I decided to post a product that I have wanted to produce for a while now however do to the lack of a 3D printer that I could use I have yet to make. As with any prototyping project I am sure during the making process I will find improvements to make. However this is what I have at this time. Since this is entered into a contest I have made the project open source as posted the design files online. I hope this instructible inspires others to create something new with their 3d printer.
Step 1: What This Product Does.
This is a tool to level a mower deck. I came up with the idea for it a few years ago when I thought that leveling a deck took way too long. The current method can take well over an hour on a commercial deck with 4 adjustment locations to get the height gage and level correct due to having to check each side multiple times. I have posted a video on how to do a consumer unit with 2 adjustments for simplicity. A higher quality mower will be more complicated to adjust however give you a higher quality of cut.
As you might notice on the video they only show you measuring the side with the mower chute. This is no accident as the other side is almost impossible to read a ruler on due to the fact that the deck obstructs your view. The current product for this purpose is a deck leveling gauge. This is the product I looked into as to the feasibility of producing my leveling gauge.
Step 2: How It Works
This gauge works by allowing you to use a line level directly parallel to the blades. By doing this you can see in real time without having to measure each blade how much adjusting still needs to be done. Once I find out what modifications I need to make to improve upon this design I plan on making another setup to allow me to do the deck pitch at the same time(deck pitch is the the front to back angle)
The gauge works as follows.
You clip the unit onto the outer edge of the outside blades on your deck.
You then run a line level tightly between the gauges with the level close to the side you are adjusting.
While adjusting the deck you can see in real time how close you are and how far you still need to go.
Step 3: Design and Production Requirements
This is a prototyping instructible so the design is not yet finalized it will be after I get to test the product a little and make some improvements using a 3d printer that I will hopefully acquire sometime) But here are some of the problems I have to overcome before production.
1. Accuracy of production. I could not use conventional tools to produce this as I am wanting to improve the quality of job done as well as speed I need perfection in my production method.
2. Cost of production. I need to keep the cost down to sell them as the current gauges cost less then $20 each. Although the time saved in a production shop would more then pay for the tool I wanted a competitive pricing on what I produce.
While I have thought of sending these out to be produced this is not my only design sitting on my computer so I am hoping to justify the cost of buying or building a 3d printer for prototyping soon as this would speed up the process as well as keep production in house.
Another side effect of acquiring a 3d printer is I could test the feasibility of producing obsolete parts so that my customers could keep older equipment operational saving them money. And allowing me to see the durability of the printed parts and tools I would be designing.
Step 4: Sales and Marketing
I realize a product like this has little value to the open source community this is why if it were not for this contest I would not have published the design as open source. I am sportive of open source if an idea can change the world in itself however some ideas as production can do more good in providing jobs for others then they can in supporting other ideas. Therefor I will talk about marketing an idea such as this.
I own a outdoor power equipment dealership so I thought about after I finished testing this product I would offer it for sale to other dealerships that I knew as well as possibly threw a current parts distributor. Currently we have at least 4 producers of deck leveling gauges and we sell a few a year. Mechanics like to have 2 of almost any inexpensive tool they use so I would expect you could have a few hundred thousand potential customers. This is not a product that would make a person rich however it would be a nice start to company that produces other tools and products.