PCB Workstation with Articulated Arms

by giufini, published

PCB Workstation with Articulated Arms by giufini Apr 30, 2015

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"PCB Workstation with Needle Probes" (JUST RELEASED!)

"PCB Workstation with Crane Arms"

The "PCB Workstation with Articulated Arms" is a very useful tool that allows you to make precise and stable connections to the pins of the electronic components on your printed circuit boards.


"PCB Workstation" in the TOP 8 CLEVER JIGS on MAKE MAGAZINE:

For people who don't own a 3D printer or quickly want to get a fully functional "PCB Workstation" with a large set of printed parts and hardware accessories, they are now available two ready to use High Quality kits!



The new "LAB PROBES EDITION" kit is the perfect solution for your electronic laboratory when you need to perform complex analysis of electronic devices. It includes a full set of adapters for the most used laboratory probes. This kit does not include the probes that you might already have in your lab or you could buy from your preferred online vendors (Farnell, Digi-Key, RS-Online, Sparkfun, etc.).

Email me at [email protected] for info about costs and availability.

Print Settings

Printer Brand:



Zortrax M200










Support: 10° when needed (disabled for most pieces).
Infill: Medium for the bases, High for other parts.


Step 1: Mount the silicone bumpers

I suggest to apply 5 silicone bumpers beneath the base piece, so it will be more stable on the desk. You can use bumpers with a diameter up to 20mm.

Step 2: Assemble the PCB holders

The central part of each base consists of 4 sliding pieces arranged in a cross along which can be moved the anchoring blocks to firmly keep the printed circuit board in place. The assembly of the PCB holders to the base piece requires some wing nuts (5mm) and Hex bolts (5×12 mm). The PCB holders have two faces, one for straight sides, the other for the corners of a printed circuit board. You can choose the right face simply turning the holder.

Step 3: Mount the base joints

The base joints are required to mount the articulated arms to the base piece. Each type of base is equipped with multiple holes in which can be inserted a variable number of articulated arms for different purposes. These pieces have a slot to allow the passage of the electric cable without passing through the hole of the base, so it is very easy to insert, remove, or change an articulated arm on the fly.

Step 4: Assemble the bendable arms

The articulated arms are then made by assembling multiple ball and socket joints. Depending on the required length, an articulated arm may be formed from a variable number of ball and socket joints, however 20 elements should be sufficient for most uses. Each articulated arm provides an internal duct in which an electric cable can run.

If you wish to make more rigid articulated arms, you can use the provided special ball and socket joints that have a slightly smaller ball to allow the application of a rubberized coating that improves the friction and the stability of the articulated arms. I suggest the use of a small piece of heat shrink wrap 8mm (0.28") long, 0.27mm (270 micron) thick and 9mm (0.4") diameter.

I have also provided a new piece "B&S Joint (thick coated).stl" to allow the use of a thicker heat shrink tube.

Step 5: Install custom terminals with wires

The terminal elements of the articulated arms are designed to accommodate different types of accessories:

Alligator Clips (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12033)
IC Hook Clip Grabbers (http://www.amazon.com/12pcs-6colors-Small-Grabbers-Multimeter/dp/B00C4PLQ7A)
Micro SMD Grabber Test Clips (http://www.digikey.com/catalog/en/partgroup/micro-smd-grabber-72902-series/16004)
Micro Sprung Probes (http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/needle-point-probes/0775726)
Micro Clip Probes (http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/grabber-clips/0775704)
Zeroplus type Probes (http://www.amazon.com/Probe-Saleae-Logic16-Zeroplus-analyzers/dp/B005NR440W)
Tektronix type Probes (P/N 020-2733-00 in kit 020-2662-0x) (http://www.bmisurplus.com/products/40893-tektronix-p6516-logic-probe-accessory-kit-020-2662-00)

Step 6: Mount optional base extension

The piece "BaseExtension.stl" can be used to expand the base, allowing for the mounting of bigger PCBs that do not fit onto a single base. This piece can be coupled with each available base (except "Baseround16cm12holes.stl") using the appropriate "extension linkage" piece supplied in the archive "ExtensionLinkages.zip".

Step 7: Assemble bendable arm with LED lamp

You can also add to your PCB workstation a terminal element that can accommodate an LED to illuminate a particular area of the PCB. I used a super bright white LED connected to a 9V battery using a 180 Ohm resistor.

Step 8: Add optional parts

Now that you have almost finished your customized "PCB Workstation" perhaps you will no longer use the old "third hand tool", but you could miss the magnifying glass. So, I have added a special piece "HolderMagnifyingGlass.stl" to still use the accessories of the old third hand tool, including the magnifying glass.

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Mar 28, 2017 - Modified Mar 29, 2017

What is the magnifying glass that will work fine for this? I'm trying to find one but they can't seem to find one with the ~3.5mm x 50mm dimension. Is that really what is supports? Any links would be great :)


What differences have between:

  • BS_Joint
  • BS_Joint_coated
  • BS_Joint_thick_coated



Is it ok for you if i post aan thing that includes your ball joint?
I will put the link of this thing in the discription.


Hello Tibo, feel free to use it providing a link to my original project, thank you ;-)

At what orientation is it best to print the ball joints. with the ball up or down?

I prefer to print it with the ball down in order to avoid the need for support structures.

ok good to know, trying that now. Just fyi though i printed it ball up on a makerfarm pegasus in pla didn't use support and had no problems. fit together beautifully

Im trying to print the Ball socket joints but the where the seam is there is too much plastic what temp settings and shell thickness would be best?

Im using ABS right now at 260C

Hi, the BaseExtension part does not fit the Base 17 x 17 16 holes. The holes on BaseExtension are about 5mm wider than the holes on Base plate. Any suggestions how to resolve this?

Regards roamer

I found the solution in the Extension_Linkages zip file

Ok, perfect! Have a nice day ;-)

The arms are a bit too brittle when printed in ABS or especially PLA. Not much holding strength.

Very nice Work !
Ca i buy a "All-In-On" paket from u?^^

Sure, you can!
Please email me at [email protected] and I will send you all the info you need ;-)

Email send =)

GREAT design, thanks for posting! I have been envisioning something like this for a while. I'm using a Lolzbot mini and trying the ball/sockets now. I have printed 2 arms worth using slightly different settings for each arm but the results are the same: they print well, they look good, they go together pretty well and work. But they come apart really easily. Anyone else having this issue? I see there is a suggestion for using shrink wrap, but that is for friction of the joints. For me the friction is perfect, its just the coming apart issue.

Hello Tom, thank you for your feedback. I guess the problem with your ball/socket joints is caused by the not optimal combination of material and temperature of extrusion. Anyway try using a filament of neutral color, that is a raw material with a color similar to white: sometime the addition of too much coloured pigment to the filaments causes the printed parts to be less strong and more easly breakable.

This is probably one of the most ingenious projects I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing your creativity with the community. Cheers. Mark

I would just like to say thank you for sharing such a great design! I have seen this project grow and it is inspiring.

Thank you Shawn! It looks like my project was inspiring also for the well known PanaVIse company... ;-)

been trying to print bs joint all night male side down nozzle kept knocking them off other way round and broke half way through, see some others have had similar probs, last print tried changing shells from 1 shells (new to this print stuff and never not used a shell) change to 0 and from 10% infill to 30 and just printed perfectly not sure which change did the trick I think the shell as was a thin part it kept failing on but something to try if having the same issue
great item by the way looks great in the pics will post make when all done

Hi i want to print the articulated arms.. which ball joint should i print???

Hi Luis, you can make an articulated arm printing 18-20 pieces of "BS_Joint.stl" part.
Then you have to print a "Base_Joint.stl" piece to link the arm to the base frame.
If the Ball & Socket joints are too loose, you can try to print the pieces ready to be coated with heat shrink tube ("BS_Joint_coated.stl" and "Base_Joint_coated.stl").

What is the best way to print the ball joints? I tried the male part upwards using supports and it works acceptable but I can't fit the male in without braking the tabs, I also tried printing opposite to that (using brime) and the edges were curling up where the extruder layed PLA and when printing a batch of 20 it was bumping in to the other pieces and broke them off the bed.

Hi Pawel, what 3D printer do you use? I usually get excellent results printing all the parts with the ZORTRAX M200 using Z-ABS or Z-HIPS filaments and each printed piece is very solid and durable. Anyway if you have to manually configure all the 3D printing process, from printer setup to slicing software parameters, maybe you have not yet found the optimal global configuration. Could you try to print using ABS material?

I print with PLA using Robo3D R1. I tried printing with temperatures of 190/40 and it doesn't cool down quick enough so the inside of a joint is rough (not giving enough room for the joint to fit all the way) and when I turn the heated bed off, parts come right, but they are brittle and tabs break off because the layers don't melt to each other well enough. I managed to print a batch of 20 and sand them down a bit so they work, but it was a lot of sanding.

Dec 13, 2015 - Modified Dec 13, 2015
Zachrandir - in reply to zenekNY

try adding M109 S--- (enter temp for the dashes) in your g-code where the part needs to print at a different temperature.
M109 tells the printer to wait until the given temperature is reached. you should add it on the next line after the change temperature command is given.

Comments deleted.

Very cool invention! I am in the process of printing it out now on my davinci. I printed the base using ABS plastic and is pretty good quality. I tried printing the joints using ABS but is is too brittle. I then tried PLA and the results are much better.

I am impressed with this project and I started printing it. Therefore I have a question.
Could you add a vertical frame for the 145x145mm version?
Thanks in advance!

Hi Mateusz, I have just added a new vertical frame... ;-)
Let me know if everything is ok when you print it. Bye.

Hi Bishapo, I'm glad you like it ;-)
I'll do my best to make a vertical frame mountable on the 145x145mm base.
Stay tuned for the update...

I've just connected this vertical frame to the base and it fits great. Thank You :)

Hi pugs2300, as you can see, there are several types of ball&socket joints available in the "Thing Files" section: if you do not intend to use the heat shrink tubes to improve the stability of the articulated arms, you have to use only the piece "BS_Joint.stl". If your 3D printed BS_Joint.stl pieces do not fit together, maybe you are having some issue with your 3D printer settings.
If you still have problems, you can try to use the piece "BS_Joint_coated.stl" without using any heat shrink tubes between the pieces. Let me know if this tip works ;-)

Maybe It's something in my settings. They seem like they would be right but always break before they snap together.

So I'm having a problem. When I try to assemble these they break. Like either the ball is to big I the socket is to small. Any tips ?

I haven't printed this, but I would assume that heating the sockets with a heat gun or hairdryer would aid in them not breaking.

Sep 7, 2015 - Modified Sep 7, 2015

I'm having trouble with the base joints and the 145mm base plate.

The "front" tab of the base joint appears to be 2mm thick while the slot in the base plate is 1.75mm thick.

Is there a different base joint for the 145mm plate? Or could I hve something wrong in my slicer?

Edit: Nevermind. On a reprint, my extruder jammed, giving me a chance to check the size mid-print. On the next print, I realized I'm having a shrinkage issue.

Great design, thanks a lot! Could you please consider also adding a holder for the E-Z-MICRO-HOOK X2015 probes? Those are pretty neat for probing fine-pitch devices.

More info: https://www.digikey.de/catalog/en/partgroup/e-z-micro-hook-x2015-series/15908


Hi UweHermann, currently I don't have that type of probe.
Parhaps I will add this item in a next purchase on the digikey site.
Thank you for your suggestion, it is very appreciated.

Can you design a mounting clip for an oscilloscope probe.
By the way, awesome tool. Thank you so much.

Hi Pfanntec, please send me a link to a web page with description, specifications and pictures of the particular probe you wish to be supported, thanks.

Jul 12, 2015 - Modified Jul 12, 2015

Would love to see additional universal holder types for 2mm/3.5mm/4mm bullet accesoiries. For e.g. RC Hobby and Multimeter compatible parts.

Please, send me a link to a web page with description, specifications and pictures of the probes/accessories you wish to be supported, thanks.

As soon as I receive them I will let you know. Best thanks!

What filament did you use for the grey?

also what alligator clips are compatible with this

Read the 'Instructions'

Yeeeeeeeah that's what I was looking for, but bigger! Greeeeeaaaaaat!!!!!

Ok...this is genius. Great job!


Wow, that's impressive!

Im having troble finding shrink tubing with thin walls. Can you please supply a llink?

Hi f99sm, I guess I used heat shrink tubes bought from Sparkfun site (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11379). However, I already noticed that it was a very thin tube compared with other types of heat shrink tubes, so I am going to add a new type of Ball&Socket Joint that can be covered with thicker tubes. Stay tuned!

I can say that I can't find any heat-shrink tube with walls tickness less than 0,45mm on rs-components italy.

First off. You sir, are a god among men. This is awesome!

Second. Can the base be laser cut? it looks to be flat except for one groove. can it be laser cut out of two pieces and then stacked? Are there files for that?

Hi cnt, thank you, your appreciation makes me feel very motivated!
I guess the base can be laser cut stacking two layers as you suggested, anyway I have no experience with this tecnique... what kind of files you need to produce a laser cut version of a piece?
I guess the base could be even more easly made using a CNC milling machine...

Really, at a minimum would be a vector drawing of the outline (preferably in some standard units, mm or in) dxf, pdf, svg. From there it could be split into two files pretty easy. Optimally would be two vector drawings with "hairline" paths that only contained the cuts required for each of the two layers with the edges slightly dilated to compensate for the laser's width.

In the past i've generated these easily using the create drawing feature of my CAD software. I'm not quite sure how to go about it from just an STL though.

May 28, 2015 - Modified May 28, 2015

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:299721/#files these work great if you dont have any wingnuts!
I scaled the 30mm verison down in my slicer to a length of 20mm.

gopro thumb screw
by tomerna

I can't find the datasheet...the adaptor should have a depth of 4mm and a diameter of 9,6mm. A hole in the bottom would allow a wire to go throw.

So send him a set of those probes already!

Hi sobo84, unfortunately I do not have that type of probe, therefore you should send me a datasheet of the probe showing the exact dimensions.

Fantastic! I like this better than the PCB station I bought on amazon lol. Thanks

I don't have a 3D printer, so I had a local shop print one up (Triaxisprint) -- same Zortrax printer and filament. It came out great! I used 10mm diameter heat shrink tube, and the arms are solid. Thanks very much for the design!

I´m wondering how you get the light shining. Is there also a resistor in the lampshade or where do you put it?

I inserted a 180 Ohm resistor in series between the two soldered cables, where you can see in the picture the small piece of black heat shrink wrap.


Perhaps it would be easier if you'd put your project on github? That way there's a log of changes, and people can use the facilities there to request changes or submit contributions. STL file viewing is built-in: https://github.com/blog/1465-stl-file-viewing

Thank you biot, I will consider your suggestion.

Awesome work! I really like this and would like to print one, but none of the bases fit my printer.
Any chance you could design a round base with 16cm outer diameter?

Hi KriJu, I have just added the new round base that you asked for.
Then, I would like to see a picture of your printed PCB Workstation ;-)

That was fast! Thanks alot! I´ll print and post it

Oh no! I forgot delta 3D printers!!!...
This could be the first endless project on Thingiverse!
However, I'll try... ;-)

Hi 3Dreamer_sweden, I have just uploaded a new set of bases... Now you can find a base also for your small 3D printer ;-)

Moreover, working on the new bases, I made also a special base for our friends that have a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer.

Happy printing to everyone!

My god man, this is amazing. Thank youu!!!! Excellent idea!

can you make a base plate that kan print on a print bed that is 15x15cm ? :P i want to print this ! but its to big for my printer ...

Hi 3Dreamer_sweden, I'll try... ;-)

maby u can splitt the big base in smaler parts ? :P

It would be awesome to add a little nozzle, and tubing going straight through the bendable part. Then you could attach a micro vacuum pump, much better to pick up components than your fingers :D

Hi Akmaistomods, I guess it is easier to use a tool like this: http://www.amazon.com/Amico-Vacuum-Sucking-Suction-Headers/dp/B008LTKEA8 ;-)

Very nice. Now we need printable test probes, $200+ for a kit of those micro clips...not this week I think.

Comments deleted.

Greetings from Chile, estimated the project since leaving loved it, so congratulations to her creator, I printed the same day, now I see updates and say "why not wait a little" jajajaj have struggled to unite the embers PLA and I use when I install it breaks me aside, I'm 100% printing infill. 0.2 layer that recommendation you give me for it is not broke, now how could post updates on the old base? slot could remove the piece that goes into the base.
this is my mail if I could help.
[email protected]

This would be perfect for flashing ESC's! Nice.

Great work. Could you slice the base in a few parts to make it printable with smaller printers?!

Hi sobo84, what is the print-bed size of your printer?

its 18x18 cm

Well, maybe instead of slicing, it might be better to design a slightly smaller base, perhaps 17 x 17 cm.
It might accomodate a slightly smaller PCB (11 x 11 cm), how about it?

That would be awesome!

May 13, 2015 - Modified May 13, 2015
giufini - in reply to sobo84

Hi sobo84, having appreciated your suggestion, I have just added the new piece "Base_V2_17x17cm.stl".

Comments deleted.

WOw! just awesome design! thanks for sharing! just too cool for me to handle .

Really nice design. Thanks for sharing!

This is absolutely genius. Incredible job!

Incredibly awesome. Can't wait to build this!

Now this, this is useful.

Can anyone please tell me what are these colored wires for?
What are they? and where are they used? Do they protrude out of the arms in some way?

May 8, 2015 - Modified May 8, 2015
apfletcher - in reply to TheMak3rs

They are test lead clips. They are used for test equipment & measurement. (Several other uses also) They seem to feed through the arms and out of the bottom of the base. The clips attach to wires/components/pads on the pcb.

The clamp alone will be incredibly useful! Thank you for sharing!

May 7, 2015 - Modified May 7, 2015

should interface well with these http://www.thingiverse.com/MrDee/collections/popcorn
If they need a tweak the source files are here https://www.tinkercad.com/search/?q=%23popcorn

beautiful ! I love it

100% making this! Thanks! I'll probably add alligator clips to my arms.

as an EE who solders and probes a lot I can this is a fantastic idea!

It' s so cool, well done!!!

I have to comment, this is awesome, well done sir!

May 5, 2015 - Modified May 6, 2015

I did something similar in a recent past... It worked great until the PLA started to get loose. I still have to figure out a way to maintain the stiffness of the rotule joints. Maybe other material work better? If someone has some recommendations regarding this, I'll gladly take them... Great work anyway!

Hi mmemetea, with the last updates I have just added a new type of ball and socket joint element: it has a slightly smaller ball that can be covered with a small piece of Heat Shrink Wrap (see new pictures).
In this way, the articulated arms are much more stable, as there is more friction between the joints.

Nice... Hopefully it will hold well in time. You may want to try the tip suggested by peetersm, basically, it consists in applying a hot melt glue dedicated to fabric (surebonder, I think). The problem being, if you're like me, based in Europe, not so easy to find. Thanks again for sharing and taking the time to answer me.

There is a video link in the description of this thing that talks about one way to make the joints work better.
I have never tried it, but it might be worth a try since you have already printed in PLA.

Open Source Action Figure with 70 Points of Articulation (aka Dexter)

Thanks peetersm, while the video tip is about ABS, it would worth testing with PLA. I'll try to find some equivalent source here in Portugal and have a try... Many thanks!

May 6, 2015 - Modified May 6, 2015
kb_ - in reply to mmemetea

It's probably the ridges from the print layers wearing off. Maybe you could apply an epoxy resin coat to make the parts smooth

I wish it was that, but even some of the parts I wasn't using started to show some relaxation. Meanwhile an article in the 3ders.org explained that he used some more advance material than PLA, HIPS in this case:
Thanks anyway for the suggestion anyway... That could probably work.

Has anyone got any good reviews (besides sales pitch) of the HIPS vs ABS .. I have used a lot of ABS, with only minor lamination issues (still working on that), and would love to know a real review...

HIPS is awesome. It combines the plusses of ABS (strength, thermal stability, acetone treatable) with those of PLA (food safe, easy to print, less warping, smooth finish). It should have been the #1 printing material from the start, with ABS and PLA being exotics for specific applications.

Yes, but it is more expensive and more vulnerable to solvents than PLA or ABS. I use it as support material because it pops off of ABS when cool, generates far less ooze, and it dissolves much faster than ABS does.

really nice work


At the risk of sounding ignorant, because I am (ME not an EE), what are the red, yellow, green, and blue attachments for and where did you source them?

look up test lead clips, they're used for oscilloscope leads or various electronic instruments and it just clips onto the wires and holds the stuff on it's own.

The hat is off!

Thank you!

This is one of the coolest projects for helping with other projects I have seen on here so far! Thank you for this design, I can't wait to try it out!