What will the average household use a 3D Printer for in the future? In the next few decades it’s not unimaginable to expect a 3D printer to be as common as a microwave or a refrigerator in most households in the US, but why? Sometimes it can be difficult to comprehend the multiple uses of a 3D Printer. The biggest obstacle today is the complexity of CAD. To date, software is still not available for the average consumer to be able to design complex models for printing. However certain software packages such as SpaceClaim are coming very close. Eliminating the need for a feature tree is a huge step in the right direction for the average user to be able to design models on the fly. Direct modeling is the future of retail/end user, do it yourself manufacturing.
Located in our lobby is a nice looking cabinet that’s missing one piece. Shown on the left is a photo of the credenza and the noticeably absent handle. Fortunately after going through some of the drawers I was able to find a few original pieces that will make this project a lot easier. Not only did this mean less 3D printed materials and run time of the printer, but it also meant I wouldn’t have to temporarily remove any of the other drawer handles from the credenza. And with an older piece such as this, why mess with something that’s not broken!
After examining the 3 original pieces we decided on our options. All we needed to do was come up with one disc shaped thing and 1 screw. My first instinct was to say “well we can just buy a screw”, but then we realized that wouldn’t be any fun at all. Next problem was that we didn’t have a model of the disc or the screw, so we needed a plan.
We do have a ZScanner 800 and for about half a second we considered scanning the part. However 3D Scanning is not yet the magical procedure so many have come to expect. The reality was this small part would take much less time to design from scratch than to scan (today anyways).
So we grabbed our trusty caliper and got to work on the dimensions for the disc shaped piece. After acquiring the measurements for the original piece for reference, we jumped into SpaceClaim and began with a basic profile view. From here we were able to use the Pull function with the revolve option to generate the model. For the screw we used a simple thread gauge to get the right size. Instead of literally reinventing a screw, we found a 3D CAD drawing of a screw from McMaster-Carr. We downloaded and used the 3D IGES file.
Usually we print exclusively on our Z450, however we decided to give this job a whirl on our new ZBuilder Ultra from ZCorporation. This machine uses a high-resolution Digital Light Processor (DLP) projector to solidify a liquid photopolymer. This is not an SLA machine, however it produces similar quality and tensile strength as other SLA systems. After our first print, we were disappointment to discover that the screw did not fit snugly into the piece.
The screw itself had printed out perfectly, however we had miscalculated the tolerance of the interior where it screws into. This brings us back to the original value of rapid prototyping in general. We were already going back to the drawing board, beginning our 2nd iteration of the design. If we had sent this out to be machined, we would be extremely sad and out a bunch of money for something that didn’t fit!
On our 3rd iteration we finally got it right, and the screw fit perfectly into the piece. Currently the ZBuilder only produces models in yellow, which definitely will not look good once attached to the credenza. So we grabbed some bronze spray paint, and gave it a simple coating. Soon after it dried, we were eager to install our completed handle.
As you can see it’s hardly noticeable from a distance, and the building manager was thrilled with the results! Granted, we spent a lot more time on this project than we had anticipated, but it should help those of you who are still new to 3D Printing get a firm idea of what the process entails and how it works. Between minimizing user error, and the steady advance of the technology we hope to see the time of this entire process get shorter and shorter. Hopefully before the end of the decade, we will be seeing a lot fewer bargain prices on busted goods at garage and yard sales, and more brand new looking pieces around our homes and offices.