One-Piece Tank Chassis Pushes Print-in-Place To New Heights

What’s better than 3D printing a tank chassis with working tracks? How about 3D printing the entire thing, moving parts and all, as a single piece? That’s [3D Honza]’s PiPBOT-1, and it’s the culmination of a whole lot of design work.

The design prints flat, then folds up into its final form.

[3D Honza] has been sharing progress pictures and videos on his Twitter account, and just recently released the first version of his design. Version 1.0 is just the mechanics, but he’s already at work on version 2.0 which includes the ability to attach servos to drive the treads. At this writing, the design is currently downloadable directly from his site and includes CAD files, which is great to see.

One part of the design we’d like to draw your attention to is the chunky hinge that doubles as a kind of axial structure making up the body. This allows the tank to print in an unfolded state with the treads and wheels flat on the print bed. After printing, the tank gets folded up a bit like a taco to attain its final form. It’s a clever layout that allows the unit to be printed according to a filament-based 3D printer’s strengths, printing as a single piece that transforms into a small tank chassis, complete with working treads, in a few seconds.

When it comes to vehicles and bots, whether to choose wheels or tracks is a serious question our own Lewin Day has explained thoroughly. And for those of you who choose tracks, this design is great for small devices but don’t forget it’s always possible to go bigger when it comes to 3D-printed tanks.

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Hand reaching for a 3d-printed hinge

One-piece Geared Hinge Can Take The Weight

3D printers have come a long way from cranking out things like bottle openers and coat pegs, and [E. Soderberg]’s Print in Place Geared Hinge is a pretty nifty demonstration of that. This hinge is designed as a print-in-place part, meaning it is 3D printed as a single piece, requiring no assembly. Not only that, but the herringbone gears constrain the sturdy device in a way that helps it support heavy loads.

Of course, hinges — even strong ones — are not particularly hard to find items. They’re available in a mind-boggling array of shapes and sizes. But what’s interesting about this design is that it shows what’s easily within the reach of just about any hobbyist nowadays. Not that long ago, designing and creating an object like this would not have been accessible to most home enthusiasts. Making it without a modern 3D printer would certainly have been a challenge in its own right.

It doesn’t always matter that a comparable (or superior) off-the-shelf part is available; an adequate part that can be created in one’s own workshop has a value all its own. Plus, it’s fun to design and make things, sometimes for their own sake. After all, things like 3D-printed custom switch assemblies would not exist if everyone were satisfied with the ability to just order some Cherry MX switches and call it a day.

Never Lose A Piece With 3D Printed Sliding Puzzles

Have you ever been about to finish a puzzle, when suddenly you realize there are more holes left than you have pieces? With [Nikolaos’s] 3D printed sliding puzzles, this will be a problem of the past!

An image showing the sliding dovetails of the puzzle
The dovetails, integrated into each piece, keep the puzzle together but still allows pieces to move.

The secret of the puzzle is in the tongue and groove system that captures the pieces while allowing them to slide past each other and along the puzzle’s bezel. The tongues are along the top and right sides of the pieces shown here, with the grooves along the left and bottom. There is only one empty spot on the board, so the player must be methodical in how they move pieces to their final destinations. See this in action in the video after the break.

[Nikolaos] designed the puzzle in Fusion 360, and used this as an opportunity to practice with parameters. He designed the model in such a way that any size puzzle could be generated by changing just 2 variables. Once the puzzle is the proper size, the image is added by importing and extruding an SVG.

Another cool aspect of these puzzles is that they are print-in-place, meaning that when the part is removed from the 3D printer, it is ready to use and fully assembled. No need to remove support material or bolt and glue together multiple components. Print-in-place is useful for more than just puzzles, you could also use this technique to 3D print wire connectors!

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Print-in-Place Connectors Aim To Make Wiring Easier

One thing some of us here in the United States have always been jealous of is the WAGO connectors that seem so common in electrical wiring everywhere else in the world. We often wonder why the electrical trades here haven’t adopted them more widely — after all, they’re faster to use than traditional wire nuts, and time is money on the job site.

Wago 221 compact lever connector via the Wago YouTube channel

This print-in-place electrical connector is inspired by the WAGO connectors, specifically their Lever Nut series. We’ll be clear right up front that [Tomáš “Harvie” Mudruňka’s] connector is more of an homage to the commercially available units, and should not be used for critical applications. Plus, as a 3D-printed part, it would be hard to compete with something optimized to be manufactured in the millions. But the idea is pretty slick. The print-in-place part has a vaguely heart-shaped cage with a lever arm trapped inside it.

After printing and freeing the lever arm, a small piece of 1.3-mm (16 AWG) solid copper wire is inserted into a groove. The wire acts as a busbar against which the lever arm squeezes conductors. The lever cams into a groove on the opposite wall of the cage, making a strong physical and electrical connection. The video below shows the connectors being built and tested.

We love the combination of print-in-place, compliant mechanisms, and composite construction on display here. It reminds us a bit of these printable SMD tape tamers, or this print-in-place engine benchmark.

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3D Printed Box Gets Bigger

If you ever watched Dr. Who, you probably know that the TARDIS looked like a police call box on the outside, but was very large on the inside. When asked, the Doctor had some explanation of how something can look small when it is far away and large when it is close up, which never made much sense. However, [iQLess] has been 3D printing boxes in a small area, that fold out to be much larger boxes. (Video, embedded below.) The design comes from someone called [Cisco] who has a lot of interesting print in place designs.

You can find the design on the Prusa site or Thingiverse. The boxes do take a while to print, according to the video below. What was interesting to us, though, is that you should be able to print a design like this to create a box larger than your printer.

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Print-in-Place Engine Aims To Be The Next Benchy

While there are many in the 3D-printing community who loudly and proudly proclaim never to have stooped to printing a 3DBenchy, there are far more who have turned a new printer loose on the venerable test model, just to see what it can do. But Benchy is getting a little long in the tooth, and with 3D-printers getting better and better, perhaps a better benchmarking model is in order.

Knocking Benchy off its perch is the idea behind this print-in-place engine benchmark, at least according to [SunShine]. And we have to say that he’s come up with an impressive model. It’s a cutaway of a three-cylinder reciprocating engine, complete with crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and engine block. It’s designed to print all in one go, with only a little cleanup needed after printing before the model is ready to go. The print-in-place aspect seems to be the main test of a printer — if you can get this engine to actually spin, you’re probably set up pretty well. [SunShine] shares a few tips to get your printer dialed in, and shows a few examples of what can happen when things go wrong. In addition to the complexities of the print-in-place mechanism, the model has a few Easter eggs to really challenge your printer, like the tiny oil channel running the length of the crankshaft.

Whether this model supplants Benchy is up for debate, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still a cool design that would be fun to play with. Either way, as [SunShine] points out, you’ll need a really flat bed to print this one; luckily, he recently came up with a compliant mechanism dial indicator to help with that job.

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Folding Raspberry Pi Enclosure Prints In One Piece, No Screws In Sight

[jcprintnplay] has challenged himself to making Raspberry Pi cases in different ways, and his Fold-a-Pi enclosure tries for a “less is more” approach while also leveraging the strong points of 3D printing. The enclosure prints as a single piece in about 3 hours, and requires no additional hardware whatsoever.

The design requires no screws or other fasteners, and provides a mounting hole for a fan as well as some holes for mounting the enclosure itself to something. All the ports and headers are accessible, and the folding one-piece design is not just a gimmick; in a workshop situation where the Pi needs to be switched out or handled a lot, it takes no time at all to pop the Raspberry Pi in and out of the enclosure.

Microsoft’s 3D Builder has a pretty useful measurement tool for STLs.

[James] points out that the trick with a print-in-place hinge like this is leaving enough space between the parts so that the two pieces aren’t fused together, but not so much space that the print fails. He doesn’t go into detail about how much space worked or didn’t work, but an examination of the downloadable model shows that the clearance used looks like 0.30 mm, intended to be printed with a 0.4 mm nozzle.

[James] also demonstrates the value of being able to do quick iterations on a design when prototyping. In a video (embedded below) The first prototype had the hinge not quite right. In the second prototype there was a lack of clearance when closing. The third one solved both and shows the final design.

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