3D Printable Robotic Actuator




About: I'm a content creator. I make open source projects and videos for said projects. My goal is to create free and open knowledge for everyone.

Upon research for an upcoming project, I discovered this simple way to make very tiny magnetic actuators. RC enthusiasts have been using these for some time now, but they don't seem very well known. I think there are a lot of useful applications for these little actuators, and they are simple enough to be designed by anyone, which means easy to implement in custom projects. Follow along in the video as I show you how to make the one designed and I will explain how it works. Although I have provided the files to 3D print my design, I encourage you to try and design your own!

Step 1: Watch the Video!

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Step 2: Gather the Parts and Tools


  • Magnet (I used this one for my design - McMasterCarr)
  • Metal Rod - 1mm Diameter - I used the leads from a resistor.)
  • Copper Core Wire, at least 30AWG - AdaFruit - or scavenge from old motor or electric clock.
  • Electrical Tape


  • 3D Printer, or a service like Shapeways
  • Soldering Iron(if you want to solder the leads on)
  • Snips
  • Tweezers(not essential)
  • Patience (to wind the wire)

Step 3: 3D Print the Parts!

Download the parts from here! - https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2859499

3D print the parts.

Step 4: Assemble the Body.

Cut some pieces off of your metal rod(resistor in my case) and assemble the piece as shown in the GIF above. The small pieces of rod hold it together.

Step 5: Electrical Tape

Use the electrical tape to cover the holes where you put in the metal rod, this makes sure they won't fall out.

Step 6: Start Coiling the Wire

Attach the wire to the frame and start coiling it around the circular part of it. Keep it going in one direction. The neater and tighter the coil, the better the magnetic field will be for the current that is supplied. Once fully wrapped, strip some of the enamel off of the wire and solder on some pin headers.

Step 7: Test It Out!

I'm testing it by attaching it to a motor driver and microcontroller. This isn't an Instructables on how to do that so I won't go over it(I do cover some of the stuff in some other Instructables). Basically if you put a current though the wires(such as attaching a battery to each side. The coil will generate an electric field. The magnet will oppose that field in some way, and try to spin the actuator arm. This is what gives the movement. If you switch the polarity of the current(battery) it will make the actuator try and go in the other direction. Lots of explanation int he video. Very cool!

Step 8: Design Your Own!

Since these are pretty simple in design, I encourage you to try and make a custom one for your own application. I would love to see what you come up with!

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    9 Discussions

    laith mohamed

    1 year ago

    Nice work , I will try to do one . ( But how many turns you warped )

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    I had made an actuator , not as good as this one cause I don't have 3D printer , but it gets the job done. I've posted the instructable.


    Tip 1 year ago

    The pins that are used in watch links would be perfect for what you used the chopped resistor leads for. And many places, will give them to you for free.


    1 year ago


    project and presentation. Thanks for sharing.

    visualize a “self actuating” trick toggle switch having the
    actuator made up to look like a bat handle toggle switch.
    Incorporate some sort of proximity sensor into the works. When
    someone's hand approaches the switch, it would “magically”
    toggle, turning something on or off before the fingers can touch the

    the way, you can straighten reclaimed motor wire by laying out the
    length with one end clamped to a solid object like a vice for
    example, with the free end chucked into a drill. Put a little
    tension on the wire while running the drill at low speed for a few
    revolutions. The wire will be straight and ready to wind on your
    coil form.


    1 year ago

    Great Instructable! I agree with glennlake, better lighting would make your videos better.


    1 year ago

    Good idea. I would suggest you use more lighting in your videos.


    Tip 1 year ago

    You should add a note that the coil MUST be made with enamelled wire. If the wire does not have this insulating enamel coating the coil will short circuit.

    Enamelled wire is also known as magnet wire.


    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing this discovery! I feel like I learned something completely new today! :D