Introduction: 3D Printed Modular Ball-and-Socket Joints
During my stay as an Artist in Residence at Instructables I was able to witness firsthand how awesome 3D printing can be. I was surprised how exciting it was, because I had never used any 3D design programs or seen a 3D printer in action. There's a certain thrill about pulling your creation out of the printer for cleaning and seeing it exactly as you had designed it on the computer. One thing I found especially exciting about 3D printing is the ability to print movable parts and joints without any assembly required after they are printed.
Therefore, it was a goal of mine to 3D print something before I left the Pier. I didn't end up doing this project until my last day because I was occupied with my main project, but that didn't make it any less exciting.
This Instructable will show how I 3D printed a modular series of ball and socket joints. It has no practical use in its present form, but it is fun to play with! The concept itself could be applied to a range of awesome projects in the future.
Link to the *.123dx model: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qwp8jvsp9kni7sr/ball%20and%20socket.123dx
Link to the *.stl model: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8i03tu7jw7yay8z/ball%20and%20socket.stl
Step 1: Video!
Step 2: Design
I created my model of the ball-and-socket system in 123D Design. I originally played around with Tinkercad, which I'm actually more fond of, but 123D Design offers a lot more functionality (if only it would stop crashing on my computer).
The model is composed of all simple shapes. I began with a sphere.
A toroid was generated to have roughly the same inner diameter as the sphere's outside diameter. I left a little bit of space so that the parts could move freely.
Two smaller toroids were generated, and their diameters tweaked so that they could "cup" around the two sides of the sphere (Pic 5-7). These were set into position with a small gap in between them and the sphere.
It was at this point in the process that I realized be allowing the largest toroid to be a complete circle, I was limiting the motion of the joint without adding any meaningful stability to it. I made a large box to "cut" part of the largest toroid, and then combined the three toroids together as one solid(Pic 8-10).
The toroid structure was rotated sideways, and a cylinder was generated and placed on the face of the largest toroid. The end of the cylinder was "Chamfer"-ed to make the joint a little more smooth-looking, and combined with the toroid structure (Pic 11).
At this point an identical sphere was generated and combined with the cylinder-toroid structure. This is our completed piece, and the original sphere can be deleted.
The piece can now be copied and pasted. Each piece should be aligned with the sphere inside the toroid structure. When it is printed, the parts will be able to move freely but not be separated.
Step 3: Printing!
The file should be exported as an .stl. This will be used in the Objet suite to actually print the part. I've attached the .stl I made in this step.
Mine was printed in the "VeraWhite" material, since it was the easiest at the time to get my hands on, and this part has no functional purpose that would demand something different.
I wish I had taken some pictures of the part being cleaned, but it was nothing too strenuous or complicated, and my hands were busy.
If you're wondering about using an Objet 3D printer, or the cleaning process, the best place to look is M.C. Langer's Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Beginners-Guide-to-3D-Printing-with-the-Objet-Con/
Step 4: Conclusion
I realize this is a quick Instructable, but we should still have a conclusion!
Now you have your very own 3D Printed Ball and Socket Joint(s) to play around with! The design and concepts could be used for something useful. Something I had in mind was a pose-able helping-hands sort of thing, but the posibilites are endless!
You should leave me a comment! I like those! They help keep me motivated to publish articles instead of letting the pictures I took rot on my hard drive! : )