Preassembled Iris Box

by emmett, published

Preassembled Iris Box by emmett Oct 6, 2016

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I've been wanting to design a non-planar preassembled mechanism for awhile, but it took Prot0typ1cal's Venus Box to inspire me on what to make. That is a beautiful design, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it should be possible to print without assembly. Combining that spherical box idea with my earlier iris box concept lead to this design.

You can see how it works and how to free it up after printing here: https://youtu.be/-m8uWz-qf7Y

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Printer Brand:



Simple Black






I left 0.3mm of space between the moving parts. If that's not enough, you probably need to calibrate your printer a bit. Common errors include temp too high (makes strings), filament diameter too small in slicer (makes overextrusion) or belts loose (makes positioning less accurate). The first layer will also have to be quite accurate, as it needs to stick enough to keep the leaves in place, but not so squished that everything fuses together. As anyone who prints my designs knows, these are not for the faint of heart, so don't feel bad if it doesn't work on the first try.

How I Designed This

Believe it or not, pretty much everything in this design adheres to the 45 degree rule, which is why it prints well without supports. If you open this with a program like 3D Builder, you can separate the pieces and see how the internal mechanism is designed. You can also open the source file in OpenSCAD, as it includes an animation of approximately how the pieces move (I'd recommend lowering $fn to 30 so that it doesn't take forever to load).

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so this is supposed to take a day to print at fine layer resolution?

Took 11 hours to print and it printed great except it will not turn. The bottom of the first outer shell is fused to the iris pieces. The gap between the bottom f the outer shell and the base is kinda weird. Even with small supports it still fuses. I'm using some pretty good flexion extruders at 0.15 mm and even tried 0.20 mm with no luck. Maybe if I made it smaller. I tried using an exacto blade but the blade will not push through letting me know the outer shell has fused with the iris pieces.

Congratulations for the genius design.
Can you please upload a children safe version with a razor-less base?

I tried printing this with Wood PLA filament which recomments a .5mm nozzle. I think the extra width ate up the tolerance because I can't seem to break it free. Now I have a serated finger cutter / flower pot. I love Emmett's other work, but I'm very disappointed this one didn't turn out.

I scaled it down and I dont really know how to cut bottom slides arround. I saw another video where guy has a special tool for that. I jus use thist carpet cutter and scalpel. Also those knife edges make it extreamly dangerous and some people were hurt already.

Emmett, hate to ask, but I think on some printers this will be almost impossible because of the way the airflows. On my Prusa i3, because of the position of the cooling fan, it blows the airborne filament into the leaves on the sides facing the front of the printer. Would it be possible to add some small nubs/supports in the 0.2mm gap that could be easily cut away? I think that would make this 100% more printable and people could more easily enjoy your work. I suck with SCAD or I would remix it. Take care and thanks for all that you contribute to the community.

I've printed two, one small and one large, both came out PERFECTLY.

If the parts are sticking together it's printer/print settings because using my Taz 5 to print them at .200 with no supports or raft, cutting the bottom, pushing on the doors free with a gentle tap of a screwdriver, and breaking the bottom free completely does the trick. Prying requires more force than I think most people are using. You need to hear some snaps and cracks during prying the base free or it's not working.

Which Slicer did you use? My whole thing prints perfectly except at the airgap between the base and the bottom of the outer shell. That ends up fusing with the inner pieces from the airprint. Everything else prints pristine.

Forgot to mention that, S3D which I've found to be the best slicer on the market.

Did a test print at 50% size, was pretty much expecting it not to work but with excessive prying and jamming a feeler guage between the bits it started to function. It falls apart at fully closed but I suppose that has to do with the size. I will have to say that I don't expect to print the full size based on just the razor base alone

Cut my thumb trying to open it. That base is Evil.

Comments deleted.

Tried to print in ABS. There was no way to free it up. I did 0.1mm layers, took 17 hours on a Qidi Tech 1. Broke it off the base trying to free it. Would recommend adding a little thickness to bottom bit, almost cut my hand trying to free it because the base is so sharp.

Going to try it again with PLA on 0.2mm.

Take 2 - PLA at 0.2mm. Still wouldn't free up. Not sure where it's sticking. Printed the eyeball remix at 130% and it worked great.

I had the same problem... 13 hours and more filament than I care to admit that I'll never get back.

Just started a print job on an M3D Micro... 53.5 hours estimated, and that's at 75% size (largest the printer can do).

I can already tell my printer isn't accurate enough for this guy to function properly, but...

Comments deleted.

Hey there. I'm new to this site and love this box. Looking to order one and put a ring inside of it for a gift. If i order one pre printed there is no assembly required correct?

Yeah, I thought, "THAT is the BEST object I've ever seen and I NEED to print one, especially to show my wife that my printer is NOT JUST A TOY." Well, it didn't print so well. It did actually look like it printed excellent, but it didn't move,so the bottom line, it didn't print so well. I ended up deconstructed to see where the failure was as I saw a number of spots that the inner pieces were welded to the inner she'll mostly. I a small section a small part was welded to the outer shell. Once I had it all apart and saw how small the pivot pins are, I imagined that this would not hold up very well for any real use. It really needs some more robust designing to make it worth my time to print another one. Even tweaking my machine to print it the way it is now, it still wouldn't be good enough to give away or for any real use. If I ever get the time and expertise to modify this, I'll post it and reference my design on this project. Good luck everyone else, but really don't bother printing this the way it is; it uses a lot of filament, takes a long time (12.5hrs.) and even if it moves, it'll be weak where it counts. Ciao for now.

That's just flippin' amazing!

Looks awesome, printing it now... You are literally the best designer on Thingiverse. Love your work man!

Very good looking project! Thanks for creating and sharing this!
I have a Prusa i3 MK2 that seems to be pretty well dialled in but this was the first failed print, albeit the most intricate - standard settings at 0.1mm layer height. Prepared in Simplify3D.
Should I be using 0.2mm layer height?
The outer shell failed at 7.2mm height where there seems to be a 0.4mm layer gap with the next layer having nothing at all to sit on.
I'm pretty new to 3D printing - is there something really obvious that I have missed?
Many thanks for any help and advice you can offer :-)

as everybody said the base is the product of an evil genious. the gap between layers is only 0.3 outershell -> 0.3-> mechanism ->0.3 -> innershell this may cause many problems at the bottom of the sphere. This is partly because the overhang at the very bottom of the outter shell or excessive temp. its difficult to free the mechanism without inspecting with detay the design _: ie a wrong move and you may cut the inner pins holding/guiding the mechanism blades.

my suggestion is to being able to parametrize the gap between shells and the resizing of the appropiated pins. thx for the desing

Absolutely! I always include a parametric CAD file with my designs: it's the .scad file. It's plain text and compiles the shape in OpenSCAD. You can find the tolerance values in there. However, on a design like this, if it's fusing, making the tolerance larger usually won't help. Generally adjusting temperature, retraction, filament diameter, cooling, z-gap and belt tension will help more. Basically my designs end up as tests of 3D printer calibration and slicer performance.

The spiny design apparently appeals to my inner masochist. It certainly looks neat, but we're still locked up. An incurable optimist, I now so desperately want to believe in this print. I've lost almost as many fingers as I have hours in wrestling the layers apart with my slim spatula. The concept is hella cool, and I MUST make it work.

Could you post a cutaway view that will show the inner mechanism (pins and tracks) so that I can struggle more in the right direction? I feel like I'm almost there.

I came back to my print and tried a few other ways to loosen the mechanism. While I almost certainly stripped a couple of the internal pins early on, I finally figured out tonight that I could pop the bottom of the blades up into the sphere in order to free them. It suddenly worked! (minus the blades I had compromised...) This gives me hope that my initial problems are my own fault (i.e., user error) rather than a print calibration issue. It was a really nice two-color print, but I'm going to recycle it and try again.

Thank you, as always, for sharing the OpenSCAD file/script.

Out of curiosity what are your printrbot settings for this?

I printed this thing on a maker bot replicator , freed the leaves and freed the top but it still doesn't work. What can I do to make it work.

This is really amazing. Thanks for all the stuff you've designed and given to the world :)

I attempted a print but I believe I had the same problem as Julvr. My printer was set to .1 mm layers with a .2 mm base and it failed on layer 33 when the inner mechanism started to split. Though the print failed I could tell I would be facing issues with fusing. I had also had some curling issues around the corners but that is inconsequential. The failure came out quite sharp so though it failed, it looks cool. I will not try this print in the near future as it takes an entire day, but I love the concept so I've got to do it eventually. The fact that it's working and a single print is impressive.

I too attempted blood sacrifice. The print gods are not in my favour today.

Very cool concept. I had the same issues that were mentioned by other posters, where the bottom layer fused. I managed to wreck the bottom when trying to unfuse it (blah). A couple of quick suggestions: 1) bevel the bottom -- that is, create more space between the pieces on the very bottom .2mm. This will prevent the bottom layer from fusing (I did this to overcome the same problem on my wire clip). 2) For layer 76 (when printing in .2mm), there's an actual gap between the top and bottom sections. Different printers will handle this differently (my printer created some artifacts as a result). Instead of a gap, use a few concentric layers that are exactly .4mm wide (one strand for almost any printer), would allow you to easily run a knife around and cut the bottom from the top.

I would also add some thickness to the bottom of the container, and possibly make the container a bit smaller.

Currently on my 4th attempt at printing this box. First three were with black PLA. For some reason, the filament started acting like it was jammed when printing the external shell's perimeters, but not when printing the shorter pieces of the wings. But sure enough, each time it would "jam" enough that it would stop feeding. I'm now printing in red ABS, and haven't had any problems yet. There appears to be good separation between the three layers so far, so it should be easy enough to get working once it's done.

Edit: no luck. Fail #4. It got a little further along this time, though. More investigation needed.

It's a little hard to tell from your description, but look through the layers on the outer shell in the preview in your slicer; Simplify3d was switching from single shell filled walls to single shell hollow walls right around where the pegs are generated, which wasn't strong enough to withstand being broken loose. It also looked funky around that area on the outside, looked just like the filament starved a bit in that area.

I haven't tried playing with different slicers yet, but I did modify the SCAD original a little (tightened the junction between the outside shell and the base up quite a lot (1 empty layer only) so it'd print correctly) so that I could scale the whole thing to 150% with 2-shell-minimum walls on the whole print on my .5mm Rostock Max V2.

I'm currently 1/2 way through that 30 hour print. I'll post my results as a "Made" or possibly a remix if and when it finishes properly.

My 5th attempt did successfully complete printing. The change I made was to switch from 0.1mm layers to 0.2. Now I'm trying to get everything unstuck so that it'll move.

Edit: Well, I just ruined #5. In trying to loosen everything up, I thought the leaves were stuck near the top of the box, at one end of each leaf. So I worked and pried and scraped at it until they let go. I didn't realize that there are pins there for the leaves to pivot on. I just broke each one of those.

Wow. That's stunning. Thanks for sharing it!

My 1st try also failed. I simply could not free the outer shell and I was getting backwash clogging from the thin walls. Trying again. Using Simplify3D I did the following:

  1. I made 2 processes with the 1st process for the base only set to 15% infill, the second process which is the upper thin walled parts set to 0 infill. This should remove any backwash from the thin walls from clogging the extruder. Also in the second process i upped the filament diameter to 1.85 to lessen the extrusion for the thin walls.
  2. I decreased "Horizontal Size Compensation" to -.15. This increases the separation between the shell the leaves and the inner body.
    Printing now and i can see a lot more separation between the thin walls.
    Also... yeah this thing BITES! I mean that literally, not figuratively. OUCH! I will try to free the outer shell BEFORE I remove this next try from the build plate to avoid the spikes.

Nope... This time everything released but the leaves broke. Way too thin. Ah well.
It closed only once, then pieces fell out of the bottom! The leaves fell apart by the lower hinge area.

3rd try. set Horizontal Size Comp to -.09. Printed fine and seemed ok but one leaf broke even after all were released. The area at the bottom is way too weak for the thin walled design. Sorry. IMO this is not a printable thing.

I printed one, and got really close, however it was very stuck together. I used my 3d print removal tool to separate the layers a bit, and got it to turn, but in the process I broke off one of the hinge pins.

I think my issue is that my extruder doesn't cleanly stop extruding PLA when it switches between inner and outer layers (bad negative space tuning). Does anyone have any tips on what settings to change to improve that? I'm using Simplify3D.

Also, this thing cut me while trying to get it un-stuck. I'll probably tweak the openscad file to remove the sharp edges as a remix.

Yeah, sorry, I was feeling inspired by echinoderms and barnacles so it ended up kind of pointy. It sounds like you're having trouble with retraction, which is a very common problem (especially with Bowden tube extruders). The simple answer is increase the retraction distance and sometimes the retraction speed (as long as your extruder can handle it). However, the best fix I find is usually to drop the extruder temperature to where it stops stringing, but still bonds the layers well and extrudes properly at full speed. Every brand and color is a little different. Also, to keep the PLA from warping I point a huge fan at the print. No such thing as too much cooling for PLA.

Really? I just started printing with PLA. I thought cooling too quickly was bad, so I have my extruder fan turned off for it. My temp is 195. Would you suggest trying a lower temperature, adding the cooling fan, or increasing retraction first?


Yeah, cooling is bad for ABS, but great for PLA. I'd start there. Print some side-by-side cylinders and tweak the settings until you're happy with the result. Work your way up to a big print like this one.

great to see you back with such a great design. just printed the geared bearing last week when I got a new printer... always my first print!

I scaled it to 75% because its to big for my MP Select Mini Printer. says 7 hours to print.. hope it works :P

Oof, good luck. I printed one at 70%, and unfortunately the clearance between the moving parts scales down as well. It's rock solid. Hope you had better luck than I did.

Printer failed sent it back for RMA will try again once my printer gets here

Awesome design, Emmett!! One of the coolest designs for sure.

Yeah! Emmett!! Gottamakeit!
Definitely a thing of the week for 3D Printing Today!

Great job!
Thank you very much!

Unfortunatelly, my Openscad 2015 hangs when trying to open this file.
Does it happen to somebody else?
Any suggestions?

Comments deleted.

Really? Like it won't even open the text, or it hangs when rendering? I'd highly recommend you reduce $fn to 30 or it'll take an hour to render.

You are right!
I changed $fn to 20, and it finally opened.

Thanks a lot

That looks great!

Emmett is back! Just what the 3D community needed!

Pretty soon we will see him and more of his work on youtube channels everywhere!


That is slick. I am going to print one and see .....