Cardboard engineering

When one questions secondary schools in Nepal about their inability to deliver a proper education, their first excuse is the lack of proper resources.  At Karkhana we believe that being resourceful is about being able to use what’s available properly.

Cardboards are cheap and readily available resource that we can find everywhere. In every Karkhana session our students build their project using paper and cardboard whether it is a mechanical transporter, a musical instrument or a carnival game.

When two New York University [NYU] professors Marianne R. Petit [Merry Ant] and Matthew Belanger [Matt] visited us, we thought of doing a whole day workshop on trifold cardboard prototyping. Apart from teaching ‘Interactive Telecommunications Program’, we knew Marianne was also good at working with paper and cardboard.

We planned a whole day session on cardboard engineering and invited our friends from Image Arc and A Tiny Little Perspective. Let me share the three basic steps that we learned in the cardboard engineering while making a stand.


Step #1. Tri folded cardboard


It was very interesting to know that a tri folded corrugated cardboard can hold more than 300 Kg weight. Every corrugated cardboard has a grain that can be placed either vertically or horizontally. If we sandwitch the three layers with the alternate grain then we will get a tri layer cardboard, which has more than 30 times the strength of single piece of cardboard. Using this technique we can make chairs, tables, shoe racks, cupboards or anything else.

Fig: Horizontal grain                        Fig: Vertical grain



Pic: Cutting Cardboard


Our team decided to make a standing platform for our students where they could stand on to be able to write on the whiteboard. We did the prototyping with an A3 size paper and decided an arbitrary dimension.

After cutting the cardboards to their required dimensions, we glued them using fevicol to join the three pieces of cardboards: first layer with vertical grain, second layer with horizontal grain and third layer with vertical grain. Voila!!! we have a tri folded cardboard.


Pic: Applying fevicol on the cardboard



Step #2. Joining two tri folded cardboard


After fevicol in all the required tri folded sides have dried up, we then apply  hot glue gun to join the tri folded pieces. Later we used a small wooden nail to reinforce the joints. Everyone stood on it to test it . To our surprise it withstood the weight of an adult without collapsing.



Pic: Applying the hot glue gun



Step #3. Sealing the sides

Generally the cardboard wears and loses its strength due to moisture, so it’s always a good idea to seal the sides by paper mache: for which we used a full cup of flour and half a cup of hot water to make a paste. Then we tear papers into small pieces and dip into the paste before sticking it to cover each sides of the tri folded cardboard. Then it was kept in the Sun to dry. It can also be painted to make it look beautiful.








Pic: The cardboard stand