One of the most compelling use cases of FFF-style 3D printing for me is to replace broken or missing parts of things where replacement parts aren't available. When my Fitbit clip fell off and went missing, I looked to Thingiverse to see if anyone else had already modeled this model's extra part and someone had! I downloaded it, printed it, and was good to go in 15 minutes flat. Thanks sesosmasrefritos ;-)
When the tripod I've had for 10 years started to loosen, I saw that it was because one piece is plastic and the threading had stripped over the years. I decided to model my own and upload it back to Thingiverse if anyone else had the same issue. It's less common than the FitbitOne, but still, hopefully someone else can use it.
Fixing existing objects has been one of the most rewarding types of making for me but plastic parts had previously been a show-stopper for keeping things out of the scrap pile.
I'll review the process so hopefully you can try the same with whatever you'd like to make a replacement part for!
Step 1: Model the Part
Using the original part as a guide, I noticed this was mostly a revolved object with various diameters. I exaggerated the threading since that was the part that failed before.
A set of digital calipers made light work of this measurement phase and translated quickly into a solidworks model of the part.
I uploaded the part back to Thingiverse for others to take and work with!
Tip: Be sure when setting up the print to consider the stress of the part. Since this part is compressed and under a lot of stress (even more when you add the weight of a camera) I printed it with 80% density fill. I'm not a pro and this was just a guess on my part. Anyone else have best practices here?
Step 2: 3D Print Your Replacement Part (Take One)
Consider the orientation of your part before printing. In this case, the threading was very important and I didn't want to deal with support material in this area. I experimented with the Ultimaker2 and MakerBot, starting with the Ultimaker. I used PLA for both but still found a difference in the fit from printing the same file. See the next step for more.
Step 3: Optional: 3D Re-print Your Replacement Part (Take One)
The MakerBot print in the same orientation fit snugly into the tripod shaft and the threading was perfect, so I used this one. I like that the orange PLA stands out as an obvious replacement part, but you could try to pair the filament with the replacement part if you prefer.
Step 4: Assemble and Use!
After reassembling the tripod, it was about as good as new! What would have gone in the trash a broken object can now continue to be used for several more years.
Not everything can be fixed this way, but it's a nice use of 3D printers for things that can. What else have you fixed? What's on your list?