Boolean Can

Notable Features


The Boolean Can was born of big dreams. 

The spout and handle would be smooth and plain. The walls, however, would be composed not of smooth planes but of a dense network of lines. The lines, given sufficient width, would form a watertight enclosure. Then, in a dramatic diminuendo, the widths would decrease toward the top of the can, forming holes through which water could flow during filling.


A voronoi graph network would provide the scaffolding for the walls of the can

Now, for this sort of complexity to work, a sternly austere base form is required. Visual complexity registers best when it occurs along a single dimension: texture, color, curviness, etc. Too many complexities and the work begins to lose coherence. (Technically, I don't believe it loses coherence so much as it loses perspicuousness. But that distinction is a subject for another day.)

But reality intruded on this vision. In the bustle of the holiday season, with all my printers and CAD time occupied, the days slipped away. Suddenly, only two hours remained until a print would have to start (my flight departed in 26 hours and this would be my mother-in-law's Christmas present).

So I whipped together the base form. It's composed of three shapes: spout, handle, and body. Each shape flows from four guiding lines.


The playful austerity of Bauhaus products provided inspiration. Credit: Harvard Art Museums

To the alarm of the people around me, I spent my first half hour doing usability studies with an invisible can. How wide should the handle be? How much space should there be between handle and body? What shape would the opening take, and where must it go to prevent spillage?

Once I had theories for questions like these, I joined the three shapes using an operation called a boolean union (thus the name of the can). From there, it headed straight to my 3D printer. It was satisfying to see my large format print bed put to good use. I'll toot my own horn here and say that it's perhaps the best use of large format I've yet seen ;)

Not only was the gift well-received, requests poured in from people who saw Boolean Can. I'm surprised if not a bit bemused that TOMO's most popular product is the one that happened most quickly.

V1 completed December, 2021