Introduction: How to Make a Keychain

Have you ever been to a gift shop and find the section where all the souvenir key chains hang? You dive into them searching for your name and sadly come up empty handed. Well say goodbye to all that disappointment about not being able to find your name on one of those key chains, because today I will be showing you how to digitally design and 3D print your very own unique key chain. Let's get started!

Step 1: Make a Free Tinkercad Account

Before we can start, there has to be a few smaller steps done first.

In this process we will be using a free online designing tool called Tinkercad. This site is an incredibly easy-to-use 3D design platform which then makes our model ready to be exported to a 3D printer.

For the link to the website click here

Once you access the website you will find in the upper right hand corner a button to sign up for an account. Click on that and it will send you to a new window where you can set up a free account.

Once you have made your account you will be directed to a new page with a tab that says "create new design" this is where you want to go to next to start your design!

Step 2: Familiarize Yourself With the Program

There are many tutorials you can view as a new user in order to get yourself more comfortable with using TinkerCAD. Take your time looking through each design tool and all the shape options available for you to use.

After going through all or as many of the tutorials as you like, you will then be directed to a new page where you can find a tab that says, "Create New Design". This is the button you want to press so that you can start working on your design.

Step 3: Start Designing!

After clicking the "Create New Design" tab you will then see a blank grid. This grid is your workplace where all the fun creative magic happens.

Our keychain building process begins now!

Step 4: Pick the Correct Shape

To start go to the "Basic Shapes" tab.

There are a variety of shapes to choose from, but in this design you will first need to select the cube or "box" shape.

Click on it and drag it to the center of the workplane.

Step 5: Find the Right Size

So now you have this box on your screen, but what do you do next?

Drag your mouse over the box towards the small white dots located on the corners of the box.

Click on one of these white dots. You can drag it around to either make your box longer or shorter.

In this case you want to elongate the box by dragging the white corner dot out to whatever size you like. In my example I stretch it out to 55mm in length.

Once that is done you can next make the now rectangle shape thinner by dragging the center white dot down to 3mm.

Step 6: Select Next Shape

Great, so you have the rectangular part of the keychain done.

The next component is the rounded top where eventually you attach your keychain to your keys (wow what a concept)

To make that rounded top part you will need to select the cylinder shape and drag it out next to your rectangle.

Step 7: Select the Right Size

Edit the size of your cylinder by clicking on the white corner boxes and dragging them with your mouse.

The height should be 3mm, which is the same height as your rectangle.

You want to move that cylinder over your rectangle so that the cylinder is about half way covered.

You can rotate your view point of your design by moving the white 3D cube that is in the upper left hand corner with the different labeled faces: "top" , "front" , "left" , "right", "back", and "bottom". Pick "top" to view your shape so far from an aerial view. It might make it easier for you to see if your cylinder is actually half over your rectangle or not.

Step 8: Group Your Shapes Together

Click on either one of your shapes and then find the icon in the upper right corner where the other tools are located.

The icon is called "Group"

Click that icon so that now your two shapes merge into one unified object.

Step 9: Make the Keychain Hole

As of now you have a solid interesting look shape on your screen. It is getting closer to the appearance of a keychain, but there is still the missing hole in the top of the keychain.

To fix this you need to select another cylinder.

Once you drag out the cylinder change the size to 10 x 10mm.

You can move your cylinder to the center of the preexisting one because that is where you are going to make your whole in the keychain.

Once in the right spot go to the option where you can make the shape either solid or whole. You want to pick "whole". When you click that the cylinder will become grey looking.

Step 10: Make the Whole in Your Keychain Continued

Take your mouse and drag it around your object so that the entire thing is encompassed with red dashed lines.

Go back to the upper right hand corner to find the "Group" icon

After clicking the icon your whole should now appear

Looks more like an actual keychain now!

Step 11: Decorative Ridges

As of now your keychain is pretty plane, so to spruce things up a bit you can add these decorative ridges to the border of your rectangular part of the keychain.

Go back to the "Basic Shapes" section and select the shape called "Round Roof"

Drag that shape out and adjust the size to 5mm in height.

This is very small and can be difficult to see so to help with that you can find on the middle left hand side of your workplane an icon called "Fit View to Selection". This will zoom in to the single piece that you are currently working on, so in this case the round roof ridge piece.

Once you work that down to size move it to the side of the rectangle so that it merges with it. After you have that one piece in place you can duplicate it several times by simply finding the icon in the upper left corner in the tool section.

An even easier way after a time is to select all these individual round roof pieces by using shift + selecting each piece. This way when you want to duplicate and adjust height and lengths it is done for all the pieces, not just one.

Step 12: Make the Ridges for the Other Side

Once you have one side of the ridges made you can just duplicate them and move them over to the other side of your keychain.

Both sides are done now with those silly ridges!

To make things look more cohesive you can change the color of the ridges to match the color of your keychain. Simply click on one of the ridges and a menu with either "solid" or "whole" will appear. Hit "solid" so that an entire color scheme shows up. Now you can pick whichever color you want! In this case I used red.

Step 13: Add Your Letters

Finally we are done with making the basic shape of the keychain and can move on to the placement of letters on the inside of the keychain.

If you look to the middle right hand side of the screen you will see options to change from shapes to letters. Select "text and numbers" so that you find a drop down menu that has all the letters and numbers you could ask for.

By clicking that you also are given the option for changing the font style of the letters. Here I used the "multilanguage" font.

Eventually I drag out all the letters available and lay them up top above the keychain. You do not have to do this, but I did just out of curiosity.

Step 14: Add Your Letters Continued

You can now take any set of letters to spell whatever it is you would like your keychain to say! In my case I used an acronym that is an inside joke for the nickname of the house I live in, so do not be afraid to get as creative as you like with putting words in your keychain.

Take your mouse and drag each letter individually to the inside of your keychain and lay them out the way you like.

Step 15: Size Your Letters

I know the color of the keychain has been changing throughout this process and it is because I just could not make up my mind for a color scheme so I just changed it whenever I felt like it. Sorry if that was confusing you!

So neat little fact about the sizing of your letters that will make things so much easier. Instead of just relying on your mouse to drag around the adjustments for height and width of your letters, you can actually just click on the white boxes that border the corners and a text box with numbers in it will appear. You can change those numbers inside to another numerical value.

In my example I had all the letters changed to 10.39 x 6.00mm. The rounded value happened because TinkerCAD is just a software system that has predetermined dimensions and such that are very particular with how proportions work.

Anywho, do the specific sizing you like for each letter so that all are uniform in length, width, and height as well the spacing in between.

Step 16: Add Some Aesthetic

Right now all your letters are probably in a bunch of different colors so now is your chance to pick a decent color scheme.

To do this click on a letter and then click "solid" so that a drop down menu appears with all the colors. Here you can pick the color you would your letter to be. I picked silver and made sure the body of the keychain was another contrasting color.

Step 17: Delete the Excess

Awesome sauce, your keychain is essentially done at this point!

You are most likely wondering what to do with all these left over letters that are in the way of your wonderful creation.

Simply select one letter at a time and then go to the upper left hand side of the toolbar to find the icon of a garbage can. Click that to delete the letters or anything else you may have on your workplane you may no longer need.

Step 18: Time to Export!

You have now reached the end of the designing process! Congrats and thank you for sticking with me this far!

So now that you have your lovely design all worked out you need to export it in order to save it to your computer and eventually get it ready to be 3D printed.

To do that go to the upper right hand corner of the screen and click on the tab that says "Export"

That will then lead you to a new drop down menu where under the "Download" section you will see the option to include everything in your design for download. Make sure to select that.

Then there is an option for 3D print where you can either download your design as an .obj or .stl file. Depending on the 3D printer you are using some files are better than others, so in this case the printer I am using prefers the .stl file.

Select the file you wish to use and it will download right to your computer

Step 19: 3D Printing Software

Your computer may or may not have the software needed to open these typesof 3D printing files so make sure you have the necessary programs for that. Somehow my computer already had some 3D printing software on it which was a pleasant surprise. The program automatically opened up when I clicked on my downloaded .stl file.

Step 20: Final Edits to Help Print

Most softwares like mine will take an overall look at your design and tell you about any weak spots like thin walls or too small pieces so that you have a chance to fix the mistakes before trying to print your design.

My design was said to have too thin walls and should be made slightly larger. It gave me the option of automatically fixing it for me so I went ahead and allowed it to do that since I have no professional skill in making accurate 3D designs.

Once you are completely satisfied with your design then it will be ready to rock-and-roll over to the nearest 3D printer!

Step 21: Submit Your Design to a 3D Printer

For me since I am a student at my university, I have access to 3D printers and a science library where people can actually print my design for me (I guess that's one good place where my tuition is going).

If you so happen to be a student from my same institution then you can follow these steps to find the 3D Printing website of the Marston Science Library. The link to the site is here

Click that and you will be directed to the website in which you can follow instructions on submitting your design to the 3D print lab.

Step 22: You Can Also Print on Your Own

If you wanted to take the chance and try printing your design on your own, some places may allow you to take home your very own 3D printer!

The university allows students to do just that. I have provided some photos on when my class used the 3D printers so that you can see how they work.

For us these printers took about 40 minutes to complete a design that a student submitted.

Step 23: The Finished Product

Here we are folks, our finished product!

In my printing lab I had the option of printing it in a colored material, but some places may only have a white colored filament.

If that is your case you can use nail polish to paint your object. The nail polish adheres very well to this material so get out there and find some funky colors to work with!

I thank you for following my first ever instructable, it was a great time working with 3D printers and I hope you had fun too.

Until our next creation,