This project is one of my first experiences with a 3D printer. Two winters ago, I got myself a Printrbot Simple Metal Christmas bundle kit that came with a knocked down 3D printer along with a whole lot of free accessories and ended up being a pretty good deal at the time!
Having put together the printer over the Christmas holidays, I revisited an old problem that I sort of had an idea on how to resolve without having to:
- over engineer the design
- use conventional fabrication methods
- kill myself over getting the printer to print a complex part
Step 1: Okay. What's the Problem?
This is my 1923 Model T reproduction street rod which at the time was nearing its final days of the build.
As a next step, I wanted to mount a motorized wiper on the polished aluminium windshield frame shown in the pictures.
Mounting the wiper motor by itself was not the problem, but running wires to the motor was!
Once the glass was installed, I had to device an easy and simple method of routing the wires from under the dash to the motor, over the windshield frame.
There are lot of conventional (and often expen$ive) methods such as having the windshield frame drilled to run the wires internally. But again, who wants to blow more cash after you splurged some on a 3D printer (and having to avoid the glaring eyes of "the boss" for several weeks as a result)!
The last picture shows the wiper motor installation - it's not very clear, but the wires were held in place using transparent weather sealing tape.
It was time to put my printer to work.
Step 2: List of Things Required
Little else is required if you own a 3D Printer (that's already up and running) or have access to a 3D Printing service online. I have the Printrbot Simple Metal.
Printer aside, the rest of the items you will be needing are:
A set of digital calipers to take basic measurements in millimeters!
A modelling software (and basic skills) to design the product - My choice is the free version of Google SketchUp that I consistently use for my projects
A 3D printing software to operate your printer - Cura from Ultimaker is one ubiquitous and free software used widely by the 3D printing community
Wide blue painters tape (wider the better) to lay on top of the printer bed before you begin printing - available at home improvement stores such as Lowes, Home Depot or Ace Hardware store
A roll of PLA or ABS filament that is the raw material for fabricating the product using the printer
I will be skipping the parts where I take the measurements and go right to those that are not so boring
Assembling, installing software and configuring 3D printers are based on user preferences and has not been instructed in detail here
If designing components is not up your alley, then visit thingiverse.com to browse and download a printable design that closely suits your requirements
Step 3: The Simple Design Approach ...
One of advantages of Google SketchUp is the ability to draw a simple 2-dimensional sketch and then extrude the third dimension once the basic profile of the product is as close as possible to the final design.
Most often novice users like me will be able to manipulate an image by drawing straight lines, circles and arcs.
With these two aspects in mind, I have been using the following approach to develop my designs:
- Draw out a basic 2D template and save a copy as backup
- This way if I mess up during subsequent steps I can always come back and restart using a copy of the base template
- Should I want to enhance or modify the design in the future, I can start with yet another copy of the basic template and improvise it
Components of the design :
The pictures show what I came up with. The design comprises of the following components:
- An arc that is slightly smaller than the surface it's supposed to be clipped around
- One side of the inner arc is flat because I want to reduce the tendency of the clip to rotate when in use
- The arc extends out to a rectangular surface - this is the functional area of the clip
- This rectangular area is a wild card that I can customize to fit my application
- The circular portions of the arc end with bevelled edges so that it's easier to take off the clip
The base template SketchUp file has been attached
Step 4: The Completed Design - Ready to Print
After some trial and error, I arrived at a design that was now ready to be printed and used.
As described previously, I altered a copy of the basic 2D template and customized it based on the measurements, so that no part of the design overwhelms the entire component
Pictures show key measurements of the component - the portion being measured appears as a dark blue line
Also to note is the fact that most 3D printers work with the metric system and therefore all dimensions displayed are in millimeters (1 inch = 25.4 mm)
The SketchUp files of the model and the corresponding STL have been attached
The STL file can be viewed using Meshlab
Step 5: Time to Print!
Epic fail! My very first attempt at printing something serious ended up being a total hash!
It so happens that I had set the sensor of the print head (Z-axis) a bit too close to the bed, and as a result, the print nozzle stopped way too high above the surface of the bed and literally started printing in mid air!
Over subsequent trials, I started tweaking the Z-axis and limited my printing just to the surrounding the skirt until I was confident to let the printer run its course to completion
With these adjustments and tweaks in place, the print turned out be better than I expected.
The translucent appearance is a direct consequence of the sample transparent PLA filament that came with the printer kit
I personally prefer to use this material because the translucent appearance makes it easier to see the internal lattice structure and also helps if you have to make other alterations such as drilling additional holes or cut off parts of the product
For example, you may find that it might be a bad idea to drill a hole where there may not be much lattice structure left to support the component once the drill has gone through!
Step 6: Mounting the Wire Clips and Routing the Wires
After having trial fitted the first clip, I printed a couple more because at east 3 of them were required to hold the wires in place around the windshield
Getting the wires into the eyelet of the clip was a bit tight, but once the wires were in, they sure didn't get out even when I was out driving in higher than usual windy conditions
Given that the inner diameter of the clip is a bit smaller than the outer diameter of the windshield tubing, the clips snapped on the frame pretty firmly
As one of the inner surfaces is flat , the clip has a lower tendency to rotate around the frame, especially the one that is mounted on near the drivers side mirror
Finally, taking the clips off of the windshield frame turned out to be very easy - the beveled ends made this a lot easier
Hope you enjoyed this instructable.