While I usually describe 3D printing to people with something like “you can make beautiful things that are art, or functional things like parts” I’ve been printing a lot of parts lately (thought I still print pretty things!)
The parts I’m printing are of my design, for things I am building, and they often have to fit existing real-world objects. The process usually involves measure thing with calipers to get dimensions, and then designing things in 3D software. (I’m leaning more towards OpenSCAD latley, as opposed to Sketchup.)
If you’re just downloading and printing objects from Thingverse, they’ll (hopefully) work on the first try, but if you’re doing everything on your own, it may take a few tries.
I wanted to print a small motor mount for this DC motor that Adafruit sells. So I got out the calipers and went to work.
For the first attempt (see top photo) I completely screwed up by using the inside dimensions (where the motor should fit) as the outside dimensions. Stupid mistake! On my second attempt I got it right, and the motor fit almost perfectly.
On the third iteration I made minor adjustments to the outer walls, and I also added an “air hole” on the top. The motor has two slots in the body which I assume draw air into it to prevent overheating. (You can see I know very little about motor design right now.)
Back in June when the guys from MakerBot stopped by Milwaukee Makerspace, I talked to Skimbal, and asked how many revisions he went through when designing things, and he said about two or three. I was impressed by this because last year I tried designing a real-word replacement part and I think I made about ten versions of it. Of course part of this was my lack of 3D skills, and part of it may have been issues with the old CupCake I was using.
So I’m pretty happy with the fact that I can get a good version of a part in just a few tries now. (Though I should admit that I’m not happy with the slots for the screws, and may end up tweaking things a bit more, which is pretty darn easy in OpenSCAD.)
When I was talking to someone about 3D printers this summer, they didn’t see the point of having one at home when there were so many companies that allowed you to upload a design and would print it and ship it to you. Here’s where a home 3D printer shines; I can measure a part, get a prototype printed, test it, and print another version all in a single afternoon. Now that’s rapid prototyping!
Oh yeah, I also printed a mirror holder. It took just two revisions to get one that worked well.