Introduction: USB Stick Lost-and-Found

Picture of USB Stick Lost-and-Found

Pier 9's 3D print room is a black hole for USB drives. It seems that almost everyone who uses the 3D printers leaves their drive behind. Sometimes people forget their entire set of keys. The old lost-and-found was a drawer in the corner, and we needed a better solution. Enter, the USB Stick Lost-and-Found.

Step 1: Measure

Picture of Measure

First, I measured a USB port on my computer with calipers to get precise dimensions. Based on my measurements a USB port is .5 inches by .2 inches. The rectangle inside is .1 inches from the bottom and surrounded by a .02 inch channel on the top and sides.

Step 2: CAD

Picture of CAD

The next step was to go directly to Fusion 360 and build a CAD model of the part. I modeled one slot and then used the rectangular pattern tool to copy it 33 times. I used the text and extrude tools to write the text along the top. I have included the Fusion 360 file and an STL of the design.

Step 3: Print

Picture of Print

I used the Objet printers at Pier 9 to print out the model. I would suggest hollowing the part out before printing if you decide to print this part using a resin printer. The version I made is solid and it is much heavier than it needs to be.

Step 4: Clean

Picture of Clean

Cleaning the 3D printed part is important here. In order to avoid getting support material gunk all over other people's USB drives use a thin sharp tool to scrape out the space inside each of the slots. It helps to soak the print in water to soften the support material before cleaning.

Step 5: Mount

Picture of Mount

3M mounting tape is pretty amazing stuff. Be careful in your placement because it's hard to change your mind once it is stuck to the wall.

Step 6: Use

Picture of Use

Now that the lost and found plaque is mounted it is time to plug in all the orphaned USB drives. Hopefully, now that they are out in the open people will be more likely to rescue them.


Trask River Productions (author)2016-07-25

Would it be possible for you to post a single USB port as an .stl file. I can only print a 6x6x6 and a have limited access to an CADs right now. I would greatly appreciate it.

CobyUnger made it! (author)Trask River Productions2016-07-27

How's this?

Finally printing, and I'm having problems setting the correct size. I'm using cura so I don't have a lot of options to choose from. Any ideas on the final size?

Perfect! Thanks! :)

No problem, Hope it works out for you.

pianoplaying music kid (author)2016-08-08

Wow this is very clever! Unfortunately, I don't have a 3D-Printer... Maybe it's an idea to think of the same idea but then without the 3D-printing? I'm going to think of this myself but maybe it's a nice challenge for you too? :)

No problem. Remember to post photos once you finish!

Glad you like it.
Maybe you could use a hard bake clay like Sculpey. First make a small tool that is the same shape as a USB stick and press it into the clay. Once you bake it you should be able to achieve a similar result. The only problem would be if the clay shrinks when you bake it. You may need to compensate for this by making the tool a little bit bigger than a USB stick.

pianoplaying music kid (author)2016-08-09

Thanks! I'm definitely going to try this as soon as possible :)

EverythingDiy (author)2015-10-28

Great idea

CobyUnger (author)EverythingDiy2015-10-29


imark77 (author)2015-06-21

USB Stick Lost-and-Found
in my language that translates to "FREE USB DRIVES" OR "HACKBLE VICTIMS".
it's a good thing you trust your coworkers, i saw the comments below.

then again. that might be why they get return to their respective owners, because somebody might be afraid of what's on it.

ElectroFrank (author)2014-10-09

In each of my USB drives, I place a text file called "This stick belongs to" in the root directory, containing my name and contact details. So if found by an honest person, it should get returned.

I keep my keys separate, so that if found by a thief, they can't connect the keys with my address !

imark77 (author)ElectroFrank2015-06-21

I wanted to get my name on the list of people who place a text file on their USB drives.

well for starters I do it with all my external media, except the 3 small external hard drives I have ( they are Mac formatted, so they are usually dangling off my computer. and they are clear so, they are fairly easy to notice ).

now I actually have 3 files.
contains the volume title of the USB drive in case it gets changed ( yes I've had it happen ) it breaks down to "VT" is short for "volume title", "MyName_Last", "size" and "drive number".

these two files contain the exact same thing, name, phone#, e-mail and address.
so you might be asking, why do I have 2 of them?
interesting answer, i mark both files as read-only in Windows ( Mac doesn't always respect it and it doesn't translate to windows, but it works the other way around. )

the file with ".IV.", i don't know if I should tell you all this?
All right you talked me into it, ".IV." indicates that it should be an invisible file ( that other check box in Windows ) so even if you figure out how to delete or modify the read-only file you will have to have visible files turned on to see the extra.

and by now you should be able to guess what my drives volume labels are.

well I'am here I should mention I love the idea of having something pop up when It gets plugged-in. but after that security scare with automatically running software from disks and drives, i don't know how feasible that is going to be in the future. ( plus it would annoy me! )

dgray8 (author)ElectroFrank2014-10-11

The text file is a good idea, I use a jpegf of me holding a sign with my email address. But don't forget the volume label: I rename a drive when I get it then instead of just showing as Drive E:, it shows up as Drive E:GRAY_D_1. This comes in handy when collaborating and multiple thumb drives are inserted at once too. Make telling the drives apart much easier.

ElectroFrank (author)dgray82014-10-12

Yes, good point while we are here ! I also use the volume label to identify the stick, usually just the brand/model and size, eg "PNY 1Gb".

For those who are not familiar with this, select the stick in your "My Computer" folder, and "F2" to rename the device (maximum 11 characters). Then you will be able to immediately see which drive it is in the folders on screen.

eeio (author)ElectroFrank2014-10-12

I do the text file too. My coworker also names the drive with his phone number.

ThomasC5 (author)ElectroFrank2014-10-09

This is the best solution. You can also stick a return address label on every stick you have.

gravityisweak (author)2014-10-08

That's a great idea! I'm curious about the heavier ones with a set of keys or heavy keychains attached. It seems that the weight might bend the male plug. If that is a concern,I wonder if orienting the slots vertically instead of horizontally would prevent that.

imark77 (author)gravityisweak2015-06-21

I was wondering about that too, it is a good point that they've chosen their destiny. depending on the damage, it can be fixed. unless it rips the traces off, although there have been some more adventurous attempts to fix that.

CobyUnger (author)gravityisweak2014-10-08

I suppose it is possible that the heavier ones might bend the metal, but they would do the same thing plugged into a computer, so it is really a choice that the owner of the USB drive already made. Vertical slots might be a good idea.

Thanks for the comment.

sweeezn made it! (author)2014-11-12

Thanks, I needed one of these! I made it a little smaller to make it printable on a Makerbot Replicator 2. I had to stumble around in Fusion 360 because you unfortunately can't just edit the sketches and stuff in Inventor.

I posted it on Thingiverse too!

CobyUnger (author)sweeezn2014-11-13

Awesome Sean. Glad you could get it to fit on a Makerbot. Is this up at Techshop?

sweeezn (author)CobyUnger2014-11-13

It sure is!

CobyUnger (author)sweeezn2014-11-14

So rad!

SašoM (author)2014-10-11

Mabi a usb part would be good too for caps to insert inside

SašoM (author)2014-10-11

Where would you put the caps of usbs?

dracassia (author)2014-10-10


jmoore22 (author)2014-10-09

So clever. Great idea.

CobyUnger (author)jmoore222014-10-10


MamaSmurf5000 (author)2014-10-10

I have usually attached a cord to my USB drives and hung them from a clip above my desk. This would be classier and neater. Thanks.

CobyUnger (author)MamaSmurf50002014-10-10

Thanks. Be sure to post a photo if you make one.

dan3008 (author)2014-10-08

Elegant. We could use something like this in our university libary... 103 usb pens left behind at last count...

SteveSi (author)dan30082014-10-10

There is free Windows software available that will warn the user that a USB drive is still connected when they log off or shutdown.

CobyUnger (author)SteveSi2014-10-10

That sounds like a nice little piece of software.

CobyUnger (author)dan30082014-10-08

103!!??? Wow, you are going to need a bigger lost-and-found than the one I made.

rusty0101 (author)CobyUnger2014-10-09

One option might be to modify the project you developed so that it's modular, and people could print combinations of corners, edges and middles that all attach to each other like puzzle pieces, and then instead of foam tape use velcro or something to attach to the wall as many as your location needs.

CobyUnger (author)rusty01012014-10-09

Nice idea Rusty. I like your style.

kmroue (author)2014-10-10

im gonna make it by plexiglass laser cut and engraving machine.. i think double layer plexi is way lighter than 3D printing with that thickness.

CobyUnger (author)kmroue2014-10-10

Sounds great. Post a photo when you make it.

werikblack (author)2014-10-10

Nice design! The one thing I'd change on it is removing the "tongues" in each slot. I'd think those will have a tendency to break off and jam in USB keys.

CobyUnger (author)werikblack2014-10-10

I considered that, but many new drives do not have the metal shield that goes all the way around, so they would not fit in the slot without the tongue.

kgbostick1 (author)2014-10-10

This is a great idea. Unfortunately, I do not have a 3D printer. But it is a great idea!

CobyUnger (author)kgbostick12014-10-10


ndrdog (author)2014-10-10

Really nice idea, I like it. One question, what about the caps? I find a lot of USB drives sitting quietly next to workstations and your instructable would be perfect but for the cap.

CobyUnger (author)ndrdog2014-10-10

None of the drives I found had caps, but you are right, this would be an issue.

rf (author)2014-10-09

Looks like a virus rack to me.

boocat (author)2014-10-09

This idea is cool. I have two of the kinds of sticks shown on the board! Made me realize there is nothing remarkable about them. In each, I am going to put an identifying text file entitled "REWARD". On the outside. I will attach a keyring with some sort of bead or charm or something on it.

Thanks for the great Instructable, CobyUnger.

agis68 (author)2014-10-09


ac-dc (author)2014-10-09

How is this a better solution? Either way someone has to take the drive from point A where it was left behind, to point B where they are put together as a group.

Either way the person who lost it has to be aware of a particular place that lost drives were placed, and go to that area and look for their drive.

The issue isn't to get people to notice there are drives there which encourages people with low moral character to steal them. The issue is that if someone cannot find their flash drive that they go the same as always, go to the designated place where lost and find flash drives are which might as well be a drawer.

About This Instructable




Bio: I build, I teach, I learn. Happiest when covered in saw dust, sweat and machine grease. Visit for more projects and info.
More by CobyUnger:Log BookMaker AutoDisco Hammer
Add instructable to: