FlexMesh 2.1 Snap Together Flexible Chainmail Mesh

by neobobkrause, published

FlexMesh 2.1 Snap Together Flexible Chainmail Mesh by neobobkrause Oct 15, 2014

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48557Views 14881Downloads Found in Engineering


FlexMesh 1.0 is fun. Now let's take it to the next level. Though the basic geometry remains the same, pins have been swapped out in favor of nubs. Objects connected via nubs are much easier to construct and experiment with. Now our FlexMesh creations are more durable and allow for almost limitless configurability of colors and geometries. FlexMesh 2 demonstrates how to work through even more of the challenges of today's low-cost 3D printing technology...

  • We can use multiple spot colors in our 3D creations.

  • We can quickly and easily explore topologies and geometries.

  • We can snap together a shape then take it apart and reuse parts over and over again.

  • We can expand the repertoire of FlexMesh-compatible shapes to explore, build and play with.

FlexMesh 2.1 is here. The downloads section now includes 5 & 6 sided shapes and a more rounded family of 5 new shapes. Read the release notes for full details.

TriSphere is another flexible mesh pattern worth exploring.

Check out the "I Made One" and "Remixes" sections for a sampling of FlexMesh objects you can make.

An Inventor Studios Tinkercad tutorial walks students through this design. Follow the entire collection to refine your modeling skills.


Read the FlexMesh 2.1 release notes for design changes and printing details.

FlexMesh 2 prints well in ABS and PLA with 2 shells and 10% to 20% infill. Just about any reasonably tuned FDM or SLA printer can be used. Slic3r, Makerware and Simplify3D are all able to accurately slice the shapes.

FlexMesh 2.1 is the 23th lap through our internal innovation cycle. It's not perfect, though many earlier shortcomings have been resolved. The most significant challenge has been the spacing of the nubs, or bumps, on the connector shapes and the indents, or holes, in the Mains. (Duo's, Tri's, Quad's,Penta's & Hexa's) Some printer/material combinations result in snug fits while others produce very loose ones. Read the release notes for furthere details.

Note: Here's how to distinguish which printed connector variation you're holding... The SubWide shape has a subtle 'W' on top. Each of the Sub's released in the 2.1 release has a number embossed on one side between nubs. If you don't see either of these markings then you probably have an original Sub.

FlexMesh shapes snap together using a twisting motion. Watch the video in the gallery of this thing to see how this twisting motion works. For best results, twist the nub into the hole from the front of the main.

Additional STL files have been added for printing large quantities of parts.

Have fun and please take the time to submit remixes for the benefit of all.

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Hey Neobobkrause, I've been printing several hundred of these for some gift sets for xmas, but I really wish I had checked this page earlier to see your 2.1 update! Thanks for implementing the fillet on the inner edges, as that's exactly what I needed for my blooming issue. The other improvements look great as well.

Would it be difficult to create platters again for the 2.1 quad and tri files? I like how you spaced them really close together. Oh, and if you plan on doing a 3.0 version of these, I would love to see a higher poly count on them (say 3x the number of polys).

You know that you can Watch a design or Follow a designer? I'd encourage you to do so. You can always unWatch and unFollow when your interests wain.

I've added 4 additional STL's containing mats of Tri's, Quad's, Sub2's and Sub7's. I've sized the mats so that they fit on platforms of the same size as the classic Replicators.

Interesting that you're requesting higher poly counts. What's driving your interest in that? The polygon meshes have always been smaller than 0.2mm, which is the resolution most commonly used in printing.

I'm also curious about who you're gifting FlexMesh to this holiday season. What do you see as your target demographic?

  • Bob

Yeah, I should have been following you, but at least I am now. Thanks for the new plates of the quads/tris. On a side note, I printed a few 2.1 quads and tris last night and for some reason the quads seemed much tighter than the old 2.0 quads (using the same 2.0 subs). It's probably my fault, but I just thought I'd mention it in case there's something more to it.

Regarding the higher poly counts, I am a fan of high-polys cause Simplify 3D slices so fast there is little downside. But the main reason is it allows more flexibility in terms of printing larger. I've been wondering if printing at 2x scale would make it easier for kids to play with and easier to pop in and out (since relatively, the precision and uniformity of the parts would be better).

I was planning on gifting them to my nieces and nephews, but my main concern is if it will be easy enough for them to pop in and out. So, I modeled up a little tool (3d printed) that will hold a sub and give them leverage to pop them in. But now that the 2.1 subs are taller than the 2.0 subs, I need to adjust the tool size. Let me know if you are interested in hearing more about the tool.

It's interesting hearing your experience with PLA FlexMesh. What I'm hearing generally is that the PLA versions are easier to snap together than their ABS counterparts. If you have a moment, can you give me a rundown on how you're printing. Resolution, temp, filament cooling fan?

Did you take a look at the 2.1 release notes? Take a read on the section related to the spacing of sub nubs. There are now 10 different versions of subs -- versions 0 through 9. This is because I've come to the realization that FlexMesh parts can differ slightly based on the details of how they're printed. There is no single Sub design that's going to work in all environments.

I'd love to hear about the tool you're designing. Better yet, post it. Any chance the way a piece is pinched by the tool could include a lever -- something like vice grips? One of the great things about 3D, that we can also sometimes struggle with, is how easy it is for shapes to rapidly evolve. A tool like the one you allude to might be more useful for a longer lifetime if flexibility is built into the design. I hear chatter from some corners of designers creating FlexMesh derivative shapes that they're designing for use on their specific creation alone. I'm sure they'd benefit from your tool if they can use it.

How old are your nieces & nephews?

On closer inspection, I found that the new 2.1 subs (all sizes) have a larger z-height than the rest of all the parts. I don't understand why that is, but I think its causing the fitment problems I'm seeing. The height of all 2.0 and 2.1 pieces are 6.75mm, but the 2.1 subs (0-10) are all 7.126mm, almost a full 0.375mm taller than before. Maybe that is just an oversight?

Wow, thanks for catching that. Caused by a bug in the design software. I Thought I was always going around manually fixing the height. But I guess I didn't that one all-important time when generating the 2.1 release. Oops. Anyway, it's fixed now.

Yeah, I read the 2.1 release notes a few times :) I did print the 0 through 9 subs, and what was strange for me is the 5 say would fit the 2.1 tris great, but not at all the quads. For the quads I needed a 1 or 2 sub size, but those were too loose for the tris. Strange, I know, and I didn't have that problem with the 2.0 versions. But I don't think you designed anything wrong, it must be something with my settings/printer.

I'm printing in Matterhackers PLA with cooling fan, 0.2mm layer height, 20% filll, 2 perimeters, 3 bottom layers, 4 top, 60mm/sec.

As for the tool check this out, just uploaded a quick and dirty set of files:

Maybe try them out and let me know. Oh, I was wondering, did you increase the height of the subs just to be standard with the height of the rest of the pieces?

Age of the kids is 8-10

FlexMesh tool
by jd_oc

I got a chance to print you tool designs overnight and play with them a bit this morning. I posted my thoughts in your Thing.

Comments deleted.

The plastic is of course rigid. The flexibility of this pattern of pieces come from the hinge-like intersections where the parts connect.

I really love this personally. I think this has lots of possibilities and can be used in many more ways than already thought of. But i do have 1 question. Are the individual pieces bendy or is it only bendy when you have more than one piece attached to the flex mesh.

Really awesome design!

Thank you. Get ready, I'm doing final testing on a major update coming out later this week. I think you'll like it.

Nov 8, 2014 - Modified Nov 8, 2014

Cyclone posed a question over in the Monopoly board remix about how to determine which colored pieces to use when creating a FlexMesh pattern of an image. He suggested software, but I think you could accomplish almost the same thing using a stencil of a mesh. The outline of each FlexMesh piece would be printed on a sheet of vellum or overlaid in a drawing program on top of an image of the pattern you're trying to create. This would allow you to see the dominate color inside each FlexMesh piece as you snap together a mesh depicting that image. This approach wouldn't automatically count the number of pieces of each color needed, but you could do that yourself.

To demonstrate what I'm talking about, I've added simple stencils for Quad and Tri meshes to this Thing. Overlay either of them on top of an image you'd like to recreate to help you figure out which colored pieces to use.

As always, comments are welcome so that we can refine this approach.

Hi neobobkrause. Fantasic models! I did notice that the Tri35.STL file has slightly overlapping parts making it hard to print (parts will stick together), also the Tri65.STL has more clearance, but it still seems really tight.

It would be really cool if you added a small 1mm fillet or chamfer to the 90 deg edges of the quad and tri parts, as this would prevent 'blooming' that occurs on the first layer. I've found I need to squish the first layer a little bit, otherwise the parts can dislodge. Anyway, I'll still be printing these out, and look forward to the 3.0 versions :)

Thanks for your input. What printer/filament are you using? I've noticed blooming both when the extruded is too close to the bed and when using poor quality filament. But I like your idea of a fillet on the inside edge. This might help improve results in less than ideal configurations.

I am in fact working on another version, which will include new shapes and a focus on streamlining both printing and assembly. Though I call the current versions 1.0 and 2.0, I'll likely rename them "A", "B" and then "C". I'm hoping for the connectors in B and C to be compatible. But the shapes will be different. There are also several other flexible connector systems laying around my lab. So many fun ideas, yet so little time.

I'm using a Type A Machines Series 1 and printing with PLA. But, yes, I can certainly adjust the bed height to eliminate blooming, its just 'safer' to squish it a little to ensure better adhesion. The quad and tri are actually quite stable, its really only the 'subs' that were prone to popping off mid-print for me, but sine those are fully filleted, they don't suffer from first layer blooming. So, if I adjusted my bed height differently for just the subs, I would be good. But, like you said, adding a small fillet would be nice, and give the pieces a more polished smooth-edge feeling. And then I could be lazy and just keep the same bed height for these prints.

are more shapes possible? hex perhaps?

I have more shapes that I'm using in a big project that I'll be releasing soon. But a 6-sided Main isn't one of them. Maybe somebody else will release 5 and 6 sided Mains first.

Very nice, about how long does it take to assemble the panels from prints of loose pieces? Looks like it would take a fairly long time.

How long does it take to assemble Legos? That depends on what you're building, how well thought-out your design is at the start and how many evolutions you go through on your way to perfection. FlexMesh shouldn't take any longer than a Lego project of a similar scale.

Will post some for those of us with 120x120 build plates?

New and updated STL's have been posted. These include a full set that fit on 120mm X 120mm beds. The layout of quads is now 50% more densely packed.

I've deleted the STL's for the beds full of Quads after complaints that the arrangement was too tight on some machines. I want to test print the new arrangements myself before uploading them. Stay tuned.

I've added updated STL's for printing large numbers of Quads and Subs. I've tested these files in my environments and they came out terrific.

Comments deleted.

Very neat stuff to work with. Awesome organic design.