Learning to prototype with cardboard.

cardboardI have set a new path to my homework with the goal to learn how to build things and prototype with cardboard. Let’s discover together where it took me (spoiler: very far!)

Building the first item with cardboard

It started with the Google Cardboard. I already told you how it changes my point of view on the power of prototyping.

20161009_231014Everything shown here have been designed, drawn and built by myself using several tools such as FreeCAD, recycled cardboard (from my home food delivery), my beloved glue-gun etc… Otherwise stated it has been made by hand. Moving to CNC and laser cutting machine will be also discussed.

After the Google Cardboard, I started a very simple Tablet holder. Squared, easy-to-build.


AI file for this is available upon request. It’s today compatible with laser cutting machine (please check by yourself if the design is ok for your tablet and your laser cutting machine).

Then I moved to something more interesting, wider and more complex: Designing furnitures. My goal here is mainly to learn the full process of building and, why not, selling, « Design » inspired furnitures, mainly lampshades and decorative objects.

First prototypes

I started with decorative items such as animal as 3D puzzles and basic lampshades.
I used FreeCAD to design the 3D shape and then move to the 3D puzzle.

3D Design of the light-bulb Lampshader

I used a very simple prototyping method, printing the drawing of the different slides and design, gluing it on a sheet of cardboard and then cutting it with a traditional cutter. I iterated many times to find the good compromise between the number of pieces (should’nt be to high), their shapes (the more linear and rectilinear the better) and the aesthetic of the final item. reminder: the more pieces, the more complex shapes, higher the manufacturing price (if not hand made for my personal use). This process is shown here under with a decorative shark.

First prototype couldn’t stand due to too weak fins. Too much
pieces, very narrow cuttings.
shark-1 shark4
Third prototype with much less pieces (11), no narrow cutting, even larger fins and still looking like a shark. I selected this one for later improvement.

Here are randomly selected definitive prototypes I have made among many.


I have been quite quickly stopped by the availability of good quality cardboard sheets wide enough to make real size prototypes.

Definitive items

As definitive items design, I had to decide between several options:

  • cardboard or plywood
    Cardboard is more eco-friendly, at least in most people minds, plywood makes it more reliable.
  • engraved for home-made cutting or laser cut at a workshop
    Engraved let people build it by themselves, laser cutting allows a professional aesthetic

I decided to select 2 prototypes I had and build them in 2 options: plywood, laser-cut and cardboard laser-cut.

Here are the first results: laser cut cardboard.

Why laser-cut? Because it showed me the quality of the results.

Those items are now on sale on my ETSY shop: Alveole632

Thanks for reading

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