Ramblin' Dan's

3D Print Design Studio


Box Feet

I have a new 3D print original project. My wife has a makeup box setting on the very long built in sink counter in our bathroom. It is located between the two sinks built into the counter top. All one piece.

Splash water will sometimes accumulate around this box. It is made from pressed wood and has absorbed some of this water and bulged out a bit on the bottom edge. She asked me if I could make something to raise the box off the surface so the water on the counter top could not get to it.

An excellent application for plastic, and that means a 3D print project. I am always thinking KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) so this needed to be simple. I designed four 50 mm squares that are 5 mm high to set under each corner. It’s virtually impossible for water to pond 5 mm deep on the flat sink counter. I put a 5 mm flange on two sides for the box corners to set within. In effect the makeup box now has four waterproof corner feet, to keep it up out of any puddles on the counter.

The corner feet are not (yet) attached. They could easily be glued on if necessary. The makeup box is not moved or carried around so unattached will be fine for now.

As usual I start with a quick dimensional hand sketch to plan my CAD. Then it’s into Autodesk Fusion 360 to execute the CAD. It’s very professional software and little home shops like mine get to use it for free. It’s very different than the “old school” CAD but I am getting to really liking what I can do with it. My Rhinoceros is getting a rest…

The makeup box is white so the white PLA I have been using in my printer sparked my wife’s request for the box risers. A perfect opportunity. Just draw up the design and no preparation getting the printer set up.

I have been experimenting with CURA 2.5 on my Linux computer and 2.6 beta on the Windows10 machine. Both CURA versions have serious problems discovering the 3D printers on their USB ports. Eventually by switching things on and off, they will get connected. CURA is freeware designed primarily for Ultimaker, so on other system brands it performs a bit buggy.

I could do some very nice prints with CURA, but Simplify3D will remain my go-to work horse. I did a test print of this project on CURA but made the four real parts with Simplify3D. CURA just doesn’t offer the same printer manual control. I was also getting a strange partial missing top layer misprint that isn’t in the .stl drawing, and doesn’t happen in Simplify3D. Strange behavior.

The pictures tell the story of this little project:

A421 box corner v2
 The usual rough hand sketch to determine design and measurements.  As drawn using Autodesk Fusion 360, then exported as a .stl file
DSC07690 DSC07687
 I made four exactly the same.  How they fit on the box corners. Note damage from the water on the countertop. Needs some repair...


Marble Machine

Totally rebuilt the hot end of my Delta 3D printer. Replaced the threaded steel filament tube, the 5x10x120 mm aluminum heat block and the 0.04mm brass nozzle. This is not the first time except for the aluminum block. The threads in it were getting a bit worn and leaky.

Read more: Marble Machine

DSC07542The fun part of inventing is creating exactly what is desired for a particular application. Inventing is discovering a need and finding a way to fulfill that need. I recently did that sitting here at my computer.

I often pull out the drawer in front of the screen to prop the keyboard at an angle and at a lower position than setting flat on top of the desk surface. It works well in that position and I decided I needed a more reliable system.

Read more: Keyboard Solution

I hardly believe this myself. I started a new hobby model construction project. I am now working on building large scale model train equipment. I have been posting a little about whimsical model railroading in a few blog posts and the desire started to grow.

The first step is a powered wheel set (truck) for a diesel-electric locomotive. It is made using 3D printed parts. That is the prime reason I am doing it. I want to see if I can, with 3D printing. A proof of concept. Then see if I can make it operate. It will have an electric motor and gearbox.

I don’t think I am going to complete the entire model. The working powered truck is my immediate goal. I may try to sell it once it is done and operating.

I want to use this project as a trial experience. To see if I will really get more involved building with plastic. The size of this powered truck is substantial but the engineering was done by someone other than myself. It’s mostly a print and assemble project. As I said above, it’s going to be my proof that 3D printing is or is not worth the effort in model construction.

This may be enough to get me back to the machine shop and working on my live steam engine. I shall see. That project is mostly mostly a brass and steel construction.

I did some research on the internet about 3D printing in real world (non-hobby) applications. It’s growing rapidly. Some of it for the same reasons Laser Cutting and engraving has grown.

Old school machine shop work is mostly subtractive. Milling removes material with cutting tools that is not part of the desired product. A large variety of cutting tools are required. They get worn out and sometimes break. A large investment in tooling is required.

3D printing is an additive process. No tooling is required. It builds using layers and very complex shapes can be made, especially in areas where cutting tools can never reach.

The real world is combining both processes. Each have a strength and both have weaknesses. But the smart people are using the strengths where they make the most sense.

In this first 3D printed railroad component, I have to admit I am not excited about using 3D printed plastic wheels. The axels are steel and that’s good. But the plastic wheels will probably be far from true and durable.

For a display-only model, plastic wheels may be suitable. For an operating model, they definitely are not. I don’t plan to run this truck except for display. If It is going to be used in an operating engine, the wheels need to be changed to metal.

Here are a couple of early pics. More as the build progresses. Axels, bearings and motor are on order.

DSC07420 DSC07422
The first parts in ABS

Wheels and gears in manufacturing.

The parts ordered have arrived so here is the next 3D printing step. I need a way to secure the electric motor on the mounting box. I decided a split bushing would do the trick. But I would have to design it myself. No problem of course.

The photos below show what I have done. I don't take a lot of pains with my pencil sketchs when noodling out a design. It's just for reference for the real drawing in CAD so I will have a reference for all the dimentions.

The split bushing takes up the space between the electric motor housing and the previously made housing box. In the picture I have not forced it all the way "home" as I may need to adjust the position before I do that. I lightly filed the edges to take away any ridges and create a small chamfer so the gap in the picture looks bigger than it really is. The fitup is very secure and tight.

The slot is not square but rather wedge shape with the apex at the center of the circles. Little details are important.

I have run out of ABS black and I had Bronze ABS in the printer, so that is why the new part is bronze. The color is not important and I actually like the contrast. The split ring is 100% fill amd 0.2mm layer height. Three shells wall thickness. The first ring was slightly undersize due to ABS shrinkage. I made measurements, caluculated the undersize amount as a percentage and enlarged the drawing by the same amount. That drawing printed exactly correct.

A408 2 splitbushing
My ususal quick dimentional hand sketch Rendered in RhinoCAD and exported as a .OBJ file
DSC07442 DSC07443
First split ring fresh off the 3D printer. The ink mark on the side is to identify it as the first print. 2nd and final split ring in place on the motor housing.

Design created in Vectric Aspire 8.5A great application for 3D printing is proof-of-concept prototype printing. This is an example.

I create Sterling silver lost wax cast jewelry pieces. I use two creative processes. The first is hand carving the wax master. Totally a manual process. Sometimes I start carving with just a sketch or photographs of what I want to create.

The second process is CAD/CAM, computer assisted drawing / computer assisted manufacturing. I use a computer 3D drawing program to design a piece to the ultimate detail and the send the file to a CNC, computer numerically controlled three or four axes milling machine. The milling machine carves the wax to match exactly what I have drawn in my design.

Hand carving usually takes days to complete. Machine carving may take days for the drawing and carves in one to as much as four to six hours.

From both these process, the carved wax is used to create the mold for the cast silver. The wax is destroyed in the process, thus the term, “Lost Wax”.

One benefit of the CAD/CAM is I can create a .STL file and produce the design on one of my 3D printers. If I were a rich man (Tweedel-deedle-deedle-dum) Fiddler on the Roof… I could print directly to a high-end jewelry wax 3D printer. Purchase prices start at the $10,000 range and supplies are also expensive.

I use a plastic filament (FFF) printer and can make plastic replica “proofs” in about 30 minutes before I commit to wax carving for many hours. I can also show the plastic proofs to a client with no fear of damaging the master. They are easily mail-able with no fear of damage.

The proofs shown here are printed at 0.1 resolution and show detail well, but are not good enough for actual casting even if they were wax. My Taig CNC mills use 0.003-inch ball end mills which produce better results directly in wax.

This is my first time “proofing” a design in plastic but I see it will not be the last when I have a client needing a durable and low cost proof on a custom design.

DSC07360  DSC07363
Two sizes output on the 3D printer.  Cutting the "real" wax masters on the CNC mill.
Finished LWC silver. That's another story...  

One of my most rewarding activities is designing jewelry and then creating the design using the process of Lost Wax Casting (LWC). This requires embedding the carved wax design in a plaster like material called “investment” within a metal cylinder called a “flask’.

This flask with the investment (which hardens on its own in about 15 minutes) and embedded wax master are fired in a kiln to 1350 degrees over a 12 hour period.

Read more: LWC Flask Covers

DSC07293It’s the Christmas Holiday season so one of the tings to do is 3D print decorations for display. One easy place to find seasonal “things” is Thingiverse.com. I did that and found this Dream 3D Christmas Nutcracker design, To me it looks more like a Toy Soldier than a nutcracker. The mouth isn’t like a nutcracker. The designer can call it whatever they like.

The original design will print out full size at over 300mm. That’s slightly too big for my Delta printer. I resized the first one I printed to 200mm. I like how it looked and printed the second at 275mm. The two different sizes actually look good together. Better than two the same size IMHO.

So I have made two of them so far. Enough for now unless someone I know wants a copy. My spouse is already planning on maybe giving one away as a gift. I can make another to replace the gifted one if that happens.

I was planning to paint them all up in bright toy soldier colors. But my wife placed them with some lighted white trees on the mantle. We both agreed they looked just fine being “naked” white PLA in color.

So why am I writing about these downloaded figures? Glad you asked.

I am happy to show off anything I print and will continue, but the master plan is to encourage original design. For what these two fellows were in need, was a base on which to stand. The paltry footprint of these very slim and tall fellows is a bit inadequate. Let me say they are not very stable on their feet. With the tall hat they are top heavy. I only used 10% fill.

I decided to engineer a base to stabilize these gents. I measured their shoulder spans and used that to establish a base diameter. The little guy is 50mm and the big fellow is 60mm.

With my groove design near the outer edge, there is just enough space for gluing down the boots on each size. I used some thick CA Super-glue. It works OK on PLA plastic. For ABS I would probably choose Acetone.

My CAD was again Rhino 3D as I am comfortable using it. I have been “playing” with SketchUp 2017 and that should be another option for drawing 3D. I don’t need to master another program.

Here is the link to the .stl files for the bases:

toy soldier base files (zip archive)

I provided (1st paragraph above) a link to the Nutcracker file you can download from Thingiverse.


toy soldier base DSC07287
3D drawing of both size bases in Rhino. 50mm x 3 mm and 60mm x 3 mm 60mm base being prInted on the Delta style printer.
DSC07289 DSC07291
The "boys" getting their bases gluded in place. All done and standing tall. Especially the hats!

The Challenge

I retrieved a bottle of drinking water from the refrigerator. The product is grossly overpriced so we tend to stock the lowest cost wholesale bulk vendor brand. The cost is lower because the plastic in the bottles is about the minimum thickness possible and still hold water.

This tends to create some round bottom bottles that will not stand up alone. Others do a nice impression of the “Leaning Tower of Pizza”. Then they fall over.

The solution is to make a water bottle holder to support these misfits and allow the cap to remain off while in use.

A Solution

A402My sketch - Irrelevant material has been deliberately blurred.Perfect application for something that can be created using 3D printing. I immediately reached for a pencil and my sketch note pad. I find it far easier to brainstorm with a pencil sketch than to jump right into a computer based alternative. Your preference may vary.

I figured some type of cup shaped holder should solve the problem. Several bottles were measured and a determination made that 75 mm would be a suitable inside diameter.

The holder needs to have some style so a taper form was sketched. The top edge should be thin. With an I.D. of 75 mm, the O.D at the top was figured at 80 mm, allowing for a 2.5 mm wall thickness at the top.

The bottom needed to be wider for stability. 90 mm was selected. With a straight sided I.D. to remain at 75 mm all the way down, that will provide a 7.5 mm wall thickness at the bottom.

A solid bottom was considered but I opted for a hole in the bottom so the holder would not retain water. It is also a bit lighter and requires less material.

The height needed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as tall enough to do the job intended. 80 mm was the determination for these requirements.

The last consideration was to do some type of cut out on the sides. It is a bottle support device and not to be considered a drinking cup. That was also the reason for the hole in the bottom.

During CAD I experimented with using a pyramid shape (4 of them) for the cutouts. I liked what I saw.


I moved to my Rhinoceros 3D CAD drawing program. I have been using it for many years with CNC machining so I can work with it quite easily. There are a number of suitable 3D software programs available for a simple project like this. The sketch keeps the dimensions handy while building the 3D model.

In an hour or two I had the drawing I wanted and had decided on the openings in the side of the holder. I used four identical pyramids I built and Boolean subtracted them through the sidewalls of the holder. It provided an interesting variable taper to the through holes that resulted.

A creation should look as good or better than it works, Ha!

The first version I ran on the printer, I was unsure about the fill and the number of top layers. I went with 15% fill and two top and bottom layers. The top layers are at the bottom inside of the holder. There are no top layers at the very top. The edge doesn’t need them.

15% is too little density to properly support the top layers inside the bottom of the holder. I ended up with a few holes through the layer. Prototype #2 used 25% fill and three top layers. The bottom and shell are two layers. It now creates a beautiful (to me) bottle holder. Layer height is “fast” or 0.03 mm height.

Run time is close to four hours. The surface finish is very good. I just load it up and let it run. The settings can be adjusted as much as desired to vary the results. That’s the fun of running your own designs. Deciding what works best for the results desired.

Here is a link to the Water Bottle Holder .stl files:

WB Project files (zip archive)

The material used here is ABS filament. That’s another area for experimentation.

wb holder WB Holder2
 The 3D rendering from Rhino  This is a rendering of the .stl file made when submitted to Thingiverse.
DSC07229 DSC07226
 This is around #6 under construction on the 3D printer.  Prototype #1 is the green one. Flaws are not visiable unless looking for them. Note the lean on the round bottom bottle.
A slightly larger diameter version has also been made. Some people have really large bottles...  


As you see in the last picture above, the project has expanded slightly in scope. I gave one of these to my adult daughter and she took it to work. She is senior photographer for a major manufacturer and retailer. She wnated something to hold her water bottle at work and suggested it could be double sided taped to her workstation for even more security.

One of her water bottles is a refillable "sports" type bottle and it is larger in diameter than the usual packaged water bottle. No problem. Back to the drawing table and in about 30 minutes the Big Bro version was created. The original holder is 75mm ID and Big Bro is 85mm ID.

She measured her bigger bottle and told me it was 3 inches in diameter. That's 76.2mm. Just a bit larger than Little Bro. The new holder is close to 3 1/3" ID. There should be a good 1/8"+ clearance all around for her bottle.

I also received a request to make yet another Big Bro for her mom / my wife.

It's fun to rise to a challange and do more engineering... The printer doesn't mind at all. About a 20 minute longer run.

The Author

Ramblin' Dan Kautz

dankautzThere is no doubt one of my hobbies is writing about my hobbies. I read somewhere a long time ago, the best things to write about are the things you know very well. I have been writing and publishing long before the personal computer became the tool of choice.  My first printed and published club newsletter was created in the late 60's.

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Our Mission

The intention of this web site and “Ramblin’ Dan’s 3D Print Design Studio” is to promote creative design thinking and demonstrate how ideas can be changed to tangible creations through the proper application and use of Three-Dimensional Printing systems.

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