Introduction: Ferris Wheel Planter (TinkerCAD)

About: I enjoy designing models in CAD and 3D printing them. I also love photography and graphic design, which I utilize in my Instructables.

I'm a huge fan of 3D printing. It enables people to make whatever they want, literally turning computer drawings into 3D objects. I have printed lots of models in the past. The key word here is models - while a 3D printed airplane or boat or statue is pretty cool, you really aren't going to ever use it.

I wanted to make something that would work - I had never before made anything that required assembly, or really anything that would move at all. In my quest to follow this ambition, I came up with the idea of a 3D printed ferris wheel.

But still, no matter how awesome it looks, a moving ferris wheel is still just a cool little trinket that will eventually get shoved into your closet. I decided to turn my dream into a nice planter which could easily be used as a desk paperweight or as a backyard display for years to come. This ferris wheel planter I designed in TinkerCAD is a 3D printable novelty item perfect for housing your plants in style.

In this Instructable, I will teach you how to print, assemble, and use this planter.

Step 1: Materials Needed

You will need the following materials for this project:

1) Access to a 3D Printer - You need a 3D printer to 3D print something. Whether you use an online service, have your own printer, or know someone who will let you use theirs, a 3D printer is required for this project.

2) 3D Printing Filament - Filament is essentially a spool of 3D printing plastic that you feed into a 3D printer. If you are going through an online service, you shouldn't have to worry about this, but if you are printing it yourself you will need to get the right sized filament that goes with your printer. I personally used Proto pasta filament.

3) Super Glue - Super glue is required to attach all of the parts together. You could use other glues, but super glue is perfect for this build because you don't need much of it to form a strong connection.

4) Access to a Slicer Software - In order to print your ferris wheel, you need to first put it in a slicer software. A slicer essentially translates the 3D model of your object into something a 3D printer can interpret. Cura is a free slicer software available for download on Mac, Windows, and Linux. If you are ordering your print from a 3rd party company, you don't need to worry about slicer softwares.

These items are recommended for this project:

1) Xacto Knife - One item you might want is an Xacto knife to help remove any errors the 3D printer might have made, along with cutting off the supports.

2) Lubricant - You can use a lubricant to help your ferris wheel turn better. Lotion is a good example of a lubricant that is easy to find.

3) Small Coins - Not needed, but if your pots aren't always facing up, you can try to tape a coin to the bottom of each pot or even put it inside. I will get into more detail later in this Instructable.

4) Plants - You are probably going to want plants to put in your ferris wheel. It might seem kind of silly to put this on a supplies list, but you don't want to forget to research about what kind of micro greens you want to plant or forget to pick them up from the store.

5) Access to TinkerCAD - If you plan on modifying the initial design, you should get a TinkerCAD account. It also has a handy feature that lets you order 3D prints designed in TinkerCAD from some 3rd party companies if you don't own a 3D printer.

Step 2: Designing and Customizing

Here is the original file for this project in TinkerCAD.

If you like the Ferris Wheel how it is, feel free to continue on to the next step. However, if you are a DIY'er who loves customization, make a copy of those three files and add any changes you want. At any time, keep these rules in mind:

a) Plants are alive.

Plants are living things that need 3 things: soil, water, and sunlight. This is so they can go through the process of photosynthesis and produce their own food. Try to keep your design very 'open' so that sunlight can easily reach your plants and it isn't a hassle watering them. Also make sure if you are scaling the design to check if there is enough room for soil in each pot.

b) Ferris wheels spin.

If your ferris wheel can't turn, what good is it? Make sure that nothing sticks out too far when editing the design - as a rule, try to make indentions, not extrusions.

Secondly, if you want to scale the model so the ferris wheel is smaller, either make the axles smaller or the holes they fit into larger. This way your ferris wheel can spin smoothly, even with the slight inconsistencies found in most 3D prints.

c) 3D printers aren't magic.

It might be tempting to make an intricate, elaborate design for your planter, but remember that 3D printers aren't magical. The simpler the design, the cleaner the end result will be. Also, try to avoid having parts that are too small, or they can break off if you aren't careful.

Step 3: 3D Print Your Design

You've made the last save to your file and are ready to print! Congratulations! Now all you need to do is export your design to a slicer software of your choice, fiddle with the settings, and print your design.

One of my favorite parts of 3D printing is further customizing a design with different colors. You can divide this project into multiple print jobs so you can use more than just one color of filament. I wanted mine to stand out, so I made 2 of the 3 prints black and 1 of them white.

I would suggest making your ferris wheel very sturdy. The axles of the individual pots can break off if you don't print them dense enough, so I would recommend at least 20% density with 2-3 outside layers (if your software allows that level of specificity).

Make sure that you enable supports, because some parts of the ferris wheel might need them depending on which printer you are using.

After your print has finished, take off the supports and move on to the next step!

Step 4: Assembling the Print

Make sure you have all of the ferris wheel parts. You should have the two parts of the base, the two parts of the actual wheel, and six pots / passenger cars. Then you can start assembly.

a) Lay the half of the wheel with axles flat on your working surface, and place all six pots on the axles.

b) Lay the other half of the wheel with holes next to this and put a dot of glue inside each of the holes. Then quickly flip this half over and pair each hole with an axle. Press down until the glue has dried.

c) Wiggle each pot to make sure no glue has connected them to the axle (which would mean it can't turn). If there is a connection, spin the pot until the glue has detached.

d) Place the half of the base with the axle flat on the table and place your wheel on the axle. Dab small amounts of glue in the 2 holes on the bottom of the base.

e) Place the other half of the base flat on the table and put glue in the hole. Quickly flip this half over and connect the axle to the hole and the bottom bars to their corresponding holes.

Once you have finished, you have officially completed your ferris wheel. Move on to the next step for some tips and tricks you can add to your finished design.

Step 5: Perfecting the Build

There are some other things that you can easily do to drastically improve your ferris wheel. These are just suggestions, so don't feel limited to using my ideas - you can make your ferris wheel however you want!

a) Lubricate the axles.

If you find that your ferris wheel isn't turning well, or the pots aren't properly rotating when the central wheel is turned, you might want to lubricate the axles. You can do this with various oils and greases. For a fast at-home lubrication you can even use lotion! If you need to lubricate the axles after you have assembled, try putting your lubricator on the tip of an Xacto knife and sliding it into the places you need to lubricate.

b) Add weight to the pots.

To keep your plants from falling out of the pots when you are turning your ferris wheel, try taping a small coin to the bottom of each pot. It will help weigh them down, so the pots are always straight up. You can even glue the coins to make it look more professional. If you want you can put these coins inside the pot, and the soil will cover them up.

c) Paint your ferris wheel.

To get a more authentic ferris wheel feel, try printing it out in white and painting it before you assemble. This will look very nice and polished, and is a cool alternative to simply printing in various colors.

Step 6: Using and Admiring Your Finished Product

This ferris wheel looks great when sitting on your desk or standing in your backyard. However, you can turn this ferris wheel into a hanging wheel by simply turning the base upside down. The two bars on the bottom of the base are perfect for tying a string to for hanging. You can also simply hang the planter on a branch for a quick solution.

I've uploaded some pictures of how this build looks when complete. Feel free to check them out and give me any feedback you might have. Good luck printing!

Planter Challenge

Runner Up in the
Planter Challenge