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How to Create Articulated 3D Print

Aug 09,2023 | 3D4Create

I. Introduction of Articulated 3D Print

Articulated 3D prints are models made up of multiple moving parts connected by joints. They allow flexibility and motion that makes prints like characters, creatures, robots, and mechanisms come to life.

Fun articulated models include posable action figures, working mechanical animals, moveable limb prosthetics, and robotic arms. The possibilities are endless! You can create your own articulated 3D prints with personalized design and printing tips.

3D Printed Elephant Adjustable Joints

3D Printed Elephant with Adjustable Joints 


II. Design Considerations For Articulated 3D Print

When designing articulated 3D prints, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Degrees of Freedom - How many points will your model move and pivot? Plan out the types of motions needed.
  • Material Choice - Flexible filaments such as silk, TPU, and PLA allow more movement but can be trickier to print. Rigid materials hold alignment better. 
  • Clearances - Joints need enough gap to move freely without too much slop and instability.
  • Assembly - Multi-part prints often require assembly after printing. Plan connection points.


III. Modeling Tips For Articulated 3D Print

Here are some modeling techniques for building articulated 3D prints:

  • Basic Hinges - The simplest joints use circular pivots inserted into looped sockets.
  • Living Hinges - Thin, flexible sections in the model itself act as hinges.
  • Sliders and Pivots - Linear sliders, ball joints, and cams can create more complex motions.
  • Flexible Components - Use bending designs for softer parts like fingers or spinal joints.

eSUN 3D Printer Filament PLA+ 1.75mm 1KG

eSUN 3D Printer Filament PLA+ 1.75mm 1KG


IV. Printing Best Practices For Articulated 3D Print

Dialing in your print settings goes a long way for articulated prints:

  • Supports and Orientation - Minimize overhangs and angles that require supports inside joints.
  • Layer Adhesion - Small layer heights and adjusted temperatures promote part strength.
  • Infill Settings - Higher infills or strategic patterns give the structure integrity.
  • Hardware - Insert nuts and bolts for sturdy but movable connections.

How to Create Articulated 3D Print

Adorable articulated 3D prints (photo: All3DP)


V. Post-Processing of Articulated Models

A bit of clean-up and finishing creates smooth-moving joints:

  • Smoothing - Sand joints lightly and smooth axles/pivot points with a drill.
  • Lubrication - A small amount of lithium grease facilitates easier movement.
  • Stringing Cleanup - Trim away any lingering strands around moving parts.

How to Create Articulated 3D Print

Post-processing in 3D printing (photo: Sinterit)


VI. Model Ideas and Inspiration For Articulated 3D Print

Articulated 3D prints open up options for all kinds of novel models:

  • Toys - Make posable action figures, transforming playsets, and moving LEGO creations.
  • Robotics - Build robotic arms, grippers, and rovers with movable joints.
  • Mechanisms - Print complex interacting mechanical systems powered by articulations.
  • Dragons - Design imposing dragons with flapping wings using flexible filament.

The possibilities are endless for bringing articulated 3D prints to life! With some strategic design and printing, you can create movable models that were previously impossible.


VII. Conclusion

From action figures to robotic creatures, articulations add a new dimension of motion and interactivity to your 3D-printed objects. Use hinges, pivots, flexures, and more to make your models posable and full of life. With the modeling and printing tips above, you’ll be ready to bring your own articulated 3D print ideas to reality.



1. How do you model articulated 3D prints?

You can model articulated parts in CAD software like Fusion 360 using revolute joints and hinge features. 3D modeling programs also allow building assemblies with joints. Simple pivots can be modeled manually too.

2.  What do you call 3D prints that move?

3D prints with moving components are generally referred to as articulated 3D prints or articulated models. They may also be called posable 3D prints, moving 3D prints, or animated 3D prints.

3. Can you print articulated models on resin 3D printers?

Yes, resin printers like SLA and DLP can produce articulated prints. Resin allows very high detail but has less flexibility than thermoplastics. Support material must be carefully designed and removed to allow movement.