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3D Printed Climbing Holds Create Stairway to Awesome

3D Printed Climbing Holds

Looking to scale new heights? Instructables tutorial for 3D printed climbing holds demonstrates how to create custom molds for your favorite hobby.

“When my kids got interested in rock climbing my natural first thought was to build them a climbing wall,” explains Whitney Potter, maker and 3D Printing Today Podcast host. “Okay, I like climbing as much as they do, probably more, but the kids always make a good excuse.”

When given the opportunity to 3D print his own climbing holds, Potter jumped at the chance. But he quickly found that 3D printing holds was not the most effective method.

Printing took several hours. It became costly and wasteful. In order to make it stronger, the holds had to be denser and printed with 100% solid infill. But, the more solid the print, the more likely it was to fail. Potter decided to go with another method.

3D printed climbing holds
3D Printed Climbing Mold (Image: Shapespeare)

3D Printed Climbing Holds Molds

Holds are typically made from a master that is carved by hand or a CNC mill. This master is used to create a silicone rubber mold in which the holds are cast using polyurethane resin. 3D Printing allowed him to skip the “master” step, and go straight for the mold. Plus, it created cheaper molds than those made from silicone.

Using TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), he created molds for roughly a dollar a pop — compared to the $10-20 price tag for silicone molds. He also notes that thinner is better for molding:

“Print as few shells and as little infill as you can while still having a decent print as this will make it easier to unmold. All of my molds leak a little, but that’s okay. The resin seeps into the mold and seals it the first time you use it.”

He also suggests using polyurethane resin. It’s a two-step system, and it’s what the pros use. As Potter explains, this system will let you create any climbing hold you can dream of — once you have the tools of the trade. He specifically suggests free programs Meshmixer and Blender, as well as the sculpting program 3D-Coat.

Who thought a 3D printer would help you (literally) hit a new high? Looking to make your own 3D Printed Climbing Holds? Check out the full Instructables tutorial here.

Pretty much anything can be a climbing hold, now! (Image: Shapespeare)
Pretty much anything can be a climbing hold, now! (Image: Shapespeare)