So, after having built 3D printers for the last few years, and having seen first hand from all our customers all the amazing things they've created and repaired with their machines we thought it would be neat to show you a little bit of how we actually use 3D printing in our production shop.
Well, we just yesterday had a machine break down at our shop here, a material dryer. The machine heats up a moisture absorbent material and forces the dried air through the material before it gets processed in our injection molding equipment. Just like certain printing filament, moisture in the material can cause all sorts of unwanted side effects. This machine is a rather old one, but is a simple machine really. It has a PID controlled temperature device to hold accurate temps of the drying chambers, and a pneumatic solenoid that is actuated by a cam disc that switches the air on/off to cool the chambers. Well, this disc had seen better days.
As the machine is an older model, parts are often hard to come by, and since there's so few parts really, it makes it even more challenging to find them in the first place. But as we thought of where to go to get a replacement, the thought came up "Oh WAIT, duh, we can 3D print one!" So, Steve sat down for a few minutes at his desk and drew up a basic but improvised design for the replacement we were about to print. He modified the part to have a thicker wall section where the original part kept failing, and made a cross slot in the part so it could be easily attached with a simple automotive style hose clamp. Plenty strong for this application, as the part doesn't rotate fast or get put under any sort of real load. While he was at it, he noticed a section of the part that would need support material. But since he was designing the part himself, he designed the small section that needed support by simply adding a 'boss' to that area of the model so the software wouldn't have to auto generate it where it wasn't needed.
In just a few minutes, he had the design done, and exported the STL file out to Repetier Host to slice the model and print it. He reached over to his Orion Delta and pre-heated the machine, and by the time he had the model sliced and copied onto the SD card, the Orion was ready to print. About 40 minutes later, he had the finished part in his hand, ready to test out. Here's a few pics of the 3D printed replacement on the machine.
And there you have it, another example of what 3D printing can do. In a little over an hour, we went from being down one machine, looking at a few $$$ in parts, and many more hours in sourcing them, to a 3D printed replacement, installed and the machine back up and running.
If you would like to 3D print this part used, here's a link to the files on Repables.com, our preferred file sharing site. Also, if you have a really cool project where you used 3D printing to repair/replace/restore anything, feel free to post it on our Forum for others to see and enjoy.