Polypanel is a 3D printable library of interlocking pieces that can be used to build all manner of functional models - just print some and you'll be building things in a snap.
At first glance, you might mistake them for a building set, or perhaps an educational toy. You would never guess that these colorful interlocking pieces are actually part of a 3D printed construction system.
But that’s exactly what Polypanels is: an open source, 3D printable building system. Created by Devin Montes of the YouTube channel MakeAnything, these Polypanels are plastic pieces of various shapes and sizes that snap together.
A standard hinge lines the edges of each Polypanel, which enables every piece to link up with each other. To join pieces, simply align the edges and snap the hinges together. Once joined, the pieces can rotate about the hinge, locking in place at a ninety-degree angle in one direction.
To separate the pieces again, simply pull the two pieces apart, as if you were ripping a piece of paper. But make sure not to twist – the Polypanels are prone to breaking this way.
Montes prints most of his Polypanels with standard PLA, but even then, the snapping appears to be crisp and – dare we say it – snappy. He does caution against overextrusion issues, though, so tuning your printer before producing any Polypanels would be a good idea. If you’re short on ideas for calibration, check out our general article on the topic.
Montes also provides a ‘Polypanel Snaps Only’ test model just so you can make sure the hinges will work before printing a batch of twenty. Then again, they’re so easy to produce and replace, so you could just try your luck.
As if the concept of 3D printed interlocking panels weren’t cool enough, it’s also possible to hack your own Polypanels since the design is open source. Montes has already showcased several specialty panels, including mounts for furniture, flexible panels, and large handles for items such as a tote bag.
A lot of time and energy went into creating a system so functional yet hackable. For one, these panels are meant to be printed without supports. And to have the snapping and unsnapping work so smoothly as well does not come from a dainty volume of work.
The Polypanels are easy to print and easy to play with, so there’s nothing to lose from this experiment. When you do try out some Polypanels, don’t forget to hack it a little, and share what you made!
License: The text of "3D Print Your Own Construction System – Introducing Polypanels" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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