Mar 15, 2015

3D Printing Snap-together parts - a journey

Early in my journey of #3DPrinting, I started experimenting with modeling and printing snap-together parts. I had a few motivators, as I've mentioned in a previous post, including the ability to make multi-color objects, larger objects and objects which had some dynamic properties, like adjustments in position. Now I was looking more at the functional side - trying to land on a connection design which would give flexibility and easy construction. Here's a summary of the progression I've made so far - which I think is just the beginning of a much longer road ahead (and I'll soon try to post a How-To with design details in 3D Modeling).

1 - Simple Construction

My goal at the start was simply to make a joint which was easy enough to push together but also strong enough to hold. It's a tough balance to reach, since they are opposing requirements. Once I had something good enough, I started pasting the connector bits onto different shapes to see what worked best and what gave building flexibility and fun.

2 - Smaller, Simple Links

In this phase, I realized that it was fun and simpler to have small links that I could construct into many things. Mostly it was a straight link, but I experimented with 90 degree angles to give more flexibility to build. Here is where I realized - mostly through watching my kids try these, that jewelry-making was a good direction.

3 - Basic Bracelets

Once the simple link was working, I tried some more decorative links to make it more engaging for kids. The goal here was to provide a template on top of which kids could model their own "jewels" and bracelet designs.

Personalized Name Bracelets became easy(ish)

4 - Decorative Designs

I got more fancy at this stage and tried larger and more personalized designs. You can see where this led - making a name bracelet for my daughter. This stage will lead to many prints, I can tell... I already have a list of must-do projects for other kids.

5 - Product Logo Bracelets

It's beginning to feel that all my projects end here - with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides logos being re-purposed. Actually, I was simply trying to prove here, that my new link connector could be re-used with almost any other object. This worked pretty well.

Next Steps

Soon, I'll post a few things to follow this up...

  • The actual letter link 3D Models - so people can print their own name bracelets.
  • A description of my experience creating the connector parts themselves - this was the main challenge of this project.
  • The current design and 3D Model of the connector parts stand-alone (this will help you create your own custom links). I'd love to see people sharing their own custom links to inspire kids to get creative!

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