Good Thinking

It's not just for packaging: Innovative uses of cardboard

It's not just for packaging: I...
Cardboard – it can be used for making more than just boxes
Cardboard – it can be used for making more than just boxes
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The cardboard bike can support a rider who weighs up to 220 kilograms (485 lb), and it won't fall apart in the rain
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The cardboard bike can support a rider who weighs up to 220 kilograms (485 lb), and it won't fall apart in the rain
It has taken Gafni three years to develop his prototype cardboard bike
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It has taken Gafni three years to develop his prototype cardboard bike
The Kranium was designed by Royal College of Art student Anirudha Surabhi
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The Kranium was designed by Royal College of Art student Anirudha Surabhi
Cardborigami 2.0 weighs 10.5 pounds, and is finished with fire-retardant and water-resistant coatings
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Cardborigami 2.0 weighs 10.5 pounds, and is finished with fire-retardant and water-resistant coatings
The designer is seeking to collaborate with like-minded organizations and investors in order to get the project off the ground
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The designer is seeking to collaborate with like-minded organizations and investors in order to get the project off the ground
No list of cardboard innovations would be complete without giving mention to Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects)
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No list of cardboard innovations would be complete without giving mention to Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects)
The KNÄPPA is powered by two AA batteries, packs a 2.3-megapixel sensor, and measures 105 × 65 mm (4.13 x 2.56 in)
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The KNÄPPA is powered by two AA batteries, packs a 2.3-megapixel sensor, and measures 105 × 65 mm (4.13 x 2.56 in)
Purveyor of affordable furniture IKEA knows a thing or two about using cardboard packaging, but one doesn't generally associate the furniture chain with digital photography
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Purveyor of affordable furniture IKEA knows a thing or two about using cardboard packaging, but one doesn't generally associate the furniture chain with digital photography
The Vax ev prototype was created by industrial design student Jake Tyler while he was on a student placement at vacuum cleaner company Vax
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The Vax ev prototype was created by industrial design student Jake Tyler while he was on a student placement at vacuum cleaner company Vax
Vax is considering a small run of the cardboard vacuum cleaner
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Vax is considering a small run of the cardboard vacuum cleaner
The Flatpack cardboard and plywood car was produced by Aston University students for Rotterdam's Shell Eco-Marathon in 2012
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The Flatpack cardboard and plywood car was produced by Aston University students for Rotterdam's Shell Eco-Marathon in 2012
The car's body is made from cardboard, which is then sandwiched between plywood to improve structural integrity
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The car's body is made from cardboard, which is then sandwiched between plywood to improve structural integrity
The Rapid Packing Container is the product of student inventors Chris Curro and Henry Wang, who were awarded a $5,000 grand prize for Cooper Union's first Invention Factory event
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The Rapid Packing Container is the product of student inventors Chris Curro and Henry Wang, who were awarded a $5,000 grand prize for Cooper Union's first Invention Factory event
Cardboard – it can be used for making more than just boxes
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Cardboard – it can be used for making more than just boxes
The Kranium can withstand up to three times as much impact as typical EPS helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter
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The Kranium can withstand up to three times as much impact as typical EPS helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter

Cardboard has long been proven a very flexible material, used to create products as wide-ranging as bicycles, helmets, buildings, and even a car. Join us now, as we celebrate the most innovative uses of the material that we've come across in recent years.

Some of the designs below have been manufactured as a product which you can purchase right now, while others remain a concept (and are likely to stay that way). All display an innovative use of a material often considered worthy only for the trash.

Cardboard bicycle

The cardboard bike can support a rider who weighs up to 220 kilograms (485 lb), and it won't fall apart in the rain
The cardboard bike can support a rider who weighs up to 220 kilograms (485 lb), and it won't fall apart in the rain

Israeli inventor and entrepreneur Izhar Gafni invented a working cardboard bicycle prototype that's constructed mostly from recycled cardboard, and promises to cost relatively little to manufacture. The bike weighs around 9 kg (20 lb), and incorporates unwanted car parts such as tires and a timing belt in the assembly.

Despite its being constructed from cardboard, Gafni states that his creation will be perfectly sturdy and water-resistant, and it is rated to support a rider of up to 220 kg (485 lb).

We've no word on a release date for the cardboard bicycle.

Kranium helmet

The Kranium can withstand up to three times as much impact as typical EPS helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter
The Kranium can withstand up to three times as much impact as typical EPS helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter

If you're going to ride around on a cardboard bicycle, then perhaps it makes sense to go all out and wear a Kranium cardboard helmet, too.

While on first glance, donning a cardboard-based bike helmet may appear borderline insane, Royal College of Art student Anirudha Surabhi tells us that thanks to its unique honeycomb structure, the Kranium can absorb up to three times the impact energy of a standard helmet during a collision while remaining 15 percent lighter.

The Kranium is available in the UK now and will set you back £79.99 (US$129).

Cardborigami shelter

Cardborigami 2.0 weighs 10.5 pounds, and is finished with fire-retardant and water-resistant coatings
Cardborigami 2.0 weighs 10.5 pounds, and is finished with fire-retardant and water-resistant coatings

Los Angeles-based designer Tina Hovsepian started the Carborigami project in a bid to help mitigate some of the effects of homelessness by producing an improved temporary shelter. Drawing inspiration from the Japanese art of origami paper-folding, the shelter comes in two iterations: a large unit for several people, and a smaller single-person unit.

The Cardborigami shelter is finished with a fire-retardant and water-resistant coating, and folds for easier movement. In addition to the shelter, the designer also plans to set up an outreach center to help the homeless move into more suitable accommodation.

Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge

No list of cardboard innovations would be complete without giving mention to Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects)
No list of cardboard innovations would be complete without giving mention to Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects)

No list of cardboard innovations would be complete without giving mention to Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, an architect best known for his work producing structures which are made – at least in part – from recycled cardboard and paper tubes.

In addition to the Christchurch Cathedral, Ban has produced a working footbridge, log cabin, and a number of other structures from paper and cardboard over the years. On a more modest note, but still in keeping with Ban's understated style, is the recently competed Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge: a mountain hut built on Japan's Yakushima Island. The hut's paper tubes serve a practical purpose by enabling natural light to filter into the hut, and they can be easily replaced when necessary.

KNÄPPA digital camera

The KNÄPPA is powered by two AA batteries, packs a 2.3-megapixel sensor, and measures 105 × 65 mm (4.13 x 2.56 in)
The KNÄPPA is powered by two AA batteries, packs a 2.3-megapixel sensor, and measures 105 × 65 mm (4.13 x 2.56 in)

Purveyor of affordable furniture IKEA knows a thing or two about using cardboard packaging, but one doesn't generally associate the furniture chain with digital photography. Well, in 2012, IKEA announced that it would be giving away the KNÄPPA cardboard digital camera to promote a furniture collection.

The KNÄPPA is powered by two AA batteries, packs a 2.3-megapixel sensor and measures 105 × 65 mm (4.13 x 2.56 in), but alas is yet to appear in IKEA stores.

Vax vacuum cleaner

Vax is considering a small run of the cardboard vacuum cleaner
Vax is considering a small run of the cardboard vacuum cleaner

Billed as the world's first cardboard-based vacuum cleaner (presumably there can't be too many others), the Vax ev prototype was created by industrial design student Jake Tyler while he was on a student placement at vacuum cleaner company Vax.

Naturally, the Vax ev isn't manufactured solely from cardboard, but non-cardboard parts are fabricated from recyclable, pure nylon plastic, so it could potentially be more environmentally-friendly than your average vacuum cleaner.

Vax is considering a small run of the cardboard vacuum cleaner.

Cardboard and plywood car

The Flatpack cardboard and plywood car was produced by Aston University students for Rotterdam's Shell Eco-Marathon in 2012
The Flatpack cardboard and plywood car was produced by Aston University students for Rotterdam's Shell Eco-Marathon in 2012

The Flatpack cardboard and plywood car was produced by Aston University students for Rotterdam's Shell Eco-Marathon in 2012 and contains cardboard, plywood, bio-resin and hessian fiber-based tires, and even a hydrogen-powered engine. The car's body is made from cardboard, which is then sandwiched between plywood to improve structural integrity, and the entire structure is collapsible to ease shipping hassles.

Rapid Packing Container

The Rapid Packing Container is the product of student inventors Chris Curro and Henry Wang, who were awarded a $5,000 grand prize for Cooper Union's first Invention Factory event
The Rapid Packing Container is the product of student inventors Chris Curro and Henry Wang, who were awarded a $5,000 grand prize for Cooper Union's first Invention Factory event

Okay, this one actually is just for packaging... The Rapid Packing Container is the product of student inventors Chris Curro and Henry Wang, who were awarded a $5,000 grand prize for Cooper Union's first Invention Factory event.

Its unique cut-out shape and creasing pattern facilitates easy construction and sealing with just one easy motion, no tape required. Additionally, the box is opened with a quick tug, and can return back to a flat state, ready for re-use, no tape required.

The students are currently exploring the possibility of launching the Rapid Packing Container as a product.

2 comments
dalroth5
If a bicycle helmet is supposed to protect a rider against impact with a motor vehicle, it needs to be as big and strong as a motorbike helmet. Present-day bicycle helmets are really only there to make the rider look like a knob. The correct solution is to separate bikes from motors with their own, barrier-protected, lanes. Well played, Netherlands! Way to go, Denmark! Bloody rubbish, Britain!q
BlenNZ
We have a "cardboard cathedral" here in Christchurch: http://www.gizmag.com/cardboard-cathedral-completed/28612/