Awesome as it is, it seems that 3D printing hasn’t quite changed civilization as we were promised. It is, however, quickly becoming the prototyping tool of choice in numerous industries, and that includes yo-yos.
Quite a few people with access to a 3D printer have designed and made a yo-yo at this point, with varying degrees of success. That includes a set of 100% printed fixed axle yo-yos from Microsoft, part of the tech giant’s initiative to add 3D printer support to the Windows operating system.
But simply printing regular yo-yo designs is not where the power of 3D printing lies, it is a very time-consuming method of making yo-yos. The true power of this technology is breaking the boundaries of conventional industrial design. One of the earliest approaches to custom printed parts for yo-yos came from Werrd Alliance’s Yu Tsumura, which can be found in his YoYoTopology account on Shapeways.
A 3D printer may not be as good as a lathe when it comes to producing perfectly circular objects, exciting new designs are possible thanks to the ease of printing complex details. The “Future”, which was covered here on YoYoNews before, is a great example. Printed in stainless steel, the design by Adam Blanchard features an amazing honeycomb design, which not only improves weight distribution, but is also impossible to replicate on a lathe!
The honeycomb pattern can also be seen on the creations of one of the most prolific printed yo-yo designers on the scene, Mr. Hideki Toho, a.k.a “East”, under his Yo-yo Maker initiative.
We’ve featured Mr. Toho’s designs several times, including his beautiful hybrid nylon-steel “Three Dimension Type 1”, a set of Yin Yang loopers, and the impossibly cool Lego caps for the Freehand Zero. Be sure to follow his blog (in Japanese), for more awesome designs, and insights.
While it is too slow for mass-production, there’s another area where 3D printing absolutely shines, which is customization. You can think of a crazy design, and print it right away, without requiring the resources and effort to find a machine shop. Like this yo-yo from last year’s Taiwan Yo-yo Contest, featuring a 3D printed shape, metal weight rings, and the YoYoJoker lock crest:
And even if you are not CAD-savvy, Kyle Weems has got you covered. Check out his mind-blowing system at kyostoys.com: you can design your own yo-yo from any combination of shape parts, response types, and bearing sizes, and order a print, all inside your browser! This truly feels like the future!
You can even design a completely unique shape if you want, by following the template available on the website!
Another designer who’s been exploring and pushing the limits of 3D printed yo-yos is Jeffrey Pang, who runs both Luftverk Titanium Supply and Fluid Print Dynamics. Here’s Jeffrey’s approach to 3D printed yo-yos in his own words:
How can I design a product that can not be manufactured by any other means (Machining, Injection molding, etc) except 3d printing?
That’s exactly the mindset that pushes the limits of design and brings fresh ideas to the industry! Check out two of his designs, the Kayto 2 and Glocadius. These can’t be manufactured by any other means!
Another strength in 3D printing technology is that it allows quick prototyping and testing of new ideas. We’ve recently seen it employed on a couple of Kickstarter yo-yo projects: the wildly successful Ti-Yo, and the interesting YOYODrone.
And finally there are the odd 3D printed projects that just wouldn’t happen without the help of 3D printers, like the collapsible yo-yo from yours truly:
And this super cool “Emergency Yo-yo“, featuring 3D printed halves, a paper axle, and coins for weight distribution!
Will 3D printing ever become the technology of choice for yo-yo manufacture? Probably not, but we are excited about the possibilities it opens for yo-yo design!