NASA Chainmail Fabric

by CMeehanRun, published

NASA Chainmail Fabric by CMeehanRun Jul 16, 2017
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Fusion 360


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This is my attempt at recreating NASA's 3D printed chainmail fabric/armor. I could not find any STL files online that did not fail, so I made my own in Fusion 360! I hope that this can be a fun project for this community.

If you have not seen the article/video, check them out:


Print Settings

Printer Brand:

Type A Machines







0.15 mm




Do NOT print with supports! It is a pain to take out and is unnecessary.

I recommend calibrating your printer's retraction settings before attempting this print as the majority of the middle section are many small circles.

When first stating the print, watch the first layer adhesion. If you do not get a good first layer, the print will fail. Restart and try again.

I have printed at 140% scale through 85% scale successfully, but the larger scales were stronger and looked better. Hopefully I will be able to print this on the Form 2 soon and test out how small this print can go!



The base layers like to ooze together, but is easily broken by a craft knife.

Working/moving the print around will loosen up any small stinging that may occur during printing, but larger strings may need a craft knife.

Generally, the print will be stiff after removal, but will ease up during use.

How I Designed This


I was reading an article by NASA on their 3D printed fabric that they created on an SLS machine and wanted to make some for my own. This is the process if you would want to make changes or improvements:

Step 1:

Start with a 10x10mm rectangle and extrude 0.45mm (3 layers)

Step 2:

Make a sketch on the side of the previous extrusion. Draw a 45° line 1.7mm from the right and 5mm from the left. Next make a plane perpendicular to the line.

Step 3:

On the previously created plane, draw a 1.2mm circle 1.115mm from the line horizontally. Also add a line 5mm from the edge to revolve around. Using two sided revolve: 20° up, 70° down.

Step 4:

After creating a plane on from the revolve trajectory, make a sketch on that plane. First, make a perpendicular line from the end of the previous revolve. Now, draw a 5mm circle tangent to and connected to the endpoint of the line. Then trim off the circle after 30° from vertical and sweep the previous circle through the sketch.

Step 5:

Create another plane by offsetting from the end circle and project the center point from the circle before. Draw a sketch on the underside of the rectangle and make a center point of the rectangle. Using the three points just made ( center point of rectangle, center point of circle, and projected center point of circle) make a plane.

Step 6:

Draw on the plane just created. Draw a perpendicular line from the circle in Step 4 and vertical line from the center point of the rectangle; then connect the two lines end to end. Using these two lines, make a conic curve at 50%. Next, sweep the circle along this arc.

Step 7:

Circle Pattern the revolution and sweeps around the center.

Step 8:

Cut away the tails from the revolutions.

Step 9:

Make a 7.5mm diameter torus with a 1.2mm circle profile such that the torus is tangent to the first sweep.

Step 10:

Sketch on the top of the rectangle, make a 1x1mm rectangle and fill in the gap from the circular pattern.

Step 11:

Similar to Steps 5 and 6, make a plane using the intersection between the first sweep and the torus, the center point of a 1.2mm circle tangent to both edges and the projected center point of the circle. Next, on the plane draw a vertical line from the center point just created and a line from the endpoint to the intersection point from before. Using these two lines, make a conic curve at 50%. Next, sweep the circle along this arc.

Step 12:

Circle pattern Step 11 around the center of the rectangle.

Step 13:

Filet the edges of the rectangle by 0.6mm.

Step 14:

Cut away the middle by 1.5mm. This adds strength to the individual link.

Step 15:

Extrude the 1.5mm back using the created profile from Step 14.

Step 16:

Filet the edge between the corner sections by 0.5mm.

Step 17:

Cut away a small sections in the base to break the edge between the corner sections and the base on all four sides. This will be added back in later

Step 18:

Filet the longer edge by 0.3mm.

Step 19:

Add the base back from Step 17.

Step 20:

Smooth out the remaining edges on the top and sides using the filet tool.

Step 21:

Smooth out the remaining edges on the column using the filet tool.

Step 22:

Rectangular array the body using a spacing of 10.5mm.

Step 23:

Sketch on the underside of one of the links and make a rectangle that contains all of the links and extrude by 0.0001mm. This will allow the chainlink fabric to be one STL file, but this last extrusion will not be printed.


When exporting as an STL: the more chainlinks there are, the chances of your modeling software crashing increases exponentially. So, reduce the resolution in higher numbers of links.

Happy printing!

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An interesting modification might be to give each edge of the bed-facing surface a very slight inward scallop, I think it would come off of the bed in a more flexible state without sacrificing strength although it might be an attack on the pixel aesthetic. Really neat, thanks!

Hi CMeehanRun,

Thanks for uploading this design, it's awesome and works well with FDM. I'm planning on printing a variant of this out of copper using a DMLS machine, but I need to make some modifications to avoid the need for supports. I've tried to follow your design steps but I just can't figure out how to get from Step 2 to Step 3. Would you be able to please provide some guidance?



Thanks for the feedback! I'm about to take an exam, but when I get back I'll add another step in between 2 and 3 as well as adding more pictures for reference. I am personally interested and excited to see how a copper DMLS print of this would turn out!

Thanks! That would be awesome.

I'll be sure to share some images of the final copper piece when I eventually get it made.

Good luck with your exam!

Do you print them together? It dosent sound like they can be connect and disconnected

your assumptions are correct

The model takes way too much time to slice. I left in overnight and it was only as 60 percent. Could you find some way to speed up the 15 x 15 model?

There is a new file called "Nasa Chainmail 15x15 - Very Low Res". Hopefully this new file can slice better!

That's really interesting! What slicing software are you using? I can try and decrease the polygon count even more, but Simplify3D can slice the 15x15 in roughly three minutes!

I'm having trouble understanding your walk through on how you built this, especially steps 4 through 6. I was wondering if you could explain a little more on how you made this area, or maybe upload a STEP file of your 1x design so we can look the design process directly?


Yes! I will put a 1x1 tile STEP file under the Thing Files tab now.

Thanks so much for the 360 walkthrough! Super excited to give this one a go.

Comments deleted.

Hey could you put up a larger, low res version ? I am absolutly in love with this model but i am not able to make a biger one myself.

Sure! What is your printer's build plate dimensions? I'll also be providing a 10x10, 12x12, and 15x15 all low resolution.

Hey, I have a problem with the chains fusing together even when scaledup any idea on how to fix it ?

It could be an over-extrusion or a retraction problem. If you have an image of one of these failed prints, that could help even more.

Quick update: since printing the 15x15 chain mail I seemed to have similar problems with other models too so I testet the bedleveling and the bed wasn`t level so i am guessing that that was the problem. (curently printing another one)

The weird thing is that the 8x8 version works great and without any options and the 15x15 presents the problemes mentioned above. (pictures can be seen in the "made" category)

Nice !!! The dimensions are 200x200mm. Thanks

Is there a way to join multiple, separately printed pieces?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to join printed pieces. However, you can take two STL files and line them up in your slicer so that it acts like a larger piece (i.e. taking two 8x8's to make an 8x16).

Thanks! So you are saying after printing is complete, they can't be joined, but multiple pieces can be arranged and printed at once to make one larger piece?

Yes. I would recommend previewing the gcode so that the parts don't fuse together during printing.

Comments deleted.

Looks cool, could you give me an idea on what I might use this for when printed from my regular available PLA or ABS?

This is mostly a proof of concept by NASA, and I just thought it was interesting. You could use this as a coaster for coffee mugs or glasses, it is really up to you!

I used Hatchbox PLA for the print in the picture. PLA works best for me; ABS stringed too much.