A new upcycling facility in Singapore, the DB Schenker’s Upcycling Hub by Airlab SUTD, explores new production methods needed for a sustainable manufacturing future. “This project demonstrates how materials deemed useless and destined for landfills can be repurposed into functional and beautiful design objects,” the designers explain.

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The upcycling hub with tables and chandeliers

The project started in 2018 to raise awareness of circularity in the logistics and supply industry. The idea: develop an entire facility from waste materials and present ways to respond to the climate crisis. It started as a design brief for the DB Schenker employee lunchroom, but Airlab’s goal expanded.

Related: A home that incorporates recycled materials from the jobsite

Closer view of the upcycled chandeliers and tables

The new space helps visitors conceptualize how waste can be used through all stages of a supply chain from design to production to consumption. Meanwhile, 3D printing technology is at the fore, using the tech to create novel shapes for furniture and light shades through the space.

View of the seating hub in front of large windows

New technologies in additive manufacturing and digital design were used to create design pieces out of waste that is not only functional but quite beautiful and thought-provoking to look at. The waste used for the upcycling hub included more than 30,000 plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, foam packaging and wood pallets. Additionally, computer numerical control cutting helped shape the pieces into furniture and design elements for the space.

A red wall in the hub

Then, there is a red wall where designs are explained using axonometric drawings to show the complexity of the fabrication process. The white band on the window side of the room features open views and natural light that fall on a long table lit by 3D-printed biopolymer pendant lights. In the center of the room, social activities take place under a recycled PETG chandelier. Also, pallets make up the tables, cardboard for the coffee tables and foam was used to make chairs.

View of the seating hub in front of large windows

The hub is therefore the first interior design in Singapore to implement such technologies and materials together, the designers say. They also hope the space shows the way to a new method of creating ornamental design and furniture from waste.

Under the tables where pallets were used

The Gathering Chandelier is about 13 feet in diameter and shaped like a dome out of 16 robotically printed pieces. Further, its design can be produced with single continuous extrusion. The research team developed the fabrication process for creating this piece, assembling it with a large ABB robotic arm and an extruder fed 441 pounds of recycled PET pellets.

Someone walking through the hub

Four other Dining Chandeliers also tested a large-scale architecture fixture using conventional FDM 3D printers and recycled PET filament. Each domed chandelier has 450 pieces that are designed to be printable with a standard FDM printer, making design at scale accessible with standard technologies. Each tile was based on a minimal Schwarz D “Diamond” surface and designed to be printable without supports, which creates zero waste during fabrication. The project recovered 132 pounds of plastic.

Upcycled display pieces

Users of the space were asked what waste they wished to be used and what furniture they thought should be used in the space. Employees helped conceptualize the project, source waste and helped with assembly, which was intended to create a sense of ownership and make the process accessible.

“The project sets a platform to challenge our value systems and traditional understanding of waste material, redefining our relationship with waste by creating beautiful furniture with discarded plastic and wood through digital design and sustainable manufacturing methods,” Airlab says.

+ Airlab SUTD

Images via Fabian Ong