I am Jack's first Instructable about making a 3D printed flash drive. This project was inspired by ... well you know, but we aren't supposed to talk about it. I know, I know, flash drives are kind of going out of style and most people share/store things on the cloud. But because I stumbled upon Instructables through this one here (who remembers this oldie) and since this is also my first posted Instructable it seemed to come full circle. I put Byte Club on the flash drive in a Fight Club style font as a clever nerdy play on words. Being clever...where has that ever gotten me. Hope you enjoy!
Step 1: What You'll Need
- USB Flash Drive
- One you don't mind cutting open
- Preferable new (I'll explain later)
- Miscellaneous tools to open your flash drive case
- I used epoxy which is probably your best bet
- 3D Modeling Software
- or just use my provided files
- Access to a 3D Printer or a 3D printing service
- or buy the print on Shapeways
- Fine grit sandpaper (not absolutely necessary)
Listen up maggots! This is what you'll need:
Step 2: Opening Up Your Flash Drive
I put this step first because the usb stick that you choose could affect your 3D model. Newer flash drives don't have a big exposed board like older ones and all the insides are enclosed in the standard usb port width which makes modeling easy. The model I made has an inner dimension of approximately 1/2" x 3/8" (~12mm x 4mm) which fits a male usb end perfectly.
Once you find a suitable flash drive (I guess you won't know till you open it), crack it open! Use some pliers, a multi-tool, smash it with a hammer, take a blow torch to it, hack on it with a machete. It doesn't matter how you do it as long as you get it open without damaging the electronics or yourself. Remember you're trying to open up the casing not one of your fingers.
Step 3: 3D Modeling
Drawing in 2D, extruding, cutting, modifying, there's not really a way to just explain 3D modeling. It's a skill you can only learn by jumping in a program and getting your feet wet. Join the Instructables class, download free programs, look for other Instructables, get student copies of paid programs, practice with tutorials, and of course you can learn anything on YouTube. Those are just some of the ways to get started if you want to model your own or make a custom version. If you want my version and want to be *part of the club* I've included my files in the next step.
As far as my process went, I used Autodesk Inventor which I have a student version of. From there I simply (or at times not so simply) referenced a lot of photos, artwork, and online fonts from the movie Fight Club and drew some 2D letters. After extruding my text I created a simple shell to enclose a standard flash drive. The overall approximate dimensions of the printing envelope along with volume and surface area are shown in one of the images in this step.
Step 4: 3D Printing
Next print your file! I included my .stl file which you can print yourself if you have a 3D printer. For those of us who don't, you can find a lot of 3D printing services online, locally or possibly at your school/university. All of the 3D printing I have been involved with in various projects was sent off and printed by someone other than me so I'm not too knowledgeable in this area. One thing I know for sure is always check dimensions and that your .stl or other printing file is in the correct units (I've messed that up before).
For this project I got mine printed at Shapeways where you can also buy my print from this link. Shapeways has a variety of options of materials and colors. I had two printed, one in their "Strong & Flexible Plastic" (which is the hot pink one in most of the pictures) and another in black "High Definition Acrylate."
Step 5: Clean It Up and Glue It in Place.
Now that you have your print made you may need to clean it up a bit. The black version (High Definition Acrylate) that I received required a bit of sanding (220 grit) but it all depends on the material that you printed it in. I didn't sand the pink version (Strong & Flexible Plastic) as it was pretty smooth already and was also more porous than the acrylate. But overall Shapeways cleans them up quite nicely beforehand.
Before you glue in your usb drive make sure you aren't going to put it in too deep or the contacts won't connect to your computer. I suggest plugging your usb in first without the 3D printed case and marking with a pencil where it sticks out of your device. Then you know you can only insert it in the 3D printed cavity that far.
Then apply some glue. I used epoxy but I guess anything that will bond to metal and plastics could work. You don't need very much, just a dab, as the usb should fit snugly already in the 3D printed case. Make sure to not get any epoxy on the electrical contacts either or it could render your flash drive useless.
Step 6: You Did It! Welcome to the Club!
Let your bonding agent dry and then you are ready to go! Plug it in and put it to use!
Welcome to Byte Club!
I hope you enjoyed this simple little Instructable. If you liked it please vote and share with others. There is nothing like making something with your own two hands.