Interlocking links are a versatile design that is often difficult to produce with traditional manufacturing. Interlocking links essentially means a chain that connects together. Usually, each individual link has to be created separately, but with 3D printing, this process is much faster and the whole chain can be created together thanks to proper 3D printing design and unpacking technology.
One of the most interesting uses for interlocking links is creating chainmail, which is essentially a fabric made by linking loops together. Visually, it is very striking and might be a popular choice for any fabric product. Practically, it is flexible and pretty tear-proof.
Desktop 3D printers can create links separately. These designs should be created with gaps that allow the links to be snapped together later. There is a lot of diversity that can be added to these 3D printed chain links. You can change the shape and texture. Regardless of the modifications, it is likely you will have to put these links together by hand after printing.
With industrial printers, 3D interlocking patterns become much simpler and interesting to print. The size of products and level of detail that an industrial 3D printer can create open a host of options for creating interlocking link patterns.
With the right industrial 3D printer and careful design, links can be printed already linked and in place. A flat sheet of links can be printed up to the size of the print area, or an even larger area can be printed by folding the sheets over each other in a configuration something like a folded towel. This also applies to ordinary chains as well; with careful folding, a chain longer than the printing bed can be easily printed.
Chainmail Design Basics
Chainmail is all based upon one pattern of links. There are many different options out there (check out some of the designs found on https://www.mailleartisans.org/) but the most common and basic is a set of five links with four of them linked to a central one in a four-in-one design. These links are commonly basic round shapes, but you can opt to design any shape or texture you like or need.
This common design is not the limit, however, not by a long shot. Print link designs that interlock or complex patterns bound together by links. Use flat central links to create a flat yet flexible surface that you can add raised “pixelated” designs to. Add designs that cover the gaps to create a unique visual effect. Mix and match designs, even, to make something truly unique. The key is ensuring that the design has enough space between the links to print properly and that the links are thick enough to prevent fusing.
A common design approach for 3D printing is optimizing the design to be fully functional with as little material as possible. This can be done for chain links as well to create products that are more economical with their use of printing material and have a unique continuous look.
Link design can also be modified for flexibility and drape. Depending on the shape of the links and their organization, the resulting chain or chainmail can be more flexible or more stiff. Tile-like hexagon designs in particular allow for simple customization depending on the details of their design.
3D printed interlocking designs have an immense amount of creative potential, especially when combined with other aspects of design. If you’re looking for something different for your product, 3D printed chainmail or chains can be just the touch it needs.
JawsTec is more than happy to help you create the perfect 3D interlocking design. Our state-of-the-art 3D printers are perfect for creating large or small linking patterns and our team of experts is more than happy to work with you to take advantage of versatile 3D printed links.
Contact us today for a 3D printing quote!