Making composite materials from food waste & Algae

a detailed open source OD&M project by Midushi Kochhar

The 12 week research residency at Green Lab gave me the chance to experiment with material derivatives of red & brown algae and test its application for everyday objects.

My goal was to combine byproducts of the food industry with bioplastics/ bio-hardeners to make functional products. I utilised common food waste such as egg shells and tea leaves, that were accessible from a home environment and more industrial waste such as chicken feathers from the poultry industry. Combining these byproducts with natural algae based binders (agar agar* & alginate*) I was able to create new and durable materials.

* Agar-agar is a jelly-like substance, obtained from red algae. Agar forms the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of algae. It’s a common food ingredient and also used as alternative to gelatin.

* Alginate is a polysaccharide from the cell walls of brown algae where through mixing with water it forms a viscous gum. Its commonly used in casting as the hardening agent as it binds well with calcium carbonate.

Research into using algae as a bio material to create alternatives to single use plastic is increasing and I worked with this idea in the creation of a set of ‘short life span’ products that could be used within a food context.

Fig 1. Eggware products

Material 1- Eggware

This ceramic-like material is made from ground eggshells and alginate. Its off-white in colour and has a slightly porous texture making it ideal to be used for disposable tableware. With further development and research into natural glazes the material could become more durable.


  • 20g Waste Eggshells
  • 5g Alginate
  • 22ml Water


  • Mixer/Grinder
  • Oven
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Mould (3D printed or any plastic mould)
  • Weighing Scale


Preparation of eggshells:

  • Collect as many eggshells as you need from your home, neighbours cafes etc.
  • Wash them thoroughly in water
  • Place in a pan with fresh water and bring them to the boil, let them boil for 15 minutes
  • Wash again to get rid of any egg residue
  • Place them in the oven at 100 degrees for 15mins to dry them out and make them brittle. You don’t want the eggshells to burn so keep an eye on the temperature and timing as this varies from oven to oven
  • Grind the eggshells down to the tiniest particles possible
  • Pass the powder through a sieve and dispose off the big particles and egg membrane

Fig 2. Eggware moulds

Making the material:

  • Sieve the alginate into a mixing bowl
  • Add the water to the bowl and mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps
  • Gradually add the eggshells until a thick slurry is formed and all the ingredients are mixed well
  • Pour/ place the material with a spoon in a mould and leave it to dry
  • Depending on the thickness of the sample, it can take up to 30 hours if air-dried. You can also dry it in the oven to speed up the process at a low temperature with the fan on

Egg cup
Fig 3. Egg cup

Material 2- Feather & Tea Plastic

The same recipe and method applies to both the feather & the tea composite – just with the one ingredient change depending on whether you are using feathers or tea.
You can also add any fibrous substance to the recipe and to get different results.
Shrinkage is a material property of Agar- Agar and as the water evaporates from the mixture, the material warps and shrinks tremendously. By adding fibrous material one can limit that shrinkage by leaving no more space for agar-agar to escape.

Feather sample
Fig 4. Feather Plastic sample

Tea leaves sample
Fig 5. Tea leaves Plastic sample

My aim was to add value to food waste. For this purpose I mixed the feathers/ tea leaves with Agar- Agar. The resulting material can be used for disposable tableware or even more durable objects like lamps or surface material etc.


  • 15g Agar Agar
  • Desired amount of Feathers or Tea leaves
  • 15g Flour (Optional- makes material stronger)
  • 250ml Water


  • 2 saucepans
  • Stove
  • Ladle
  • Weighing Scale
  • Mold
  • Baking Paper
  • Heat Press/ Heavy object

Feather & Alginate method
Fig 6. Process for Feather plastic recipe

Feather & Alginate sample
Fig 7. Feather plastic sample


  • Place the saucepan on the stove with the water
  • Add the agar-agar and flour and bring the mixture to boil whilst stirring continuously
  • Remove the pan from stove and pour the contents into the other pan
  • Add the feathers/tea leaves gradually and keep mixing until the consistency feels right
  • Place on a flat baking sheet and cover with baking paper
  • Cover all the sides and place it under high pressure – use weights or something similar (no heat)
  • Take it out from the press after 1 hour and let it air dry. The material will warp slightly due to shrinkage, as that is a property of agar-agar
  • Once completely dried, place under heat/hydraulic press to make it completely flat and smooth

Agar bioplastic
Fig 8. Initial Agar bioplastic sample

To find out more and follow my development of this project head to my wesbite:

Kombucha Leather Material

a detailed open source project by Riina Oun, Images by Maria Pincikova & Riina Oun

Riina Oun undertook a 3-month material research residency at the lab, focusing on kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) and it’s possibility to be used as sustainable leather-like vegan material. SCOBY is the bacteria that grows on the top of kombucha (a drink).

The research started with Riina growing her own kombucha SCOBY in large containers in the lab. She found that the best results were achieved when the samples were left to grow over a long period of time.



  • 1l filtered water
  • 2 tea bags
  • 70g sugar
  • 20ml kombucha starter liquid


  • Make tea using the filtered water, add the sugar and let it dissolve
  • Let the tea cool down to below 30c, then mix in the kombucha starter liquid
  • Pour into a container, cover it with breathable fabric and leave it to ferment in a room with a temperature above 20c
  • By day 4 the SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) should start to form on the surface. Leave it to grow for 14 days or longer

Growing kombucha
Fig 1. Growing Kombucha SCOBY

Dried Kombucha SCOBY
Fig 2. Dried Kombucha SCOBY


Riina pushed this research by further manipulating the material once grown by introducing dying techniques.

Dying with Metal:
Dying the SCOBY with various metals via corrosion –mild steel proved to be most beneficial for this purpose. However, when left for too long, the corrosion tends to weaken the bonds of the material making it more fragile.

Dying SCOBY with metal
Fig 3. Dying SCOBY with metal via corrosion

Dying with food colourants and natural pigments:
More successful dying techniques were to add colour using food colourants as well as natural pigments.

SCOBY colour samples
Fig 4. SCOBY colour samples

After achieving the best results she could by just growing the SCOBY Riina decided to spend the second half of her research residency to experiment with making a composite material.

By blending the SCOBY and combining it with various ingredients Riina managed to improve it’s durability and create a relatively strong, hard wearing and interesting bio material. By interchanging some of the ingredients the aim was to engineer the optimal material, suitable for production of small “leather” accessories.
This process also enabled dye pigments to be added at different stages to achieve the strongest and most uniform outcome.

Material Lab & equipment
Fig 5. Material Lab & Equipment

To achieve this Riina needed access to a lot of Kombucha SCOBY and collaborated with Momo Kombucha – a London based brewery who were able to supply SCOBYs on a regular basis. This also meant that Momo could now supply there SCOBY as a by-product of there kombucha production which had previously been composted.

Momo Kombucha
Fig 6. Momo Kombucha SCOBY



  • 500g SCOBY
  • 300ml water
  • 20ml glycerol
  • 3g charcoal
  • 6.5g veg.gelatin


  • Blend the SCOBY in 100ml water using a hand blender
  • Mix 20ml water, 20ml glycerol and 3g charcoal powder together and Add the mixture to the SCOBY blend and mix.
  • Dissolve 6.5g veg.gelatin in 50ml cold water and add to 100ml boiling water mixing vigorously.
  • Mix everything together thoroughly.
  • Pour onto a baking tray and leave to air dry.

SCOBY veg. gelatin sample
Fig 7. SCOBY veg.gelatin composite


Digital fabrication experiments revealed that laser etching turns the SCOBY composite material white, unlike laser etching leather or wood, for example, when the material burns black.

Whilst the material research is an ongoing work in progress, Riina has developed a biodegradable coaster to highlight the results to date. By adding a layer of shellac (a natural resin secreted by the lac bug) she has managed to make the coasters water resistant.

Laser Cut & etched coasters
Fig 8. Laser cut and etched SCOBY coasters

Riina has also successfully produced the first prototype of a fully sustainable Riina O Aura glove – made of kombucha SCOBY composite material.

Riina O Aura Glove
Fig 9. Riina O SCOBY Aura Glove

To find out more and follow Riina’s continuing research head to her website:

Open source robot arm to extrude organics

Research resident Andreea Bunica is using her time at Green Lab to develop an open source hobby robot arm to extrude organics.

Having conducted her first months research and protoyping she has successfully produced her first iteration of a robot arm using an existing open-source arm (Dobot desk arm) redesigning the frame and firmware code to do the following:

  • Incorporate a syringe organics extruder
  • Provide stability and accuracy through low cost fabricated PLA parts and lasercut pieces
  • Incorporate an Android app-controlled robot functionality

By Andreea Bunica, Research resident


Additive designing
Fig. 001 concept render version 01

To start the build process Andreea modeled an accurate version of the Dobot desktop robot arm and created template lasercut files.

The original Dobot arm is fabricated out of cut steel sheets, for mobility freedom- aiming to create a low cost, but effective version, the parts for the first design of the organics printing robot arm have been fabricated through a combination of lasercutting and 3D printing. One of the main aims throughout the ongoing design process is to fabricate the majority of the robot arm components (including couplings, bearings etc.) through 3D printing.

Here is an example of what the first tape-bound casing version looks like:

Tape bound first version
Fig. 002 first tape-bound casing version

Still in it’s draft form the robot arm is currently composed of lasercut plywood parts for the main and minor arm, and 3D printed components for the base case, as well as 3D printed stepper couplings and base fixing elements to ensure smoothness of rotation.

Working through a trial and error fabrication ethos each iteration and prototype enables testing and informs constant re-design in order to work towards creating a refined, cohesive and functional end design.


first draft of the base casing
Fig 003. First draft of the base casing

The construction of the base is divided into three main sections:
1. Fixed base
2. Rotating base
3. Base casing

Base construction
Fig 004. Base construction

You can find the .obj files for each part here

1. Fixed base
For the first draft design, the base is the weight point to give the arm stability and to create a solid motion pivot point for the rotating element.

Files/ Components:

  • Base cylinder (screw-in base for fixing the rotating element)
  • Cylinder neck (glue-on the base cylinder to provide enough height between the fixed and moving elements in order to avoid friction)

Fixed Base
Fig 005. Fixed base

2. Rotating Base

The rotating bases attaches to the fixed base through a screw-in fixture attached to the stepper motor coupling. For the first draft, the case fixing legs are glued-on.


  • Screw-in stepper fixing
  • Gasket ring
  • Base plate
  • Coupling
  • Casing fixing leg
  • Stepper plate
  • Stepper motor 1

Rotating base
Fig 006. Rotating base
Rotating base
Fig 007. Rotating base
Rotating base
Fig 008. Rotating base
Rotating base
Fig 009. Rotating base
Rotating base
Fig 010. Rotating base

3. Base Casing

The draft casing (supporting the stepper motors) slots-in to the base plate and is secured with fixing legs.

Files/ Components

  • Base Casing
  • Casing Fixing Legs

Base casing
Fig 011. Base casing

ASSEMBLY (so far)

Assembly so far
Fig 012. Assembly so far

To follow Andreea’s project as it develops you can head to her website

Orange peel, Banana peel & Tea leaves recipes

Material Scientist Edward Hill created a series of ‘shake and bake’ recipes for the lab as a lo-fi way to work with orange peel, banana peel and tea leaves.

These recipes offer an easy access point and would be suitable for initial exploration into material experiments and are suitable for younger people as there is no use of heating equipment etc.



  • Collect and dry out as much orange peel as you wish (put collection points at work/ school etc or visit cafes/ shops that squeeze fresh orange juice and can supply you with peels)
  • Once you have collected enough peel and it is thoroughly dried out you can either dice it or turn it to a powder
  • To dice the orange peel you need a paper shredder – slowly pass the dried peel through the teeth and this will dice into into small sections roughly 5mm thick
  • To powder the orange peel you need a nutribullet or similar blender that can blitz dry ingredients – put the dried peel in the blender with a milling blade and blitz until it has turned to a powder

Orange peel shredded & Orange peel powder
Diced orange peel


  • 4 parts diced orange peel
  • 2 parts water
  • 2 parts corn starch
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part pectin


  • Mix ingredients together and knead (as you would with bread)
  • Mould the mixture into a desired shape that is reasonably flat to allow even drying
  • Place on a drying rack with air access to both sides and leave to air dry for 48+ hours (we found there was slight cracking on the surface and the sample twas powdery to touch)

Orange Peel diced
Powdered Orange Peel


  • 4 parts orange peel powder
  • 2 parts water
  • 2 parts corn starch
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part pectin


  • Mix ingredients together and knead (as you would with bread)
  • Mould the mixture into a desired shape that is reasonably flat to allow even drying
  • Place on a drying rack with air access to both sides and leave to air dry for 48+ hours
  • (using orange peel powder created a much finer dough than with the shredded peel and we found it binds together a lot better – also there was less cracking when dried)

Orange peel powder

  • Collect and dry out as much tea leaves as you wish (put collection points at work or visit cafes that serve loose tea to collect there waste)
  • Once you have collected enough tea leaves leave it to dry
  • Keep half the tea leaves as they are (unprocessed)
  • Powder the other half of the tea leaves using a nutribullet or similar blender that can blitz dry ingredients – put the tea leaves in the blender with a milling blade and blitz until it has turned to a powder

Unprocessed Tea Leaves


  • 4 parts dried tea leaves
  • 2 parts water
  • 2 parts corn starch
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part pectin


  • Mix ingredients together and knead (as you would with bread) – (The mixture is very messy and wet, with large voids between tea leaves)
  • Mould the mixture into a desired shape that is reasonably flat to allow even drying and place on cling film (as so wet)
  • Dry on the cling film – first dry one side before flipped the sample over allowing other side to dry
    (Final sample feels quite firm but brittle and has an uneven surface due to different sized tea leave)

unprocessed tea leaves
Tea leaf powder

  • 4 parts dried tea leaf powder
  • 2 parts water
  • 2 parts corn starch
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part pectin


  • Mix ingredients together and knead (as you would with bread) – (The mixture binds a lot better than the unprocessed leaves and isn’t as wet)
  • Mould the mixture into a desired shape that is reasonably flat to allow even drying and place on cling film
  • Dry on the cling film – first dry one side before flipped the sample over allowing other side to dry (Final sample feels strong with a very smooth surface finish)

Tea leaves powder

  • Collect and dry out as much banana peel as you wish (put collection points at work/ school etc or visit cafes that use bananas and can supply you with peels)
  • Once you have collected enough peel and it is thoroughly dried out you need a nutribullet or similar blender that can blitz dry ingredients – put the dried peel in the blender with a milling blade and blitz until it has turned to a powder – the powder created had a particle size from 3x3mm to much finer.

Powdered Banana Peel


  • 4 parts dried banana peel powder
  • 2 parts water
  • 2 parts corn starch
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part pectin


  • Mix ingredients together and knead (as you would with bread) – (The mixture forms a thick paste, thicker than the tea but softer than orange)
  • Mould the mixture into a desired shape that is reasonably flat to allow even drying and place on cling film
  • Dry on the cling film – first dry one side before flipped the sample over allowing other side to dry (Final sample took much longer to cure than tea and orange and the surface texture was uneven)

Banana Peel powder
The above recipes could all be moulded into particular shapes, although the powdered recipes would allows for the best definition. Alternatively you could also cut them with a scalpel to create certain shapes before they are dry.

How to make mycelium products

A detailed open source procedure by Valentina Dipietro

During my 12 weeks research residency at Green Lab, I have had the chance to develop my own technique to dye and mould circular products based on utilising Mycelium, the vegetative part of mushrooms.

Mycelium, therefore, became a “natural resin” to bind together waste materials. This material is completely sustainable, and compostable! At the end of its life span it can be broken down into pieces and used as an agricultural fertiliser.

Even though I have been experimenting with different substrates and Mycelium species I have found the Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi mushroom) species to be the most resilient one.

The best substrate for this species is wood, in particular waste wood chips from Oak and Beech trees.

This research would not have been possible without the space and tools provided by the Material Lab at Green Lab. The time I have spent here has been invaluable and vital for experimenting in a safe and clean environment.

Here I will share the procedure I have used to create this mushroom material and how to transform it into products.

You are going to need:

  1. 200 g waste oak or beech chips
  2. 50 g Reishi sawdust spawn
  3. Flour
  4. Pressure Cooker or Normal Cooker
  5. Gloves
  6. Isopropyl Alcohol
  7. Spoon
  8. Face mask
  9. Mixing Bowl
  10. Strainer
  11. Scale
  12. Tape
  13. Scissors
  14. Plastic/Glass containers
  15. Own 3D printed/vacuum formed/paper mould
  16. Clean Clothes/Lab Coat


In order to avoid contamination your clothes have to be freshly laundered or you should be wearing a clean lab coat. During the inoculation of the substrate you should be wearing a face mask and gloves and you should sanitise the work surface and your tools with isopropyl alcohol.


  1. Pasteurise your wood chips in a pressure cooker or a pot with plenty of water for 30 minutes (Pressure Cooker) or at least 1 hour (Normal pot);
  2. Wearing gloves, strain the wood making sure that it doesn’t come in contact with any unsterilised surfaces and put it in a plastic bag with a filter or a sterilised mason jar;
  3. Wait for the wood to cool down and weigh it;
  4. Add the mushroom spawn to the wood chips, the ratio should be at least 25% of the wood’s weight;
  5. Add 1 spoon of flour and mix thoroughly;
  6. After the substrate is mixed it can be put back in the bag or jar and then sealed with tape or, in the case of the jar, covered and sealed with coffee filter paper so that there is air exchange.
  7. Incubate at room temperature of 23/25° in a cupboard, under your bed or in a box with holes on the top making sure it’s in complete darkness.

Now you have to wait for at least 5/7 days for the Mycelium to colonise your substrate, it will look completely white when finished. Pay attention to moulds (orange or green) as it could mean contamination and you would need to throw away the whole batch.


  1. In a sterilised environment and with gloves and mask on, take the mycelium out of the bag/jar and pour it into the mixing bowl.
  2. Start breaking up the material with your hands so that the white disappears.
  3. Add 1 spoon of flour and mix thoroughly;
  4. Take the material and press it into your mould making sure that it’s not too pressed and there are some gaps.
  5. Put it back to incubate covering it with plastic wrap with some holes for air or in another sealed filter bag.

After 5/7 days your material will be fully grown and it can be removed from the mould and put to dry on a drying rack. If you need to speed up the drying process bake at 100° for 45 minutes. Check from time to time to make sure the temperature is not too high otherwise it will become brown. After this process you will have a perfectly solid mushroom material that’s possibilities are endless!

Innoculated bags

Valentina innoculating mushrooms

Woodchips being dyed


  1. Mushroom Cultivator by Paul Stamets
  2. Krown Design (
  3. Ecovative (
  4. Mycoworks (

For more information and to follow Valentina’s work head to her website or instagram

Valentina completed the above project during her Material focused Research Residency here at Green Lab. The research residencies allow 12 weeks access to the lab and facilities as well as mentorship from the Green Lab team – if you would like to find out more or apply for a research residency you can either head to our website or email us at


As part of the OD&M Future Algae project the lab conducted some material explorations using seaweed.

We sourced the most accessible seaweed we could – This included responsibly harvesting bladderwrack from the coasts around the south east of the UK and also visiting some of London’s Asian supermarkets and buying a variety of dried seaweeds.

The seaweeds we used:

FRESH BLADDER WRACK (Fucus Vesiculosus)
A brown algae found around the coasts of the North Sea and Atlantic & Pacific Oceans (we got ours from Margate). Bladder wrack is used as a nutritional supplement, source of iodine and within skincare.
DRIED WAKAME (Undaria pinnatifida)
A marine algae and sea vegetable harvested predominantly in Japan and Korea – as well as more recently in France, Australia and New Zealand (we got ours from an Asian supermarket). Wakame is most often used in soups and salads.
DRIED KOMBU (Laminariaceae family)
An edible kelp most commonly exported from Japan. Kombu is commonly sold dried in larger pieces or shredded or pickled in vinegar and is eaten extensively in Japanese cuisine.
DRIED NORI SHEETS (Pyropia genus)
Made from a species of red algae which is extensively farmed in Japan & China – Nori sheets are commonly used in Japanese cuisine mainly for sushi.
DRIED DULSE (Palmaria Palmata)
A Red algae that grows in the northern coast of the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans (we got ours from Cornwall) It has become more popular recently as a snack and is thought to taste a little like bacon.
Chopping Board
Silicone tray
Muslin/ Cheese Cloth
Pestle & Mortar


1. Re-hydrate the dried pieces in a bowl of water for a few minutes (until they have become soft and gloopy)
2. Chop the Kombu into small pieces
3. Place Kombu in a pan with some water, bring the pan to the boil and then lower to a gentle simmer
4. Allow to simmer for an hour or so and top up with water as needed
6. Take of the heat and add the kombu and remaining liquid into a blender – blitz until you have a paste
7. Spread the paste out onto a tray and leave to dry
Kombu 1
1. Re-hydrate the dried pieces in a bowl of water for a few minutes (until they have become soft and gloopy)
2. Chop the Kombu into small pieces
3. Place Kombu in a pan with some water, bring the pan to the boil and then lower to a gentle simmer
4. Keep coming back to top up the water as needed
5. Allow to simmer for an hour or so
6. Take of the heat and drain the Kombu from the liquid with a sieve
7. Put the Kombu in a pestle and mortar and pummel until a pasta has formed
8. Spread the paste out onto a tray and leave to dry
Kombu 2
DRIED KOMBU 3 (no – heat)
1. Re-hydrate the dried pieces in a bowl of water for a few minutes (until they have become soft and gloopy)
2. Chop the Kombu into small pieces
3. Add the Kombu and a little liquid into a blender
– blitz until you have a paste
5. Spread the paste out onto a tray and leave to dry
Kombu 3
NORI 1 (no – heat)
1. Dissolve Nori sheet in water
2. Put the dissolved Nori sheet and a little water into a blender and blitz
3. Spread the paste on a tray and leave to dry
Nori 1
NORI 2 (no – heat)
1. Dissolve Nori sheet in water
2. Put the dissolved Nori sheet and a little water into a blender and blitz
3. Put the paste onto a muslin cloth (cheese cloth) and squeeze
out the water into a container (keep this water for Nori 3 recipe)
4. Spread the thicker paste on a tray and leave to dry
Nori 2
NORI 3 (no – heat)
1. Take the drained water from Nori 2 recipe – should be a gloopy consistency
2. Spread this liquid onto a tray and leave to dry
Nori 3
DULSE 1 (no – heat)
1. Re-hydrate the Dulse in a bowl of water for a few minutes
2. Put the Dulse and the water into a blender and blitz
3. Pour the mixture into a sieve and get rid of most of the water
4. Spread the paste onto a tray and leave to dry
Dulse 1
DULSE 2 (no – heat)
1. Re-hydrate the Dulse in a bowl of water for a few minutes
2. Place the Dulse in a pan with some water, bring the pan to
the boil and then lower to a gentle simmer
3. Simmer for an hour and top up the water if needs be
4. Put the Dulse and whatever water is left into a blender and blitz
5. Spread the paste onto a tray and leave to dry
Dulse 2
WAKAME 1 (no – heat)
1. Re-hydrate the Wakame in a bowl of water for a few minutes.
2. Put the Wakame with a little water (not very much at all) into a blender and blitz
3. Spread the thicker paste onto a tray and leave to dry
(this sample curled up as it dried and became very brittle – maybe sandwich the drying sample with a weight on top to keep it flat, but make sure the air can get to it)
1. Soak the fresh Bladder wrack in a bowl of water to remove any sand, salt and grit from harvesting.
2. Drain the water
3. Soak the Bladder wrack in boiled water to soften slightly
4. Drain the water
5. Pierce the air bladders with a scalpel and gently squeeze the gelatinous liquid out
6. Do this multiple times to build up enough to spread out onto a tray and leave to dry
Bladder wrack

Syringe Hack for 3D Printer

This is my successful attempt (the first attempt failed) at hacking an Ultimaker Original to accommodate a syringe. It’s home is Green Lab, where it happily prints mush for growing mushrooms.

I followed Thingiverse instructions from: Ultimaker Syringe Extrusion System at

Step 1 – I printed everything below:

  1. Bowden Feeder Repair Kit:

  1. Generic Head Mount:

  1. Syringe Attachments:

I printed them all at 80% infill. Make sure your printer is set up accurately, because the files have a tight tolerance and no time for your errors. I was impatient and drilled away my many errors.

Step 2 – clean up the prints for the syringe and head mount:

I started by putting together the syringe and printing the head mount. In the online photo for the head mount, it is both white and red. For some time I thought this was 2 files, it is not.

The head mount part is completed by 2 cable ties which then attach the part to the printer head. I left this to one side until I had made everything else. Here are my printed files for the head mount and various other syringe parts, you can see the head mount in white next to the 2 white syringe rings (upper and lower):


I generally cleaned up the files and checked everything fit, I filed away many hours.

The holes on the syringe rings are bigger on one side. The bigger holes should fit your bowden tube. If not (mine didn’t) drill the holes on the prints wider so it does. The holes on the opposite side are smaller to fit the dyneema thread and they don’t need drilling wider. Top Tip: Don’t stab your hand while doing this.


Step 3 – put together the syringe attachments:

The ring with the rectangle in is the upper ring and this goes on top of the plunger. The rectangular hole should fit nicely over the pull ring (the bigger holes should be facing up). Twist it 90 degrees to secure in place. The syringe has a lip, and the lower ring needs to be pushed all the way up to that, position it so that the lip doesn’t cover over the holes on the print. This one needs the smaller holes facing up.

The red part you can see is a part to cuddle the syringe. 2 cable ties are needed to attach this to the syringe. I can tell you from personal experience these must be longer than 142mm (200mm long ones worked great).


Step 4 – put together the winder attachments:

The final 3 printed pieces needed are: the winder coupling – shown printing in white, the winder spool I printed in red earlier (you can see it in the photo below with the ball bearing attached), and the feeder repair kit.


You can see that I have put the bearing onto the spool already, I did that excitedly and then couldn’t take it off again to take a separate photo. I decided to ignore screwing it together and instead skip ahead to check whether it would fit in the winder coupling part. It didn’t. I hammered it in. It snapped. You can’t tell if I take the photo at the right angle.


Sub-step 4.1 – re-print and do better:

Having finally admitting to myself it needed doing again, this time I didn’t ignore the rectangle in the side of the spool. Turns out that is for a nut so you can screw in a bolt in the middle of the bearing. I had to file it out a fair bit. You can see the incredibly long (20mm) screw that I decided to fit in it. It was too long, duh. While trying to screw it in all the way, I ended up stabbing myself with the screwdriver. Points if you notice the bloody bandage in the rest of the photos. A 15mm M3 screw is just sensible.


I tied fishing wire to the spool, up through the nozzle on the coupling, and through the bowden tube. At this point I worked out that you shouldn’t try to make it cheaper by using fishing wire instead of dyneema thread. The fishing wire put tension on the plastic parts and the white thing cracked again.

I bought dyneema thread and 3D printed it again, this time in red to match my anger.


Step 5 – thread the thread (not wire) and join syringe to the winder:

I used about 1m of dyneema thread. Again, I started with the winder, looping it through the holes and tying it in a tight knot. Then through the hole on the coupling and the bowden tube. The next photo shows the other end of the tube feeding into one side of the upper ring on the syringe plunger. From here, just the string keeps going and threads through the same side on the lower ring and out the bottom hole. You’ll need another small piece of bowden tube here, one that just loops from one side of the lower ring to the other comfortably. You then go back up through the lower ring on the other side of the syringe and out the top as shown. You’ll need to tie it very tightly here otherwise it will escape your clutches.


Step 6 – attach parts to printer:

The feeder repair part clamps on top of the feeder. I didn’t screw it in place, fingers crossed that doesn’t fly off. Then the winder coupling sits on top, with the spool fitting very nicely onto the original bolt as shown. Then you can attach the syringe to the head mount, and finally cable tie that piece to the printer head. Have a drink, your stabbed hand deserves it. I had Kombucha which was home brewed in the lab!


Step 7 – Edit GCode

I set up a simple shape and put it through Cura. As it started up and tried going ‘home’ before beginning the print, the printer smashed into the side immediately and repeatedly all while making the most awful noise.

I apologised to the printer and opened the GCode in a text editor – this is the first time I’ve ever edited any GCode. I deleted the line(s) that looked to be most like the ‘home’ starting point with the intention that it would start from wherever I set it manually to instead i.e. wherever I moved the head to with my hand. I deleted these two lines, relatively near the start of the code, about 10 lines down or so:

G28 X0 Y0 ;move X/Y to min endstops

G28 Z0 ;move Z to min endstops

And, magically, that worked. It started from where I positioned it instead of returning to home and smashing into the sides. I set it to work with some wall paper paste I mixed up and it lasted a surprisingly long amount of time compared to what I expected. Or perhaps I’m a pessimist.

Next steps – work out how to set up a new base plate for the new and improved “Mush Printer” and identify a better way of cleaning the darned thing of said mush.

Recycled Plastics project

As part of our involvement with the European funded OD&M project (Open Design & Manufacturing) the lab ran a co-design and workshop based brief following on from the work ‘Growing Space’ exhibited at Arts Work of the Future at the TATE Exchange in March 2018. This project was developed in collaboration with students and staff from the UAL Digital Maker Collective.



The Growing Space project investigated open source and flat pack furniture, end of life materials, urban agriculture and sustainable food systems.
The aim of this next stage of the project was to improve upon the initial ideas explored at the TATE Exchange of building a modular growing system with a higher consideration for material choices and the impact this has on the environment.
Initially the growing structure was to be located in the Makerspace at Chelsea College of Art. It was planned to be open to all staff and students at UAL, and would act as much a space for thematic discussion and knowledge exchange as a practical space for growing things.
Ultimately the outcome of these co-design workshops should serve as a starting point to inspire a community of interest and further development and act as a template that could be used for other grow space projects pursuing similar ideas.

Fig 1. example of a growing space at Green Lab
Fig 1. Green Lab growing space

The second iteration of Growing Space 2.0 should aim to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Semi-permanent structure
  • Work as a practical growing space – able to withstand humidity, water and light on a fairly regular basis
  • Materials should be considered, sustainable and recycled/salvaged where possible
  • The construction should use simplified building methods – allowing accessibility to multiple locations and skill sets
  • The system should be easily scaleable and modular, with improvements made as necessary
  • The project must work in the context of open design
  • Ideally the structure will be visually interesting and engaging – biophilic
  • There could be a capacity for some degree of autonomy – ie. self sufficient through automated growing/ watering/ lighting systems

This second stage of project was ran as a series of 10 co-design workshops which included using various idea generation techniques, hands on group making and a responsive design process.
Below is a break down of each workshop and the co-design techniques used, including learning points on how to improve the efficiency of group workshop if to be conducted again.


During the first workshop we discussed the larger aims of the project as well as our design parameters and the physical space that we had to work with. We shared projects that we found inspiring and could use as a reference.

We also used idea generation exercises to get as many ideas on the table as we could and to engage the whole group.

Exercise 1: Brain warm-up – Exquisite corpse

  • Fold a piece of A4 paper into 3-6 folds
  • In 1 minute, each person draws anything (often part of a person) then folds the paper over to hide the section they have just drawn.
  • starter lines are drawn for the next person;these lines do not need to align with the previous drawing.
  • Pass the paper to the next person.
  • Repeat steps 2 -4 until all the folds of the paper have been drawn on.
  • Drawings are unfolded and each person describes the drawing they are holding.

Exercise 2: Concept Ideation

  • This was a Fast-paced drawing exercise to generate multiple ideas within a 4 minute time allocation
  • Materials: A5 paper and a thick pen (eg. Sharpie)
  • The aim was to produce as many ideas as possible on each of the following themes:
  • 1. Recycled/ use of material
    2. Modularity/ scalability
    3. Accessibility

    Key points:

  • 4 minutes spent on each theme
  • Each idea should have 3 elements: sketch, annotations and a title
  • The focus was on many diverse ideas, not quality or fully formed concepts
  • Each idea remained accessible to other members of the group
  • All idea were good ideas, any idea could be used by another group member as inspiration
  • After 4 minutes, the ideas were shared with the group and displayed on a large wall for the group to see
  • The process was repeated for each theme
  • The process can be repeated as many times as required until sufficient ideas are generated

Fig 2. most popular ideas
Fig 2. Most popular ideas from idea generation exercises

Exercise 3: Voting for popular ideas

    The aim of the voting stage was to rapidly focus on popular ideas within the group, while removing potential conflict over ideas that were not relevant
    Key points:

  • Each member of the group was given two pieces of monopoly money with different values (or use coloured post-its with a value system eg. numbered 1,2)
  • Everyone had two votes for their favourite ideas – higher value = favourite idea, lower value = runner up
  • The ideas with the most votes were discussed and analysed to establish which elements were of interest to the group
  • These elements were listed on a single piece of A4

Fig 3. Voting for popular ideas
Fig 3. Voting for popular ideas

Outcomes from workshop 1:
Through the above exercises the following ideas were chosen to focus on:

  • Materials:
    Making sheet materials from recycled waste resources ie. melted plastic bottles
    The chosen material could provide a desired sound/ noise installation to compliment visual design
  • Form:
    Pin board design – personal planters that can be attached to a communal wall to create a growing system (allowing each participant to take there own planter home – sense of responsibility)
  • Modularity/ Scalability:
    Create a Modular design that allows for interaction – the whole space can can be rearranged either within the space or moved and refigured for another location
  • Accessibility:
    The structure should remain accessible at all levels including: phyiscally accessible, economically accessible, skill set accessible (all processes should be fairly easy to learn with little specialist knowledge required)


The aim of workshop 2 was to develop the ideas generated in workshop 1 – prototyping in cardboard to test sizes and forms. Cardboard prototyping is useful to explore the physical dimensions of an idea, to establish how a design interacts with a person, or to explore form. At this stage we were still exploring multiple design ideas to establish form, interaction, relevance and scale.

Exercise 1: Cardboard prototyping:

  • Materials needed: Cardboard, scissors, craft knives, masking tape, rulers, pens/pencils
    Key points:

  • This was a fast-paced making exercise to build upon individual elements generated in workshop 1.
  • We spent 15 – 20 minutes exploring each of the three themes – materials, scalability, accessibility
  • Protoypes were made at a scale of 1:5 or 1:1
  • These were all rough sketch models to translate an idea rather than creating a polished model.
  • After each theme the prototypes were presented to the group and discussed.

Fig 4. Cardboard prototypes
Fig 4. Cardboard prototypes

Exercise 2: Voting for popular ideas
At the end of workshop 2 we used a voting system again to focus on the most popular ideas and common areas of interest.

    Key points:

  • Each person was given 2 post it notes to vote with
  • As well as using the post it to vote for favourite ideas, a keyword was used to the establish the specific reason why an idea was favoured – this quickly enable prototypes without votes to be removed
  • The owner of each post it and keyword were asked to explain in more details what they liked about the prototype
  • A summary of the keywords that were used during this voting were grouped together

Fig 5. Discussing prototypes and voting with keywords
Fig 5. Discussing prototypes and voting with keywords

Outcomes from workshop 2
At the end of this workshop it was decided that we needed to focus our ideas in order to move forward with workshop 3. We decided to use a gulley-style system for planting and that the over all structure would be supported from one wall (rather than free standing or wall mounted)


The focus of workshop 3 was to start adding some physical design parameters to the ideas that had been generated. This was to include discussion around the core themes of modularity, scalability and accessibility as well as possible materials, manufacturing processes and dimensions.

Materials vs Form

    • The group voted on whether the structure should be led by its form or the materials used in its construction (ie should the materials used dictate the form it takes or is the form of primary importance with the materials subsequently decided to compliment it?)

This was essential to establish the area of focus for the development of the design.

Key decisions:

  • The group decided the structure should be materials-led, allowing an opportunity to explore material making
  • Materials should be recycled where possible without compromising functionality
  • It was agreed that it may be impractical for every element to be made/recycled, for example plumbing – in this case materials will be purchased.
  • The sustainability of all components should be addressed through a materials and processes impact study.
  • All manufacturing processes should be open and accessible to a specifically non-technical general public.

Investigating recycled materials:
We discussed materials and processes that would allow us to recycle a waste material and turn it into something new:


  • Recycled aluminium cans can be melted down using a home-made bucket furnace and then cast.
  • This process is widely documented online (instructables, YouTube) and can be carried out without specialist equipment
  • Using aluminium could also allow the potential to explore sonic effects – dripping water into gulleys would create a sound installation – creating an environment.
  • Aluminium has the potential to be cast as a sheet and folded to create a frame structure.


  • Recycled food-safe thermoplastics can be melted down and cast and could have a possible application for the gulley structure.
  • Food safe thermoplastics include:
  • HDPE (high density polyethylene) used for plastic bags and milk bottles and some bottle tops, recycling code 2
  • LDPE (high density polyethylene, less strong), recycling code 4
  • PET (potentially not suitable for gulleys due to higher melting point), recycling code 1

Cardboard prototyping:
Cardboard prototyping was used further to explore the physical size of things within the space and to make decisions about the dimensions of the structure.

  • Materials used: Cardboard, craft knife, scissors, masking tape, pens
    Key points:

  • We decided to build the structure catering to the size of an average person (c.161 – 175mm) and a lettuce (30cm diameters)
  • We also agreed that accessibility of the structure to people outside of these averages was important and needed to be considered.

Fig 6. Drawer system prototype & exploring scale with cardboard
Fig 6. Drawer system prototype & exploring scale with cardboard

Fig 7. Design details and scale
Fig 7. Design details and scale

Specific design details:
Focusing on the idea of a drawer system that was favoured by the group the structure should consist of expandable modules with horizontal drawers – this design also allows the structure to become a large focus of the room when wanted but can also reduce it’s size, adapting to the needs of the space and it’s users.
The supporting frame to hold the drawers will be transparent/just frame work allowing the focus to be on the drawers (planters) and the plants.


Having previously decided to focus on materials and the potential to recycle waste worskhop 4 focused on initial material making with plastics. The findings of these experiments informed amendments to the design.


  • Plastics bags (HDPE or PP):
    Each bag was cut to fold out to a single layer, multiple bags were layered together and heated with a heat gun on a wooden mold – through this initial hands on making the group discussed the necessity of an oven and clamps for future workshops.

Fig 8. Plastic bags cut into single layers then heated with a heat gun
Fig 8. Plastic bags cut into single layers then heated with a heat gun

  • Plastic bottle (PET or HDPE):
    Method 1: Shred the bottles into small pieces with a paper shredder then heated with a heat gun
    Mehtod 2: Cut the bottle in half, heated the plastic with a heat gun around a wooden shape to shrink and mold the plastic to the wood – we then removed the wood after cooling leaving shaped plastic.

Fig 9. Various plastic melting techniques
Fig 9. Various plastic melting techniques

  • End results:
    Method A: plastic does not hold together well unless multiple layers of plastic were added individually.
    Mehtod B: Created a thicker sheet of plastic
    Method C: Created a brittle form as the aluminium couldn’t transfer the heat to the plastic fast enough.
    Mehtod D: Created a composite (non recyclable) it was strong although had a rough finish.
    Method E: Had the greatest potential for use as gullies, although limited by the dimensions of the bottle. investigation needed into joining multiple sections and using opaque material (problematic for light exposure resulting in algae growth)

Outcomes from workshop 4:

  • Both heating and compression is needed when reforming plastic bags into a single material
  • Plastic bottles (PET) have a higher melting point and are difficult to reform into a single material from shredded parts
  • A single piece of PET or HDPE can be easily shrunk around a form when heat is applied


The aim for workshop 5 was to focus on 2 main areas; firstly to further develop the specific details of the modular drawer design, and secondly to complete additional tests in plastic following the initial experiments and findings from workshop 4.

Part 1: Material experiments – Plastic

  • Following workshop 4, we focused on the combination of heat and compression to melt plastic – initially using an iron

Fig 10. using an iron to heat and compress plastic bags (PP) and PET plastic cut into shreds
Fig 10. using an iron to heat and compress plastic bags (PP) and PET plastic cut into shreds

Part 2: Developing details for the modular drawer design:
We rapidly re-sketched the design to formulate the specifics of the expandable structure and this included details of:

  • methods of expansion ie. in how many directions and to what degree could the drawers pull out.
  • What joints would be used for the structure.
  • Details of the external frame work – what materials etc.
  • Individual drawer/ planter details.

Fig 11. Developing specific designs of the structure by rapidly re-sketching and building a small scale wooden prototype
Fig 11. Developing specific designs of the structure by rapidly re-sketching and building a small scale wooden prototype

Considering budget and timeline:
Having gained an initial understanding of the time commitment that material making requires we drew together a project timeline. Having decided on the structure size and additional materials for the framework we started to work out costings – a major expense was added via the aluminium profile to be used for the structures framework.

Outcomes of workshop 5: Reflections
By the end of workshop 5 the project ran into some restrictions regarding both the timeline and the budget – with many members of the group having limited time to commit to the project, a growing uncertainty of whether the pre-arranged grow space within Chelsea would be available and a limit on the budget the project required a re- review at the start of workshop 6.


At the beginning of workshop 6 the group decided to re-focus the most important aspects of the project – the project that had been developed through workshops 1-5 raised challenges in terms of accessibility (both economically and the skills required) and time scale.
We decided to re-focus the ethos of the project and review the design and material choices to assess feasibility.

Material re-focus:
Despite voting (in workshop 2) for a materials led approach the group had still been led by form – and as the form (incl use of alluminium profile) was contributing a huge expense we decided to move away from an over-complicated structure and re-focus on material use. Furthering experiments with food-safe plastic the group could easily and at virtually no cost produce a series of recycled plastic planters for growing.

The importance of accessiblity was re-iterated, including:

  • Availability of materials (waste plastic is widely available around the world)
  • Accessibility of process (re purposing plastic can be done in a lo-fi and non technical process)

The new direction had 2 main elements to focus:

  • How to make a planter in recycled plastic ie. process, materials, dimensions
  • How does it attach to one another/ a structure (possibility for scale)

Fig 12. Initial designs for the simplified recycled plastic planter
Fig 12. Initial designs for the simplified recycled plastic planter


For workshop 7 we focused solely on how to make recycled plastic planters. Having conducted initial tests in workshop 4 we had found the HDPE plastic (from milk bottles and bottle lids) was the best plastic to focus on due to a low melting point and the fact it was already food safe.


  • Mixed HDPE (milk bottles and bleach bottles) cut into very small pieces by hand (with scissors) (we found this extremely time consuming)
  • HDPE pieces put onto a baking tray and put in the oven at 190c
  • HDPE constantly monitored whilst in the oven to check it was melting but not burning.
  • *note HDPE bleach bottles are not food safe but were suitable to use for the initial testing process

Learning points:

  • You need to be careful with the oven setting – we set the temperature to high and caused the plastic pieces to burn and turn brown
  • As we were not adding pressure or compression in this initial test it meant that whilst the plastic was melting it wasnt bonding together to form a single material
  • Cutting the plastic into such small pieces was very time consuming and we found it to be unnecessary in the end

Fig 13. HDPE cut into very small strips and put in the oven at to higher temperature, resulted in burnt plastic
Fig 13. HDPE cut into very small strips and put in the oven at to higher temperature, resulted in burnt plastic


The aim for workshop 8 was to create the first recycled plastic planter sample – we focused on improving our techniques for melting the plastic and making a sheet material.

* Note: HDPE melts at around 120-180c. Be careful when handling melted HDPE as it remains hot for a long time and can burn bare skin.


  1. The oven was preheated to 160c
  2. Whole HDPE bottles caps (ie. not cut) were put on greaseproof paper and onto a baking tray in the oven
  3. Milk bottles (HDPE) were cut into 5cm2 pieces and added to the tray with the bottle caps
  4. After 10-15 minutes, the mixed HDPE was removed from the oven and rolled/ pressed together between two sheets of baking paper
  5. This was then placed back into the oven, with step 4 being repeated every 10 – 15 minutes for approximately 1 hour, adding more HDPE each time
  6. Once enough plastic had been melted to cover the mould and it was sticking to each other the HDPE was heated again and pressed into a flat shape by hand
  7. This HDPE mix was then heated again
  8. The HDPE was put into a rectangular wooden mold, sandwiched between baking paper and clamped for 2 minutes
  9. The cooling HDPE sheet was removed from the wooden mould, placed back in the oven and reheated for approximately 10 minutes
  10. Steps 8 – 9 were repeated approximately 5 times until a 1cm thick sheet was formed
  11. The HDPE sheet was removed from the mould, draped over a positive form (loaf tin) and put back in the oven
  12. This was reheated for 10 minutes allowing gravity to pull the melting sheet over the positive (loaf tin) form
  13. The HDPE draped over the positive (loaf tin) was removed from the oven and another mould (loaf tin of the same size) was clamped over the top (creating a two part sandwich mould)
  14. Once the HDPE was rigid it was removed from the mold and cooled with cold water

Fig 14. Melting HDPE combined together and reheated into a flattish sheet
Fig 14. Melting HDPE combined together and reheated into a flattish sheet

Fig 15. Melted HDPE placed into a wooden mould with greaseproof paper either side & a wooden lid added
Fig 15. Melted HDPE placed into a wooden mould with greaseproof paper either side & a wooden lid added

Fig 16. HDPE clamped in mould to flatten further and then removed after 2 minutes
Fig 16. HDPE clamped in mould to flatten further and then removed after 2 minutes

Fig 17. HDPE sheet placed on top of mould (loaf tin) and put back in oven, after 10 minutes another loaf tin was put on top
Fig 17. HDPE sheet placed on top of mould (loaf tin) and put back in oven, after 10 minutes another loaf tin was put on top

Fig 18. Loaf tins clamped together, and then once HDPE has cooled remove from the tins
Fig 18. Loaf tins clamped together, and then once HDPE has cooled remove from the tins

Learning points:

  • Milk bottles and caps melted easily
  • Shampoo bottles were harder to melt (thicker HDPE)
  • Larger sized pieces (compared to workshop 7) significantly reduced the processing time, yet only slightly increased the melting time
  • Compression/ rolling process is crucial – melting whole sheets with no compression takes a little longer and the sheets did not bond together properly (and could be separated after)
  • Using grease proof paper in the (non-stick) loaf tins was not necessary and resulted in paper getting stuck in the folds of plastic as it was compressed
  • Time to melt, and the number of re-melts that were required results in significant making time for one planter. this is limited by the size of the oven and the quantity of plastic that fit in at one time


The aim of workshop 9 was to prepare large quantities of melted HDPE as a sheet material that could then been moulded into a planter in workshop 10.


  1. The oven was preheated to 160c
  2. The sheet material prepared in workshop 9 was placed on greaseproof paper and put into the oven for 20 – 30 minutes
  3. The HDPE sheet was put into the rectangular wooden mold and clamped for approximately 2 minutes (to make it thinner)
  4. The HDPE sheet was removed from the mold, placed over the inverted loaf tin and put back into the oven
  5. This was reheated for 10 minutes allowing gravity to pull the melting sheet over the positive loaf tin form (with no greaseproof paper in between)
  6. The HDPE and loaf tin were removed from the oven and a matching loaf tin was clamped over the top of the melted sheet (creating a two part sandwich mould)
  7. Once the HDPE started to cool the clamps were removed, putting both loaf tins with HDPE still sandwiched in between back in the oven
  8. After 10-15 minutes the remelted HDPE in the mould was removed from the oven and the excess HDPE that had squeezed out of the sides was cut of with a craft knife (this is easy to do whilst the plastic is still hot)
  9. Once cooled the HDPE planter was removed from the tins and cooled with cold water

Fig 19. HDPE sheet material from workshop 9, reheated and clamped in wooden mould
Fig 19. HDPE sheet material from workshop 9, reheated and clamped in wooden mould

Fig 20. HDPE sheet melted over inverted loaf tin
Fig 20. HDPE sheet melted over inverted loaf tin

Fig 21. HDPE clamped between two loaf tins
Fig 21. HDPE clamped between two loaf tins

Fig 22. Excess HDPE trimmed with a craft knife and then planter removed from tins once cooled
Fig 22. Excess HDPE trimmed with a craft knife and then planter removed from tins once cooled

Learning points:

  • The time require to melt the HDPE sheet was significant due to the thickness of the sheet
  • The capacity of the oven was limiting as only one sheet could be melted at a time (we were using a portable toaster oven)
  • The longer the sheet had to melt in the oven the easier it was to mould it around the loaf tin
  • By using no grease proof paper we achieved a much smoother and better finish for the planter than in workshop 8
  • There were small air bubbles in the base of the planter due to the second loaf tin being placed on top and the air not being able to escape
  • Potentially this could be rectified in step 6 by melting the HDPE inside the loaf tin (rather than on top of the inverted tin)
  • Trimming the edges removed excess HDPE, but the finish was still fairly rough – to achieve a better finish the planter would need to be sanded and polished


This project ran into a number of challenges, the greatest of which was the complete co-design nature of the workshops that we were determined to maintain. Whilst we tried to fairly vote to acknowledge the groups priorities for the direction of the project this also meant that the project could easily change as the priorities changed, allowing us to drift our focus on a number of occasions – perhaps a more structured plan for each workshop and the outcomes we were trying to achieve from the start would have helped to maintain a solid direction.

Using this group voting system for decisions also quickly showed that the group had a shared interest in exploring sustainable and recycled materials which perhaps didn’t contribute to achieving the initial goals we set at the start of the brief.

Having said this the project proved as a useful exercise and learning process for how to work collaboratively, and we were continuously forced to reiterate to ourselves the fundamentals of accessable design. Although the outcome became a simplified version of a growing system, producing recycled planters the group gained rich insight into various disciplines and areas of design that they had not exeprienced before.

Project participants:
Rosie (Research fellow, Open Design & manufacturing, UAL)
Ed (Design Researcher, Green Lab)
Anoushka (Design Researcher, Green Lab)
Eloise (MA Interior Spatial Design, Chelsea College of Art, UAL)
Hanna (MA Interior Spatial Design, Chelsea College of Art, UAL)
Julia (MA Interior Spatial Design, Chelsea College of Art, UAL)
Benny (BA Interior Spatial Design, Chelsea College of Art, UAL)

Future Algae project

For our involvement in the European funded OD&M project (Open Design & Manufacturing) the lab developed a 6 week brief to be run for 12 students from MA Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins.
The open design for sustainable future living project will explore how an open design-led process can be used to a develop future products, materials, new processes or services that use algae as the core material; whether at an industrial level such as a future biofuel, at a much more personal level for cosmetics, food source, a new material, decorative perspectives or as a bioremediation (cleaning our air and landmass).
Bladderwrack on the Margate coast
The natural resources of our planet are being used at a greater rate than they can be naturally replenished and the shift towards a more sustainable and ecological way of using resources has become a global imperative.

Exploring how we use naturally occurring biological and organic materials that do not have a detrimental effect on our natural habits, human life or broader ecological survival is now being explored by organisations across the corporate footprint of every major country.

This project seeks to provide an insight into naturally occurring macro and micro algae that grow in freshwater and saline environments; from the tiny microscopic algae that create the green waters in local ponds to the vast kelp forests that fill our oceans. Algae occurs naturally in our oceans in the form of seaweed and also in freshwater in temperate and tropical environments.

Algae are simple life forms with simple biological needs (light, Co2, simple nutrients) and have been farmed and used to create new materials, fuel sources, highly nutritious food sources, cosmetics, light sources and decorative materials.

Algae has numerous benefits that make it an ideal choice for creating a variety of sustainable products.


To aid the students with there material research and experimentation we set up a material lab for them to utilise. Having conducted hands on messy research ourselves we knew how valuable it was to have the space to do this.
Our Material Lab is kitted out with stainless steel workbenches, tiled walls, industrial sinks, basic heating and processing equipment and drying racks.
Material Lab

With the Thanet coast having a large natural deposit of seaweed washed onto its beaches we decided to take the students on a field trip to Margate. This trip allowed them to experience the unique atmosphere of British seaside towns whilst also responsibly foraging there own seaweed to work with.
We also visited Margate based Haeckels – a skincare brand whose star ingredient is sustainably harvested seaweed from the Margate coast. The brand not only demonstrated to students the potential of the otherwise overlooked ingredient but they also have a sustainable and responsible ethos built into there brand, considering everything from ingredients through to packaging and distribution.
Dom from Haeckels

The 12 students split into 3 different groups all responding to the brief in a different way to develop there experimental projects.
Group 1

Group 1 developed a project in response to the growing single use plastics epidemic. Focusing on industries such as travel where single use items may still be beneficial the group developed a project focusing on Algae’s potential as a bio plastic. Building a system of circular economy into the product they developed a range of single use toiletries that would utilise algae, building a circular system that considered sourcing the original ingredient, a method of distribution and what the products end of life could be.
Group 1
Group 2

Group 2 worked with notions of fab cities and distributed manufacturing. Focusing on the biodegradable properties of algae based materials and the appeal that fast fashion maintains within many of us they developed a short lifespan swimwear concept. They created a system that allowed you to order your chosen swimwear item from an online global database before choosing to have it manufactured at your local fab lab facility.
Group 2
Group 3

Group 3 took a different approach to the project, focusing on creating a campaign that would increase the public’s awareness of the potential of algae as a sustainable material. Being shocked by there own limited knowledge of this sector before the project began they took it upon themselves to create both a communication focused campaign as well as interactive do-it-yourself kit for people to engage with algae and conduct initial experiments at home.
Group 3

In the development of the future algae brief the lab conducted some initial material research to kickstart the students curiosities into material experimentation.
We developed some lo-fi open source recipes and outcomes to present to the students & for others to replicate and improve.
Find recipes

EU Erasmus OD&M

OD&M Alliance logo OD&M is a Knowledge Alliance dedicated to create and support communities of practices around the Open Design & Manufacturing paradigm, making the most of openness, sharing and collaboration to create new value chains of innovation in design and manufacturing oriented to the social good.Through inspiring international mobilities, dedicated events, project-based trainings and innovative systems of learning outcomes certification, the OD&M community is committed to create a valuable environment of capacity-building for students, university staff, enterprises and highly creative and passionate people.

Green Lab is part of this knowledge alliance working along side University of Arts London

Find out more at


Recycled Plastics:
A collaborative project between Green Lab, Digital Maker Collective and students from Chelsea College of Art.

Future Algae:
For this project the Green Lab team took 13 students from MA Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins through an explorative brief with a focus on algae and the potential this material holds for a more sustainable future.


Algae Recipes

Orange Peel, Banana Peel & Tea Leaves Recipes


How to make mycelium products by Valentina Dipietro

Open source robot arm to extrude organics by Andreea Bunica

Kombucha Leather Material by Riina Oun

Composite materials from food waste & algae by Midushi Kochhar