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Curious who here uses a 3D printer and what you use it for? Every time I see someone reference somewhere that they built this custom part or prototype I always think how cool that would be. But I started looking into the printers and now I really don't know that I would actually find a use for one. Maybe I just don't do enough creative stuff! So tell me what you use yours for and why it has been good for you.

Rob
 

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Great question Rob, I think my biggest fear is the software as I can barley draw in 2D CAD, 3D CAD is way out of reach for me at this time.
 

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I've done 3d printing in the past with FDM printers. mostly for small things like electronics enclosures, quad-copter landing gear etc. I designed and printed a picture hanger hook once because the wife wanted a picture hung and i didnt have any hooks. (didnt feel like going to lowes either).

I keep thinking about things i'd like to print and then sand cast to aluminum. The CAD time is not to be underestimated for useful & structural parts. Need to build a foundry furnace and learn to use it first too.. :)

What do you have in mind?
 

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I have a Formlabs Form 2 printer. The process (SLA) it uses comes the closest to injection molded quality parts.

The first four pictures are from my Goofy Bolts collection of bolts, letters, numbers, etc. These are in progress pictures, and all items have been finish sanded to remove all traces of the supports; but I haven't gotten around to taking pictures of them. All bolts shown are based on 10mm threads.

The next two pictures are of some doo-dads I made to keep my Racedeck chair mat from squirming on the carpet. The spikes are made from 16ga brads. These things are about 1" x 1" x 1/2" as I recall.

The next two pictures are for dispensing 3/4" x 3/4" x 1/8" rare earth magnets that are part of a clamping system I made for making display cases.

The next two pictures are of a GO/NO-GO system of gauges I made to figure out how much clearance I need between printed parts. As I recall I can a minimum of 0.1mm (~0.004") to 0.2mm (~0.008") clearance.

The last three pictures are for adapters to mount rare earth magnets to 90mm (~3.5") muffin fans to make magnetic stirrers for the washing station that is used to rinse uncured resin off the 3D printed parts. The gray part is a tool I printed to keep the magnets separated while installing them. Those rare earth magnets are scary strong and fast at jumping towards something they like. The muffin fans came from the dead wine refrigerator of my friends that Bambi destroyed in 'Bambi gets *****y.'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW1STy_qTI8
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the comments and pics. At this point I really don't know what I might use one for. I just like to learn new technology and stay on top of things so it seemed like an interesting area to delve into. I do dabble in fixing up old McCulloch chainsaws so I'm thinking there are some plastic parts that could be replicated for that. But mainly this may be a solution looking for a problem.

Rob
 

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3D printers are for prototyping.....although some now print in materials that could well be used, they are used to prototype parts that cost lots of money when you start machining them out of metal. I used to run one for a manufacturing company and even got to see the ones in use at Microsoft as we were looking to buy a new one at close to $450,000.00 and they had that model in use. Our sales guy arranged for us to go see it. They did cover up a bunch of stuff on shelves and asked us not to peek as there were new product designs not yet released to manufacturing or public availability.
 

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I use my Lulzbot Mini for all sorts of things.
Repaired tools that had missing parts (where the replacement parts can be polymers rather than metal
Built enclosures for electronic projects
Brackets to fit projects together.

If you look for my thread on "bucket level indicator" you will find pictures of the parts I have printed for that project. I will post some of them here.

I use FreeCAD software. Yes, it was a bit of a learning curve for the first week, but I am pretty good with it now.

At this red-hot moment, I am printing an auger that will be assembled into an automatic cat feeder.

Most of my electronic projects are Arduino based BTW.

I dont print anything I can buy generally. Everything is custom. It has completely revolutionized my prototyping. I never have to agonize over boxes, brackets, widgets, etc. I design them as I need them. It is not a production tool! That should be obvious.
 

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My grandson has one, an inexpensive model, I think around $200. He makes all kinds of neat little things on it. I was impressed with the small scissors jack that he made. I don't even understand the concept of 3-D movies.
 

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I have access to many 3d printers at the university where I work, even one that prints titanium, and it is something I hope to do at some point. I am in the same boat as Kenny, though, I have to climb the steep learning curve to learn how too use the design software. I just have to find the spare time...
 

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My youngest has one and knows how to use it (so I just have to place my order and and the part shows up.:unknown:
We have a wall mounted TV in the bedroom that has down firing speakers.:banghead: So I told him I needed some "acoustic reflectors" and he printed them out of black ABS and I mounted them to the TV so the sound is redirected forward. I suppose some day I could get a sound bar for it but right now these work well.

3D tv print 1.jpg
3D tv print close.jpg
 

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As Fungus said, 3D printers are for prototyping (primarily, my opinion in parentheses). One just has to understand the materials available and their limitations. The gray resin I use is quite brittle after curing, which makes it unsuitable for objects that will be subjected to a lot of stress. However; Formlabs does have materials to mimic ABS, polypropylene and rubber.

Also, 3D printers are too slow for production work; but in the prototyping world they are speed demons compared to doing prototypes the traditional ways.

Unless you get into 6-figure and up machines, the build volume is generally quite limited too. My printer has an approximate build volume of 6" x 6" x 6".
 

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As Fungus said, 3D printers are for prototyping (primarily, my opinion in parentheses). One just has to understand the materials available and their limitations. The gray resin I use is quite brittle after curing, which makes it unsuitable for objects that will be subjected to a lot of stress. However; Formlabs does have materials to mimic ABS, polypropylene and rubber.

Also, 3D printers are too slow for production work; but in the prototyping world they are speed demons compared to doing prototypes the traditional ways.

Unless you get into 6-figure and up machines, the build volume is generally quite limited too. My printer has an approximate build volume of 6" x 6" x 6".
I am very happy with Polylite PLA. It is strong, not brittle, good enough to tap 4-40 threads for custom standoffs and not toxic to run in my office! I have colorFabb nGen and it is expensive and very brittle--live and learn.

Staying away from ABS for now because of the fumes.

Agree with your assessment re prototyping and production.

3D printing has changed my world in a dramatic way!
 

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Great thread

Great thread. I'd also love to play with a 3 D printer but can't justify one unless it can print more time so I could learn to use it.

Intriguing technology though. Do any of the less expensive machines allow printing around metal inserts? In other words, could you build a resin part with purchased parts inside?

Treefarmer
 
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