Recycling for Sculptures REcycled Plastics, 3D Printing, & A Træna Makerspace: A Project by Lori Hepner

3D Printer at the AIR Træna apartment.

Why Træna?

I had previously completed some artist residencies in Finland, Iceland, and Svalbard and really liked the way that people living in these cultures approached the world, especially in how they respected nature and the environment. I was exploring Arctic landscapes and photographing them in order to both experience the differences in the physical shapes of the world, but also so that I could explore my inner self at the same time. My feelings of how I was connected to nature subtly changed based upon a mixture of the people/culture of an area and the geographical forms of the land and water and I was interested in tracking that in my work.

Close-Up of a piece from Excursionary Auras, in Situ

My art project, Excursionary Auras, in Situ, was a way for me to combine my traditional landscape photographs with gestures of the inner feelings that I had while in these places through 15-30 second mini-performances in the studio. I used LED lights that played back my photographs, one column of pixels at a time, as I moved in front of the camera while imagining being back in nature where I took the landscape photos. The results are very abstract light paintings with hints of the landscape and my inner emotions of being in those specific places. I title each piece with my emotion while in the landscape (content, excited, concerned…), how I was physically moving through that space (hiking, walking, paddling…), and the location itself (Træna, Norway; Kilpisjäriv, Finland…).

Excursionary Auras, in Situ in "The Seen and the Unseen" exhibition at Neu Kirche Gallery Spring 2016.

As this is an ongoing art series, I wanted to find a place in Arctic Norway where I could spend time working on a new project: 3D printing and beach plastic recycling. On my trip to Svalbard last summer, I was able to volunteer on a Beach cleaning in a remote fjord, which inspired the beginning of the 3D printing, plastics recycling, and makerspace as projects for Træna. Since the community is so far from the mainland, the opportunity to set up a space where the community could have access to a 3D printer, for personal or business development purposes, and could use the equipment to be a small innovation hub, using the recycled plastics and 3D printer as a local material/production machine for Træna produced items that could be developed by individual community members, local businesses, and visiting artists.

3D Model for Keychain Design

Since the Træna Festival brings such a large number of people to the island, one idea could be to target use the event to both sell 3D printed items created locally by artists and local businesses, but also to encourage plastics recycling by festival attendees by having a barter system where by turning in recyclables they could get a small sculpture, in return. Working with Tenk Træna, I designed a small 3D printed keychain of their logo embedded into an actual 3D rendering of Sanna. This is something that uses only 5g of plastic per keychain and prints in under an hour. These are the prototypes for the type of 3D prints that will be designed for the 2019 Festival.

3D Printing Workshops at the Træna Museum.

One of the highlights of my time in Træna was spending time with the youth and showing them what was possible with 3D printing. I was able to spend a day each with three different groups of students in order to introduce 3D printing on both small and large scales. I showed them some videos of houses that have started being built by giant 3D printers that use concrete instead of plastic, which they were quite amazed to see. They were also especially intrigued with the small figures from a popular video game that I was able to print out in less than a day after they asked about the possibility to print such a thing. They were equally interested in the idea to use beach litter to create recycled 3D printer filament for such prints. They had been learning about this for the prior year, so it was the perfect time to introduce to them what might be able to be produced from cleaning up the natural environment.

In a similar scene to the workshops with the school children, I was first hooked on using computers to make art in a kindergarten computer art class that my school had when I was six years old that then continued as a regular class each year for 5 years. The ability to create digital drawings from short math equations, as this was before we there was a mouse connected to a computer, set up my lifelong path to become a digital artist. The possibility of inspiring the youth or anyone from the community from a similar immersion in 3D printing and 3D design is very gratifying and is at the heart of why I am inspired to continue on with the project and hope that the students have the opportunity to learn how to design their own things to be printed, as well.

Workshopping in 3D printing at the Træna Museum.

I structured my project in Træna in a style of public art that is becoming increasingly popular in some circles in the USA. The idea of socially engaged art is one where the process of engaging with a community over time through a series of workshops and artistic interventions is a necessary process before a project outcome can be determined. The creation of a small Makerspace where a 3D printer was my initial project idea for AIR Træna. I knew that I would need to hold a series of workshops and art creation experiments with the community before knowing what the deliverable art outcome would be.

I came prepared to set up the 3D printer and then see what people were interested in creating. In my background as an Associate Professor of Integrative Arts at Penn State University in the USA, I have found that creativity can often be inspired when the right tools are introduced along with the offering of assistance. By merging unexpected interactions with people from different backgrounds, innovative ideas can emerge from the disparate backgrounds and skills that different people can bring to a project.

Giving my presentation at the SaunaSessions 2018.

By being able to meet people through the Sauna Sessions talk and 3D printer demo that I did during my residency in September, I was able to broadcast the 3D printer and forthcoming plastics recycling, which went over well. One local business in particular, På Træna Kaffebrenneri, was very interested in the possibilities of creating custom promotional products, which I helped to design, as well as future items that could be developed for use in brewing specialty coffee. With some research, I was able to identify food-grade 3D plastic filament that was also dishwasher safe.

Many members of the Træna community, from the youth to those on the cusp of retirement, showed a great interest in recycling plastics to create 3D printer filament. The Protocylcer+ is a machine that can be used to do this in a more automated process while being compact and portable.

ProtoCycler+ 3D Filament Maker

Setting up a 3D printer that can handle industrial-strength materials, as well as an intense production timeline will allow for the design and development of a new products that could be produced locally and distributed broadly outside of the region. It will also allow for the production of 3D prints in advance of the 2019 Træna Festival. I will be setting up a program where festival visitors can turn in their plastic recycling and receive a 3D printed keychain, necklace, or sculpture in return, based upon how much plastic they are turning in. It will be an incentive program for festival visitors to recycle their own plastic trash over the course of the festival, rather than leaving it for residents to recycle afterwards. During the festival, I will be doing 3D printer filament recycling demonstrations as well as 3D printing demonstrations. Having everyone do their own little part will help to protect the nature in and around Traæna!

3D printed necklace design.

Community 3D Design Workshops

My trip back to Træna is also an opportunity to hold half-day workshops where attendees would actually design and print a small keychain or necklace in a Træna inspired design. It is a great engagement activity for participants from all ages and background experiences where they will be able to design and print a personalized memento! By using an easy, internet based 3D design program that is targeted to children, I would be able to lead attendees from any computer skill background to experience the creative process of:

  • 1: Sparking an idea!
  • 2: Converting that idea into a 3D printable design.
  • 3: Watching as the 3D printer makes that idea real.
3D Print of Keychain Design

2019 Activities

  • Half-day 3D design & 3D printing workshop: 3-4 Hours: Træna inspired keychain & necklaces for attendees of the WinterFestival. Attendees will need to bring a laptop to use during the workshop (PC or Mac). Basic 3D design principals for 3D printing will be covered, including: model overhangs, hole tolerances, plastic shrinkage on print cooling, designing for strength & useability, and model slicing. (Use Free, cloud based software: TinkerCAD).
  • Half Day youth workshops in 3D design for 3D printing: 2 - 1hr sessions over 2 days, or before/after lunch in 1 day:  Focus will be on 3D design fundamentals & creation of a personalized keychain or necklace charm with embossed lettering & geometric design. (Use Free, cloud based software: TinkerCAD).
  • Plastic Recycling for 3D printing Demonstration of Protocycler+. 1.5-2.5 Hours: Attendees will determine a plastic color mix using recycled bottles & PET pellets for batch of 3D printing filament. They will be briefed on the fundamentals & best practices of recycling for 3D printing so that they they can start planning to implement a similar set-up that us customized for their own communities.
  • Complete a custom color palette of recycled 3D beach plastic 3D printer filament to be used in creating a series of limited edition, 3D printed sculptures by Lori Hepner.
  • Create an augmented reality light painting performance for visitors to Træna to view on-site via smartphone app. Only viewable when on location at the specified GPS coordinate.
  • Create 2-4 Light Painting Performances in and around Træna & other surrounding islands (see example from 2018 above & at https://vimeo.com/296347278)
Created By
Lori Hepner

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