3D Printed Useful Parts & Hacks

I’ve been seeing a whole bunch of useful 3D printed parts that are incredibly useful every year for keeping robots running on the field, and it would be cool to have them all in one place.
Even just a quick search of “FIRST Robotics” on thingiverse comes up with a whole bunch of cool stuff, like basic covers for motors and battery leads.

But I want to know- What are the best, most useful 3D printed items you’ve all found/made are?

1 Like

To start, Andymark has a “3D printed” Section on their website with useful things like protection for the main breaker and a bracket to help keep power running to the radio: http://www.andymark.com/category-s/528.htm

(When I get a chance, I’ll get the HYPE kids to post some of the cool 3d printed stuff we used this year)

They can sometimes prove to be good electronic holders, but our team (after overly using them 2 years) now tries to avoid using 3d-printed parts for actual parts (mostly when exposed). In 2015 we used them for our latchest that would (attempt to) grab the totes and in 2016 we used 3d-printed roller pulleys on our arm which shattered when we got hit by another bot. Overall 3d printed parts are good for prototyping or places you know they won’t break. For example, this year we used 3d-printed pulleys to bring the balls up to our hopper which was inside our hopper so we knew there was no chance another robot could hit and break that.

Two things that were very useful this past season were our camera mounts, and a new PDP deck.
We did have some success using 3D printed parts in exposed areas, but we learned early on to use 100% fill, even if it doesn’t seem necessary.

Edit: I completely forgot that out climber ratchets were also 3D printed, both last year and this past season. They saved a lot of weight and due to their 3D printed nature, we were able to very quickly fix a few major design flaws towards the end of the season.

1 Like

This year we used 3D printer parts to mount encoders and we actually printed a pulley to drive our shooter feeding system. Later in the season our friends over at 4237 gave us some ring LEDs and a 3D printed holder for them. We have tried to avoid using 3D printed parts for anywhere something was moving but making a pulley using just PLA seemed to be more than strong enough.

But I want to know- What are the best, most useful 3D printed items you’ve all found/made are?

We have made a number of parts with a 3D Printer over the last 4 years.

Probably our most impressive was our winch from Aerial Assist. I believe there are 8 parts, all printed with the 3D printer, a couple of them took about 24 hours to print on a Makerbot Replicator 2.

The parts were made from PLA, and we did not have any failures on the parts that were taking a mechanical load.

If you need an encoder on a custom gearbox, then stick it on the first idler shaft and print a bracket to zip tie the encoder to the motor. Connect the encoder shaft to the gearbox shaft with latex tubing and zip ties.

We’ve done this every season for the past 4 or 5 years, and I never seem to get a good picture of it.


We 3D printed all of our timing belt pulleys that didn’t need to transmit high torque.

This (along with several other examples in this thread) is excellent.
The obvious question: Could you share any CAD for these designs?
I’d love for my team to be able to adapt this for our own robot.

We used a ton of 3D printed parts. Our shooter hood was 3D printed sections, we had 3D printed pulleys for the belts in our hopper, 3D printed hubs for rollers to be driven on a hex shaft, camera mounts, gears for encoders, and quick swap brackets so we can easily monitor and maintain our electronics for our talons and talon srx’s. There was probably some others I am forgetting.

Here is a thread I made about our 3D Printed Parts for last year’s game.

My personal favorite is the talon mount.

The dimensions of the part depend on the gearbox ratios, the motor you’re using, and the encoder you’re using. It generally takes this shape though:


We have been using this encoder for as long as I can remember. It helps if you add some double sided scotch tape between the encoder mount and the motor to keep it from moving out of position.

Not FRC but I’ve been using my 3d printer to make a shooter wheel and Hera’s for a flywheel ping pong ball launcher I’ve been working on as a side project. It works wheel because you can just have the gear attached to the wheel itself and not ha e to worry about keeping bolts tight and in. Of course I’m not using just plastic wheel to do the launching so I’m using a few tires I found out of a Kinects set I had. I will also be printing the pinion gear for a 550 and the spacers to be used between the ribs on the shooter.

If you’ve prototyped using your own printer, but are concerned about strength, perhaps you need to talk to https://www.shapeways.com/materials/steel

They offer a variety of materials that might just solve that problem.


The following parts were printed on Torque and Inertia, our 2017 bots:

  • Swerve module steering encoder mounts
  • Swerve modules steering gears (between actual gear and encoder)
  • Drive wheel encoder mount
  • Drive wheel encoder to hex shaft adapter
  • All hex shaft spacers inside swerve modules, gearboxes, etc
  • Camera mount for vision
  • Various custom spacers for our “tray” that recieved gears from the player station
  • A set of retaining blocks for our gear placement mechanism
  • Spacers and clevises on our pneumatics, also on the gear mech

Overall we end up printing a LOT of parts. We used both PLA and ABS this year, depending on the stress needs of that particular part.

I’m a fan of printing linear sliders like 118(as seen on their 2015 and 2017 bots) to ride on round tubing. It’s a super neat and compact way to get low-load linear motion without all the fuss of bearings or drawer slides.

Below is our San Diego iteration’s linear sliding hopper with 3D printed slide blocks and mounting clips. Slide blocks were printed in low density infill(Seems to be in the ballpark of 40%) and mounting clips were printed with 100%. The bearing interface on the slide blocks was a 6" long bore that was 0.006" oversized from the measured diameter of the round tube - adjust this oversize to your machine’s tolerances. Initially, the round tube was 1" OD polycarbonate tube from mcmaster, but due to how the mechanism was loaded and how the weight settled, we switched to 1" OD aluminum tubing for rigidity.

Slide blocks were riveted to the 2x1 superstructure and did not suffer any failure before we removed them. 1 out of 4 mounting clips experienced failure in our last match due to an impact inside of our frame perimeter. The mounting interface between the 2x1 and the round tube could have been redesigned to reduce loading on 3D printed parts, but since we abandoned the linear slide concept, we saw no need to further iterate on it.

The printer we use is a Stratasys uPrint SE plus. It saw continuous usage throughout build season printing spacers, HTD pulleys, and so many other critical robot parts this season. We probably had it running nonstop during the last week of build season. The ability to do ultra fast(2 hours for a pulley!!!) turnarounds on small parts was incredibly useful.

The 330 camera mount is pretty nice.

As for parts we’ve made, we’ve made quite a few spacers and shims. Sometimes the simple things are most useful.

1519 had some pretty cool 3d printed mounts and I think it was 2523 who had a 3d printed turret with Lego league wheels for the shooter wheels

That’s really nice. I’ve always found it hard to integrate straight in and out linear motion in a design and this makes a ton of sense. Thanks!

1257 used a bunch of 3D printed parts this year. A bunch of brackets and things of that nature. We mainly had them printed in polycarbonate, nylon with infused carbon fiber, nylon powder. One of our sponsors has a 3D printing lab with lots of cool printers and materials. The details of which are beyond me. We also had a 3D printed mount that held our breaker, radio, and two TalonSRXs. My personal favorite, and I’m a little biased because it’s mine, we 3D printed a clip that slides over the radio and hold the power wire in place. It’s pretty cool I think. :smiley: