Trilobite articulatum

by AuntDaisy, published

Trilobite articulatum by AuntDaisy Aug 9, 2012

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An articulated Trilobite to print and assemble. (If you like Trilobites - have a look at 4MULE8's beautifully organic Comura Articulatum http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:60521 )

Unlike the fossil ones you see in museums, you can have fun flexing and rolling this trilobite up - bit like a woodlouse (or pill bug.) It makes a satisfying clacking noise if you ripple the segments.

You can make baby trilobites by using just the smaller body sections. Whole trilobite families, or even armies, can be yours for the printing.

This creature is very inquisitive and can often be seen peering over people's monitors or shoulders.

Jasonwebb has done a short video (with sound) showing it moving http://vimeo.com/47692125 and Busybotz has kindly included it in one of his excellent 3D printing videos www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGNg37Fc584 (starts at ~3:08) and http://3dprintblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/3d-printed-parts-assembled-and.html (starts at ~1:45).

I'm thinking about other designs of body (with spikes), head (more plate-like, and with more spines) and tail (spikes, and more spikes). Comura looks fun http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WLA_hmns_Trilobite_Comura_sp.jpg

If you're interested in trilobites, Richard Fortey's book "Trilobite! - eyewitness to Evolution" ( www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0006551386 ) is a great read; and I found http://www.trilobites.info/ fascinating, especially the eyes section http://www.trilobites.info/eyes.htm

I've included a photo of the fossil trilobite that gave me the idea to make a stylised, flexible version.


Print "Trilobite Head 2", "Tail" and TWO lots of "Body" (8 body segments arranged in a row). On our Replicator, 20% infill and two shells (to make the pegs stronger), with ReplicatorG defaults worked well. Apart from the head, none of the parts need a raft (they're all flat on the underside). On the head, only the two pegs might need support.

Note: If you're printing in PLA (or on a Replicator 2), try the STLs in "Tighter_trilobite.zip" - there are a set of test peg/sockets to print in "pegs_test.stl" [Thanks to dethcookie for help with testing.]

It's probably best to print as scaled in the STLs - which gives a width of ~8cm and a total assembled length of ~17cm. You can print smaller and larger, but the joints may need a little fettling.
Note: Different colours of plastic might give loser/tighter joints - on our replicator, ABS orange/white/black were fine, ABS pink was looser but held together.

To assemble:
Let the parts cool down; then starting with the tail and one set of body parts, clip in the smallest body part, then the next biggest, etc... Repeat with the second set of body parts in reverse order (i.e. biggest to smallest), and finally the head. If you want to swap them around, the parts should unclip (carefully).

Note: I've also included the eight individual body parts in a ZIP; and STEP and Parasolid versions of the whole trilobite (just in case someone wants to add more spines or fiddle.) NB the STLs are 1.5x scaled up from the other models.

For laird, I've also added just the peg-and-socket part - ready for exciting spikes and other paraphernalia to be added... The curved surface is the top.

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How long does this take to print? Without changes?

Thank you for the excellent, interesting and well documented design. Good luck with future projects!

Very kind of you, thank you.

would this work if you scaled it up to 225%? bit of a stretch i know but im interested in a larger one

Should work - I'd use the "tighter" version and possibly a hair-dryer to tighten the joints.

Chris Cauley printed several "Comically Large Trilobites".

Trilobite articulatum

is it OK to print at 50% size?

Probably not.
I've done 70% and they needed a bit of work with the hair-dryer to get the joints right.

Trilobite articulatum

Do you have the smoothed tail version?

Perfect End-of-year gift for the science teacher in your life!

Love the design, thank you for sharing! Super easy to print!

What is the average wait time for one of these?

Looking at this design, I have realized that it can easily be modified into an anomalocaris (large cambrian predator that most likely ate trilobites) with similar flexing designs in its side fins and feeding appendages. That would be awesome. Also, how loose would this be if I were to print it all in ABS black? One last thing: what resolution did you use?

ABS on a Reprap Pro Medel 2 shells 15% infill. Worked a treat with a little adjusting needed on the head pins.

I printed one out of ABS on a Lulzbot Taz 2 (Slicer/Pronterface) with 2 shells, 20% infill, and the pins are nice and snug. It takes quite a bit of force to fit the sections together, but once assembled, move smoothly. This thing is so cool. Love it. Thanks for making it.
The bottom half of the pins on the head printed a little sloppy (no support), but I used a very thick ABS slurry to build them up and smooth them out, and that worked great.

i like it but I only printed 1 section of segments so I have to re print 2 sets of body segments.

Any chance of getting the individual sections for the tighter version. They fit perfect on a Rep 2, 20%fill, 2 shells, Makerware standard profile.

But one of the bones lifted, and dont want to reprint the lot.

This thing is awesome!

Hi GregFisk25, I've added the STLs for the individual back pieces. Hope they work okay.

Fascinating. I had been thinking of making one in wood, myself.

Hand carved or using a CNC milling system? I'd love to see the results - beautifully stained and varnished :-)

This is so cool. I printed one out on my Replicator 2x but the pins seem way too small and it keeps falling apart. I tried to tweak the pegs using blender which led to many more problems.

I'm a student so I was able to download Autodesk Inventor which allowed me to open the PERA file, however I am not at all familiar with the software and still can't seem to scale up the pegs so it's a tighter fit.

Any ideas? Would it be possible to make another version with less tolerance so I can get a tighter fit?

I see that you mention different ABS reacts differently, but I've tried 3 different colors and even PLA with the same results

Hi dethcookie, sorry to hear the pegs/sockets are so loose. We have a
Replicator 1 and usually print in ABS, maybe the Replicator 2 and PLA is
producing more accurate prints and my model needs tweeking.

As a
test, I've increased the peg radius from 2.7mm to 2.85 and created a
new set of STLs - they're in "TIGHTER_TRILOBITE.ZIP". (The socket radius
is still 3.08mm.)

You can quickly check if the new pegs work by
printing "pegs_TEST.STL" - it's just four of the peg & socket units
without ribs. If they fit together, then I'd be very grateful if you'd
try a complete print.

Fingers crossed...

Also, I saw the hairdryer trick listed below and was able to get them tight enough on my first print, so all was not lost with that print after all

Awesome! Thanks so much for doing that. I just finished printing the pegs_TEST.STL file and HOORAY!! The new pegs fit like a glove. I'll go ahead and get a complete print started!

Thanks again (:

Is there any chance that those of us without access to a printer can purchase a pre-made one of these from you?


I suppose Ponoko is one option, but your best bet is to contact the Makerbot Store, who were selling them:
(We're in the UK and posting to Florida would be slow and probably expensive.)

Printed this a Replicator 2 (red PLA, 0.1mm layerthickness, 20% infill, 2 extra shell).
The print looks excellent but are way to loose to stick together at all :(

Hi agepbiz.
I printed on a Replicator 1 in ABS with 0.27 layer height - which may have made the parts slightly oversized and he joints tighter.
You could try imitation's excellent suggestion of using a hairdryer to soften the socket (which the peg goes into) and squeeze it a little with pliers. Or, there's Jorlack's suggestion of drilling holes and threading an elastic band through.
Sorry, I really must get this redesigned in OpenSCAD and Customizer.
Good luck.

Thanks for the great design!
One issue i ran into was that the connectors were a bit too loose, to the point that two of the segments would fall apart. Heating it up with a hair dryer and making it a bit tighter was pretty easy, though!

Great idea to use a hair dryer - thanks for the tip.
The tolerances on the joints were for a Replicator - I really need to redo this in OpenSCAD to allow tweaking...

one of the coolest thingiverse items I have seen! Awesome work

I have tried to print this twice and still can't seem to get the pieces to snap together. However for anyone else with this problem (I'm sure there are a few). I found that if I drill a hole through the center of each piece I can feed a rubber band along the "spine" and that holds it together well enough. I'll finish one like this and post it soon.

Awesome project I hope I can get my printer tuned enough in the future to print it right.

I love your idea of adding holes for an elastic band - I should modify the original parts to add this.

Funnily enough, Rosie
amp; I printed a pink
amp; black one yesterday (see Made One photo). The black sections are fine, the pink ones are lose. We printed the pink ones first and assembled them while still hot, the black ones were done when they'd cooled down.

Maybe the different colours print to slightly different sizes
amp; stiffnesses; I'd guess that assembling while the parts are cold is safest.

Good luck with the printing and thanks for the suggestion.

No problem. I would love if you added holes along it. Please make sure its a small hole so that if people scale it up its not to large. At the very least people can drill it out some if its to small.

Also can you consider breaking the body piece down further. 150% is the largest I can make on my print bed as is. If there where half body or even individual I could make it even bigger.

You're in luck, the individual body part STLs are in "Trilobite body.zip".

I forgot to ask - which 3D printer do you have?

Printrbot LC+

Genius. Just genius. Thank you!

Lovely - I'll have to get our Rosie (8) to try it as well.

Awesome -- I think I just saw that one on the "recently made" list. 8-)

(btw, I didn't pose that shot -- it was entirely her idea. lol)

Really fantastic model, great job!

I liked it so much it's printed at 200% sized and he maxed out my print area.

I do like to think they were originally shocking Pink and Gold in the wild ;) what a sight!

I love it! Best one so far. :)

Very attractive headware as well.


Two of them would make awesome shoulder pads!

I also added an extra pink segment at the tail so I could keep the colour sequence, so he has 17 body segments.

37cm Long tip-to-tail 8-)

In the rolled up picture he is sitting on his last segment and tail section perfectly balanced with the head resting about 15mm from the desk. he is the perf
ect 3D printed sculpture.

And my kids really Love it!

Thanks again, I shall be printing more.

And how about a small one as a nose-guard to complete the ensemble?

Or perhaps for cricket (could be uncomfortable)?

I loved your reprap blog - how about a multi-coloured (swapshop) one?


P.S. Rosie (our youngest) wants to know where you got the pink
amp; gold from... ;) :)

Hi Austin,

I will have to do a multicoloured rainbow one now :)

The Filament is from the wonderful people at http://www.faberdashery.co.ukwww.faberdashery.co.uk it's Punk star Pink! and Bling Bling Gold! 8-) two of the best colours ever made.

Don't forget to pick up some Silver, it's really Awesome. Mind you, all the rest are also am

This makes a wonderful toy. It is very flexible and durable. Easy to print and assemble. The only printing issue I had was the points on the tail are thin and easily snap off. I like the alternating color idea, and also printed one in silver and blue.

I knew this would be articulated, but I didn't realize that each of the body sections are completely separated from each other! As it printed I saw how the balls and sockets fit together, and was very pleasantly surprised at how fun this model is to play with :) Here's a video I made of the motion and sound, in case anyone wants to see it in action: https://vimeo.com/47692125https://vimeo.com/47692125

Oh no. Where's the photo of the huge (2.1x) Trilobite gone? It was an amazing print...

I'm totally obsessed with these. They are popping up all over the botcave.

Printed one of these, unfortunately the parts don't snap together so well as they are very very loose. I guess it must be a problem on my machine (belt backlash?). Otherwise amazing! Will tighten the belts and try again, perhaps at twice the size to mitigate backlash further.

Nice work!

This thing is begging me for a hexapod robotics implant. Awesome model!

OMG! This is wonderful... definitely gonna print some of these. What layer height did you use?

Smwombat - I've just seen your Trilobite 3D scan, http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3957http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... - very neat. Did you scan any other trilobites?

Trilobite model

No, I never did any more trilobite scans - my line laser is not fine enough to do small fossils. I have some nice flexicalamene and phacops trilobite fossils which might work for something like 123d catch. I would like to try making a different cephalon (head) and pygidium (tail) to go with your body parts.

I think it was the ReplicatorG default of 0.27mm; although it's currently set to 0.25mm.

Happy printing.

Printed it - amazing design! I love the way the segments snap together, with just the right amount of snap, friction and range of motion. You can do a 'wave' down the body that reminds me of those segmented snake toys we used to play with as kids!

One tricky part, though - the 'tail' prints with vertical horns that come out a bit wobbly, at least with acceleration, though a little acetone bonded them OK. I might try printing them at a slower speed to see if they come out stronger.

But now what I really want to do is design new parts to sna
p with these! Perhaps 'pointy' body segments?

Yes, the tips of the tail spikes do get very thin; maybe I should thicken them up a bit. Or, I already have a version without them...

If you have access to CAD software, the STEP files or ParaSolid assembly are there to import and adjust.

The design was done using SolidWorks and a design table; it's all funny angles and dimensions and took a fair amount of tweaking.

I might try making a simple peg-and-socket block unit (as an STL) that could be read in to OpenSCAD and extended...