Custom Tube Screamer 3D Prototype

Custom Tube Screamer 3D Prototype

I’ve been using Cinema 4D for video production over the past couple of years and even tried some more complex modeling using it. But I am an Illustrator diehard and I am used to working with curves and Boolean operations. So when I decided I wanted to explore 3D printing I evaluated different software options.

MOI and Rhino came up quite often in Cinema 4D discussion groups and so I gave MOI a try. I found it to be a nice streamlined package, but I wanted something more customizable – and something with more tutorials available. I tried Rhino 3D next and not looked back.

For my first 3D printing project I wanted to redesign the housing of an Ibanez Tube Screamer guitar pedal. Stomp boxes are mostly the same rectangular shape and I thought it would be fun to see what I could design while working with the constraints of the Tube Screamer’s internal component structure. Using a set of calipers I measured each component of the Tube Screamer and drew those elements in Rhino.


Once I had the components drawn I set to work on the housing. I set a few goals for the design:

  1. Keep it compact
  2. Make it strong
  3. Make it look cool

I explored many different shapes for the pedal and decided to try a star shape first. Sketching it out, It quickly became clear that going with a standard star shape would not work. In order to accommodate the internal components, it would make the pedal huge.


I could have completely reworked the guts of the pedal and made the circuit board more compact and the component placement more flexible, but I wanted to keep this project simple. So I reworked the shape until I was happy with the the form and the size.


Then I got to work in Rhino. Putting the shape together was pretty straightforward. I ran into my share of newbie snags, but the folks at McNeel were very helpful and quick to respond to my questions.

One challenge in designing the form was keeping it as compact as possible. The first aspect in achieving this was – as noted previously – by adjusting the basic shape of the form. The other method I used was to work with fairly low tolerances where the form and internal components would meet.

For the front-to-back slope of the housing I looked at existing pedals that employed a slope in their design. I also made my own calculations after investigating the comfort level of my own foot pressing down on an early mock-up. I ultimately decided on an angle of 10.5 degrees. This, I felt, struck a nice balance of comfort and functionality. One thing I was concerned about was pedalboard layout. If this pedal were sitting in front of another I did not want the height of the star pedal to impede operation of a pedal behind it.

To accommodate the AC power port, the underside of the top point is pulled into the shape and flattened. This doesn’t affect the stability of the form – and I think actually looks cool. I could have separated the jack from the circuit board and mounted it to one of the sides of the top point, but I liked that the plug would be hidden from view when looking at the pedal from above.


Once I had the basics of the form done I set to work on the bosses and ribs (an aspect of modeling that I really enjoyed). Again, I was dealing with tight tolerances so I had to be quite precise in my measurements and the placement of the bosses and ribs.


For the bottom cover, I wanted something that was easy to remove with just a few screws. I also wanted to minimize the number of screws needed to secure the cover. To achieve that, the top side of the cover has a lip that slips into the main housing. The battery is held in place by a couple of flexible grips on the inside of cover.

Once I had the model complete I sent if off to Shapeways for printing and waited…


Finally, I received the printed model a few weeks later. Next step, remove everything from the Tube Screamer and install it into the model – and cross my fingers that everything fits!