Hit the Pavement with Your Own Two-Wheeled, 3D Printed Skates

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One young 3D designer and printer took matters into his own hands when he saw “Big Hero 6” and was blown away by the cool but probably impossible-to-navigate one-wheeled skates in the animated Disney movie. Ethan Nelson, who goes by “enelson8” on Instructables and MyMiniFactory, is an ambitious maker who set out to design his own set of skates that were more realistically usable. He admitted that he didn’t know much about 3D printing his own personal “means of transportation” aside from hearing about the Local Motors 3D printed car but that didn’t deter him.

Nelson's low-tech prototype.

Nelson’s low-tech prototype.

Nelson kicked off his skate project by creating a prototype, largely using cardboard. What he had in mind was to create skates that could be somehow affixed to the bottom of a pair of shoes — the most reasonable kind being sneakers with sturdy soles. Although he began by working through possible designs for single-wheeled “Uni-Skates,” he moved on to his two-wheeled versions. Nelson’s first draft included a large axle that didn’t seem feasible for adapting to different kinds of shoes. He wanted his skates to be free of clasps or buckles so he set about coming up with a solution.

Since he didn’t have his own 3D printer, Nelson, who lives in West Texas, borrowed his school’s 3D printer to do the project. In his Instructables bio, the young 3D designer indicated he preferred using Autodesk Inventor, so I’m guessing that’s what he used to create the skates. He shared the .stl files for the skates and noted, “Everything is up to scale and you only need to print one of each file.”

fitting shoe attachment

One 3D printed part affixes to the bottom of the shoe around the middle of the arch in an incision Nelson created. Another piece that holds the axle is affixed to the first piece — the young inventor used JB Weld and hot glue to connect the 3D printed components. To ensure they stayed put, he clamped them together and let the glue dry overnight. He did a bit of sanding so that the pieces would fit snugly together and then moved on to print the wheels, which, it probably goes without saying, are the showstoppers of this project. Nelson printed the parts using ABS and there are two files for each type of wheel — two large, two small.

The project requires eight ball bearings that are 16 mm on the outside and 7 mm on the inside. They can be purchased online or at a hobby shop or hardware store. Nelson inserted two bearings into each wheel — owheel with bearingne bearing on each side.

For the axles, he used two pieces of 5/16” threaded rods that are about 16 mm long. To finish mounting the wheels, he used 12 nuts, so the hardware shopping list is fairly short.

Nelson had one last suggestion for maker-skaters who want to use these skates a lot: Add some spray-on rubber to create a tire. I imagine that would also make them more pleasant to use and easier to navigate over different surfaces.

I’m a bit disappointed that Nelson didn’t share a video of the skates in action, so if you decide to make them for yourself, please share a video with their inventor and with us!

What do you think about this fun, movie-inspired design? Are these the kind of project you’d be interested — or a young maker you may know? Tell us your reactions in the 3D Printed Skates forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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