3D Printed Ball and Socket Joints

We’ve been looking at the 3D design and printing of ball and socket joints as part of a new project we are embarking upon. This also would be a super useful component in many other settings where we need some degree of movement in the piece and/or require assemblies which can be popped together and also seperated at other instances. And as always, we are churning these test pieces out on our trusty ol’ Makerbot Replicator 2. Here are the 2 quick designs on the same theme for our 3d printed ball and socket joints:

Simple Ball and Socket Joint

This is a straightforward design where the ball joint sits directly in a cup shaped socket, much like the shoulder joint in humans.


The concaved socket joint is slightly more than a hemishpere so as to be able to catch snugly onto the ball joint.


The characteristic of this particular 3d printed joint is that it allows for movement in 360 degrees up to a uniform point for ball joint.


In the spirit of sharing, this design can be found on thingiverse over here – http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:70366

Ball and Slotted Socket Joint

This is a variant of the simple ball and socket joint where we’ve created gaps in the walls of the socket to allow for 4 points where the ball joint will be able to rotate to a more than 90 degree angle to the socket joint. The additional benefit allowed by this design is that the groves provide more flexibility to the socket parts, so that they can be extended to a higher level than the first design, thus giving a better grip on the ball joint.


Here’s the piece assembled, showing the extent to which the ball joint can rotate when it hits the top edge of the socket joint.


And when the ball joint is rotated into the grove of the socket joint, it allows for a more than 90 degree turn – probably going to be useful in some scenarios 🙂


And this is also made available on Thingiverse over at: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:70371

Stay tuned to check out what we will be using these 3D printed ball and socket joints for! 😉

Comments 25

  1. Hi,
    I’m a 3d printing newbie, and I’m wondering if you could give me some tips on printing these ball and sockets. I tried to print your simple ball and socket, but the result was terrible. My printer is calibrated pretty well now (I think), so I’m guessing the problem is in the settings, and I was wondering about yours. When my printer tries to print the overhanging layers of the ball and socket, it comes out a worbled mess. The overhanging filament wants to curl up above the print nozzle, and lets the nozzle push it around and distort the shape. Did you have this problem? Could you suggest anything to resolve this? I tried printing them at 200 C and 230 C, and the results seemed equally bad. Did you use supports?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Post

      Ah, thanks for liking our model but it’s weird that you’re facing too much of an issue with it. Have you tired reducing your layer height or print speed so that your hot end isn’t zipping around too much? The print temperature of 230C sounds about right as we are setup similiarly too.

      Also try to check if there are cold drafts going through your printer as that may cause the layers to cool down too quickly and warp.

      Perhaps if things get too hairy, you can try supports though we modelled this piece in a way that shouldnt need it.

      All the best with it! =)

  2. Hi, thanks for sharing the model 🙂 looks really good. I am planning to use it for an ipad mini mount and I am wondering is the joint a tight fit one so that I can adjust the angle of the joint or will it just droop to one side?

    1. Post

      Thanks for the kind words! Yes, when we tested out the joint, it fit pretty snugly for us when. However, your mileage may vary based on your 3D printer and also your print settings. But in the worst case, it should just be a matter of slightly tweaking the size of the pieces if it ends up too loose or too tight. In terms of infill though, would recommend something higher (50%+?) but maybe not 100% infill as that would make the parts which need to bend inflexible. All the best!

  3. Would you be okay with me using this in my products? It’s a small business, but I’m not able to render ball joints as well as I had hoped. I’m printing custom pony dolls, and I want to have them articulated, so I’ve been looking for ball joints online. If you are opposed or are happy to let me use these joints in my collection, please let me know ASAP. Thank you and have a nice day 🙂

    1. Post
  4. Hello

    Thanks for sharing this models, I’m designing some dolls for my niece, and I’m kinda a noob in 3d printing anything that uses more than a single piece, so its very useful to have this to drag and paste onto my models.

    Looking forward to learn and build my own balljoint!

    Thanks again.

    1. Post

      Hi Vic,

      Thanks for the kudos and glad you like the model! We share because it’s always awesome to see how part get added on to and also remixed into new models.

      Please do share with us how it goes for you 🙂

  5. Hello,

    I’m trying to design a similar clip design for my Major project at Brunel University, London. Would it be possible to view a drawing with dimensions for the ball and socket parts? so I can use the principles/ratios of the clip for my application!

    Any help/advice would be greatly received!


    1. Post
  6. im trying to design my own ball and socket. can you tell me what you meant by a little over a hemisphere? i know you meant more than half of the sphere for the socket, but how much more? also how did you make the 4 point/finger socket? what is the size allowance between the ball and socket to make sure they would fit together?

    1. Post

      Hi kira,

      What we meant was that the top of other socket goes a little higher than a a half a complete sphere (hemisphere). As for the tolerance and number of ‘fingers’ its a matter of trial and error and also to test the output of your printer. All the best!

  7. I have been looking for something like this high and low all over the internet! How do I get one of these?? I need that ball and slotted socket joint. Can i buy this??

  8. Pingback: 3D Printing – Inventor Models – Elizabeth – DigiFab

    1. Hi Elena,

      These were 3d printed in PLA plastic, but ABS plastic or any other 3d printing filament should work too!

  9. Hi!

    I’m using this kind of joint on a lamp dome. Do you think the sphere which is inside the base one, can be pulled out easily or the base offers a sort of resistance?

    Thank you in advanced for your answer,

    1. Hi Laura,

      For your needs, perhaps it is possible to ever so slightly resize the ball seperately from the socket (in the slicer of your choice) to see how best to get the tolerance you require at the scale/size you need? =)

  10. what config did you guys used while printing because i tried printing it and the botom half turned out awful

    1. Hi federico,

      For this piece, we printed on the Makerbot Replicator 2 with standard settings and no support. It should work similarly on any other well calibrated machines 🙂

  11. Hello! I’m also new at 3D printing and I would like to incorporate this into my first project. I’m making a model of the Evolution door https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umfvm8I9_oU
    I’m using Inventor but I can’t put your file into my work in stl format. Is there a way to do this? If not, will it be possible to get it into a compatible format? Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Deena,

      Sounds like an interesting project you are working on – would love to help if you could drop us a mail to hello@funbiestudios.com and let us know what file formats you can inport into Inventor? Otherwise, it may just be the case that you can simply redo the ball and socket joints in Inventor itself. Not terribly hard really. 🙂

  12. Hi there. My son (7) is wanting to play hockey this year. The catch is, he’s missing the lower part of his right arm, below the elbow. I was wondering if this would be robust enough for socket attachment to the end of a hockey stick and ball (with 1/2″ threaded rod) to the end of his prosthetic?

    1. Hi Calvin,

      Ah, with 3d printed parts, they do tend to be less strong due to the nature of print. However, you could try 3d printing with more infill and shells and that should help with robustness somewhat. Would recommend a round of load testing after just to be sure how well it holds up and also, best not to apply to critical applications. All the best!

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