Sustainability with Style (2020)

Sustainability with Style (2020)

Courtney Naismith

Air-crafted Artefacts: Additive up-cycling plastics within the Aviation Tourism Industry (2020)

Courtney Naismith demonstrates how even the most problematic plastics considered ‘non-recyclable’ can be transformed from banal to eloquent. Supported by Air New Zealand, her research takes airline consumables on a re-manufacturing journey to the world of architecture and fashion, where coffee stirrers and headset bags become 3D printed chandeliers and personalised shoulder bags.

A growing awareness of sustainability combined with a passion for design came to guide her Master’s thesis (“Air-crafted Artefacts: Additive up-cycling plastics within the Aviation Tourism Industry”) and its focus on the plastic waste produced by the aviation tourism industry. While individual single use consumables may seem small, if multiplied by the millions of air travelers they can create a serious waste stream that pleads to be addressed. Moving on from recycling Courtney saw more potential in 3D printed up-cycling, to create bespoke products out of low-value waste in ways which could not be replicated through mass-manufacture or other technologies.

The experimental process of developing novel visual, tactile and structural qualities using 3D printing in response to material properties has resulted in artefacts that tell stories. These narratives are deeply embodied within the objects and are communicated through form, structure, material quality and surface texture. These rich cultural, material and technological references, symbolise their heritage, explaining where the artefacts come from in both a cultural and material sense and thereby giving them entirely new value; evocative of New Zealand’s identity, enhancing Air New Zealand’s brand and creating awareness of the issue.

Materials and Processes – close-up


CAD modelling software – Rhino, Grasshopper plug-in and Fusion 360.

Slicing software – Cura and Simplify3D.


3D printers – UP BOX, Ultimaker 3 extended and the BigRep.

Main upcycling equipment – Contherm Thermotec 2000, Conair 8 series granulator and Thermo Scientific Process 11 twin-screw extruder, spooler and palletiser.

Project level

Master of Design Innovation Research Portfolio submission (MDI), supervisors Simon Fraser and Jeongbin Ok

External Partners

The project was supported by Air New Zealand, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and the New Zealand Product Accelerator

Best Awards Student Product Silver 2021

ECC NZ Student Craft / Design Awards

Purmundus Challenge 2020 Finalist