LairdWarp Rollercoaster

by laird, published

LairdWarp Rollercoaster by laird Mar 24, 2013

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Inspired by the (now out of production) Spacewarp roller coaster system, I decided to see if I could make something similar that's all printed. Here's the result!

For examples of SpaceWarp in action, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJK1NxoreDI and follow the links. Or browse around http://www.angelfire.com/journal/scottmills/SpaceWarp/spacewarp.html . In particular, the Gallery ( http://www.angelfire.com/journal/scottmills/SpaceWarp/Gallery/Gallery.html ) has some good example sets. And if you read the manuals he's scanned and posted, you can see exactly how large, complex sets are put together.

UPDATED: Added parts:

  • Loop: flip a ball around 180 degrees
  • Tee Bar: makes it easy to run track looping around a vertical bar


First, locate 1/2" steel balls. If you don't have any, buy some 1/2" Carbon Steel Balls e.g. "40 pack 1/2" Steel-Ball slingshot ammo (12 oz)" from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004PX9KO0/. You can use glass marbles, but steel balls are smaller and heavier, which works best.

Design a layout. See http://www.angelfire.com/journal/scottmills/SpaceWarp/spacewarp.html for inspiration. He's got all of the manuals for all of the pre-packaged designs that were sold.

  • Print enough base plates to cover the area that you want to build.
  • Print enough vertical bars to hold up the rail. Or you can use 5mm metal rods, which are stronger, but don't have that "I printed the whole thing" goodness.
  • Print horizontal arms. Or you can use 3mm or 5mm metal rods.
  • Print cross ties to attach to the rails.
  • Use filament (3mm or 1.75mm) as the rails. I think any filament should work, but Taulman 618 Nylon works very nicely for me. The original SpaceWarp rails are nylon rails, just over 3mm. You can buy it as 1/8th in nylon tubing ("oil pressure guage tubing") sold by auto shops. But since everyone with a 3D printer has filament already, I made sure that it works.
  • Roll the 1/2" steel balls down the track.

Help design more parts to fill out the set. The SpaceWarp had all sorts of switches, jumps, elevator, etc. Let's see what we can come up with!

In particular, we need something to take the marbles from the bottom and load them into the top to keep motion going. The Marblevator is awesome - I'm sure that it can be adapted to work with these railings!

To save people time, I've generated three pre-configured Things. They are:

  • 1.75mm Laird Warp Rollercoaster: for all-printed parts with 1.75mm filament rails. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:83947 . This is what I've been using, so you can see the photos for details.
  • 3mm Laird Warp Rollercoaster: for all-printed parts with 3mm filament rails. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:83951 .
  • Laird Warp Rollercoaster for SpaceWarp Rail: Sized to use 5mm vertical metal rods, 3mm horizontal metal bars, and SpaceWarp rails. This will let you use printed parts to replace lost or broken pieces from an original SpaceWarp set. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:83952

The specific parts that I have modeled so far are:

  • Cross Tie: This is the part that holds the two rails at the proper distance apart, and is what other pieces attach to.
  • Base: A flat plate with holes in it. I added a grid of slots to allow for pieces to fit into place more firmly, and to minimize warping. To cover large areas you could use a sheet of wood with 5mm holes drilled every
  • Vertical Bar: A 5mm vertical bar. It has a cross piece at the bottom so that it fits into the slots in the base.
  • Horizontal Bar: Clip between vertical bars. Clip Cross Ties or B2B Clips to it. This isn't in the original set, but it's easier to print a single piece to clip between two vertical bars than to print a horizontal bar and two clips and attach them all together. 3D printing is more flexible than metal bars and injection molded pieces.
  • Cross Bar: A horizontal bar that clips in the middle rather than at the ends.
  • B2B Clip: Horizontal bar with a clip at one end, which you can use to clip Cross Ties to.
  • Base Clip: to attach two bases together to cover a larger area
  • Full Circle Tie: A Cross Tie, but a full circle so that it holds four rails around the ball. Good for holding extra rails in place for making high-speed turns. This isn't in the original set - I added it.
    NEW Loop, to flip a ball around 180 degrees. This consists of a loop and some clips, and is plated for your printing convenience.
    NEW T-Bar, makes it easy to run track around a vertical bar, with the long bar of the T on the vertical bar, and the arms holding the cross ties to hold the track.

And I made some 'plates':

  • Assembled. Don't print this. But it shows how the pieces fit together.
  • Plate of clips. An assortment of clips of various types and lengths.
  • Plate of vertical bars.
  • Plate base and base clips.
  • Loop plate

It's all customizable, so you can make exactly the piece you need to build what you like. Can you print 250 mm bars? Go for it! That'll give you lots of room to play!

One nice recent addition to Customizer is that when you generate your customized Thing, it'll have all of the parts attacked, using your settings.

And all of the source is there, with lots of reusable modules, and even a tiny amount of commenting, so let's extend this to do everything we can think of!

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Please upload in STL... Cant figure out how to load this in my slicer

I'm having trouble printing this correctly. I have some 3,125mm nylon tube and 12,5mm balls. But when I customize to these dimensions, using the 3mm filament settings, the crossrail clips have a rail diameter of 3,6mm, which makes the rails too recessed in the clip. This then makes the balls bump into the crossrails. Using the 'tight'setting for clip closure gives me 2,4mm railclips which dont fit the rail at all.

What can I do to make it work? Cheers!

I am having the same problem with my 1.75 mm filament.

I just saw http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:254536/http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... which is a nicely printable auger. Now to add the bits to integrate it into the LairdWarp Roller Coaster! (i.e. a stand, motor, guide rails, etc.)

by buja

you should make a manual auger to pull the ball back to the top. Now that would be great!!

Great idea! The trick is to make it printable. Hmmm.

try searching auger on thingiverse there is a design with a sort of handle and a slot for a base.!!

Yep. And I have a nice low-speed motor that should do the trick!

good luck try looking at nuts a bolts that kind of design could work.

IIRC, the auger was a stack of single-turn augers, one on top of another. It might be possible to even make stackable half-turn augers that fit on to a square shaft?

Another possibility is a wobble-climbing-stairs design. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NJ7Fr6VrPUhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Yeah, there's a set of those on Thingiverse that I printed and tested. They work well, but each set of those stairs will only raise the balls a few inches. I'm thinking that something more like an auger with a rail will do the trick.

Very cool site. I can't read any of it, but the photo's are great!

I have a huge space warp sitting in my basement that i got when i was a kid! This thing was so fun to watch! I gotta get it running again!

Nice work!

The LairdWarp.scad file references utils/build_plate.scad, which doesn't seem to be included. Is this needed?

Good question! Build_plate.scad is used in Customizer to show parts on a build plate so you can see what fits. You can ignore it. I think the Customizer docs link to source, so you could download it.

I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

I loved SpaceWarp! I have been thinking that it should be able to do this. I am glad you have done it -- Awesome!

Brilliant idea to use filament stock as rails!

Since this got Featured, I'd like to take this opportunity to promote the elegant and relevant Elfnor's Marble Pump (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:83286)http://www.thingiverse.com/thi.... I think that it should be possible to use that pump to lift marbles, and then construct a vertical rail using circle ties, to feed marbles from the bottom to the top of a marble run.

Marble Pump
by elfnor

Brilliant, excellent work.

Awesome. Since I have just recently dug out my old Spacewarp set and have begin combining it with a SpaceRail set to fill in the missing/broken parts, this is very relevant to my interests. In addition to hard to find replacement parts, it would be great to be able to develop some custom parts to help solve some problems ( like a collector to more elegantly combine two runs into one ). My current pressing issue is the elevator/lift and it's gears.

If you could photograph/scan the "elevator" parts and send them to me (laird at popk dot in), I'd be happy to add them to the SCAD model. My SpaceWarp sets are in storage (think Indiana Jones' government warehouse). I have the spiral modeled already, but I can't recall exactly how the parts fit at the top to allow the balls to roll off so nicely.

The 'join' is on the way!

I figured out the elevator problem. Still, I am encouraged by what you are able to do here. It looks like the basic parts are covered, I am excited to see what else you are working on. In addition to a piece to join two tracks, a funnel that has the attachments for rails would be great too.

Great, I'll do it!

Ah ha! Something like this has been on my mind for a little while now. I love the circle tie. I needed something like that when I was young, to help with landing jumps. The jumps out of the tops of loops were murder to get right. I loved how that made the ball back up after landing.

Other part ideas:
-An easy rail splice. I always needed one.
-An adapter to MakerBeam. The rods will only scale up so far, right?
-Tubes for balls. Maybe integration with the marble run pieces I've been seeing.

Silly idea: Stepper-driven ball elevator slaved to the printer's E axis. Or perhaps to the X axis with a ratchet? Which machine to watch?

All great ideas! I'll work on them while I'm on vacation. Fun! I am amused with the idea that the marbles would run while the printer is running. :-)

Spacewarp is still being produced - or something equivalent, anyway - but it's now called "Spacerail".


Cool! Reading their "about" page, they describe themselves as "a marketing and distribution company specialising in the introduction and distribution of the latest innovative products" based on the Netherlands. But looking at their products, the sets look identical to the Bandai sets from 10-15 years ago.

Looks like it's up to us to innovate!

The reviews on Amazon suggest that Spacerail is just as fiddly to get
right as I remember Spacewarp being. My memory is if you cut a piece of
track the wrong length you're screwed because the kit comes with just
enough tube for the roller coaster pictured on the box.

Yeah, SpaceWarp was tricky to get right. But when it finally worked, it was magic!

On the 'plus' side, since we can 3D print any part we need, as much as we need, we eliminate many of the limitations from buying a box of limited pieces and rails. :-) So now "the sky's the limit"!

Yep, SpaceWarp was tricky. You had to get everything "just right" to maintain momentum and not go to fast (and fly off a turn) or too slow (and stop), with lots of tweaking levels, banking turns, etc.

On the plus side, when you got things to work, it was magical! I had one in my office, which ran continuously for months, and whenever people came in for a meeting it would hypnotize them. Which was great - I'm not a fan of long meetings.

Dude, sweet! I haven't seen one of these since my friend and I discovered a broken set at a thrift store when we were kids. This may have to be my next project, if only I can find space for it...

Go for it! I bet you could run rails on wall brackets!

It turns out that you can mount the 'base' plates to drywall screws, and everything works hanging on the wall. It gives a lot of flexibility in placement, too!

Now to figure out how to lift balls up to the ceiling using printed parts!

MBI had a similar marble run piece in their store, which lifted the balls by having people turn a crank. The crank moved a cable behind the wall which pulled magnets up, so the balls looked like they were rolling up the wall. Super cool!