This week’s selection is the shocking Rubber Band Mid Print Bracelet by Printables contributor NagyBig.
This is indeed what appears to be a simple bracelet, but, wow, what a technique!
The idea is brilliantly simple and yet incredibly powerful: embedding flexible material.
Embedding items in 3D prints is definitely not new, as it’s been done for decades. This is an example I made over ten years ago. It has an embedded bolt (sticking out) and an embedded nut that allows another bolt to be screwed into the item.
To accomplish these embeds, it’s pretty easy. Just create an appropriately-sized void in the 3D model, then pause the print at just the right moment. Drop in the embedded object, and resume the print. The object will be sealed in with subsequent layers.
This is commonly done.
But NagyBig’s idea is different, and I’ve never seen this previously: instead of embdeddding a rigid object like a bolt, instead use a flexible material like a rubber band.
The bracelet was designed as a simple oval structure, but it has two important variations. First, the band is segmented, as you can see above. Secondly, there is a circular void inside the segments going all around the oval.
The print is paused when that void is formed, and a rubber band is inserted, just like the bolts and nuts were above. You can see how it works in this video:
One suggestion if you’re intending on using this approach: rubber bands are notoriously short-lived. They will quickly deteriorate, particularly in a mechanical situation where they are constantly stretched. Perhaps more durable flexible materials could be used instead?
Nevertheless, this is an extremely useful technique that can be applied to all manner of 3D prints to make them more functional. Hinges, loops, clamps and other mechanisms could be made with this approach.