Introduction: 3D Printed Rotating Ferris Wheel

For a class project, my group was assigned with coming up with an idea to build and we decided to create a 3-D printed rotating Ferris wheel. Using programs like OnShape, we built a frame and programmed it to spin with the aid of an arduino.

Step 1: Find a Design.

Make sure to plan out your project with approximate measurements and structures.

It's easier to draw out a life-size wheel to be able to see what measurements the supports and box cars should be. Use a ruler and straight edge to be exact.

Step 2: Find a CAD Software.

We used OnShape. Find your design and start building.

Step 3: Build Your 3D Frame Model From the Written Plan.

1. Start with a plain 2D hexagon.

2. Extrude the shape to .3 inches and sketch six equilateral triangles on the surface of the hexagon.

3. Extrude and remove the triangle through the hexagon to form the frame of one side of the wheel.

This is the finished part of one side of the wheel. This will be printed out separately to prevent supports from being built and basically filling in the entire structure.

4. Open another project within the same folder.. Label it separately to be able to tell the difference.

5. On this half, however, extrude the hexagon 1.5 inches and sketch six spokes along the edges from the center to the vertices.

6. Sketch six more triangles on this half and extrude and remove them to make holes in the frame.

7. Flip the frame on it's side, sketch, extrude and remove six rectangles on the edges, leaving a .3 inch post on the bottom as the frame.

8. Repeat step 7 to remove the side pieces of the frame.

9. Fillet the spokes the stick out to be slender and allow the boxes to slide more easily.

Step 4: Build Your 3D Box Model From the Written Plan.

1. Start with a small square about .5 by .5 inches and extrude it .5 inches.

2. Make a hole to bore through both sides of the box for hanging purposes.

3. You can also fillet the top edge to make it smoother or leave it flat.

Step 5: Print Your Boxes.

Since the boxes are faster to make, you can start the printing process while fine tuning details for the wheel frame. They can either all be the same color, which then they could all be printed together, or make them colorful and print each one separately.

1. Save the file as an STL file, select the correct measurements and load onto a flash drive or SD card.

2. Load into 3D printer or computer, convert, slice, and print.

Step 6: Print the Frame.

When there is a space in box printing, start printing your frame.

1. Save the file as an STL file, select the correct measurements and load onto a flash drive or SD card.

2. Load into 3D printer or computer, convert, slice, and print.

Repeat these steps for the other half of your frame.

Step 7: Program and Set Up the Arduino.

1. As your boxes are printing, acquire an arduino and a servo to run the wheel.

2. Find the SIK Guide Version 3.2 for the SparkFun Redboard arduino to help setup the program.

3. Use Circuit #8: A Single Servo and plug in the wires according to the pictures provided.

4. Attach servo to the board and set aside.

Step 8: Glue the Frame Together.

Align the halves to fit together and super glue the posts to the other side of the frame.

Let sit for a few minutes to allow drying.

Step 9: Build the Base and Platform.

1. Using 3/4 inch thick wood blocks, cut out two 5 x 1 inch long wood pieces. These will be holding up your ferris wheel.

2. With any kind of thin wood, cut out a 4 x 6 inch rectangle to be your platform.

3. Paint both the wood pieces and platform to fit your standards.

Step 10: Connect the Pieces.

1. Take the servo and place the screw holes of the long face on one of the blocks.

2. Drill a pilot hole and then screw in short screws.

3. Repeat steps 1 & 2 for the other wood piece.

4. Then flip the structure over and screw the wood pieces to the platform, preferably towards the front of the platform to ensure stability.

Step 11: Connecting the Servo to the Wheel.

1. Remove the head of the servo and place the body aside,

2. Place the servo head of the backside of the wheel frame to where at least two blades of the servo make reasonable contact with the plastic.

3. Drill pilot holes into the frame and then drill in short screws.

4. If desired, cut off the screws ends on the inside.

It is okay if not all blades are screwed onto the wheel. Depending on how big your dimensions are, you may only be able to get two. You can cut off the remaining blades if desired.

Step 12: Put Servo Back Together.

Place the attached servo head to the attached servo body to complete the structure.

Attach box cars by string or by wire long enough to swing freely but short enough to not drag in rotation.

Step 13: TEST.

1. Connect the arduino to a computer with the Arduino program and drivers installed.


2. Pull up the arduino program and type in the code found above to set the servo to spin.

3. Upload the code and watch the magic happen.


Step 14: Marvel at the Finished Project.


Penolopy Bulnick (author)2016-06-24

I love that you hooked it up and programmed it to turn. Did you get a video of it in action?


Hi Penolopy!! Yes, we did get a video of it moving. Here it is!

IMG_1474 (1).MOV

That's great :)



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