3D Printed… Measuring Tape?

3d printed measuring tape

Here’s a new one to push the envelope… How about a 3D printed measuring tape?

This unique 3D printed tool was designed and printed in a single job.  [Angry Monk] has been challenging himself lately with these intricate designs, having recently finished a completely 3D printed set of dial calipers, which is impressive in its own right.

Looking for his latest challenge he pondered what it would take to make this 3D printed tape measure. As he continued to think about it he realized how complex it would actually be to pull off. After designing and printing a few of the basic parts to help him solidify his ideas, he set to work. This tape measure has 114 individual parts. It includes 52″ of tape links with 1″ divisions and markings down to the 1/8th of an inch. It even features a hand crank (sorry no spring return) to roll up the tape.

Now as you can imagine, a complex assembly like this is a bit out of the realm of possibility for regular hobby 3D printers — a UV resin printer might be able to do it, but [Angry Monk] used a commercial Objet Eden 3D printer. Still though — it’s an impressive display of design, check out the following video and see for yourself.

[Thanks for the tip, Tony!]

41 thoughts on “3D Printed… Measuring Tape?

          1. 10’s like, really, really easy to multiply. And things like mass / length / volume all being easily converted makes it a dream to work with. Tell me that 16 ounces making a pound, 14 pounds making a stone, and god-knows how many stones are a cwt, is better than 1000g in a KG? And a cube 10x10x10cm has a volume of a litre. Which would weigh a kilo if you filled it with water.

            A cube a metre square, would hold a tonne of water. It’s great!

            I’ve no idea how many flOz you get in an inch cubed, but I bet it’s not 10, or 100 or 1,000.

        1. You really don’t make anything do you? Because if you did then you’d realize that things made using miles don’t deal with inches very often. The same is true for all other units of measurement in the Imperial system. Although sometimes feet, and inches end up mixing. I switch between decimal and fractional inches a lot too. What you consider a liability I look at as a handy feature though.

    1. Well. . . since it’s printed in the US and all lumber at every lumber company still uses the imperial system, I’d say it’s entirely logical to use inches. I have at least eight different drafting rulers with varying scales of imperial and metric scales. In design or engineering, being flexible with one’s units is a big plus. It’s just a matter of conversion.

      1. I work in fire protection, and since America is by far the leader when it comes to fire sprinklers and the rules for installing them, everything is based off Feet and Inches, however we convert everything to metric for use. I still prefer 76mm over 3 inches.

    2. Okay, I need to comment here. As a former Metrologist (measurement scientist) I can tell you that “inches” are, unfortunately never going away. There are far too many standards based on them and that the unit of measure doesn’t really degrade accuracy. and yes, it’s even possisble to use an inch-scale rule to calibrate a millimeter-scale one.

  1. Problem is this was printed on the ungodly expensive, 99% can never afford systems that bury the part in a powder to maintain spacing. you can not print this on a makerbot.

    Building something assembled is not hard on those systems, and I do question his claim that it was printed 100% assembled. even that removable wind up handle? that was printed in place? If so then the tolerances of those printers has went way up to allow you to print press-fit pieces already press fit together.

  2. You’ve got to wonder about the accumulated tolerance of all those little linked inches, particularly with the freedom they need to slide about. Kinda useless, especially compared to the many cheap and useful tape measures they have in shops.

    His micrometer callipers are pretty good though, printed already assembled, and pretty accurate, compared to a metal, manufactured, one he compares it with.

    Next time, print a ruler.

    1. It’s Imperial. A unit of measurement derived from the length of a body part has little need of tolerances.

      It does amuse me that American Imperial units are defined in metric.

  3. Why is it, that on every post about someone stretching the limits of what can be done with 3D printing, people have to go on about how useless it is?! Time will see that kind of narrow-mindedness lumped with those that thought computers were a curiosity, the internet was a fad, no one would want home automation, etc. Go look up prototypes and trials of your favorite devices. Look at how far those devices have come. All of that innovation from useless or impractical junk to absolute ‘necessities’ came from people pushing like this. The narrow-minded look is how this is sort of stuff is useless and the technology out of reach. The optimists will see the possibilities, room for improvement and a need to make it accessible.

    1. If 3d printing is so great, why doesn’t anyone ever do something new with it, instead of printing crappy replicas of stuff that can be injection molded for pennies?

      1. Because injection molds cost thousands of dollars and only make sense if you’re doing a very large production run. If you’re looking to make a few parts or doing prototyping where you can’t remake molds every time, 3D printing wins out. Plus, you can’t do injection molding of parts already assembled as he did here.

      2. I think you missed the entire point to the post. I agreed completely that the tape measure was useless. Do you really think that the guy behind it uses it in place of his other tape measure there? I doubt it. I fully understand that there are much more practical ways to create the product – not mentioning that their price is due to bulk deals, not material, since so much of a retail version is metal. All of that aside, technologies like injection molding started out just like this; as a good idea used only for simple junk. It wasn’t till, what, the 40s or 50s till people saw what could be done with it and made real improvements.

        Do people really think that it is impossible for there to ever be another way? You know, like a method that will someday, I don’t know, shape plastic into quality parts without the need to waste time and resources on molds? If only people would get to work seeing what can be done with that, right?

        1. Nah. 3D printing is fad that will die soon, just like cars, computers, the internet, mobile computing, and electricity.

          Excuse me, I have to go stoke the steam boiler powering my computer fans…

        2. I don’t think it’ll ever take over moulding for plastic, since moulding can produce millions of things for next to no money. Maybe in the future people will WANT a rubber duck with their own face on it, but there’s still limited use in mass full-custom manufacturing. 3D printing certainly is useful, and there’s still lots to explore. But it’s not gonna take over manufacturing. As well as it’s unique abilities, it has many drawbacks.

          1. It’s for spare parts.

            You no longer have to keep inventory, you tell the customer “come back tomorrow” while you hit the ‘print’ button.

            Well, it’d be more like the Shopbot 100kGarages thing; you order the part from the manufacturer, they relay that to the local “authorised repair center” who prints and sends it to you.

            The manufacturers would be happy with this. At present Australian car makers (& sellers?) are required provide spares for 20 (?) years, which is a bit of a pain with the whole inventory and warehousing stuff.

            US & British armed forces already do this, eg http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-25613828.

    2. Is this stretching the limits? I think my point about the tolerance as the links slide about, making it not much use, is relevant. There’s already complete moving mechanisms been made on commercial 3D printers. This particular one is faulty from the beginning tho I think. Being able to print flexible tape would be amazing. But this isn’t just useless in practice, but also in principle, a chain-link tape measure is no good.

      I suppose it’s a nice gadget, the way it’s all put together, but fails at being a tape measure.

      1. You’re right. I agree with much of what you’re saying about this article. My stance was about those putting down 3D printing because it hasn’t had a hundred years or so to mature. Not the fact that it’s a poor-quality tape measure.
        Think of it, 30 years from now with more speed/quality, what’s to stop people from having one machine making different parts without molds. With 3D printers with many extruders. No need to make molds. Little to no need for assembly. Part updates that only involve switching models between prints (no changing parts on the machine). Ordering custom parts means only feeding a custom model to one or more extruders. Being able to customize or repair your products at home with your own printer. Current 3D printing is an infant in manufacturing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t grow to hold it’s own. When ready, what sane manufacturer do you know of that wouldn’t want to cut out entire sections of their process if it could save them money in the long run?

      2. Sigh, yes, it is useless as a tape measure. Do you think the guy is too stupid to realize that ? If your comment is serious, then you’re the stupid one. The fact that this is POSSIBLE is mind-blowing.

        1. what is so damn mind blowing?

          again, if it’s so great, and makes such amazing things possible, why not print of of those, a NEW CREATIVE IDEA, instead of yet another shitty version of an everyday item.

  4. I bet you could print the tape as one long spiral out of flexible PLA on an FDM machine. Complete with CM/MM markers and legible numbers. With a flat enough bed and decent adhesion you’d get a pretty straight edge too.

    The hub/winder/case is probably four parts (that all fit on one plate).

    Printing rulers could actually be a good way to test the calibration of your machine.

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