Introduction: Dragonfly 3D Fold-up

My metal direct class this year had the fantastic opportunity to visit a company called FedTech in MN. They were nice enough to help our school (St Olaf College) by printing a few small metal laser cut images.

I decided to sketch of a dragonfly in 2D using Graphite ( and then I drew in fold-up tabs that would enable it to turn 3D. 

After submitting the files, we went to their lab and watched the process as the giant laser cutter did its work. From here, I folded my dragonfly up along the perforations I had drawn in earlier.

The finished product didn't exactly turn out as nice as I wanted it to (the tail wasn't long enough) but the wings for sure turned out pretty gossamer, just like real dragonfly wings. I love the wings :)

Step 1: The Sketch

You can use whatever CAD software you want so long as it supports saving as a .DXF file. I used Graphite and it worked splendidly. It was my first time using it and I had my doubts at first, but I love it now :)

The dragonfly sketch is saved below. Feel free to do whatever you want with it!

You will notice that the entire dragonfly is at the top of the image and then halfway down it mirrors (kinda) so that the dragonfly can fold the belly underneath the top half so as to have a real 3D model.

Two corrections (possibly 3):
     the legs don't quite work as drawn (the are directly flush with the wings and two short to reach the ground)
     the bottom of the head doesn't quite line up with the body. I would make the body side flaps thinner to avoid this.
     the tail is too long. I knew this going into the drawing since I was confined to a certain amount of space.

If you have any questions, post them either by messaging or in the comments below.

Step 2: Laser Cutting

The drawings were cut at FedTech. Thank you FedTech! There is not much to say about this step except that I had to punch out the little hexagons that were a little stuck in the wings (they had been cut but didnt fall out).

Step 3: Fold It Up!

Carefully and forcefully bend each tab along the perforation (the dashed cut-outs). Using a couple of needlenose pliers or a regular pliers along with some assistance of a table clamp will be integral. Try and make them all 90 degree folds. The tiny folds between the tail segments were particularly difficult. Just try to fold the shape as accurately as you can. It is important to fold the smaller tabs first (the outermost tabs) and then work your way in (inner perforations) so that you can apply the force in the least awkward manner (AKA not squirming needlenose pliers through a mess of folded metal).

And thats it! Take a look at the images on the introduction step to see the final product! This project does not take too long and can be finished in a couple days. But you will need access to a laser cutter to do this as I did. For an interesting lead, google FABlab. The FABlabs around the world are brilliant places. USE THEM!!!!!! ibles and FABlab seem like a perfect partnership to me.


ejed made it!(author)2014-04-02

That metal folded dragonfly is so cool. Did you make it yourself or get the design from somewhere? How difficult was it to make? How big is it when completed?

Elisa Jed |

Onyx+Ibex made it!(author)2014-04-02

I designed it from pen first and then drew it up using simple CAD software. I made it while in a class that had a field trip where I was then able to get the design laser cut. There were many designs leading up to this and still many errors in the final design but due to constraints and only a couple days to draft the whole thing I am very happy with the result! :)

It was not difficult to make but has the caveat that you need access to a laser cutter or water jet cutter to cut the sheet metal.

Without the model in front of me I think it is around 8-9" long. You could probably figure out the exact size by opening up the file.

The link you posted is right next to my home :) Can't picture where it is though exactly.

Jimmy+J made it!(author)2012-07-22

I said that time travel is controlled by the time cops now hundred percent its only fresh breathable air suplly the feeling of walking outside and odorelss the only chemical added is anti demon power. The time cops said there will be no wink them out of existance weopons on the world no phase them out of existance tech is allowed all papers and computer files on that burnt up any one or any device used to pass nuckles through ones skull is burnt up or sended to space station 30,000 light years away as long as the planet exist. Time cops of the world gov said there will be no time travel allowed in biuldings or any where where theres a door way you can only turn on magical science of interdemensional time warp tech on the road less travelled.

You can email or fax the time cops that set this in stone for all time on all worlds wherever theres movement in space also. They said you can fax 8 idias on miracles made with time travel from the future probably 4 things to fix the world at large and 4 things to ask for seriose help for your own town or household this is a mild request the time cops control it not you. And they will stay 4 blocks city sections away from your house most likely wont use your ideas at all, fax it in any way they care about what you think about using a real time machine

l8nite made it!(author)2012-05-07

that would look great hanging in a tree ! you're right, the wings turned out awesome