Cable Chain

by ModelStation, published

Cable Chain by ModelStation Sep 28, 2011

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This is a derivation of the "Enclosed Cable Carrier" by Landru

It is larger.

Hinge geometry changed for better movement, it takes more force to separate the links.

Completely redrawn (I've forgotten all that I changed).

Two styles of end pieces created.



Snap together.


  • Uploaded a version with four links arranged in different directions. For an unknown reason, when the links are assembled in a long chain they tend to curve in an arc. Printing with them arranged in different directions so that the error cancels itself out seems to fix the problem.

** Use http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:12820 to verify that your prints are "Square".

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When i print these files straight out of the STL file they don't fit correctly.
They will fit but they can't move smoothly.
Anyone any suggestions how to improve this?

You may need to work them a while to break them in in, or it could be the your printer is printing a bit heavy. If the latter you could increase the value for the filament width, that should cause it to feed the filament more slowly which should result in layers that aren't as thick.

Very good design. Works straight out of the box ! [or stl file :D ]


Thanks! I'm glad you like it.

Printed these and had arc/bowing issue in a "z" axis - chain was now straight when laying on a flat surface. Found simple and very effective solution - put assembled chain on a flat surface and heat it with a heat gun. Then gently push it in direction where it should be and let it cool. Few long flat wooden bars may help to straighten it (or any object with a flat surface). After heating sides may expand a little bit - I gently pushed then back. Now it works amazingly well - like these "factory" ones. Took me 2 years to figure it out ;)

Not sure why but my print has too wide the gap between links and barely locking in each other. I did not change any setting and print directly using the file. Any idea why this is happening?

"For an unknown reason, when the links are assembled in a long chain they tend to curve in an arc. Printing with them arranged in different directions so that the error cancels itself out seems to fix the problem."

I had thought it was my imagination. Whimsically, I printed them in two directions and interleaved the segments. My chain is straight.

I printed a test set of 4 using PLA and a 5mm brim (at 200C / 60C temps) -- all the features printed very well. They were stiff to assemble, but clicked into place fine, and moved very smoothly once assembled. So, I started printing a set of 24 (6 sets of 4). 8 1/2 hours into the print, still only 60% done. I had no problems with first layers while starting the print.

Do you have the STEP files for these chain links?

Printed 21 individual pieces, one by one to get sufficient cooling all around. Used PLA and it turned out great!
I just turned the pieces so the fan could cool the rounded stuff first.

Mine were only OK with ABS, but with PLA they are just not flexible enough to snap together. What are you guys using?

I used ABS for this design. I have another cable chain, it's very similar to this one but redrawn using Fusion 360 - it works great when printed in PLA or ABS.

I printed these, and they came out quite nicely, fully functional, but the curved part is deformed, I wasn't sure why as I didn't watch them print, so I printed some more and saw that the circle part is curling up during the print, resulting in the deformation.
Any ideas for solving this? I am printing in PLA with a 60C bed in a unheated chamber, but the bed gets it quite warm in there.
Would it be too much or too little cooling from the cooling fan?
See made section for my post.

My best prints in PLA are with the maximum amount of cooling air. If the part is lifting from the surface consider using a raft.

Also, I have a new version of the cable chain that I will be posting soon...

Thanks for the quick reply, Check out my "I Made One" again, I added another picture of what is happening, sorry for it being blurry, but the platform is moving. It isn't lifting from the bed, nor are the layers separating, they are just curling.

I don't think that kind of curling is abnormal. Tends to happen with thin overhangs like that. I'm sure it can be reduced with some tuning but I doubt it will affect how the chain functions - and it is hidden from view when assembled.

Ok, thanks, I know its fairly normal, but I went through pages of other makes and for most people the round part printed perfectly. Just looking for some tips for tuning my printer, I only built it about 3 months ago.

Thanks for the help

Awsome base for what I needed. With minor adjustments in Sketchup I had exactly what I needed. Thanks a million!

Just wanted to say thanks and that these pieces are working very well for me. I'm having a lot of success even at a coarse 0.35mm per layer at 100% in ABS.

Please, how many pieces of the chain have I to print for 1 meter of chain?

You'll need about 60 individual pieces to hit one meter.

Re: angular error: Did you check the geometry of your printers? You'll need just a really square ruler - but don't print that on a suspect machine! It will lead to certified errors.

I made about 20 chain members now in PLA. Improving and optimizing the anti-warp strategies and fine-tuning nozzle temp and cooling parameters on my printer again (a task that will never end...) , they come out flawless, snap together with some enforced persuasion, but then mvoe together optimally - after some grinding-in of the remaining slice pattern protrusions. Just exercise the chain for some minutes, and it will run fine.

Great work, rotoscan! Thanks!

Yes, geometry was checked four years ago. The Thing-O-Matic is not perfectly square and there is no way to make it square without modification. It is very close, so it goes unnoticed - except when printing something like this.

Have you print with or without support ?
I'm using a Vertex K8400

BTW very great work

None of my designs require support.

Very much thanks,
I've just printed 4 pieces and they are incredible.

I'm glad they are working well for you, thanks for the comment.

Thanks for the fast reaction

To compensate for the arcing we could rotate each piece 90 degrees in the g code?

i believe the arcing was due to the machine not being perfectly square, not due to orientation.

What did you use to get those awesome pictures? Thanks!!

It was either a Nikon D200 or D7000 with remote SB600 speed light.

every time i try to print these they look great right up till it tries to print the nubs that connect into the second piece and it fails there. its like there is something wrong and its extruding too much right at that point, it cools and blobs up and the head gets caught on it and the rest of the layers air print. any suggestions? I am using prusa i3 with abs

What print settings do you guys use to print these things?

When I assemble the chain after letting the PLA cool (and shrink), it is very very stiff, the corner at the 45 degree bevel is pushing against the previous link.

Is this a result of bad print setttings?

Most likely because PLA is stiffer than ABS. I have only printed in ABS so I cannot advise on print settings for PLA.

Printing these now, really really nice.

Thought of another use - Tank/Caterpillar tracks! Anyone want to design a the innards to house it?

I've already made track links based upon the cable chain - haven't uploaded because the sprockets aren't finished. Someday....

they worked like a charm, i printed them in ABS, its hard to get them to be flat but it works pretty good.

This chain works with PLA without breaking during assembly! I'll be printing a lot more

The ends have poor geometry. Slicing them with KISSlicer makes it look like they exploded..http://http://i.imgur.com/3yLmlp1.pngi.imgur.com/3yLmlp1.png

I saw that too, but after repaired with netfabb.
It's cleaned up!

Ok, kapton tape received, heated bed fixed, print height fixed, Z-height stepper driver blowout fixed. Finally, tomorrow I can print these babies! Hahahahahahaaaaaa.

After an hour of printing on a heated bed, with ABS glue, the prints came off during printing because the tips of the chain warp upward... Sad enough.. Can't print these. But I was able to print the smaller variant though without any problems.

During the writing my prints came off and got hooked on the nozzle and smashed all the other prints off of the printing bed with great force. Failure at layer 14 of 44.

Argh, I got tired of this ABS glue thing. I just ordered a roll of Kapton tape.

Argh, I got tired of this ABS glue thing. I just ordered a roll of Kapton tape.

I'm amazed at how well these things work.  They're a little stiff at first, but they loosen up with use.  Also, I find that TPFE lubricant like Labelle #134 works wonders.  I have a chain ready with end mounts to install on my y carriage, and I'm trying to figure out a way to handle the x axis. 

I am also thinking of using them for my Z axis - not because there is any particular need - I just think it looks cool.

Printed at 75%, 13 links and made a cable chain for the heated bed on my Ultimaker. Thank you!

I also printed two dozen links at 100% for my 2.x laser project. Unfortunately the links bend back too far (-5 to +36) to run a long length inverted and unsupported. Commercial chains bend approx. +1 to +36 for this reason. I may derive a mod when I get back to that project.

Great work!


I printed the 4 plus the end pieces on my Orcabot v0.41. Print come out nicely, however it needs lots of force to nap together and after that, the inner pieces are bend inwards. I would like to have more gap between the joints to overcome this.

I think you need to adjust your settings so that it extrudes a little bit less.

It took a few iterations to get the geometry just right for printing on my TOM. They should snap together with some force but move freely once in place.

Alternatively you can DL the SketchUp file and tweak it a little to work better with your machine.

Here's a little tip that I used (might be obvious, but I'll mention it anyways) is that you can flip a link or so to accommodate different angles. Here's an example of a chain I made that I needed the end to be at a higher angle:

This worked out brilliant with the 4 pieces in one stl version on my Makerbot Thing-o-matic with aluminium heated platform. Had to print with raft to make it stick though. Very good design and so funny to snap together! :)

That's good to hear, thank you!

If your HBP is level and your Z height dialed in, are using Kapton tape and wipe it clean with acetone - you should not need a raft.

With the part rotated 90 degrees, facing to the right, the chain will curve to the right when assembled.

When rotated 180 degrees so that it faces front, the chain curved to the left.

When printed without rotating, it curves slightly to the left.

The solution seems to be to print in various rotations and mix the parts together to cancel out the errors.

This part does not print off square for me. I have opened the file in sketchup and verified that it is indeed square. However, each one of my pieces are about .005" off. This may not sound like a lot, but after you print 3ft, it is way off at the other end and has a considerable arc through out the whole piece. This out of ballance is consistant for one side on all pieces. Anyone else having this problem?

You are not alone. I discovered this too after printing out a bunch but it sounds like to a lesser degree than you are experiencing.

Since it is not a problem with the file it must be in the mechanics of the printer (or the way it is sliced). I wonder if the problem would go away if the parts were rotated 90 degrees. If that didn't work I would try printing half of them normal and the other half rotated 180 degrees and alternat
e the links.

I wil try this and see how it works out.

I printed out a plate of 16 rotated 180 degrees. The arc to the left was still present. So I created an stl with four pieces, each arranged in a different direction, this seems to have fixed the problem.

Still need to try printing a plate with them all rotated 90 degrees.

I too tired the 180 degree rotation and the arc was still present. If I print one at a time the arc is still there. I figure it's something in the gcode generation. I'll try your trick and rotate each one. Did you rotate each one 90 degrees?

I guess I should have looked before that last reply. I'll try your new file.

I found that if I rotate 90 degrees (so that it points to the right) that the arc goes in the other direction.

So it goes like this;

Print unrotated: Arcs to the left
Print rotated 90 degrees: Arcs to the right
Print rotated 180 degrees: Arcs to the left
Print rotated -90 degrees: Untested.

The same side is always off no matter how I orient the pieces on the build platform. I did switch to natural color ABS instead of black and it seems to arc about half as much. It's hard to tell with the calipers because there is always some slight diffence in the layers of the part. I'll know more after I print about a foot or so and see how it all lines up.

If they arc the same direction when printed in any orientation I think I would carefully look at the alignment of your machine.

I have uploaded a file called CenterCal. Print it out (zero extra shells) and measure the diagonals with a caliper. If your machine prints perfectly square, the measurements will be exactly the same.

Same rotate for me...are we all printing on TOMs and slicing with repg?

I am using a TOM. I can tell you that my Y axis is not perpendicular to the X axis. You can download the CenterCal.stl and print one yourself to check the same on your machine.

Knowing that mine was off a bit I loosened all the bolts on the Y stage and retightened while twisting it the other direction. This did not make any difference. I think I will have to make an adjustable end plate so that I can tune it to be perfectly perpendicular.

Printed a few on a VFlash printer, works very well :).

Made one for my cupcake cnc! My cupcake works just fine without one... But this just makes it look so much cooler! Great design! My crappy MK5 printed 9 at once!

Any chance that you'd share the CAD files so we can derive smaller (for me, but bigger for some other users?) versions to better suit our needs?

I would very much like to test one of those chains on my eMaker Huxley, or maybe even two (one for Y and one for X/Z)

SketchUp file uploaded. You should however be able to easily scale the stl using RepG.

Very nice! The 12th segment just rolled off my automated build platform. Prints well with no raft.

I printed 4 at one time and it works good. Will print many many more when I get more filament. Thanks :)

Do the full round pins print nicely?

the round edges print horribly on mine sadly :(