3D Printed Straw Sculptures




Introduction: 3D Printed Straw Sculptures

About: I'm a Research Engineer at Adobe. Previously, I was a grad student at the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT Media Lab. Before that, I worked at Instructables, writing code for the website and iOS apps and m...

I saw a really amazing modular straw construction set on Kickstarter called LINX, and I wanted to try to create my own using the 3D printer in the Instructables office.  The basic idea is to create small plastic parts that can connect to regular plastic straws to create unique geometric 3D sculptures. 

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Step 1: 3D Modeling

I grabbed some straws from a local Chipotle to use for testing.  I measured the straw's outer diameter at 0.23" and inner diameter at 0.20".  I decided to start my first test connector pieces with a max diameter of 0.21".  Following the LINX design, I made the cross section of the piece that actually fits inside the staw an X shape, instead of a full circle.  I figured that this would probably allow for easier on/off since air can pass freely through the connection. 

I started by created two intersecting ellipses and extruded them into 3D.  I added some taper to the extruded ellipses (fig 2) and used mirror3d to create a symmetric shape (fig 3).  I copied this shape 17 times (total of 18), and I arranged the shapes so that they are spaced 60 degrees from each other around a central point.  This way you will be able to connect the straws in equilateral triangles (no straw cutting necessary).  I added a sphere in the center to join all these shapes (fig 6).

I've attached my dwg and stl files below.

Step 2: 3D Print

I 3D printed the part on an Objet printer (the grand prize in the Make It Real Challenge!) and fit a straw on it to make sure it was the right size (see the image above).  The fit was good; secure, but easy pulled apart.  However, I decided that the size of the connector was a little too large and decided to go back to the drawing board (AutoCAD) before printing more.  Stay tuned for more updates.

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    5 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This is cool and I was actually thinking of trying to make the same thing like the Strawbees connectors. Thanks. When I imported to TinkerCAD, it made it super small. Can you tell me the actual outside dimensions of your product? :)

    I'm just getting into 3d printing,so I'm not sure how to download your files. When I try they turn out to be a text file or html ,depending on how I try. Can I save them as TXT & rename them to the proper extensions later ? I don't have a printer or software at this point but want to save the files for future use. Appreciate any help. TKS!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    try opening the stl with a program like mesh mixer (free, open source).


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! So what does a finished sculpture look like once it's done?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I've posted a few more parts, you can check out some of those pics. I'm still trying to get a few more connectors printed so that I can make something large, but I will definitely get some pictures of the finished product posted later this week.