by gzumwalt, published

Marblevator by gzumwalt Mar 12, 2013

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Marble elevator (hence Marblevator) combined with snap together sectional track and adjustable tressels made using Sketchup 8, ReplicatorG and a Replicator 2 3D printer.

Video of Marbelvator in action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqLSIlFAPhw.

Video of Marbelvator track with cross unders at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wOupVt8v1c.

Video of a Marblevator track using only 5 track sections at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmMVvP7tny4.

Video of Marblevator using 14mm marbles at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KzasInFa6g.

Video of prototype at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmjuzHZ6XwY.

With the Marbelvator, sectional track and adjustable tressels, an enumerable number of track layouts can be assembled with snap / slide together construction. Print more track sections and tressels and build a bigger Marblevator.


For years I always wanted to know what was inside a can of spray paint that rattled when shook. After emptying a can of spray paint, I donned a face shield, protective gloves, and paint spray suitable clothing (as should you if you decide to use what's inside), and grabbed a hammer and chisel and broke open the can. Now finally I know; a 10mm metal ball.

What to do with that metal ball? Well of course, buy a Replicator2, download free Sketchup 8 and ReplicatorG software, and repurpose that ball by making a Marblevator (Metalballevator didn't sound right). So update your outdoor furniture with a new coat of spray paint (I know, you were thinking of graffiti), don your protective gear, free that 10mm metal ball from a life in the landfill, and build your own Marblevator.

The Marblevator requires the aforementioned metal spray paint ball (Or balls. Actually, I've heard 10mm marbles and beads are much more safely attainable, but I have not verified as such), a Replicator2, ReplicatorG software (free), PLA, 2 wires, a dc motor and a dc power supply. And if you don't like my track segments, you'll need Sketchup 8 (free) to modify the included ".skp" files to make your own.

Unless noted otherwise, the following ReplicatorG settings are used (using the GCode/Generate dialog):

Infill: 100%
Layer Height: .15mm
Shells : 1
Feedrate: 80
Travel Feedrate: 150
Print temperature: 230

The various components were designed to print as fast as I could design them to print with minimal plastic (well, at least on a Replicator 2 using ReplicatorG with the recommended settings). Any further suggestions are welcomed.

Make sure your printer is tuned for .15mm printing.

1) Buy this motor: 6VDC 45 RPM Pinky Finger Sized Gear Motor 1" Long x 15/32" x 3/8"
from either amazon.com or directly from http://sciplus.com/p/MICROMOTOR_47952. In this application, the motor requires 10 to 20 ma to run which is suitable for a small power supply, battery and/or solar panel use.

2) Buy a power source. I've used a "wall wart" variable power supply (3, 4.5, 6 vdc, the motor is rated to 6 vdc) and run mine at 3 or 4.5 vdc depending on the track design. I've also used a bench top linear variable power supply which comes in handy for track testing, but is not necessary. And I've also used 2 AA batteries, as well as a solar cell in bright sunlight (4.5 volt, 1.5 watt).

3) Print tressels. Print 10 each of each tressel piece (arm, base and clip). You'll want more. Base should be printed at 20% infill to avoid warpage and save PLA. After printing, snap off the round skirt at the bottom of each tressel clip, and if required, carefully separate the jaws of the tressel clip using a modeling knife. The tressel clip should now act like a "clothes pin". Pinch the handles, insert the tressel arm to the desired length, then let go of the handles. The base slides on the opposite end of the clip. It is a tight fit.

3) Print track segments. Each track segment has a female and male end. The female end also serves as the tressel attachment point. On the bottom of the female end is a small square hole which will be hidden when the tressel arm is attached. When you need to disassemble a track, remove the tressel arm, insert a small jewelers screw driver (or similar small object) into this hole, and press upward to separate the track segments. Following this procedure avoids having to pull the track segments apart and possibly separating (e.g. breaking, which of course can be fixed with cyanoacrylate glue if required, as if I've ever broken a track in haste, sigh) the track from the male track segment.

4) Print track start and track end. These components connect the track to the Marblevator. Track Start snaps onto step number 5 (the highest step) of the Marblevator. It has a male track connector extending down. Track End snaps onto one of the remaining 4 steps. It has a female track connector extending down. For short tracks, Track End is snapped onto step 4 (first step below the step 5). For large tracks, Track End is snapped onto step 1 (bottom step). Which step is used depends on how long the track is. If the track is designed too steep, you'll lose your marbles (sorry, had to use that) in that they will jump the track. If the track is designed too shallow, your marbles stop.

5) Print arm.

6) Print staircase. This is a long print, but has been reliable for me as designed; keep your fingers crossed.

7) Print stair steps. Print at 20% infill to prevent warpage, save PLA and minimize the weight that the motor must lift.

8) Assemble the Marblevator (staircase, stair steps, motor and arm). Begin by soldering red and black wires to the motor and - terminals. Slide motor into motor holder on staircase until the motor shaft just slightly enters into the inside of staircase (use the access hole on the opposite side of the motor holder to view motor shaft position). Orient stair steps such that the long narrow slot is vertical, then slide into staircase such that the slot surrounds the stair step guides inside staircase. Once installed, stair steps should move vertically with ease such that when you lift stair steps up then release, stair steps will easily fall to the bottom of staircase. Next, press motor further into the motor mount such that the shaft is half way through staircase. Press arm onto motor shaft via the access hole such that the motor shaft flat and arm flat mate, and the arm is inside the large rectangular hole in stair steps. Finally press motor all the way into the motor holder while positioning the arm on the shaft to allow it to be centered in staircase.

9) Assemble tressels (see picture).

10) Assemble and adjust track. This is your "free form" design. The prototype video shows an oblong track, the final design video shows a slightly more complex track. However, loop backs, circles, etc. are possible. When your track is complete, carefully adjust the tressel heights for a smooth descent from track start to track end. "Tuning" your track is crucial. For example, you may start with a rapid descent and end by slowing the descent via increasing the tressel height at the end of your track before returning to the Marblevator. Gravity is relatively constant (for the time being), so experiment with tressel heights to obtain the best combination between track slope and track length. The tracks I've assembled run for days without a marble jumping the track.

11) Connect motor to power supply. This is also your "free form" design. The video shows mine connected to a variable dc bench power supply with alligator clips. Your choice.

12) Marblevate. Make new tracks. Show off your track building skills and please post your tracks!

13) Questions? Send a comment, I'll try my best to respond. Have fun. Makes a great gift for your aspiring engineer.

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Thanks gzumwalt for the design.

I print it already by MakerBot Replicator 2 but unfortunately sizes is very difficult to fit with each other, it taking long time in sanding and engraving the connectors and some of them broken and agin I reprint them.

Any Advice about this obstacle I face

Mine fit perfectly. I would advise you to calibrate your extruder AND run a single wall test piece from Thingiverse to dial in your extrusion multiplier correctly.
I found these much too fragile so I have upscaled everything 200% and it is much sturdier and fits regular marbles perfectly! Make a hand crank to move the elevator up and down and avoid the hassle of the motor.

Couldn't you just print spacers and use 1.75 mm filament for the tracks instead of printing the tracks/?

Sure, like this: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:63210?

Laird did a wonderful job on that thing!

LairdWarp Rollercoaster
by laird

Hey, awesome! But you forgot to tag it with marblevator!

Would it be possible to include a small T-shaped base on the clips in stead of the seperate bases? Also maybe half size clips/tressels arms so you can make a longer track.

I've started to print. If it's done I'll post it here.
The base of the staircase was warping in my first print by the way. Maybe add some anti-warping rounds there as well.


Forgot you included the SKP files so I made a tressel clip with base:


I'm printing it now.

Tressel Clip with base for Marbelvator
by bjorntm

Fantastic! I'm going to print this. I ordered an alternative motor from Aliexpress since American Science doesn't ship outside USA.


Hope it fits :)

Jan 23, 2015 - Modified Jan 23, 2015

Hi! This design is perfect.Thank you for sharing it.
I printed some part which are tressel arm,tressel base and tressel clip.But they seemed to be very thin to me.I wondered did you increase your parts' scale cause they look thick.Thank you in advance .


No, I printed the parts just as they are.

oki doki
thank you!

Awesome stuff, Your entire collection is great.

Thank you so very much for your kind words!

I keep on trying...


First of all, thanks a lot for shring the design. Looks great. I'm in the process of printing parts on my kossel mini. For my material, the 230° seem a bit high for PLA. I achieve much better results at 210. Celsius that is.

Also Slic3r complains about non manifolds for the stair case. Need to see the outcome after autofixing.

You are welcome!

I almost forgot about this one...

I would love to make this for use with golfballs..... are you able to scale/resize this easily for me? it would be greatly appreciated.

I absolutely love your work on here.


Nov 30, 2014 - Modified Nov 30, 2014
gzumwalt - in reply to mikebaier


Thanks for the kind words!

The Marbelvator cannot simply be resized because of the motor holder and size of the print area. It would have to be redesigned in order to accommodate golfballs. Perhaps one day...

Thanks again!




I appreciate your quick reply!

Looking forward to see what you come up with next!


Could you make a loop-de-loop?

if he made a loop ill print it
(but I like the marblevator mini's better)
combined? XD

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

Built. A few fitting quirks, but overall pretty cool.


Success at last!

I uploaded an image (in "I made it") of my successful attempt to build this thing on a ToM with black and white ABS.

I had to tweak the sizes quite a bit to make things fit nicely.

I have no idea how to get the motor in Europe... but don't despair, there is an alternative: the motor from the ABP that is left over after building a ToM with HBP.

I changed the staircase to fit that motor and when it is fed with 6V (instead of 12V) it runs quietly and not too fast.

I also added a black M (for Marblevator) on the sides of the staircase to cover up where it cracked during build...

Note that in order to print the straircase on a ToM it needs to be placed diagonally. And the height is really very borderline. Don't even try this with the ABP as that does not leave enough height. (Besides, you want to use the motor from the ABP to power this thing.)

Guess you already found a motor but this seems to be the one:


Though I haven't tried it yet. Still in the mail.

Excellent work! Nice track!

I actually ended up extending the track a bit more as otherwise the balls were rolling too fast and would sometimes derail.

Very, very impressive. But I'll have to add, my current track is twice as long. Challenge?

I did notice that (the tressel arms). Have not given it any thought as to why that would be.
I tried to use all the height of the staircase and essentially minimized the track length while avoiding derailment. (A longer track either requires more underpasses or more desktop space.)
I did have to cut down the tressel clips and arms for the lowest part of the track.

First, I want to say this is very amazing to print!! One area that just failed on me is the arm that attaches to the motor shaft, but not in the way you think! I've probably only used it maybe 10 min total and the tip of the arm (which I printed in ABS while the rest of the machine is PLA) simply wore out. It is very minimal but enough that the stroke was not high enough to move the marble up to the next rung. I am going to make a derivative in scad format to make it an eccentric cam rather than just an "arm" and max out the diameter to fit into the "slot" in the stair steps. This will make the hole stronger for motor attachment, give slightly more stroke, and make the motion smoother.
I also noticed motor direction may matter. It tended to be more reliable in the reverse direction from the red dot on the motor for wiring. YMMV

Just noticed the picture of your track. Great work!

Thanks! Make sure the arm fits freely on the vertical axis of the large rectangle in stair steps. If it doesn't (and gets hung), the torque of the motor will ruin the hole. I had to sand some of the edges at times where the PLA oozed a bit for a good fit. Thanks for building it and glad you like it!

Like I said, that's not the failure. The problem is, the arm is just barely enough when new to lift the steps high enough for the ball to move to the next level and mine wore down just enough that the marble would not rock to the next step. It's amazingly close but that's how touchy the design is. Another 0.5mm length on the arm would prevent this.

Hmmm, guess I don't understand. The design lifts the stair steps 3mm clear of the staircase. Moving the large rectangle down on stair step will provide even more clearance, however stair step will not go as low and may not pick up a marble from the lower step (moving the motor mount up gives the same effect, but staircase takes much longer to print than stair step). Glad you found a fix for the difficulties you were experiencing.

It's barely even in the version that I printed (the day you uploaded it). It took a fair amount of filing to get the staircase down to where the balls rolled properly onto the new step. I'm not sure how it could be 3mm clearance for you, and perhaps 0.5 short for me. Did you revise the geometry?

I just measured the prototype (which has been running non-stop for about 5 weeks now) and the step clears the case by 2.5 mm, and drops below the case by 1 mm. I do not believe any revisions were made to the step, case or arm files. I'll let you know if I find something.

Weird. In my print (which printed fine) the step drops well below the case and doesn't quite clear it. I did print in ABS rather than PLA, so it's possible that ABS shrinking (2%) might be a factor, in that perhaps the vertically printed case and the horizontally printed step shrank slightly differently, but I don't see how it could make a 3mm difference in the position of the bottom step.

The only other variable that I can think of is that the motor might not be in the right way, in that the position of the motor axis determines the step position. It's a tight fit, and looks symmetrical, so I don't think it's wrong, but...

2% over the height of steps could cause an approximate 2 mm difference in total height. One solution is to move the steps large rectangle down by how short steps are of case.

The YouTube movies show the design only lifts the stair steps just clear of the staircase, less than 1 mm. It is quite tricky to make the staircase work. Some careful filing and trimming made it work for me.

I love this project. This needs a corkscrew section!

I just posted http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:63210http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... which is a SpaceWarp-compatible rollercoaster system. I think that it would work quite nicely with your wonderful Marblevator, if you add a post to the top and bottom for attaching a rail Cross Tie.

LairdWarp Rollercoaster
by laird

So coolisious make me want to wath chitty chitty bang bang remember the seen when he make automated breakfast..... oh yeah no really very cool

Great father & son project !
Thank you for sharing.

Thank you, and you're welcome. Vertical trajectory ...

You continue to amaze me! Great directions/ easy to follow/ step by step.

Thank you for your kind words.

The arm is way too big to fit in the stair case assembly. It seems to me that it should be as thick as the stars only and not the whole assembly.

The arm should be 3mm thick, 5mm wide, and 29mm long. Is it not?

Mine came out 5mm thick, 9mm wide (tall), and 29mm long. Fortunately, I have one from a failed attempt that is about 4mm wide and I think it may work.

Update: I tried to print this along with the track ends and nothing turned out right. Slic3r wouldn't slice right. I had to run the track ends through Netfabb to fix. Everything else is coming out nicely. : )

Trying to print this on a ToM with ABS is a real challenge. It would help to have the sketchup files for all the parts.
The Tressel arm does not fit into the clip so it needs to be thinner, and likewise the rail parts do not fit and he arm does not fit the rail parts either.
The problem is that when you print a hole and then something to go into that hole the hole needs to be bigger than the thing going into it because the plastic creates some extra width (so the arm is thicker than designed and the holes are smaller than designed.

pauldebra, I'm sorry you're having difficulties with the hardware and/or software configuration you mentioned. I do not have a ToM, nor do I have ABS print capabilities for testing. I promise I did test each and every part and they all fit fine. I have built 3 Marblevators with many feet of track and over 60 tressels (you can see some of the track and tressels in the background of the photos and video) using Sketchup 8 (the free version), ReplicatorG and a Replicator2. I've uploaded the .skp files for the arm, stair case and stair steps. Hopefully you will be able to use these to successfully build a Marblevator with your configuration of hardware / software.

Thanks a lot for the additional sketchup files.
I'm sure I can make the adjustments needed to get this to print in ABS on my ToM.

This is wonderful and clever! Great work!


For the right and left tracks it prints better if you put the infill to 0 and bump the shells up to get 100%.

Didn't think of this. I'll try it. Thanks.

I'm h

Warning: The input file contains a hole near edge 5.000000-6.000000 (not manifold). You might want to repair it and retry, or to check the resulting G-code before printing anyway.

I also had a problem with the Clip part. I imported the stl into Sketchup, cleaned it up a bit and then exported again and then it printed.

What did you clean up? It would help me, and others, to know. Thanks.

I removed excess lines that showed up after importing the stl into sketchup. No longer needed as we now have the sketchup source files.

gwc - in reply to Giz_zmo

Try with meshlab or netfab :P

Would it be wrong if I print it with a natural (cheaper, open source and moral) RepRap 3D printer? :p

I like this thing, i might print it some day with my RepRap.

Have many people printed the main stairs part? I am struggling as my build area isn't quite big enough. Is there an alternative solution maybe as two parts that can be printed 'flat' rather than tall?

I printed this on a ToM with HPB. The strairs part fits when you first rotate it around the Z-axis to place it diagonally. It then barely fits the build area. Also you need all the height you can get.

This is more or less what I wanted to build with the fully printable wind up engine I was working on.

laird - in reply to cymon

Fully printable wind-up engine?! That sounds like fun. How far did you get?

This looks awesome! I used to collect SpaceRail, and it'd be great to print them instead of buying insanely expensive, imported parts.

One thing, though - I only see the Tressel parts, not the track or steps. Can you upload the rest?

One thought - in SpaceRail, the rail is a continuous filament, held in place by clipping into the supports. I'm wondering whether that approach might work here? Hmmm.

All parts are uploaded now. Have fun.

I had been thinking of designing something along the lines of laird's suggestion. I was planning to investigate the types of tubing that could easily be found at most hardware stores that would be appropriate (and hopefully cheap) for rails.

Of course, I'd prefer it if someone else did all the work and saved me the trouble. ;)

The SpaceRail uses what looks like 3mm nylon, but I'd suspect that any filament ought to work. Hmm, perhaps I'll take some measurements and do some modeling this weekend... :-)

laird - in reply to laird

I've got a bunch of the SpartWarp-style parts printed and tested, which I've published as LairdWarp Rollercoaster ( http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:63210http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... ).

it's a system for rails. I'm thinking that the Marblevator would work wonderfully with it, with a little adapter to hold the LairdWarp rail clips to the top and bottom of the Marblevator.

LairdWarp Rollercoaster
by laird

Thanks laird. Track segments are now available. The elevator parts are being tested and should be up soon.