Design of the Week: 3D Printed Chainmail

By on October 24th, 2022 in Design

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This week’s selection is the astounding chain mail 3D print by CGTrader contributor Antonelli.f.

Antonelli.f, a.k.a. “propsmaker” on TikTok, posted a video of the production of one of his designs, a sheet of chain mail. This was perhaps one of the most incredible feats of 3D printing I’ve ever seen done on a desktop FFF 3D printer. Just watch this video to see what I mean:

It begins as a sheet of chainmail, which honestly has been done many times previously. It’s a simple structure of torus shapes that are interlocked in a repeating pattern.

But then.

There’s another layer! Antonelli.f has “wrapped” the chainmail around and printed a second layer on top!

Wait — there’s more.

There’s several layers printed like this. In the video, Antonelli.f carefully rips up each layer from the preceding layer, gradually revealing a huge sheet of chainmail. The resulting chainmail sheet is vastly larger than the area of the 3D printer used for this job.

This is a prime example of how to “Tetris” a structure into a smaller volume than the object’s dimensions would normally permit. In a way, this is “4D printing”, where extra dimensions unfold after printing.

The 3D model used here is surprisingly straightforward: a tilted torus is interlocked with an identical torus, and the pattern repeats in array fashion. The trick is at the “fold”, where a row of torus shapes connects the two layers. I imagine this was created by stacking flat layers together and then connecting them on alternating sides as I suggest. Anyone with a competent 3D modeling CAD tool could do the same, and pretty quickly.

The trick here is the printing.

Somehow Antonelli.f has designed the 3D model to have a tiny area connecting each loop to the one below. The connecting area is small enough to allow for the layers to be pulled apart without compromising any torus. This must have taken quite a bit of experimentation to get this just right.

This connect must be absolutely perfect, because the number of connections between loops is quite large, increasing the odds of something bad happening.

Another factor in this incredible print is what must be very finely tuned retraction settings. As you might imagine, there would be thousands of retractions taking place on this print. In spite of that workload, the print seems to have zero stringing, and all loops are formed perfectly.

Antonelli.f has not posted the STL for this 3D model, and that’s understandable because the prints are for sale on CGTrader. You can purchase a chainmail suit for only US$30.

While the for sale item seems to be a full suit, the print in the video appears to be only a large sheet. Antonelli.f must have somehow knitted pieces together to form the full suit.

An attempt to 3D print the entire suit as one piece would require a considerably complex folding design, and that itself has been the subject of scientific papers.

Eventually, one could hope that sophisticated software to generate folded designs becomes widely available. If so you’d see a lot more designs of this type.

Until then, marvel in the successful madness of multi-layer chain mail 3D printing.

Via CGTrader and TikTok

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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