Welcome To Ziptie City

Gravity, magnetism, the weak and strong nuclear forces; sure they hold a lot of stuff together. But the other binding force of nature that demands your utmost respect? Zip ties.

Or at least that’s [Alan Reiner]’s take on the combination of cable ties and 3D printing. (Video, embedded below.) So he’s designed a demo model, Zip Tie City, that goes through a number of the possibilities that designing in zip-tie channels offer.

He then designs a multi-output battery box with a ton of zip tie holds that keep wiring in check and hold modules and batteries where they belong.  (And releases some magic smoke, but even zip ties can’t keep that stuff inside.)

We love zip ties for those situations where screws are overkill or a simple solution is sufficient. Designing channels for zip ties is a pure win, and makes use of the unique advantage of 3D printing; these would be horrible to try to subtractively machine into a part.

Zip ties aren’t the only game in town, though. If you need a glue, our own [Tom Nardi] went through his local hardware store and tested out the options in this must-read classic piece.

Thanks for the tip to [Keith Olson], who wants you to check out Zip Tie Guy (video) while you’re in the mood.

36 thoughts on “Welcome To Ziptie City

  1. Nice enough, but that happens to zip ties that get cut off near the locking “cube” (I am sure someone will be along with the technical term….)

    I see all manner of these discarded. What a waste (literally)

    When I get stuff packed with zip ties I use a jeweler’s screwdriver to release the ratchet thing and give it another life.

    Maybe some environmental organisation should mandate that all zip ties are human-releasable?

    And another one should mandate the hackaday edit button???

    1. Use the appropriate fastener for the job.

      I prefer to use twisty ties for temporary installations or things I am likely to want to modify often. I’ve never done it but I suppose a twisty tie could be inserted into a zip tie channel easy enough.

      Zip ties are still great for the longer term stuff.

    2. Small zip ties aren’t really practical to make easy to release, and, given the design intent, there isn’t much need. They are intended for long term installation.

      There are options that are easy-to-release, but they cost more and are less easy to use.

      I agree that the use for things like packaging is often wasteful, but, in the grand scheme, may be better than a lot of other options. two small zips on a cardboard backer is probably better than a full clamshell, given that neither zips or clamshell is really recyclable, and the cardboard backer likely is, and a flat back plus zips is likely less wasteful than a full box, for example. It is a balancing act, and there are packaging specialists that deal with the relationships between all of the factors.

      I use large releasable zip ties all of the time, and I love my stainless zip ties, worm clamps, and strapping when appropriate. But the small one time use are often the most practical, especially for a longer term install.

      My personal thought on this particular build technique, though, are that there are use cases, and for wire and module retention, it may save material overall, if well planned.

      (I go through maybe 5000 ties/year, maybe 75% in the 100mm length, doing things like wiring harnesses, module retention, and the like. It isn’t really that much material. Five bags of 1000 fit in the side pocket of my briefcase. The 500 and 1000mm, on the other hand, are a bit more awkward to carry around, and still surprisingly inexpensive)

      1. Excuse me but I (and the world I suspect) will be the judge of whether a mandated extra 2mm on the locking ‘tang’ is a “good thing”.
        I expect that the dolphins will say “DO IT”!!!! (Ekk eek click ckick eeek!)

        BTW this is hackaday, so it means, more free zip ties for us! Win-win!

        1. I think you’re missing a couple of things.

          First, zips are meant to be a semi-permanent and permanent solution. There is no circumstance ever where they’re meant to be reusable. If you want reusability, use a tie that provides such use, like a twist tie or removable strap, such as a velcro tie, ratchet strap, hose clamps, etc.

          Second, the fact that you need a tool to release the pawl that locks the zip points to affirming the first argument and shoots down any argument of having an ‘easily releasable’ zip. Have some logical thinking, having an easily releasable zip just will not work under any circumstance, and that’s because zips are meant to be a semi-permanent and permanent solution for tying something. If you introduce any way to make them easily releasable, you inherently risk how permanent the solution is, because if you can release it with human fingers, you sure as hell will risk releasing the zip under any situation that could actuate the releasing mechanism, this means risk in transit, this means potential releasing of tied items when you would otherwise need to cut to release. It’s not a good situation either way. Imagine not torqueing a nut and having it rattle out of place, similar situation.

          Third, you can’t really add to a zip, they’re meant to be small and flexible. Add onto the non-tie end of the tang, and you’ll have a loose end that may snag on other items, or otherwise interfere with surrounding objects. Add onto the tie end of the tang and you risk flexibility. Either way, it’s still not a good situation, for the reasons described in the second argument.

          Fourth, even if you do implement this in any way, you’ll still have waste material from the cut end of the tie. This makes everything else irrelevant, you don’t want waste via a reusable zip, this wouldn’t prevent cut ends. Implementing a way to save what would otherwise be snipped wouldn’t work, due to the previous argument, having the end interfere with other things. Even if you find a way to coil the zip, you’d be adding extra material and bulk, often times this wouldn’t be a valid solution as there wouldn’t be a way to coil the zip without the use of a tool, assuming the holes you’re putting the zip through would even allow the extra material to coil; plus for coiling to work. You’d also need multiple pawls to hold the extra tail of the zip, and due to the range of sizes of items that get tied down with zips you’d inevitably be wasting these extra pawl boxes, of which would more than likely get cut off, not to mention their existence themselves would be a wasteful use of plastic. The system just doesn’t make sense no matter how you look at it. Then you get into cost arguments that come from more complex designs and extra material.

          In no realistic world would this ever work. Especially when there’s already reusable alternatives. As Twisty Plastic said, use the appropriate fastener for the job. Stop pushing for a solution to a non-issue. If you actually care about the environment, maybe push for degradable ties; though this would also bring up other issues due to the diversified use of zips, water-degradability wouldn’t work for a handful of cases, UV-degradability wouldn’t work for a different handful of uses, etc. Zips are just a necessary evil in nearly every legitimate use case. Just because you might use and reuse them in a specific manner doesn’t mean the rest of the world reflects that, and in this case the world of use cases are seemingly a polar opposite from your own use case; and maybe that’s because you’re not using the appropriate fastener for the job. I’m sure everyone here wants to be just as environmentally friendly as you, but you also have to recognize that there’s not always a solution, zip ties are one of those instances, at least there’s materials that can be melted and reused elsewhere, but that’s the extent of their ecofriendliness.

          Zips would be such a stupid hill to die on due to the simple facts along with a bit of logical thinking. Logical thinking that you clearly haven’t done, and facts that you seemingly don’t get, whether that ignorance is willful or not. You really need to think before you comment nonsense; a common issue among the internet, intelligence is taken for granted and is drowned out by bad, biased, and baseless opinions. Your thoughts and opinions only lead to a very, very narrow use case of which zips are being improperly used as intended, again choose the appropriate fastener for the job.

          1. “There is no circumstance ever where they’re meant to be reusable.” or “an easily releasable zip just will not work under any circumstance”? How about these? (re-usable zip ties from Amazon). The fact that you’re wrong about re-usable or releasable zip ties not existing is fine, but the fact that you’re insulting others who think they might exist is ridiculous. Re-read your comment. Not only were you wrong, you’re wearing your ass for a hat.

    3. Always cut off the zip tie flush with the locking mechanism!
      Otherwise people will cut themselves on the end poking out, if you have not done this yourself yet you will eventually and then you will understand.

    4. They make them and I like to use them, particularly on things that I have to occasionally pull apart for troubleshooting or adding/removing wires. Got some that have been in use for decades. Only drawback is that it’s not practical to clip off the freen end.

    1. @ Mike: There is a zip tie tool that will tension and cut your zip tie for you with the pull of a trigger. The beauty of the thing is it flush cuts the end of the tie so no more cut up hands, arms, etc.

  2. I recently learned that stainless steel zip ties are a thing (and I now own some, but have yet to use one). They use a captive ball bearing as the retention mechanism.

    1. “A cable tie (also known as a hose tie, zip tie, or tie wrap) is a type of fastener for holding items together, primarily electrical cables and wires.”

      Or is zip tie a brand name like Velcro/Kleenex?

    2. We always call them zip ties as they used them in airlines to tie the zippers to each other on luggage
      Avoids spillage and ensures a checked bag hasn’t been opened after inspection.

  3. What about a recess on one side of the tunnel for the zip tie termination to set flush in. Then push the tie into the now flush surface and the end goes to mysterious infill land. Off to solidworks I guess.

  4. If ya put a bunch of zip ties together in a circle where one zips into the next one, you complete a full circle which can then be locked onto a bolt using washers and nuts, then jam the bolt into yoie favorite power drill and you have a very effective cleaning device that can remove everything from dirt to paint chips.

  5. my bro uses zip ties to great extent in his work as a con circuit traveling sword vendor. he uses zip ties for installing the gridwall booths and securing the display pieces. his pro tip is dollar store pet nail trimmers which i can vouch for. Theyre dirt cheap, flush cutting, and spring loaded to reduce fatigue.

  6. The Prusa MK2 already used zip tie channels for the beaings on the extruder carriage. possibly on some other places.
    So, not new, but a nice spotlight on this usefull technique.

  7. One must be cautious of the energy released when objects bound with zip ties undergo spontaneous fission. It may start a chain reaction and could result in a crapalanche. Wear your safety squints. And if applicable, groin armor.

    1. That is how you ziptie something to a pegboard: first ziptie is used conventionally to wrap around the cable or whatever, with its tail going through the pegboard hole, secured by another ratchet part on the other side.

      Also works to secure things on the back edge of shelves: the tail goes in the gap between the wall and the shelf.

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