Fractal Vise Holds Odd-Shaped Objects Tight

A regular vice is great if you want to clamp rectangular objects, but it can fall down a little with more complex shapes. Inspired by an ancient vise [Chris Borge] whipped up his own 3D-printed fractal clamping tool.

The inspiration for this one comes from the [Hand Tool Rescue] video that shows of the clever mechanism. The vice uses a series of interlocking parts that can freely articulate to grip the object of interest via several protruding fingers. In reproducing the design, [Chris] had some issues initially with the joints, but settling on a dovetail similar to that of the original metal vice which got things working nicely.

[Chris] notes that while the design works, it could still use some refinement. Silicone or rubber tips on the fingers could give the vice better grip, and there remain some flexural issues that could be improved. Overall, however, it’s a useful table vice for small jobs on weird shaped things. We’ve seen 3D-printed vices before, particularly in the PCB vice space, but the grip scheme user here is totally unique.

29 thoughts on “Fractal Vise Holds Odd-Shaped Objects Tight

        1. That “infringement info page” makes me so angry, you can tell this is a super scummy company. Plus I’m not sure how you would justify a patent if you are suing people based on your pending patent when your own product exists only as pictures on a website and you haven’t sold it to anyone. They are taking pre-orders with a 75-150 dollar “down payment” and they say they’ll tell you the full price when its ready, which will not be soon.

          1. They have been up for years now with no progress. There is a video on line for an antique one that was refurbished. That is where I first saw it. It is something It would be perfect for the work I’ve been doing with rocks. I like to keep the natural shape when it adds to the character of the rock I am trying to polish to turn into jewelry

        2. I would pay a decent bit of money for such a tool, if it were as accurate as the photos seem.
          Patent pending is a joke anymore, and the only thing to change to consumers is the stamp on it. Combined with the “this is a prototype” warning… I mean good for them, but I don’t think anyone is stealing it anyway.

          “This is only a down payment on your order for the jaws. It is not the final price. This is a new product and production has not begun.”

        3. After visiting the website of the “new improved” design – which in my opinion it is not, I don’t quite see how the company/individual making this can take out a patent on it!!

          If I was to find one (the OLD design), I would definitely buy it. Plastic don’t quite cut it for me.

          1. I guess the claim is itentionally made to dissuade anybody to make these vice. But if you carefully read it he doesen’t say he repatented the fractal vice, he say only that fractal jaws in a palm engraving head might infringe the patent. Of course a full sized multi purpose fractal vice can’t be patented (as it already was patented and patent was expired) or he has to make it significantly technologicslly different from original one.

      1. Freaking awesome design! You can tell he knows his 3DP shizz.

        But kudos all around. The time from “hey, here’s this cool ancient tool” to multiple refinements on 3DP designs is mind-blowing. Go go global design hive-mind! :)

  1. I really like the way this happened. One person discovered cool ancient vise and shared it on the internet. Suddenly we can and do have new designs based on it adapted for modern tooling, taking the idea further.

    1. The next step in the evolutionary chain is bringing metal casting to the same prominence as 3d printing, and then people can lost pla or cast these in metal, then we just add a little machining….

      I really see no reason we can’t all become our own tool factories like this.

      I know the machining and casting, I just need to buy a resin printer…then I’ll be able to make anything quickly and permanently

      1. Machining and casting looks about 10x harder. I wonder what it would take to make it as easy as printing? Can we somehow get rid of the manual pouring step so it can all be done on a desktop?

  2. That’s a great design! Thanks, Chris, for creating and sharing an implementation of it. Now I just need to get hotend parts printed for the Prusa and get one printed.

    And if you’re looking for a way to add some surface grip to the vice jaws I did a video on it

    TL:DW for that is: spray it with truck bed-liner or apply the thicker tool handle plasti-dip. Works great for a grippy surface (albeit high wear depending on what you use). You can always re-apply, though.

  3. I saw that “Hand Tool Rescue” video a handful of day’s ago.
    It now says: 9,082,770 views 2021-06-24.
    That’s a lot of views for just over two weeks.

    I had not seen this printed one though, and I like it too.
    Looks like it’s designed for 16 contact points per jaw (Just as the original) but the last stage did not work out well..
    Also doing the research, putting it in CAD and printing the first prototype and making the video in less than a week (Video posted on 2021-06-30) is quite quick.

    I would prefer the have the jaws a bit higher, but that’s just a personal preference.
    Some Idea’s for the next iteration:
    Add another handwheel, so you have a “fast” and a “strong” setting.
    With this design the all-thread is used in compression, and the plastic in tension.
    This is bad for two reasons.
    1. 3D printed plastic is stronger in compression then in tension.
    2. The clamping force creates bending forces in the base (not good for relatively thin plastic).

    Both of these can be reduced significantly by using the all-threads in tension.
    1. Extend the to the fixed jaw.
    2. Put a nut on it, then hammer the end out a bit so the nut cant fall off.
    3. Put the all-thread as high as possible in the base (There is more tension there)
    4. Maybe even add a small thrust bearing, the small ones are quite cheap.

    With these modifications, all plastic below the hart-line of the all-thread is used in compression, so higher all-thread is more plastic in compression, which makes it a lot stronger.

    Some kind of hexagon (inner or outer) on the mechanism, so it can be driven quickly with a cordless drill is also a nice addition.

    Yet another idea:
    If you add smooth steel rods for the linear guides, you can save on both plastic and printing time, which recoups some of the monetary units for the steel rods.
    The first 5+ years of 3D printing most video’s were of very simple things, and has been improving with projects such as this. Next improvement is to make more use of combination with simple off-the-shelf parts with custom 3D printed parts.
    One of the first 3D printers (RepRap) was an excellent example of this technique.

    1. These are rocker discs :)
      The problem with levers is their thickness, or better thinness.They’re quite flexible and will bend under the strain of the machine vise in the original design. With 3D printed plastic, the strength is also an important factor.
      These disks are quite thick in the center, which gives them a lot of rigidity.

      Another (modern) variant is with a row of pistons and hydraulic fluid that connects a row of pistons together.

  4. Next iteration:
    1) holes to screw the whole thing down to the bench- as it is you have to hold the vise with your hand, really not much of an improvement over just holding the object with your hand
    2) multiple layers of jaws so it can hold more than just flat objects.

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