Umbrella / Parasol

by Zomboe, published

Umbrella / Parasol by Zomboe Feb 19, 2012

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Last summer I took a trip to Hong Kong. I was impressed by the large number of people using umbrellas, mostly for the sun. I decided then that an umbrella would be an excellent thing to make on a 3D printer. It has certainly taken me a while to get around to it (Valentine's Day did offer a convenient deadline), but I finally have something I'm happy with.

This is a small umbrella (or parasol) that folds, printed in place. It combines two things I enjoy: flexible structures and moving parts, with no assembly required.

With the printed canopy, this umbrella is mostly for decoration. It seems like it would be useless for rain, though it does provide some shade. However, a version without the canopy is included, so that you can attach a (more effective) paper or cloth one.


This umbrella was designed to be printed with 0.25mm layer thickness and 0.5mm line width (width/thickness = 2.0). If you want to use a different layer thickness, I recommend scaling the STL. A smaller line width is probably fine, but scaling is again recommended if you want to use a larger one. Currently it is sized to fit on a Makerbot Cupcake, but there is a little room for it to grow.

The joints have been designed to be pretty loose, but if yours end up too tight, you could try reducing the filament flow rate. If you feel like they are too loose, let me know and I can post a tighter version.

Make sure you visually preview your gcode, such as using Skeinview. You want to make sure nothing weird is going on with the canopy layer. The canopy should print as a single layer with the sections printed in continuous motions (you don't want it stopping/starting in the middle of one of the flexible sections). Luckily, Skeinforge didn't give me a problem with this, so you'll probably be fine.

Also, the canopy layer should be the second layer (layer 1, since it counts from 0). This is a little trick I discovered to make fragile things easier to remove from my print bed. Printing PLA onto acrylic, the flexible canopy sections still stick, but are much easier to remove than printing on the first layer. It is also easier to get much denser packing. However, if you don't like this trick or it doesn't work for you, you can easily slice off the first 0.25mm of the STL using something like Netfabb.

You probably want to print this raftless. For me, the biggest challenge with this print was still removing it from the print bed. If you have a heated bed that releases your print as it cools, maybe you will have an easy time. If, like me, you scrape your prints off something like acrylic, then you need to be careful and have patience. You need to free the flexible canopy and the arms before you attempt to free the center hub. Don't worry too much if you cut the canopy sections, since they can be repaired with glue afterwards, but try to avoid bending them. If the delicate strings are bent too far, it can be impossible to fix them.

I've printed this in PLA, but it might be easier in ABS, if only because it would probably be easier to repair. I've had limited success using Superglue, which seems reluctant to stick to PLA (or maybe it's just the very small surface area). If using ABS, you might try acetone.

Before trying to fold the umbrella for the first time, make sure you cut any unintentional strings and test each joint to make sure it's loose. When you pull down on the slider, notice if any of the arms is stiffer than the others and preventing movement. The umbrella won't really stay closed all the way, since the printed canopy does have some springiness in it, but that's something I hope to improve on in the future. In fact, there is nothing to keep it in any position, but to keep it up you could try a small rubber band around the shaft like on a cocktail umbrella.

I've included a stand that inserts into the bottom, it might need a little cleaning up to fit. I've also included a canopy test, because I found that the canopy by itself is a lot of fun to play with.

I have some improvements in mind, but I don't know when I'll get around to them so I wanted to post what I had so far.

Small improvements:
Pattern for paper/cloth canopy
Something to hold position of slider
Alternate printed canopy design / denser canopy
Version with finial (separate piece)
Larger diameter version (extend arms)

Large improvements:
Rework slider printing supports to make it look less bulky

Dimensions of STLs:
Umbrella: 89.5mm x 89.5mm x 86mm tall
Umbrella Bare: 89.5mm x 89.5mm x 86mm tall
Canopy Test: 89.5mm x 89.5mm x 5.5mm tall
Umbrella Stand: 43.9mm x 43.9mm x 13mm tall

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Very nice. How do you print this at layer 1 (2)? This print will definitely test one's bot tuning and printing skills.

I want to point out that such an umbrella is good to give one filtered sun. One can still tan or grow plants without the direct burning sun's rays. :-P

I am using ABS at 110 degrees C and I second this problem. The lines are so thin they will inevitably curl up a little. Then extruder bumps into it on the second layer and the print becomes a ball of plastic. I lowered the "Object First Layer Feed|Flow Rate" multipliers to 0.3, which makes it reeeally slow but it is still not good enough. I haven't tried PLA yet.

You might want to try slicing off the bottom 0.25mm of the model, which will eliminate the empty space and give better adhesion. Then the risk is that the lines merge together, but you could try reducing the flow rate slightly.

But in any case, thanks for trying it!

Most of the umbrella does start printing at the first layer; only the canopy starts at the second. The idea is that by giving the extruded filament more room (below), it will form a more circular cross section, rather than be squished into something more like an elongated ellipse, making it easier to remove. I discovered this when I was printing something and half of the first layer failed. The second layer printed correctly, but the infill over that missing first part was no longer joined together. It actually gave a really neat effect.

Of course, all of this probably depends on type of filament and build surface. PLA sticks very well to acrylic, for example, but the trick might not work for other combinations.

Good point about the filtered sun! It does cast some interesting shadows, as you can see in one of the photos. I hav
e some ideas for different canopy designs, though I'll probably try a larger canopy first.

Very cool! I love the way the wiggly lines turn into a flexible sun shade. I am tempted to try to break this up into lots of little pieces that snap together in order to make a "life sized" umbrella. Or at least a "little kid" sized parasol.