Introduction: 3D Print a Mini USB Vacuum Cleaner

About: My name is Loann Boudin, I'm a maker and a french student who study electronics engineering near to Paris. I love making stuff by myself and share my projects with everyone.

3D Print a Mini USB Vacuum Cleaner

by Loann BOUDIN | 2015

My purpose to design a mini USB vacuum cleaner was the consequence of the mess I was confronted to, after making stuff for hours with plastic, wood, and electronic parts on my desk.

I needed a small and efficient device to clean the mess, so I decided to design and make my own.

This mini vacuum cleaner is very helpful ! I can now easily clean my laptop keyboard, my desk, and all the small fragile items I collect.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You will need the following parts and tools for this project:

• super glue
• a screwdriver
• 6x Pozidriv screws (I found them into an old CD driver)
• a scalpel / cutter
• flat pliers
• cutting pliers
• sandpaper
• heatshrink (4 mm diameter)
• a soldering iron
• solder
• a calliper
• 1x DC motor RE-140 (I chose this motor because it is very common, and you can easily find it in old toys. If you decide to use a different kind of motor, do not forget to change the SolidWorks files)
• an old USB Apple cable (from IPhone 5 or more recent)
• a switch (6*12 mm)
• a LEGO technique fixation
• a flexible pipe (I used an old flexible pipe from a LEGO kit)
• a tea bag (for the filter)
• a 3D printer / a 3D printing service

Step 2: How Does a Vacuum Cleaner Work ?

In most vacuum cleaners, the dusty air is sucked by a fan driven by an electric motor to a dust bag; then it is filtered, and the dust remains in the dust bag while the cleaned air is rejected outside.

In the 3D printed vacuum cleaner I have designed, the dusty air goes right to the filter which retains the dust while the fan sucks the cleaned air towards the top of the vacuum and rejects it outside.

Now, from theory to pratice, make your own 3D printed mini USB vacuum cleaner !

Step 3: Designing the Turbine...

Let's start by designing one of the most important part in a vacuum cleaner: the turbine.

I had already several turbines from handheld vacuum cleaner in my toolbox, but they couldn't fit my purpose. So I decided to design my own turbine, and to do so, I used the Solidworks software to design it and the other parts.

Take measures of the motor and imagine the future turbine are the first steps before design it in the software.

Once done, I can start to draw the turbine in Solidworks:

First, I made a sketch of the turbine I needed, then I extrude this sketch up to 10 mm.

After, on the top surface, I draw a circle and then I extrude it till the bottom part is 2 mm thick.

To renforce the fan, I used an extrusion to widen the base cylender by 4 mm.

After, I extruded the very center part and made a pit to insert the axis of the motor.

Finally, I created 2 mm fillets beetwen each blade and the base to strengthen the turbine.

Step 4: ...and the Other Parts !

The other parts are created in the same way with extrusions, cutting out of areas of material, and fillets.

This mini USB vacuum cleaner is made of 7 printed parts:

  • the top cover
  • the motor holder
  • the turbine part1
  • the turbine part2
  • the turbine cover
  • the filter holder
  • the dust tank

I add to this Instructables all the .stl files to print the parts. If you want to modify the parts (use an other motor, an other USB cable...), I also include the SolidWorks files so feel free to use them !

Step 5: No 3D Printer ? No Problem !

If you don't have a 3D printer, it's not a problem !

There are now online 3D printing services like 3D hubs, which allow you to find a 3D printer available (a "hub") to print your parts ! Over 18000 hubs are listed on this website, so I 'm sure there is one near your location ! Since I'm a curious, I looked where was the nearest hub from my house : it was only 2.2 km (1.4 miles) ! Impressive !

Step 6: Prepare Your 3D Printer

If you have a 3D printer, it is very important to prepare it to get a successful printing.

A full verification of the printer helps avoiding many problems when printing.The amount of PLA or ABS should be sufficient to print the part, the heating plate must be active and clean ... There are many parameters to check !

I don’t have a 3D printer of my own, but I can use the 3D printer owned by an electronics association I belong to.

Here's a little trick I learned talking with experts of 3D printing : if you need to print a fragile and thin part (like the turbine, for example), it is very important that the piece adheres to the plate. But do you know that ABS and PLA plastics are very adherent to each other ? When printing with PLA, a thin melted layer of ABS on the heating plate will make the part adhere to the plate.

To make this liquid ABS solution, mix small pieces of ABS with acetone in a glass container. Finally, spread the solution on a glass plate that will be placed on the heating plate.

Step 7: You're Ready to Print !

You can now print the parts needed for this project.

I used an homemade Prusa I3 owned an electronics association I belong to. I used too the free softwares Repetier and Slic3r to drive the 3D printer.

After some wrong settings , the 3D printer is able to print the parts with a good precision.

Step 8: Fitting the Parts

Before starting assembling the top unit parts and the bottom unit parts of the vacuum cleaner, make sure that all the pieces fit together.

The printed parts must fit together as in the Solidworks assembly. The non-printed parts (like the motor, the USB cable, the switch) must fit in their respective slot.

If they don't, use the sandpaper and the scalpel / cutter to widen or reduce the printed parts.

Step 9: Assembling the Vacuum Top Unit Parts

The first step of the assembly is to build the entire turbine.

Combine turbine_part1 and turbine_part2 and glue the two parts together with super glue . Adding super glue on each propeller blade allows to solidify the propeller a lot.

Once the turbine is completely glued and assembled , we can now focus on the power supply of the vacuum cleaner .

The vacuum cleaner uses a DC motor powered by the USB port of a computer, which can deliver 5V and 500mA maximum (enough to drive the motor). Cut the cable IPhone at the extremity of the phone cable. A USB cable has 4 wires : one green, one white, one red and one black (or colorless). The green and white wires are the data ones , and don’t interest us. The red wire is connected to 5V, and the black wire to ground.

Place the USB cable through the motor holder hole then cut the white and the green wires with cutting pliers. Solder the red and black wires, the motor and a switch in serial mode (see diagram). Use heatshrink to strengthen the solders and the connections in the circuit.

Then, put the DC motor into his slot in the motor holder part, and the switch into his slot in the top cover part. Combine the two parts and screw them together using 2 Pozidriv screws and a Pozidriv screwdriver.

After that, put the previously assembled turbine on the motor axis and glue them together. The turbine is then covered with the turbine cover part, which is screwed to the motor holder with 2 Pozidriv screws.

Finally, the USB cable is wrapped around the motor holder part, and the USB plug is clipped into his slot on the top cover part.

Edit: The Instructable member weish noticed me in the comment section that the addition of a capacitor and a diode in the blocked position can greatly improve the security of the vacuum cleaner, preventing a possible current peak which can fry the USB port. I never had any problems with my vacuum cleaner, but to avoid any incident, the addition of these two components is recommended.

Step 10: Assembling the Vacuum Bottom Unit Parts

It's now time to make the filter of the mini vacuum cleaner. For this, I used a tea bag: cut the string which close the tea bag and unfold it. Pour the tea into a container , it will be useful later to test the suction of the vacuum cleaner. Then, extend carefully the teabag till had a filter sheet.

After that, download and print the filter pattern file included in this step: use it to cut the filter properly. Then, cut a line across the largest disk and wrap it conically around your thumb. Insert it into the filter holder part and glue it with super glue.

Then, glue the smallest disk on the bottom of the filter holder part.

Finally, put a LEGO technique fixation through the hole in the filter holder part, which is screwed to the dust tank part with 2 Pozidriv screws.

Step 11: Assembling the Top Unit to the Bottom Unit

Use super glue to assemble the top unit and the bottom unit together.

Finally, add the flexible pipe to the LEGO fixation. The dusty air will be sucked through this pipe.

The assembling of the vacuum cleaner is now complete !

Step 12: See the Result Works !

To see how the vacuum cleaner works, plug the USB cable to your computer and turn on the power supply.

I tested the suction of the vacuum cleaner with sugar : it sucks easily the sugar, leaving the table totally cleaned.

For emptying the tank it is necessary to remove the 2 Pozidriv screws. Fortunately, this operation does not happen often: the tank is big and can contain a lot of dust.

This project is for me the second one on Instructables, and has just been accepted into the 3D printing contest.
So, if you liked this project, support it by voting !

Thanks Instructables members for being an amazing community !

3D Printing Contest

First Prize in the
3D Printing Contest