Geneva Roller Ruler, a Pocket Sized Infinite Ruler




About: Hi I'm Michael! I love all things Science, Engineering, & 3D Printing. If you've enjoyed my work then I've love to hear from you!

The 'Geneva Roller Ruler' is a special pocket sized tool for measuring any line, any curve, any length! With this device you can measure square objects, round objects, straight lines, curved surfaces, you get the idea!

This tool can be very handy when measuring curved lines or oddly shaped surfaces that are difficult to measure dirctly with a straight ruler or tape measure. The roller ruler uses a wheel of known dimensions, regularly spaced tick marks, and a counter mechanism to measure up to 1/2 meter in 5 mm increments.

-The device is tiny so you can literally carry an infinitely long ruler wherever you go! :) It’s a simple but handy tool for home owners, architects, engineers, interior designers, fashion designers, decorators, art students, or anyone who needs to precisely measure irregularly shaped things on a regular basis.

-Assembly is simple so this instructable will guide you on how to print & use the device as well as tips on how it was designed.

>If you dont have a 3D printer you can pick up a geneva roller ruler in my store here<

A note on technical names:

  • The intermittent geneva drive mechanism is also known as a 'maltese cross drive'
  • Technically this device should be called a 'curvimeter' ,'opisometer', or 'meilograph'


Step 1: 3D Printing Files & Settings

Print Settings: (Files attached)

  • Any material, No supports needed (Parts must be oriented as shown in the image)
  • 0.4mm dia nozzle max
  • 0.2mm layer thickness maximum
  • Minimum 2 perimeters all sides top & bottom
  • 10% infill minimum
  • Expect 2 hrs to print


Assembly is so easy it doesn't merit its own step. Use the two screws to attach the 3 parts together. Do not over tighten as that will prevent motion. The parts are naturally pokayoke so you cant do it wrong!

Step 2: HOW TO USE

-To use, hold it like a pizza cutter and place the start mark on the starting point of the surface or line you want to measure, and then roll. Every time the primary wheel rotates once, the Geneva mechanism keeps track by rotating the counter to the next number. One primary wheel rotation is 100mm (or 4 inches for the imperial version) and the geneva counter goes up to 5 so you can measure up to half a meter before the counter restarts.

-The measurement resolution is limited to the small notch spacing on the primary wheel. The notches are in 5mm increments for Metric, & 0.25" increments on the Imperial version.

Once again, see the video demo here.

Step 3: Design Notes

I used Solidworks to design this tool from scratch. Its only 3 pieces but it was a bit of work to get the geneva mechanism properly functioning. For that I referred to a design table I found here.

Well that's all, I hope you enjoyed and get some use of of this. If you enjoyed this instructable please take a second to vote for it in the Instructables Pocket Sized Contest, Thanks!!

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    15 Discussions


    14 days ago

    I had a friend (who is not technical at all) print this for me. It files were simple and perfect. I do a lot of backpacking and I work with engineering maps all day. I love this little thing. I voted in the pocket sized contest too.

    1 reply

    18 days ago

    This is one of the most unique things I've seen on here in a while. Thanks for sharing!

    1 reply

    23 days ago

    Great idea, just to share my 2 cents worth on some add on mechanism

    Roller >> increase the friction surface by adding an O Ring
    Counter Reset mechanism >> add a sliding function with a spring return to allow the wheel to disengage and reset the counter.
    Racheting mechanism >> something to hold the roller in position, when its taken off the surface, and it will hold the roller in position. Also it make a cool clicking sound, :)

    2 replies

    Reply 19 days ago

    The only potential issue with the o ring would be getting the circumference correct. And that could very if other people don't use the same brand/type of o ring. But something to increase group would be useful. This would be a great use for dual/multiple extrusion. A hard core of the wheel so it doesn't warp or bend, but the outer ring in a soft semi flex.


    19 days ago

    That is awesome. Great use of the Geneva mechanism.

    One possible modification would be make it with imperial on one end and metric on the other. Then just print the metric wheel a different color than the imperial wheel. I could probably do that in meshmixer, if I really wanted to deal with that software.


    Question 23 days ago

    Really nice and useful!!

    Maybe the primary roller can be made from rubber as well? So there's friction on glossy, smooth or even slippery surfaces...

    Hm. Is there something like rubber filament that can be used to achieve this?

    4 answers

    Answer 23 days ago

    Thanks! Yes a slippery surface like glass is an issue, especially when the geneva wheel engages. But it is a surprisingly free spinning device and for paper or countertops it works great! I thought about adding a rubber o-ring to the outer rim but I wasn't sure it was worth it. (BTW 3D Printed TPU is surprisingly fairly slick because it has to be extrudable!)


    Answer 23 days ago

    There are a lot of flexible/rubber filaments. Ninja Flex comes to mind first. Yo could just give the edge a bit of a scuffing or brush on some silicone/plasti dip.


    Reply 22 days ago

    Great idea! Got a can of plasti dip at home! Great stuff!


    22 days ago

    Its osm man! Thanks for sharing this wonderful tool!


    23 days ago

    I could see this being very useful to mark distances on paper maps.