Short answer…it’s probably not expensive relative to what you’re asking for. It’s that society programs us from birth to think plastics and other physical goods are “cheap” thanks to clever design for manufacturing at scale. Here’s why… We recognize that AM parts can be “expensive” relative to other plastic parts you might have seen available off the shelf. In this post, we’d like to walk you through one way of thinking about pricing on plastic part fabrication, both conventionally and with digital manufacturing. A common example we give is the “spork” offered at your favorite fast food restaurant. Fast-food restaurants can give these away for free because they make them in the 10M+ / yr and therefore their $500K mold that produces them can be amortized. It’s part of a pleasurable eating experience in the United States to have a fork + spoon combined. But to make just 1 (one) plastic spork with that manufacturing process (plastic injection molding) would
Preschool teacher Kate Brehob is wonderful with kids. Everyone who has met her knows this. What we didn’t know–possibly herself included–is that she can also design sweet customized jewelry that is ready to 3D print.
The back story:
My cousin is naming her second baby for my grandmother. She named her first child after her mom so now there is going to be a new generation of sisters with these same names. I thought it was such a sweet idea and I wanted to give her something she wouldn’t find anywhere else that also had meaning. I decided to create stud earrings with each daughter’s name on them. I also thought they would be cute as stud earrings because both names have four letters each. The next step was just to figure out how to get tiny custom stud shaped names!
-Katherine, San Francisco, CA
Using TinkerCAD–an entry-level computer-aided-design (CAD) software–and the You3Dit network, Katherine was able to quickly able to make the earring parts which she then cemented to blank, earring studs. We sent her this CAD tutorial from Hands-on Rapid Innovation to help her get started.
“TinkerCAD was pretty easy to use, but I’m not used to working in millimeters” said Brehob. Most engineers and scientists prefer the metric system and regularly push using these units (as demonstrated in TinkerCAD), however, people living in the U.S. are typically more familiar with the inch, pound and quart units of measurement. Thus, if you’re struggling to figure out the size / scale of your project, consider downloading and printing one of these “to-scale” rulers. Additionally, we worked with Ms. Brehob to tweak the z-dimension height so that the earrings came out a just the right thickness so simply work with your designers.
“The first set turned out pretty good, but I think I’m going to add hearts or something to hide the backing of the stud” said the preschool teacher. This observation was made after she had received the first set of prints. “This is exactly the benefit of quick & easy access to rapid prototyping tools like 3D printers” said Chris McCoy, co-founder of You3Dit. “3D printers unlock creativity via rapid iteration” which allows for faster convergence on final solutions and allows the mind to explore many solutions without a lot of cost (time, money, effort).
3D printers are not the end-all, be-all solution for everything–we know this. But if you show people their potential and how easy it is to get started, people can start to see their real value beyond just a mini widget factory. Since people are not yet used to having extreme personalization in their lives, they don’t add 3D printing to their solution set for problems. This is one of You3Dit’s main goals: highlighting the potential of desktop manufacturing, educating people about how the technology works and then, providing people access to these machines that can help bring their ideas to life.
3D printing helps fix a design flaw in aftermarket wheels
So as we often explain the myriad possibilities of 3D printers for an uncountable number of potential applications, we reel in our audience’s minds by grounding our expectations with “well, I’m not about ready to 3D print my car axle…but there are tons of applications…” While I didn’t 3D print my axle just quite yet, we did 3D print some rim spacer clips in order to eliminate slop between the brake disc and the rim’s decorative center piece.
Why was this even a problem? No one looks cool driving a car that has wacky noises coming from the vehicle. Vehicle sounds are a big part of the driving experience (ask Tesla motors) and while no one should define themselves by the car they drive, no sense in letting it be when the You3Dit network has design and 3D printing resources to easily resolve the issue.
The workflow was pretty simple:
- A thin ring that would fit between the wheel hub and the decorative piece
- Measure the critical dimensions of the wheel
- Transform the sketch into a CAD model (a process called solid modeling)
- Export design to STL
- Slice and drive 3D printer using Repetier
- Test spacer ring on vehicle
- Modify dimensions as necessary
Once we iterated 2-3x, we had a part that worked. The first two were too thick. We made the ring into a “U” shape to allow for slop in wheel dimensions, increasing the likelihood that the part would solve the problem.
If you yourself have the same problem with a pesky aftermarket rim, or you’d like to use this file for any other purpose, we’ve uploaded our SolidWorks and STL parts to Thingiverse.com. The rims featured in this video were purchased from Pepboys are 1097 Proline Wheels.
UPDATE (May 30, 2015):
So the rims and tires handled just perfectly for the last year with the 3D printed rim spacers as designed…and as expected. However, it wasn’t until the service guy rotated the tires when they fell out and the wheels were re-assembled without the spacers. Houston…we have a problem? Or do we? Not really, because the wife of the old man who owns the truck has a 3D Printer–A Printrbot Simple Metal!
So with the help of this article (and Thingiverse’s kind gesture of hosting the files), she was able to re-download the STL and 3D print another set.
So, just when you thought these 3D printing machines were just for younger kids great with computers, think again (note: the woman who did 3D print these is pretty amazing and is pretty darn resourceful for someone of her generation…especially with respect to technology).