SlideTab Surface Creation System

by chriskpalmer, published

SlideTab Surface Creation System by chriskpalmer Jan 10, 2011

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This edge lock system for paper and plastic works great for realizing meshes from thin sheets of material. It avoids the negative accumulated error common with the classic glue and tab method of construction. Instead the edges have enough freedom to adjust towards the perfect position.

Look here for more examples:


Cuts parts on a laser cutter, robo cutter or with an exacto knife.

If using the system on another model than those prepared replace the edges of the polygon faces with an edge style. Make sure all edge tabs are oriented the same way. See the example files for demonstrations of correct edge style placement. Blues lines are cut lines, red lines are optional score lines. Edge lengths below 1 inch can be very challenging.

If using SlideTab V1.0 place the edges next to each other and push the tabs past each other. If assembling the hats start at the top and do two edges down then do the next row and so on to the end. The larger hats have a fold up and inside brim to make it stronger.

SlideTab V1.0 is good for open surfaces but cannot be used on a closed form such as a polyhedra if the tabs are to be hidden inside because it is necessary to touch on the inside to fasten the tabs. SlideTab V2.0 is suitable for closed forms such as polyhedra because it can be closed from the outside.

View this video for instructions on SlideTab V2.0 assembly:

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I've just used SlideTabs to implement the latest model, the Quasicrystal Star Lantern now shared on http://instructables.cominstructables.com here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Quasicrystal-Star-Lantern/http://www.instructables.com/i... :)

Hi folks,

I've been hard at work implementing SlideTabs into my fractally-decorated polyhedron lanterns as seen here: http://cosmic-spacecrafts.nethttp://cosmic-spacecrafts.net. I recently discovered a new tab system that works in conjunction with SlideTabs V1 to enable the building of stellated polyhedra. You can check out the detai
ls in my latest blog post here: http://cosmic-spacecrafts.blogspot.com/2011/08/major-upgrades-on-spacecraft-lanterns.htmlhttp://cosmic-spacecrafts.blog... . I'm excited to start building hats soon :)


Looks great! Love your wedgetab solution for stellated models. Curious to see how it works in hand.

I'm glad you like. I would like to send one your way as a donation for your work in developing the SlideTab system... do you have any favorites ? Take a look at the models section of my website to see everything available.

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the link.

I learned about his wonderful work just recently at Burning Man this last summer (my first time) although I did not get a chance to visit his camp. I honestly did not know about his work when I developed this several years ago although I knew that the geometric principle I u
sed has been used in different ways and contexts by several commercial toys and in paper engineering by several other designers even if not exactly like what I have made.

I think my different goal of no tabs on the outside (unless desired for aesthetic reasons) and these solutions I developed for p
aper and thin flexible plastic engineering (not stiff plastic) are useful to modelers wanting to create clean polyhedra and other faceted mesh models using laser cutters and desktop vinyl cutters rather than expensive die cut machines.

I and others too have been doing this and other stuff for decad
es and I am glad for thingiverse to have such a great place to share this stuff.


Chris K. Palmer

Thank you soooo much for publishing this Chris ! I wrote about my experiences with SlideTabs in relation to my polyhedral lantern-making on this blog post: http://cosmic-spacecrafts.blogspot.com/2011/03/product-developments.htmlhttp://cosmic-spacecrafts.blog... . I just found out that my friend's 2' vinyl cutter can cut laminated paper, so I'm just getting an image ready for what will be my first contour cut using the US Cutter LaserPoint, exciting !

Awesome. I really want to make the arch bishop hat but the first segment in the PDF got clipped.

Thanks for the note. Just fixed it!

hi, great stuff you've posted. is SlideTab V1.0 or V2.0 availble for download, or a Paypal link to purchase it for academic use? thanks!

Cool stuff. What kind of plastic are you using?

The paper models are from cardstock thick paper and the plastic is similar thickness polypropelene (robo cutter only! not for the laser cutter!!) that comes from cheap folders from any office supply store cut into sheets.

If you were to make a printable version of this you would definitely be a front runner for the Wearable Contest (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5459)http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...

Wearable Contest

There have been several commercial versions of edge lock or rather click lock polygon plastic toys marketed through the years. Probably the most famous and still current is Polydron. (google it!)

To generalize these kind of thicker panel click lock systems can be tricky because when angles become too acute there can be conflict at the vertices. A common solution to that is too remove material at the corners making for holes at the vertices.

One particularly elegant solution I saw once (no
t sure of the name or company or if they are still produced) had a small cylinder with cupped ends that each pair of edges shared with a C shaped clip that clicked onto the cyclinder.

I think you're referring to the Klikko system. I've modeled at least one of those panels, and the connector here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4828http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...

I love these interconnecting things.

Toy Panel

The one I referred to was similar to the Klikko but different in that connector piece was a cylinder not doubled like the one you modeled.

OOh I just saw some Magnetic Polydrons (Polydri?). That could overcome the gap issue...

I'll take up that suggestion, although full credit must clearly go to Chris K. Palmer.

By amazing coincidence I was just looking for a project like this. Last week I used my 3D printer to build a packing-spacer (for mailing 3D models, naturally) consisting of thin sheets joined by built-in hinges. The hinges were achieved by linking adjacent areas with a region ~170 μm thick, whi
ch causes them to be built as a single layer.

It should be trivial to adapt some of these into similar 3D models.

I am not sure how flexible your SD300 thin sheets are but you may want to scale the shape in one dimension to make them shorter so that less material needs to slide past in the case of the SlideTab V1.0. The V2.0 should work well.

You must be a savant! Getting the right flexibility has taken some tuning and tweaking in the Z-axis.

But my first challenge was getting any models rendered at all. I started ambitiously with the Bishop's hat but Alibre refused to import my vectors, ViaCAD choked, CoCreate crashed, and OpenSCAD wouldn't render anything.

So I dropped the Bishop's hat and started again with the lowly cube from Sli
deTabsPolygons.pdf; that worked! All the models have worked so far, but the first was too thick (1mm) so the tabs were hard to tuck inside. Then I made another that was too thin (0.35mm) so the panels were inconveniently flexible. Finally I settled on a 0.5mm wall thickness with 0.2mm thick 'scor
e lines' for hinges.

I'll post a derivative as soon as I've got a few more variants built. In the meantime I've posted pictures of my test models, as well as some earlier Sphericons, at

I was thinking fdm but that works too...

Agreed. I would like to see an FDM-friendly version, but offhand I don't have any ideas to make it practical. But it should be trivial for me to adapt it for LOM and/or SLS, so I feel obligated to take it at least that far!

But even if my model isn't suitable for FDM, it's a step in that direction. I'll try to use open-source tools, if possible, so you can further adapt it if you choose. Do you have any ideas?

Well a parametric script that allowed you to make basic geometric shapes and input the angle with which the tabs are connected to it could be a really strong start. If the tabs had holes in them that lined up to each other then they need not be flexible. You could also go with captive nut design. So I would say figure out a standard tab interface and just add said tabs to flat geometric shapes. Thicker shapes will be more solid and thinner shapes more flexible.

OMG!!!! Those hats are EPIC. You totally rock, Chris!

I hope to see some shots of you bot cavers wearing silly ZonoHats before too long! ;) I have grand schemes to illuminate them with leds (controlled from my android is the full dream) but if you guys beat me to it I'll cheer!