Introduction: Rubber Band Car Printed in 3D

Picture of Rubber Band Car Printed in 3D

This "snap together" rubber band powered car was printed using a MakerBot Replicator.  I've never used 3D software before, so TinkerCad was my choice for first time work. Using TinkerCad (, I designed a car similar to the one in chapter one of my book, Amazing Rubber Band Cars. 

To make a wheel, you just drag a cylinder onto the workspace.  Set the diameter and the thickness and you're almost done.  Drag a hole onto the workspace, adjust the diameter and place it in the center of the wheel.  Group the hole and the wheel.  That's it.

If you want to play with my design, go to and search for "Michael Rigsby" Under my things, you will find the wheels, base and sides.  Adjust them to suit your fancy, then "Print 3d" which gives you a choice of commercial printing services or downloading a file for your 3d printer.

Step 1: Gather Files

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Go to and download the Rubber Band Powered Car files:

Drag a downloaded file into the model window of MakerBot's ReplicatorG software.

If you don't have a 3d printer, you can still have the files printed at a commercial 3d printer.

Step 2:

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Select "Generate GCode" from the right hand menu.

Step 3:

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Mostly, I leave this alone--except that I check "Use Raft/Support."  A raft is a web of plastic printed on the base under your 3d object. 

Note that if you have two extruders (the more expensive model), you can choose to use the left extruder (drop down menu item on first check box) if you so desire.

Select "Generate Gcode."

Step 4: Picky Stuff

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It has been my experience that the bed of the Replicator needs to be 115 degrees instead of 100 for reliable adhesion of the raft.

About the 20th line down in the Gcode list is a line "M109 S100 T0"  Change the "S100" to "S115".  Choose "File, Save."

Keep the "gcode" tab selected.

Step 5:

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Make sure the "gcode" tab is selected. If the "model" tab is selected, you will generate gcode (a sometimes slow process) again.

Start the print by selecting the "arrow into the peanut" icon.

It can take up to three hours to print even the fairly simple parts.

Step 6: Leveling the Build Plate

Picture of Leveling the Build Plate

If the raft does not look like this image (smooth flat lines), then the build plate is probably too low.  Squiggly lines indicate a low build plate.

How to level the build plate . . . . here's what I do.  Go to "utilities, level build plate" (on the Replicator, not the computer).  Tighten the four screws and start the process.  Instead of using a sheet of paper, I "eyeball" the extruders and get them where there is barely daylight between the extruder and the plate.  The mistake I made many times was not turning two screws at the same time (the instructions say to turn two screws, not one).  For example, I would start in the first position raising the plate and the right extruder would touch.  I would quit turning the right screw and adjust with the left--which usually didn't have enough play to work.  My mistake.  When the right extruder touches and there is air on the left, reverse direction on the right screw--lowering the right while raising the left.  Always keep turning both screws while adjusting--not necessarily in the same direction. This seems to work better for me.

Step 7: Cool Air, Raft Release, Curling

Picture of Cool Air, Raft Release, Curling

I read about this in the forums and it works for me.  Block off the side openings (I used paper and masking tape).  Don't allow breezes from cooling or doors to enter the chamber while in operation.  This helped solve my problem of curling and separation from the raft.

Step 8:

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Note the hollow spaces inside the wheel--the solid structures are not solid.

Step 9:

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This is one of the side plates on the raft.  I pull the raft loose and pull any loose "strings" from the main part.

Step 10:

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Once you have a complete set of parts, you are ready to assemble.

Step 11:

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Snap a side plate onto the base.

Step 12:

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Add the other side plate--they should be snug but not difficult to assemble.

Step 13:

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Insert a pencil (round, not one with flat edges) into a wheel and push the axle assembly through one of the axle holes.

Step 14:

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Add the other wheel and repeat the process for the front axle.

Step 15:

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Attach a rubber band to the rear axle.

Step 16:

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Secure the other end of the rubber band to the V in the front of the base.

Step 17:

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The rubber band should look like this.

Step 18:

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Wind it up and see what kind of distance you can get.

Changing the rubber band, weight in the car and connection to the rear axle (if the rubber band is finger held instead of secured to the rear axle, the car can free wheel when the band is exhausted) can impact the distance traveled.


jack1197 (author)2013-07-26

nice instructable, but remember, its how to print and assemble your car, not the basics of using a 3d printer

benbenhu (author)2012-05-20

Very good i like the 3D Printer

LanceMakes (author)2012-05-16

Great Instructable! I like the simple, snap-togehter design. It could go much further if the rubberband wasn't tied around the axel - it looks like the car will unwind as it moves forward, then wind itself back up and reverse direction. Regardless, you have my vote for the make it real contest!

MikeTheMaker (author)LanceMakes2012-05-16

Thanks! You're correct--if you don't tie the rubber band to the axle (just hold it with your fingers while you start the wind), it will not pull the reverse trick you mentioned. Actually, I built a "life size" cardboard car using six giant "pallet" bands--and we had the "wind it up; release; go past the starting point and return syndrome." Much more pronounced with little kids than 250 pounders. My wife and I gave rides in the giant car at the 2007 Austin Maker Faire.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am an author and a maker. My current project is Santa's Shop. I'm working on a science fiction type book--more later. @EngineerRigsby
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