It seems like only three short months ago I was internet famous. Oh, how fickle the internet gods!
The ball joint I designed a little while ago just hit the featured things page. I think it is the only thing I have designed for which someone else created a derivative. Just after I posted the ball joint r3becca posted her amazing Beco Blocks. (I do not for a moment think r3becca’s blocks are a derivative or even inspired by my own shoddy work. I mention the timeline simply because I am always astounded how often two people can come up with slightly similar solutions totally independently of one another. My favorite example is the feud between two origami masters who each claimed to have designed the same origami pig, nicknamed the “Case of the Purloined Pig.” If you’re interested in origami, you should check out Peter Engel’s “Origami from Angelfish to Zen,” and this essay from the Bay Area Rapid Folder’s website on origami ethics). The ball joint I created is printed as a single piece and then snapped so it can then rotate, but the result is only okay. If the flanges that hold the ball joint in place are too thin, they’ll pop off. If there are too many threads between the ball and the flanges, it won’t rotate.
R3becca’s solution is far more elegant – two pieces printed separately that pop together and stay connected well. The best part is that it has almost a complete range of movement. If I needed to add a ball joint system to an existing model, I’d almost certainly use one of the Beco Block assemblies as the connecting mechanism.