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In this tutorial, we’ll walk through how to design a custom USB pen drive fit for 3D printing.

If you’re a teacher, encouraging students to design objects with real world application is a great way to engage their creativity, as well as push them to think critically and use design skills. Challenge students to research various designs for USB pen drives, and see who can come up with the most efficient design, or develop a new functionality. You can find a complete lesson plan devoted to this project, as well as instructional materials like learning objectives, test materials, and evaluation rubrics attached below.

Step 1: Download Autodesk Inventor

Before you start, download and install Autodesk Inventor here (it's available with a free 3 year license for students and educators). Inventor offers an easy to use set of tools for 3D mechanical design and product simulation. If you want a general tour of the interface, commands, and different ways you can use Inventor, see information on getting started here.

Step 2: Modeling Around PCB

Open up USB Assembly. You can download it and other design files here.

Sketch the outline of the center piece that will hold the USB drive. Extrude your 2D design to make it 3D.

Use the Mirror tool to enclose the USB pen.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see:

Step 3: Shelling and STL Creation

Open up one of the part files.

Use the Shell tool to minimize the amount of material needed during 3D printing. Repeat the process with remaining part.

Export parts as STL files.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see:

Step 4: Print!

In order to print parts from Inventor on your MakerBot you will need to export your file as an STL. You will also need to download and install the latest version of the Makerware™ software from MakerBot. The software is free of charge and can be downloaded here.

Once a part has been created and is ready for printing you can select "Export" from the Application Menu, then "CAD Format." In the dialog box that pops up, select .STL in the "Save as Type" dropdown.

Once you have exported your file as .STL, open it in Makerware. Adjust your prototype as necessary, and click the "Make" button. Select your printer and materials, and send it to the printer!

If your printer doesn't run Makerware, you can still export an .STL file, which will allow you to use any software your printer requires. Lastly, if you don’t have a 3D printer, places like TechShop have the tools to turn your design files into physical objects, and staff the people who can show you how. Places like Shapeways can even print them for you.

This tutorial focuses on how to prepare this pen for 3D printing, but if you’re looking to use a laser cutter, check out this quick tutorial:
Lastly, see below for instructions on how to create and save orthographic drawings of your design files, as well as take a look at amateur and professional 3D printing:
<p>Do you have a direct link to the design files? I'd like to begin this project, but I'm not sure where the files are located. I downloaded a file called USBPenDrive-beginner and it has Software Tutorials, Starter Files and an Instructor manual. Should I be looking for something with an exe file extension?</p>
You can use the print command. And then print to 3D printer. Here you can preview of the surface before printing.

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