The Magic of SOLIDWORKS and 3D Printing: Unveiling the Trick Behind the Ball and Vase

Spoiler alert: all secrets revealed! See how we unveil the magic behind the Ball and Vase trick using SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD and 3D printing.



I’ve considered myself a magician since the age of nine, so it has been a passion of mine for quite some time now. I actually used to have my own business called JL Magic, and I directed a kid’s camp called the Kent Cummins Magic Camp (now the Fantastic Magic Camp) to help children develop life skills by learning and practicing magic, juggling, and puppetry.

One of the tricks we used to teach each and every student coming through camp was the Ball and Vase trick. The premise of this trick is simple. We have a ball and a vase. We then take the ball out of the vase while saying some magic words, and voila, it disappears! At this point, we find out that the ball has actually reappeared inside of the vase. Again, we close the vase and say some magic words. Finally, the ball appears from an innocent bystander’s ear! Magic!

Now, you might be wondering “HOW DID SHE DO THAT?” (or at least I hope you are). Well, as with most things, it all begins with SOLIDWORKS….

Let’s just say that, to make this trick work, I needed a mix of slight of hand and some “custom hardware.” Creating the custom hardware was the fun part. I got to use the power of SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software and an industrial-grade 3D printer to imagine and bring this concept to life.

Modeling this in SOLIDWORKS was simple. All I did was create a few revolves from a master sketch resulting in a simple, multibody part.

To make sure that I had the correct amount of clearance, I revolved each piece only 180 degrees – a similar effect to working with Section View turned on but with selectable geometry and edges that can be converted as entities in sketches. This allowed me to offset entities after moving bodies so that I could see inside my part as I designed it. I also created a variable called CLEARANCE so that I could adjust the spacing between each body later depending on how my part came out.

At this point, you might have some idea about how the trick works. If you don’t, keep reading – all will be revealed!

After creating the part, I wanted to get a quick peek at how this would look when performing, so I decided to create an animation. One of the things I love about SOLIDWORKS is that it gives us the flexibility to work in a multibody part and then take those multiple bodies, split them out, and start working in an assembly. Using the Save Bodies command (Right-click Solid Bodies folder > Save Bodies), I did just this.

After saving the Bodies and creating an assembly, I quickly added a few mates, making sure to add Distance mates and Angle mates that could be utilized during animation. In order to animate the “performance” before making the parts, I decided to use a feature called the Mate Controller (added in SOLIDWORKS 2016). This feature allows us to quickly manipulate mates, save positions, and recall them later. We can then create animations based on the positions with a smooth transition between each “pose.”

Here’s how the animation turned out.


At this point, I’m ready to print and test it out! But wait…I wonder if it is going to fit on my build tray. Luckily, new in 2018, we’re able to quickly add a Bounding Box for any part model. This makes obtaining overall part dimensions easier than ever before. To activate this, we simply need to go to Insert > Reference Geometry > Bounding Box.

Once this is completed, we can quickly and easily check the overall dimensions of our part by looking at Properties > Configuration Specific Properties. We can see here that our part is currently sized at 7.33 in x 2.76 in x 2.76 in.

One of the things I love about Markforged’s Eiger software is that it is so easy to use, and it will actually take pictures of your print as it progresses so that your project can be monitored remotely. Since I’m in Texas and the print was being done in our New Jersey office, this was fantastic!

Here’s a quick video of one of the prints.


I absolutely love how this part turned out, and I can’t wait to share it with my magician friends. Also, turns out the gimmick has a double-use: stylish feline headwear.

My cat is not amused (poor guy), but I am!

Anyway, thank you so much for tuning in! I hope you enjoyed following along. Now it’s your turn – go make some magic with the power of SOLIDWORKS and 3D Printing!

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Author: Loretta Stiurca, Senior Application Engineer at DesignPoint

DesignPoint is passionate about building solutions that help product design, engineering and manufacturing companies maximize their potential. By developing trusted partnerships, we help our customers achieve game-changing results and support them in their journey as they strive for more. With DesignPoint, More is Possible.® Our solutions include SOLIDWORKS 3D software, 3D Systems and MarkForged 3D printers, technical support, training and more. Contact us today at!