PVC might not be the construction material of choice for the next Hollywood luxury hotspot, but it’s great for those looking to create an aesthetic, ranging anywhere from industrial chic to low-rent college student-style. It’s cheap, it’s durable, it’s available everywhere…so what’s the problem? Well, after a certain length, the pipe becomes a bit floppy and this was bothering veteran PVC construction maven Donald Jacobson. So he decided to do something about it.
“I was sitting around, pondering the Simple Lamp I recently uploaded and how it’s too bad that PVC pipe is so flimsy once it’s longer than a foot or so. I figured a bundle would be a lot stronger, so I grabbed three lengths, zip-tied them, and yeah! much stronger! But a three piece bundle represents a lot of problems, geometry-wise, when designing corner connectors. So, I tried a bundle of four and the zip-tied version looked pretty good. I grabbed the files from last year’s original construction set and reworked them to be suitable for a four-piece bundle of pipe.”
He makes it sound simpler than it was – it involved some sweat and blood, and possibly tears, although Donald seems like the kind of man who cries in private, so we may never know. After making friends with sandpaper, so as to avoid the bleeding and investing in a fan to control the sweating, he had a sufficiently advanced version of the design that he was ready to release on Thingiverse, with pieces printed in red for easy visibility:
“I made a few coarse measurements and the just eye-balled it in TinkerCAD, my program of choice. Then the process was just design, print, and test fit the parts…repeat as necessary. I have no idea what types of things could be made with this really, but anything that has a boxy shape should lend itself well to this set. I wouldn’t use it for any high-stress applications as the walls may be too thin.”
Jacobson might not have had anything in particular in mind when he created the 3D printed connectors, but I immediately envisioned several uses for them. The first being the creation of an entire set of PVC furniture for my house. I live in Mexico for part of the year and when it rains, which it does every night, my house floods. I’ve been contenting myself with hanging things on nails from walls, but a PVC coffee table would allow me to have somewhere to rest my drink even on the wettest days. I admit, furniture for flooding might be a niche market…but then again, it might be bigger than you think.
Another use for these connectors would be in the creation of disaster shelters. Quickly assembling shelter in the wake of a disaster requires using materials that are readily available, easy to assemble, and inexpensive. This wouldn’t be ideal in all locations but it would sure do the trick in some of them. In fact, if the connection could be modified to accept angled connections, triangular modules, such as those used by Buckminster Fuller for his Geodesic dome, could be used to create quite stable shelters.
Jacobson’s modesty is becoming and the rest of his contributions to Thingiverse (62 in total!) belie his humble assertions that he doesn’t know if he’s ever made anything cool.
And in case, if he doesn’t strike it rich making flood furniture, he still has plenty to fall back on. What do you think about this mans cool creation? Discuss in the 3D Printed PVC Pipe Construction Kit forum thread on 3DPB.com.