Introduction: 3D Printed Flexible Floating Mask

About: Community Manager for Instructables and Tinkercad.

Last year, I made floating 3D printed masquerade masks by 3D printing on tulle fabric. While I just loved how they looked, they just weren't as comfortable as I would prefer. After getting some clear-ish flexible filament, I thought it would be fun to experiment with making them float a different way. This Instructable covers how you can take a 3D printed "floating" mask design and make it work with a flexible filament base to make a mask that looks good and feels comfortable.

Instructable 318


You can buy this gem mask with either tulle or a flexible filament base (and my other masks) in my Etsy Store.



Any Amazon links are Amazon Associates links.

Step 1: Mask & Base Design

I designed my mask using Tinkercad.

First, you need a mask design. Originally, I was working off my stars and moon mask but I decided to make a new one for fun.

Once you have the mask design, you need to create a flexible base. The Base will be made up of the base of the design itself (the gems) plus lines to connect everything together.

So, to start, you need the base of all the gems.

Then you need the lines to connect the gems. I already imported some mask shapes to work with and shrank or enlarged them as need be.

Lastly, I connected bits that needed some more support. You want to support going up and down the middle (green), and going from left to right (red) since it will be pulled tight by the ribbon. Then, just add in any little bits if you feel the mask is hanging too much (blue). I had to go through a few prints to get all these little bits right, so you might not get it 100% right the first time.

Some might be wondering, why don't you just do a solid base below the gems. I did this for two reasons, 1: I wanted to try to not make it as invisible as possible and 2: I wanted it to be able to breathe as much as possible, if it covers completely it will get way too hot.

Make the base .2mm high so it will be just 1 layer when printed and make sure the rest of the mask starts .2mm up from the bed. I needed to do this for the multimedia extruder I had, but if you don't have this, just make sure the base is .2mm thick and then the rest of the mask goes up from there. Then you can just group the whole design together.

Step 2: Slicing and Files


If you have a single extruder printer, just use the Full Gem file.

If you have a multi extruder, you can either use the Base + Single Color or the Base + Color 1 + Color 2 + Color 3.

Slice - PrusaSlicer

Because I have the MMU for the Prusa, I am using the Prusa Slicer to prepare my design for printing. If you are going to do this, just make sure you bring all the files in at once and agree when it asks if this is one design. It will automatically line them up and separate them into different filaments. Put the base as the first and make sure you load the flexible filament into that slot.

Other slicers such as Cura and Simplify3D

If you are using another slicer and using the Full Gem Mask file, it's pretty straightforward. You need to slice it as if the first layer is the flexible filament and the rest is made up of a normal PLA filament. If you can, add a Color Change in between the first and second layers so you can change from the flex to regular filament. If you can't add the pause/color change into the slicer, you will have to manually pause the print after the first layer to change the color.

Things to Keep in Mind

Regardless of the slicer you use, there are things to keep in mind when using flexible filament.

  • Speed - usually the first layer is printed slower than the rest, but check the settings and make sure you slow this down. I usually do about 25mm/s but 30mm/s is also fine.
  • Temperature: Make sure you get the temp right. Since it is only the first layer, you should be able to do this layer a different temp than the others if need be. Check your filament to make sure it's right.
  • Tension: Cover Next Step
  • Clean Bed: Cover Next Step

Step 3: Printing

Printer Bed:

Before you start your print, you need to prepare your printer bed. I have a flexible sprint steel bed and in order to make sure flexible filament will come off, you HAVE to put down a layer of glue stick. This can be different for whatever type of bed you are using so you may have to look up recommendations on how to prepare it.


Regardless of the printer you use, you will need to do some adjusting to the printer to make sure your print works out.

The main thing is you need to loosen the tension on the extruder idler. If it is too tight, the filament can bunch up. The first image shows the tension tight and loose. One site I looked at said to pretty much set it as loose as you can so I would just undo it the whole way and then barely tighten it back.

You need this for the first flexible layer, so do this to the printer right away.

Once the first layer finishes and that filament is removed, you need to tighten it back up.

  • If you are using an MMU2 like me, you will need to watch the printer and after it retracts the flexible filament and before it changes to the next filament, you need to tighten that backup.
  • If you are using a printer with only one filament, this can be pretty straightforward as once you do the pause/color change, just tighten the tension back up before manually loading in the next filament.

Also, if you are using an MMU2, watch that flexible filament. Sometimes the filament loads fine and I have no issues, other times it bunches up over and over and OVER again (picture 2) and you just have to keep unjamming it before you can print.

Once you get past that flexible filament layer and you get the tension tightened back up, you are good to leave it to finish the print.

Step 4: Getting It Off the Printer Bed

Okay, for me this is the hardest part.

Once the print is all done, you have to get it off the printer bed without tearing the flexible layer and without detaching the PLA parts from the flexible base.

Sometimes this is easy for me, and sometimes it's a pain.

One thing that can help is after the print is done, hold a cold pack on top of the print to cool it down more than the printer bed.

Another option is to put the whole bed in the fridge. Again, I have a flexible bed and this is easy but this might not work for all bed types.

I do not recommend using a scraper to get it off as you will most likely tear it as I mentioned.

The second and third images show what has happened when I was forced to scrap the mask off. It's not salvageable.

Step 5: Finishing

To finish the mask, you need to attach your ribbon. I cut off pieces that are about 17" or 18" long. I used hot glue to glue them on each end of the mask. I always make sure to glue the ribbon to itself and not the mask so I can always remove it later without ruining the mask if I want.

Finish it up by putting fray check on the other end of the ribbon so it doesn't fray.

Step 6: Finished Masks

Here is a look at a few of the finished masks.

The blue is actually the best as it has the most base connections and the other two were printed before changes were made to the design.

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