I stripped down an Epsom C1100 Laser Printer not so long ago, and one of the parts I reclaimed was a 220v 650w heating element. I knew there must be a use for it outside of the printer's Fuser Unit. So I got to thinking.

I use heatshrink a lot when making cables or joining wires together, a great example of this was building the LCD harness for the LapPi Netbook. Normally I'll borrow the good lady's hair drier to heat up the heatshrink enough so the heatshrink shrinks, or use a soldering iron if it's just a single wire. So I thought I could maybe use the heater element to make a heat-shrinker. The problem was the elements length; how do I concentrate the heat over a small enough area rather than the full length of the element? I'll also need to enclose the element so I can't burn myself, or blind myself from the waste light it generates.

The solution came from space heaters. I'm sure you have been to a garage or a workshop where they have what looks like a jet engine roaring away blowing hot air into the room. They tend to be long tubes fed with propane gas which is burnt inside the heater, then blown into the room by a fan on the end. If I could use a similar design for the heater element I had, it just might work.

Step 1: Tools, Limitations, & Points of Reference

Today's tools include not only the traditional hammers, drills, saws, and screwdrivers but also CAD systems. I have not used any 3D software before but with the proliferation of 3D printers now is a good time to give it a try.

Doing some investigation into 3D printers, and their capabilities, I found that I can have my design 3D printed in ceramic, which can withstand up to 600 degrees centigrade. The element's temperature is controlled by an inline thermistor (from the Laser printer) and should be maintained at 180 degrees centigrade.

I downloaded the 123D Design modelling software, which is part of the 123D collection from Autodesk. It seems simple enough, and after watching a few instructional videos on YouTube I got to work.

I have approached this in a similar way to that which I would do if I were following a tangible design in the workshop. The heater-shrinker will be built around the heater's element, so the first thing to do is to translate the element into the new digital workspace.

1 | Measure the heater element, you will need to be accurate to the nearest .5 of a mm.

2 | Open 123D Design.

3 | Draw the element in 123D Design.

Because the element is the starting point of the design any errors in it's size or shape will be continued in the overall design of the heat-shrinker so it is quite important to get this stage right.

I have attached the model for the heating element, if yours is different you will need to adjust it accordingly.

There are some design requirements when making items to be 3D printed with ceramics, and these need to be taken into account when designing your project. The minimum wall thickness is 3 - 6mm depending on where the wall is. Ideally stick with 6mm.

It is best practice that you check the 3D print specifications for the service you intend on using. There can be some minor variations between manufacturers. Another constraint is the print size. This is a problem that I ran into when designing the heater and I had to make some design alterations to remain inside those restraints. A technique I used was to check the model by uploading an exported .svg at various times during the design. If anything is wrong it should show an error which you can then correct, sooner rather than later.
Hi, how did you do that animation? Is there a specific feature or you just took several screenshot and then made a gif?
Screenshots, rotating the fan a few degrees each time, to make an animated gif.
Congrats on the feature :)
Thank you again sir.
Cool. <br> <br><sub><sub>...or hot, I'm not sure.</sub></sub>
Fantastic design. I like how you went into detail about your thinking process, and that you put a lot of detail into the steps so we can follow easily. <br> <br>Nicely done!
Thanks! <br>

About This Instructable


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Bio: A passionate make of things. Chief engineer for the BigBox 3D printer and inventor of the MicroSlice Mini Laser Engraver & Cutter. I spend my time ... More »
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