Introduction: 3D Printed Decoy TV Remote

About: Hobby programmer, woodworker, 3D designer, etc. I love tinkering with anything and everything and understanding how it all works!

"Baby, stop stealing the remote!"

Hmm... doesn't work.

Our 18 month old always picks the smallest remote (Amazon Fire TV Stick) from the bin and carries it around. Then she proceeds to lose it in the most random place in the house that will take us a day and a half to find!

Ah! Anyone else have this problem? If only we had a decoy remote! Something that looked and felt like the real thing?

Let's get started!

Note: If you are brand new to 3D printing/modeling/design like me (less than a month now), or maybe never touched a 3D printer before, these instructions show the basic steps needed to complete a 3D product. I hope this helps! In reality this project turned out way better than I thought it would!!!

Step 1: Discovering the Real Deal

How in the world are we going to replicate this perfectly manufactured remote by Amazon? Where do we even start?

First thing to replicating an object with a 3D print is discovering everything we can about it. We use good digital calipers (or a ruler) to take measurements as best we can of all the major parts of the object. For something like a TV remote we sketch it out on paper, noting the basic shapes, measuring the dimensions, buttons, and distances between each component.

Once we've gathered the info on it, next step is reproducing the sketch in a 3D model.

Note: Besides PLA filament, the first thing I bought to go with my printer was a good set of digital calipers. Here is a link to the ones I bought from Amazon: Vinca Calipers

Step 2: Modeling the Counterfeit

Wait wait wait! We have to use 3D modeling software? Yikes!!!

I know this sounds like a daunting task, but try it! It was much easier to learn than I thought. I had used Tinkercad just a little for one previous project, and fumbled through that one on my own. This time, I enrolled in the easy 3D printing class offered by Instructables (Easy-3D-Printing Class) and in one evening learned the simple skills and tricks I needed to design a TV remote. I honestly am still surprised how easy and fun Tinkercad is to use.

First, we use common shapes to simply piece together the remote. Cylinders for buttons, boxes with a radius on the edges for the top and bottom of the remote, etc. The video shows how quickly we can model a simple remote from measurements in just 7 minutes! (Ok, ok, so it took me much longer than 7 minutes the first time I did it.)

Here is a link to the first version product created in the video: Fire TV Stick Remote v1

And a link to the second version where sloping sides were added: Fire TV Stick Remote v2

Step 3: 3D Printing the Prototype

With Tinkercad it is super easy for us to export the design to an .STL file for 3D printing. Then we can just use free slicer software such as Ultimaker's Cura or Slic3r to prepare for printing. The slicer software takes the 3D model and establishes the settings for 3D printing. After printing the prototype, we measure and compare the fake to the real deal to make sure everything lines up. If adjustments are needed or anything looks off, we go back to the modeling step!

3D print files are published on Thingiverse: Amazon Fire TV Stick Remote

Step 4: Refining and Final Printing

After printing the prototype, the details and proportions were an exact match, but something still didn't seem quite right to me? Just one thing was missing... weight!!! I realized even with a great paint job, filament is very light and my baby will not be fooled. I needed to make it EVEN MORE REAL!!!

So, if a real remote weighs about as much as the batteries inside, why don't we just use 2 dead AAA batteries to make it about the same weight? Great idea! (Thanks!) So we measure the battery dimensions, add them to our sketch, and then add a hollow space inside the print to hold them side by side as shown in the video. We include a small inset cover to glue on the back to hold the batteries in as shown in the video. Last of all if we are adventurous, we add the little etched logo at the bottom!

Here is a link to the final version adding battery slot and logo: Fire TV Stick Remote v3

3D print files are published on Thingiverse: Amazon Fire TV Stick Remote

Step 5: Assembling, Sanding and Spray Painting

We next clean up the print by removing any strings and cutting off the brim and/or supports as needed. Then we just pop 2 dead AAA batteries into the slot with some folded paper to make it snug, and superglue the cover on.

Since I'm still honing my printer, I printed with a brim and didn't print with really fine detail, so I decided to try some sanding. It took some added time and wasn't very easy to hold while sanding, but there is a great tutorial here if you want to make it much better!

For basic sanding, we can use 200 grit sandpaper first, then wet sand with 400 grit sandpaper. It takes about 10-15 minutes to see it become more smooth.

After wiping off the dust we spray paint with our base color, in this case black satin, using multiple coats all around on both sides.

Step 6: Finishing the Details

At this point we're just missing a few important details! Using a toothpick, we dip the tip in our basic white paint, making sure to not get too much on the tip and carefully draw the button icons. Too much paint on the toothpick tip means we won't be able to do the fine lines. We take it slow and re-dip a lot, wiping off any excess if we get too much.

Step 7: Planting the Decoy

Now we just put the original remote on a shelf the baby can't reach and plant the decoy along with the other remotes. It works!!! See if your kids take the bait as well...

Faux-Real Contest

Runner Up in the
Faux-Real Contest