I needed a holder for my IN-9 Nixie tube and I didn’t have much time to learn a new skill. When it comes to mechanical drawing, my knowledge is close to nil. So I ventured out onto the web and decided to dive into a design with Tinkercad. With virtually no knowledge at all about the tool, I watched a couple of YouTube videos, then started. The result was that within a few hours I had a completed design that I then ordered from an on-line 3D printer service. My first 3D project and IN-9 holder arrived within a few days and worked great.

In this blog, I’ll share the simple steps I followed to design and order my first 3D design in one day. You can use them for your own project. If you need a holder for your IN-9 Nixie tube, you can download the surfncircuits public design at Tinkercad, then get it printed at Voodoo Manufacturing or another one of our choice.

Here is a link to also get it made at Voodoo Manufacturing.

Step 1: Measure and then sketch the basic device dimensions

You should always start with a sketch of the device to collect to key dimensions, features, of the device. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you sketch this up

  • How will this 3D device be attached to the system assembly
  • Where will the wires (if any) be routed
  • How will Nixie tube be installed
  • Should it be one piece or two pieces that will be assembled
Measuring the Length of the IN-9 Nixie tube
Measuring the diameter of the IN-9 Nixie tube
The Sketch of the IN-9 Nixie Tube Holder showing basic measurements

For the IN-9 Nixie tube holder, the goal was to attach it to the expresso maker chassis with a couple of hangers built into the design. In addition, the Nixie tube wires needed to be routed through the rear of the holder and exit the top so they can be attached to the rest of the electronics.

The IN-9 Nixie tube holder attached to the chassis with built-in hangers

Step 2: Start a Tinker project

This is a really easy step. Simply create an account if you don’t have one already and press the “Create new design” button to get started. The main idea with Tinkercad design is that you start with basic shapes and you add these together to create a complex shape. Connecting shapes together is done with the group command. This Youtube video explains this quite well. Holes are creating by creating the hole out of basic shapes, then grouping them with solid shapes. This grouping then creates a shape with holes or features as needed. With the sketch from Step 1, start building up the design and watch as your ideas become a creation.

In addition, as you are designing your project, Voodoo Manufacturing has a list of items to consider when working on your 3D design and before you print.

Tinkercad Design of a IN-9 Nixie Tube Holder

Step 3: Download your design

Once you have a design that looks like it will work, simply export and download the .STL file. This is the file that will be used for 3D printing. From TinkerCad, you can also send your design directly to several 3D printers.

From Tinkercad the design can be downloaded in as an .STL file

Step 4: Upload to a 3D printer service

After choosing Voodoo Manufacturing, I uploaded the .STL file and they checked it over for any design errors. I followed their design considerations and the design was perfect. For this IN-9 design, the material I used was the basic Black PLA material and with shipping, the total cost was less than $20.00. I ordered on a Sunday and they delivered the same week.

What are you waiting for?

The prices are right, the tools are easy, and the services are so streamlined there is no excuse not to get started in 3D printing. And you don’t need your own 3D printer to start! Yes, as you do more projects, your own 3D printer would be a good investment, possibly saving you some money. However, with the time required, the setup, and repair, you would need to be doing a lot of projects for this to make sense. You can start now and try it out. Good luck with your next or first 3D project. I would love your comments or questions below.


  • Tinkercad is a registered trademark of Autodesk
  • YouTube video on a Tinkercad introduction