3D Printed Chain Belt (Tinkercad Tutorial)

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Introduction: 3D Printed Chain Belt (Tinkercad Tutorial)

I recently printed the fabulous chainmail design in the gif here (design by Flowalistik) and was so impressed!!

I was looking at the STL trying to figure out how it actually worked and realised something - while it is extremely clever, the real genius was in how simple it was!!

It made me really want to have a go at making a print in place design myself so I set about making the chain design I'll walk you through here.

Never one to leave a good idea as a good idea, I had to ruin it all by taking things a step further and when I saw there was a fashion contest running, a terrible wave of inspiration hit me!

Thus the 3D printed chain belt was born ˢᵒʳʳʸ

  1. For those with even a smidgen of taste, the tutorial for the chain itself will run through steps 1-4
  2. For those who don't know when to stop (like me) I'll walk through the hook and charms design in steps 5-8
  3. There'll be some basic printing instructions to cover all parts in step 9 too, along with the stls for my designs if anyone just wants to jump ahead to printing!
  4. Finally, I'll do a quick run through of assembling the belt in step 10

Here's a link to my Tinkercad project too just in case anyone wants to check it out!

Supplies

Tinkercad - if you're creating your own design or want to modify mine

3D printer

Filament - I used silk PLAs for a more metallic look

(Optional) Glue - The design is robust enough so I'd be surprised if you have any breakages taking it off the bed etc. but any breaks will be easily fixed with a dab of glue anyway

Step 1: Chain 1/4

So, as promised, we'll start with the chain design!

Get yourself signed into Tinkercad and start a new project :)

There are screenshots above showing each step so be sure to check those out!

  • Add a square shape to the workplane and resize it to the size you want for your chain - I started at 20x20x1.5mm but I tried out a few different shapes and sizes as you can see above so play around and see what you like best!
  • Rotate your square by 45 degrees then, using 4 square shaped holes, cut off the corners of your original square and group all 5 shapes to form an octagonal shape
    • I then decided to squash my shape to be 20x10x1.5mm as I wanted a long, thin chain but, as you can see from the pic above, it looks quite nice when you keep it square too so play around and see what you like best :)
  • Make a duplicate of your octagon and scale it down a little - I made mine 3mm smaller than the overall shape so 17x7mm - centre it in the original octagonal shape and group them to give it a hollow centre

Step 2: Chain 2/4

I've split the chain into several steps so hopefully my screenshots don't get all squished up and it'll be nice and easy to follow!

You should, at this point, have a hollowed out octagonal shape on your workplane.

  • Make a duplicate of your hollowed out octagon and raise it up to be 3mm above the workplane
    • Make a second duplicate as well and just keep it off to the side somewhere - we'll use it later!
  • Using 2 square holes, cut away the top-right and bottom-left quarters of the lower octagon
  • Then, again using 2 square holes, cut away the top-left and bottom-right quarters of the higher octagon
  • You should now have something that looks like the last picture above

Step 3: Chain 3/4

Now we just need to join those floating pieces up in a way that will be printable!

I opted for a fairly shallow slope here but the sharper the slope, the easier it'll be to print so if you know your printer struggles with slopes and overhangs then it may be worth you adjusting for that.
I would say that the slope I used should be printable on most printers though - I tested on an Ender 3 and it was fine!

This step may seem a little more complicated than it is at first glance but I think the screenshots will really help!

  • That extra octagonal shape we put to the side earlier - it's time to use that. Sandwich it between your existing shapes - it should fill the gap perfectly
  • Using square shaped holes, you'll need to cut out a sloped shape that will join your floating pieces together
    • I used 3 40x40x40mm square holes, rotated 45 degrees and then squashed down to be half the height but as usual, play around and see what looks best to you and work around the capabilities of your printer if you need to.
  • Unless you're better organised than me, having grouped your holes and octagon, you'll probably find you have a couple of bits of octagon that weren't cut off but that we don't want - you can just grab another square hole and cut away the leftovers!
  • Next, take the slope you've just created and make 3 copies - place one in each gap between the upper and lower pieces - you will need to either rotate or mirror the pieces so they slope in the right direction
    • If, like me, you're not using a square shape for your chain, you may need to adjust the length a little to fit the gaps better - for example, the slopes I used on the short edges of my chain link are half the width of the slopes used on the wider edges as my link is half as tall as it is wide

Step 4: Chain 4/4

FINALLY!
Last step of the chain-making process!!

This is a fairly quick one and the first part is completely optional!

  • (optional) I decided to cut away the square edges on my chain link - leaving these on will give your print a bigger footprint and make it less likely to come unstuck but I preferred the look without those corners so again, I used the same shapes I used to cut away my slopes in the last step to cut off those corners and smooth everything out.
  • You should now have something that very much looks like a chain link! Just group all those pieces together!
  • Last step is to turn one link into a chain and can be a little bit of a fiddly process but making use of the duplicate and repeat tool in Tinkercad speeds it up significantly!
    • Simply select your link and duplicate it with ctrl-D
    • Without clicking away from the duplicate link, rotate it by a few degrees (I went with 5 initially) and use the arrow keys to move it up and across so that the 2 links aren't touching but will print linked up.
    • Press ctrl-D again and your next link should appear ready linked into the last - repeat until you have enough links to print your belt
      • How many links you need will depend on the size of your links and the length of your belt - I printed 70 and it came out roughly a meter long
      • You probably will need to manually place a few links here and there otherwise you'll end up with just a circle of chain which is pretty cool but difficult to make a belt out of - I found a slightly imperfect spiral was the easiest shape to create

Step 5: Charms 1/3 - Stars!

Well, once you're making a 3D printable 00's style chain belt, you may as well go all in and hang some charms off it, eh?

The simplest of the charms I designed are these stars

  • Just grab a star shape and drop it onto the workplane - they're in the basic shapes but there are loads of other shapes you could use too!
  • Grab a cylinder too and resize it - 8x8x1.5mm worked well for me!
  • Take a cylinder hole and use it to cut out the centre of the first cylinder - I went with a 5x5mm hole for mine - you should be left with a ring shape
  • Align the ring with the top of your star and group together

You've made yourself a charm! Consider trying different shapes and sizes for your charm - you can use the same ring on all of them!

Step 6: Charms 2/3 - Coins!

Let's up the difficulty a little?

Let's make a charm that isn't just made from one of the Tinkercad basic shapes!

I thought some little coins could look really cute in a gold or silver filament!

  • Start with the same ring as we made for the stars in the last step and a simple circle shape - mine here is 20x20x2mm
  • Next you'll have to have a dig through the shape generators but you'll find a mandala shape in there!
    • Resize it to be 30x30x4mm and turn it into a hole
    • Position it 1mm above the work plane and centred on your circle
    • Group the mandala hole and the circle - you should now have a pattern carved into the surface of the circle
  • Take another cylinder - 20x20x3mm this time and again cut out the centre to make a ring shape - I used a 16x16 cylinder hole for this
  • Again in the shape generators you'll find a sun shape
    • Make it 20x20x.8mm, and reduce the inner radius to around .6
    • Turn it into a hole and group with the ring shape you just made
  • Align all 3 shapes and group them!!

Step 7: Charms 3/3 - Moon Phases!

Finally, I thought it'd be neat to make a little set of charms that work together - I kept it pretty simple and just went with moon phases!

  • Again, just use the same ring we used in the previous 2 steps
  • You'll need to make 7 charms here so let's start with 7 20x20x2mm circles
  • Next, use cylindrical holes to cut away parts of the circles to resemble the moon phases
    • I'll admit, I just eyeballed this and I'm sure you could do something a little more authentic and accurate if you did a bit of research
  • Group each circle with it's corresponding hole and ring to create your 7 charms

Step 8: Hooks!

Last piece to design is just a fairly simple hook - this will be used to fasten the belt and to attach any charms!

I very much treated this as a bit of a 'just for fun' project so I wouldn't expect this belt to hold your trousers up!!
If you do want to make it a little stronger, I'd suggest buying some split rings to attach charms more permanently and maybe a clasp for fastening the belt!

For now though, we'll just make some printable hooks!

I originally made some s-shaped hooks but found the charms would fall off quite easily so had a bit of a redesign and came up with these 3-shaped hooks which are much more reliable!

  • Start with 2 10x10x2mm cylinders - align them and position them so they just overlap
  • Next bring in a 7x7mm cylinder and centre it in the middle of one of the existing circles
    • Cut away the edge of the smaller cylinder with a square hole
    • Make the cylinder with the flat edge into a hole
    • Duplicate and mirror the shape and centre it with the other circle
  • Group everything to make a figure 8 shape
  • Finally, use 2 square holes to cut out small gaps in the hook for the chain to slot through - I used 3mm wide squares and rotated them 22.5 degrees for my hooks - you should be left with something roughly shaped like a 3

Step 9: Print!

  • If you've been following the design process in Tinkercad you can highlight the pieces you need and export them as stls ready to print
  • If you're wanting to print my design, you should find all of my stls at the bottom of this step - my chain is roughly 1m long once printed - feel free to tinker with my Tinkercad project and add or remove links if you need :)

You may notice that in my pictures, my chain is laid out differently to in my project and stl. That's because I actually had a few links stick together when I test printed it - not enough to be an issue, they separated easily enough but I gave everything a shuffle around just to be sure!

For printing - I won't give you specifics as you know your printer and slicer better than I do but I'll give a few recommendations!

  • Print your first layer nice and slow as there are lots of small pieces and you want to make sure they all stick well to the bed
  • In the same vein, ensure your bed is clean and well levelled as you're likely to lose parts if it isn't!
  • Print without a brim or raft as you'll find it difficult to remove afterwards and it shouldn't be needed anyway
  • If you're having trouble with the chains sticking to each other - check that they're not too close to each other in your design and if not, consider printing at a slightly lower temperature if that's suitable for the material you're using
  • I'd recommend printing this in PLA, as it has good bridging properties, and with your cooling on full (unless you have an insane cooling setup in which case, I'm sure you know what you need to do anyway)
  • I also recommend printing the chain and the hooks/charms separately so if the worst happens and a link does come unstuck, it's just the chain that you have to reprint rather than everything
  • Consider printing a short length of chain first - just 4 or 5 links to test your design before starting a big print!

Step 10: Assembly!

Last step!! Lets put this belt together!

First we'll look at how to fasten the belt:

Dead simple here - just take your chain and wrap it around your waist, and use one of the 3-shaped hooks to secure it in place .

Just leave any excess trailing down - that's the lewk..

The shape of the hooks means that (if the belt is tight enough) the two chain links hooked into it will be pulled away from the openings in the hook so it won't come undone.

To attach the charms:

Again we'll be using the 3-shaped hooks - simply pass one end through the charm and one through a chain link

Again, the shape of the hook means that when gravity pulls the charm downwards, the chain link and charm are both being pulled away from the openings in the hook making it less likely they'll drop off.

I chose to use the moon charms and found that spacing them out to every other chain link looked quite good! I then used 3 star shaped charms to hang from the trailing end of the belt

As I mentioned before - I'm very much treating this as a novelty project - more of a fun little experiment than anything else, but if you really like your belt and want to make it more robust for everyday use, I'd recommend buying some split rings for attaching the charms and a clasp to fasten the belt to be sure nothing will come undone unexpectedly!

Step 11: Wear It! or Don't...

You made it! Now wear your not-at-all-tacky, plastic, 00's style chain belt with pride!

In all seriousness though - I didn't expect much from this project and it came out looking far better than anticipated and was genuinely so much fun to make!

But maybe I'm just a nostalgic 90's baby..

Either way - the chain itself was my main challenge and I'm considering it a great success - I was thrilled to bits when I pulled it off the bed in once piece!

I can see myself using it scaled down for miniatures or in cosplays, Halloween costumes and all sorts of other projects!

If you find a fun new use for the chains or have a neat new take on this design, I'd really love to see it - if you're into 3D printing and design, consider checking out my other ibles too! :)

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    9 Comments

    0
    Mr DDT
    Mr DDT

    Tip 10 days ago

    Very impressed you used TinkerCAD for this! Using something like Fusion 360 or Inventor might have been easier.

    0
    ArKay894
    ArKay894

    Reply 9 days ago

    I'm sure you're right!

    I'm just so used to Tinkercad, it feels easier to me still compared to something like Fusion 360 but I have been trying to get to grips with Fusion.

    Hopefully once I get a bit more comfortable with it, I'll be able to speed things up and open up some more design possibilities!

    0
    Mr DDT
    Mr DDT

    Reply 9 days ago

    Haha! I get it! I'm very partial to Inventor because that's the CAD program I learned first.

    I'm a CAD Instructor, so every time I see TinkerCAD I cringe a little!

    Still very impressed you did it in TinkerCAD!

    0
    artist_pw
    artist_pw

    11 days ago

    This is super cute!

    0
    Cherzer
    Cherzer

    12 days ago

    Super Inspiring! You totally got the wheels in my head turning with this one and I now have some new goals. For being 3D printed plastic, it turned out remarkably well!

    0
    Alex in NZ
    Alex in NZ

    12 days ago

    I've always loved that chain-belt look (and I'm certainly not a 90's baby!) and having a single print for it is awesome. I love the moon-phase charms at the front too. Thank you for sharing your work :-)

    0
    ArKay894
    ArKay894

    Reply 12 days ago

    Ahh thank you!
    It's one of those things that is just so 00s it feels cringey by default but who cares!?
    I still like the look!! Glad I'm not alone! 😊

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    12 days ago

    I'm really excited about this print in place chain you designed! Do you have a link to the Tinkercad design?