I talk a lot about 3D printing on this blog, and I’m long overdue for a bit of an overview for those who may be uninitiated. I’m going to share a bit of the process by taking you through how I made this USB drive. The USB component is store bought, it’s a standard USB drive that I bought and took out of its original casing. It looks like a tiny circuit board with a USB port stuck on the top. The case that I made is printed in ABS plastic, which is very durable and is good for everyday use. I made the case, a cap, and a small washer that fits over the case to sandwich the USB component inside. I wanted to make my drive special so I made a gridded area that I was able to do a little cross stitch in.
The process begins on the computer, in 3D modeling software. The software allows you to create precise 3D models that can be made into real objects by a 3D printer.
Here is what the drive looks like in the software. The green is a model I made of the USB component (based on the measurements of the real one) so I knew how big to make the case. The orange is the case, with a grid for the cross stitch part.
Once the computer model was made, I sent my file to the 3D printer. The basic concept of 3D printing is that a printer head (picture what a laser printer looks like with the cover off) moves back and forth across a flat bed, depositing microscopic layers of material with each pass, building your object like a loaf of bread stacked vertically. In this case, the material is the ABS plastic, which comes on a spool. The plastic is heated by the printer and comes out of a nozzle, similar to how a hot glue gun works.
After it was finished printing, I assembled the drive by inserting the circuit board piece into the case, gluing my washer piece on top to keep the circuit board in place, and doing my cross stitch. Here’s the finished piece! It’s 100% useable. And cute.