Useful 3D Prints 2023

By Jeremy S. Cook

Freelance Tech Journalist / Technical Writer, Engineering Consultant

Jeremy Cook Consulting

April 04, 2023


Stepper, gearbox, and… octopus?

When we last left my 3D-printing adventures in late 2021, I had printed a holder for a Ryobi cordless drill, assembly jigs for my macro pad, and piping adapters for laser fume extraction. Since then, I’ve designed and/or printed a wide range of new items, and this article outlines a few of my favorite useful 3D-prints for 2023.

NEMA 17 Planetary Gearbox

Reliable, available, and typically inexpensive, NEMA 17 motors make a wide range of automated devices move. They don’t, however, tend to have a lot of torque, so gearboxes are often added that may cost more than the motors themselves. As a less expensive solution, you can print the 4:1 planetary gearbox found here. You’ll of course need to provide your own mounting hardware.

As another option, you might also consider this ~3.7:1 gearbox, which I have not tested. Don’t expect either to match or exceed the performance of a purchased gearbox, but they’re certainly good options to keep in mind.

EZ Fan2 Pogo Pin Circuit Tester

For some time I’ve been selling EZ Fan 2 boards, which allow Raspberry Pi single-board computers and other devices to control a fan or other small load. While assembled elsewhere, I test each one in-house to make sure they’re viable before shipping them off. To facilitate this operation, I came up with what amounts to a simple bed-of-nails tester using a 3D-printed base.

While I don’t expect this particular print to be appropriate for anyone else, the idea of a 3D-printed test jig is certainly of general interest. Additionally, I was able to attach the LED to its test pins via an internal curvature that puts stress on the leads. This sort of no-solder attachment, explained at around the 1:45 mark in the video, could be useful in a variety of situations.

PC Fan Mount and Duct

Caption: Fan duct: including remnants of grate on earlier design
Image Credit: Jeremy Cook

This device holds an 80mm PC fan in place with Velcro straps, and directs the airflow for a higher speed at the output. It was originally designed to be strapped onto a baby car seat, but it could also be employed for a variety of air movement applications. A soldering fume extractor comes to mind, and it could easily be attached to one of the storage cases mentioned below as an ad-hoc base.

Harbor Freight Storage Boxes With Divider

Caption: All of your bins are belong to us!
Image Credit: Jeremy Cook

While I’ve been printing this type of box since at least 2019, it’s a print that I’ve come back to again and again. I even created my own take on a divider box based on another design that I thought was superior to other options. Having extra bins in your case can multiply your storage capabilities for small parts, and the two-divider arrangement seems optimal for my usage.

Notably, STLs are quite difficult to modify, even if you’re just adding a simple feature like a divider. Consider also including a STEP model or other CAD format if you are open to others branching off on what you release.

Useful(?) Print-in-Place Octopus

While one might argue that a model octopus isn’t useful in and of itself, this PLA cephalopod illustrates a few 3D-printing design concepts that can be very helpful when implemented. First, its eight limbs are printed in such a way that they’re already chained together when removed from the print bed. Take it off, and no assembly is needed. Secondly, it needs no supports to print, with the possible exception of a single piece designed into the model.

Share Your Models!

Caption: Printables: a good place to share and enjoy
Image Credit: Jeremy Cook

While I’ve shared some models in the past on GitHub, this isn’t really the best place to show off your designs. Per a recent suggestion, I’ve been plunking my new and old models up on Printables. I’ve found this to be a quite enjoyable experience, and a great way to show off your creations. The site is affiliated with Prusa, though it seems quite open and welcoming to other printers (e.g. my Ender 3 V2 Neo).




Jeremy Cook is a freelance tech journalist and engineering consultant with over 10 years of factory automation experience. An avid maker and experimenter, you can follow him on Twitter, or see his electromechanical exploits on the Jeremy S. Cook YouTube Channel!

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