As a designer I have always been interested in 3D design, be it interior, furniture or product design; and find the recent developments in 3D plastic printing very exciting. It is now possible to purchase and build a 3D printer for home use, giving you the ability to instantly prototype a design, refine it reprint and end up with an object in a matter of hours. I designed and printed this custom fan coupling in a morning.
Home 3D printing has its limitations, size, quality etc, but if you see it as a tool in the design process, rather than a replacement for a manufacturing process it can be really rewarding.
The most important quality of home 3D printing for me is the ability to make custom objects.
Of course, there is the prerequisite need to have 3D computer design skills, something I had a smattering of – but have recently given myself a crash course in 3D modelling using the excellent open source Blender program: www.blender.org
One of the first designs I have made is a special screw fixing for a drawing board I’m currently designing and making (see post). I wanted a way to have an adjustable height element to the board and needed a bolt fixing that would allow this to happen.
It’s based on a barrel nut but with the modification of housing a nut from a simple long M10 nut & bolt.
This ability to make exactly what you need for your designs is what I find great about 3D printing.
The 3D model is pretty simple, a cylinder with a hexagonal shaped cut out 2/3 of the way through the cylinder, and a tube cut out the radius of the bolt shank cut out the other 1/3 of the way through the cylinder.
My first 3D model print out was a little too small to house the nut, so a small .5mm adjustment on the radius of the hexagonal cut resulted in a perfect fit. out I only need 2 of these fixings, so making it myself has been far easier than trawling through specialist hardware shops and having to modify my drawing board design to fit whatever fixing I can buy – this way round my designs stay intact and the fixing changes to suit.