the resourcefulness of certain populations with restricted access to goods. The dichotomy and combination between function and aesthetics goes to show that, in regards to recycling, we are only limited by our imaginations, and our perception of materials and their applicability.

New Making Projects

Computer waste toolset

The Edinburgh Remakery is a project in Leith that aims to educate and encourage people to repair their belongings. By offering the facilities and expertise they hope to start a revolution in changing people’s perception of the life of a product and how many things we throw away can be easily repaired or re-purposed. Our task as students was to demonstrate this vision with our own interpretation. Early in the brief we visited the Remakery warehouse and met Sotiris, an employee at the project. He showed us around the warehouse and explained the existing practises they have in place to recycle some of the old things donated. There was an array of different things kept at the warehouse. Large amounts of furniture were held and a large selection of electrical goods like old PC’s and computer parts. We were given the opportunity to select something interesting here and use this as inspiration or the basis of our project. I left the Remakery with a few things but most importantly I had found some old plastic PC cooling fans. They were 12 volt and relatively powerful but had, like many of the things in the warehouse, fallen victim to obsolescence and no longer had a purpose.

The potential of the fans being used as motors steered me towards a modelling tool, inspired by the tinkering I do at my desk. I would use the fan stripped of its casing and fins and find a means of adding a sanding disk to this. The tool was to be powered by the cells I had retrieved allowing it to be recharged and mobile. Early iterations followed the conventional shape associated with a Dremel or multitool, the batteries being housed in the area that was to be held. The goal was to design a series of STL parts that could be downloaded and be accommodating for many different computer fan sizes and types. this would then form an Instructable type guide. The problem again with this was the function of the object. It stood little chance up against a conventional powerful Dremel and although it uses recycled parts, a lot of it required large 3D prints adding to the waste problem but not creating anything new or unique.

Feedback when presenting and more research led me down a different path. Having a passion for making and being a frequent visitor to the ECA workshops I am forever being told by the technician Alan to sand my work on a hard surface to conserve energy. In certain situations, for more organic work I enjoy holding the piece I am working on. It allows me to monitor my practise and to feel and engage with my work. The opportunity to exploit motor size and this desire to have a more physical sanding and modelling experience dictated the form and function of the final product.

I began iterating, using the 3D printer to quickly print prototypes to test the way the motors would be housed and held inside the hand. The ergonomics were the driving force behind the project. The tools had to be passive.
They needed to assist the maker in forming and finishing but not be a distraction or a hinderance, An extension of oneself.

There were three different iterations with two looking at using the space between fingers to grip the device. These were ultimately made as small 
as possible but were still too big to sit comfortably between fingers. The third and final design opted for a ring that went over the finger. This would allow the motor to be cradled within the hand and the user could hold work with the other offering a very physical experience.

The different tools rely on a male female adapter system. The power bank I created houses the batteries and has the switch and the female adapter. The three separate tools have a male adapter. These are easily interchanged saving the user the time and hassle of having to change cutting disk or drill bit like in conventional multi tools. The power bank control station is made from the outer casings of the fans. I aimed to repurpose as many of the parts as possible in the design. The laptop batteries fit inside the body and a spring contact system inside the bank allows them to be taken out and recharged when required.

The end result is a series of tools that help the designer or maker in model making. They are able to feel the form of the object they are sculpting and make live design choices based on its physical form. The designer can embrace their work and shape and form the model based on physical feeling. The function of the parts has been changed completely and zero waste created. The old computer fans now have a new life in aiding creation.